It’s been a year. So many stories to tell. Other stories we keep close to the vest. I don’t know where to begin. Is this a story about a young city that has lost its direction? Or perhaps a story where big money does the talking. Is this a story about a man who is blind in one eye and wears an -10.50 lens with sight from one blurry eye and became the publisher of a local news source. Is this a story about getting left at the alter and having to overcome so much adversity to keep WEHOville floating, or perhaps this is a story about how a community came together to share its voice on these pages.
One year ago Boystown Media was formed to purchase WEHOville from KF Media who had purchased WEHOville from its founder. But the big story of the year is the success of WEHOville and how it has been reflected in your community engagement. In the year April 1, 2020-March 31st, 2021 readers posted a total of 7225 comments. In the year April 1, 2021 to March 31st, 2022 readers posted a total of 16,007 comments. A giant 200% in increase in your thoughts. In the year April 1, 2020- March 31st, 2021, the previous two owners published a total of 1046 stories. In the year April 1, 2021- March 31st 2022, WEHOville published a total of 1635 stories, an almost 60% increase in news, stories and information. Our readership has also grown with daily page views 10,000 up to 40,000 on most everyday up from a low of 1500 to 5000 when we put our amateur passions into this venture. The biggest day was the breaking news of Jeffrey Sanker’s passing. WEHOville went viral with hundreds of thousands of views and shares. The site crashed for a few hours. There I was on the phone with Go Daddy, help! help! help! We survived.
We kicked off our first weekend with John Heilman’s epic OP-ED, looking back at his 36 years at the helm of the City. Today, we celebrate our 1st anniversary with John Heilman’s launch for one more term on the City Council. Heilman’s voice rang loud as bookends to a year filled with issues, stories, news, profiles, and survival.
Some witnessed the attacks and relentless hate that came this way as we took over this publication with the best of intentions. The father who gave birth to this business did not want us to let go, so I could never love it. The first six months were spent stabilizing the ship, mending fences, petitioning the California News Publishers Association to be re-admitted, and chasing our hi-jacked social media accounts. The second six months were marked by personal loss and hardship that took me away from these pages since September.
The WEHOville team has grown. Nick Rimedio is the Vice President and owner of 10% of the company and David Wood is the Treasurer and owner of 2% of the company. Brandon Garcia took the reins as editor this past September. Tracy, Jerome, Linda, Carleton, Tony, Jessika, Steve, Richard, Leslie, Pat, Nick, Manny, Genevieve, John 2, Michael, David, Andrew, Mykie, Lauren, Elyse, Keith, Zekiah, Bloom, Galperin, Weinstein, and so many more of you have engaged and graced these pages with your thoughts, opinions and profiles and passion. WEHOville is home.
It was a learning curve the first months. Everything was new. We made mistakes. Brandon came aboard and help us run the daily postings. WEHOville could not have survived and thrived without Brandon. Together we supported each other through the hard times.
As I reflect on WEHOville and the year past it was certainly a challenge. But, the real story behind my hopes for WEHOville began years ago with my naive approach to our local government. It was about 10 years ago when I knocked on my neighbors door asking Steve to write the language for the term limit initiative. I dreamed of a city where the voices of the people were heard over the politicians and special interests . Back then it was the developer interests who controlled the council, but then 2020 happened and the UNITE HERE Local 11 took a majority control of the council. My mission and purpose with WEHOville is still the same. To give rise to the voices of the people so the special interests do not control the city council.
We already introduced you to two 2022 West Hollywood City Council candidates, Marquita Thomas and Zekiah Wright. All candidates are welcome to pen an op-ed piece on any issue of their choice through the election. I do not intend to be a candidate. My role is use WEHOville as a vessel for community engagement and celebrate our City.
WEHOville operates for the benefit of the community. None of the officers have taken any monetary payments for their work. We built a nice cushion, held up our commitments and negotiated issues left behind. All our revenues go to support the editorial staff and make stipend payments to a local seniors and disabled residents who make editorial contributions.
I owe a special thank you to KF Media who continues contributing by sending our subscriber mail everyday and on Sunday to over 8,000 readers. KF Media never left our side and helped us through any problem that came our way.
We added spice with a new logo that tags you. Our city. Our stories. Those stories brought your voice central to issues and concerns of our residents and business community. My favorite Op-Ed of the year was titled ‘The Urban Blight of Sunset” by Jerome Cleary. Jerome hit our first home run when he spoke truth to power and garnered local and national media attention to the plight of residents and quality of life on the Sunset Strip. Alan Strassburg’s ‘The Hijacking of West Hollywood went to the top SEO score in 24 hours … Wes Sigmielers “Mean Girls” really pissed off some members of the City Council. And Elyse Eisenberg did her homework gathering public support to change the 8550 Sunset project. Townscape pulled the project. I’m not here to debate the merits of each project – just saying that these pages allowed the community to engage the developers and produced results.
There was lots of fun too, behind the scenes of the AIDS Monument, or driving up to Sun Valley to see the Athens facility. Gary told us when we arrived that we would never look at garbage the same way and he is correct! . There was the groundbreaking of the Connie Norman Transgender house. And a full day with the Los Angeles County Assessor Jeffrey Prang in his downtown offices.
We went up-close and personal with Captain Ed Ramirez of the West Hollywood Sheriff Dept. He outlined his plans for re-funding the EPT team in these pages. We broke the ground on his solutions for homelessness that are now being discussed, although being discussed as a reduction in deputies rather than a re-funding of the staff to pre-Covid levels. We went up close with Lt. Bill Moulder, and Sgt. Fanny Lapkin .
We re-merchandised the pages with expanded categories, Around the Town, WEHO History, and added a Community Profiles pages. Our top stories by SEO score are also highlighted. I chased fire trucks, ran up the street to snap a photo or to catch a swarm of cops, and received hundreds of photos of scooter mayhem. We did the best we could to transform that information to you in a timely manner.
I’ve been blamed for being ‘biased’. There is no bias. There is no agenda. There is an overload of things to get to and the voices that send in information are on a first come first served basis. It is all of you with the agenda. We don’t create news we report it. Keith Kaplan can write a pro -business op-ed and Steve Martin can write a pro-union op-ed and they both get published.
These pages opened up to John Duran to bring his history and experience to all via John’s “Lavender Pen” series of Gay Icons. John went up close with Michael Weinstein and the founding of AHF, Lorri Jean and the LGBT Center, Troy Perry and Vanessa Romain. John’s input despite his history with this publication is a tribute to the spirit of partnership and commitment to community.
Let’s talk about the comment section. Monitoring hundreds of comments a day is also not an easy task. I tried to delegate it out but nobody works as fast as me. Simply put people would call all day asking if their comment posted. It was easier to do it myself.
Our WEHOville metaverse includes many characters including the defender of the left ‘greeneyedguy’, battling ‘WehoFan”, “Angry Gay Pope” and “SaveWeho”, and the infamous “Manny”, a one word Weho brand like Madonna or Cher. Manny gets the activist of the year award for his passion against Scooters and standing with many against ‘Out on Robertson’. Most of the time I will ‘approve all’ comments if Im on the road. That helps keep the conversation flowing. Not all comments get read before posting. Sometimes we have to backtrack and catch a post that violates the basic rules of ‘no personal attacks’, Some people are quite mean. You would not believe what goes on behind these curtains. The stories told. The stories untold.
April begins our Year 2. We are still learning. The most important thing to share is that WEHOville is on a path to outlive all of us. We will be around longer than any single city council member and we are here as a community service. If you would like to participate, write, engage, please feel free to write to me email@example.com, or if you have editorial comments please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
We have just begun to tell your stories. It’s Your City. It’s Your Voice. This is your WEHOville.