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October, 2006


West Marin Deleted
By Jeanette Pontacq

When the Park Service came out recently with its final decision to kill off the white and fallow deer within Park boundaries, I went to the web site of the Point Reyes Light to access the archives in order to reread Dave Mitchell's analysis on the issue. But the archives on the Light site seemed to no longer contain Dave's columns. It seemed like the Pulitzer Prize-winning former owner of the Point Reyes Light had been expunged, erased, obliterated and deleted. Actually, the secret is that the old columns can be accessed at According to the Light archives, life begins anew in West Marin with the purchase of the Point Reyes Light by Robert Plotkin, with Dave Mitchell an "old story."
I have a real problem with that. Because that action of erasing (or at least making it quite hard to find) West Marin history seems to be the modus operandi of Mr. Plotkin's concept of owning our local newspaper. As a strong supporter of independent journalism, I am very disappointed in how the purchase of the Light has turned out for West Marin. As a local who understands the necessity, and the difficulty, of us all communicating with each other, I am even more disappointed in how the purchase of the Light has turned out for West Marin.

As I write this, Dave Mitchell, former editor and publisher of the Light, has a temporary injunction issued against him in order to stop him from writing for, aiding, or fostering the existence of the spunky, small Bodega Bay Navigator in Bodega Bay (editor Joel Hack). The follow-up court appearance is scheduled for the beginning of October. Mitchell signed a non-compete clause in his sale of the Light to Plotkin, forbidding him from writing or aiding competitors to the Light within Marin County. Obviously, the Bodega Bay Navigator is in Sonoma County, not Marin. But it has a web site

which can be read anywhere in the world. Plotkin's attorney, Robert Powsner, contends that writing for that web site on West Marin issues puts Mitchell in competition with the Light. However the legal angle turns out, the practical result for locals is a loss of in-depth, historically accurate analysis of West Marin issues.

Mr. Plotkin has also refused to print a paid ad in the Light for the Forum of West Marin ( In other words, he doesn't want locals to know it exists. Initially, the ad was approved and a check in payment was given to the Light. Soon after, Mr. Plotkin stated that the Light itself might want to create a Forum of its own, and that advertising the existent West Marin Forum might interfere with his business plans. The Forum was created in order to offer West Marin locals the ability to discuss, announce, and disseminate their opinions, questions and advice among themselves. Since the Light has opted to forgo in-depth West Marin reporting or investigative journalism, as well as an open-door policy on letters- to-the editor, it seems the creation of the Forum by locals was somewhat prescient. To date, the Forum has never been allowed paid space in the Light.

It should be mentioned at this point that while the Light is trying to stop the Bodega Bay Navigator from continuing to report on West Marin issues, the Light has aggressively moved into the Bodega Bay market and has even mailed free copies of the Light to residents to solicit their business. In an interview with the Press Democrat newspaper in Sonoma County, Plotkin is quoted as saying that his extension of the Light into Bodega Bay is logical since Bodega Bay is "very similar to the other coastal villages we cover." Actually, Bodega Bay is a great place, but it is NOT similar to West Marin villages, and the Light is NOT covering West Marin issues. Nonetheless, Bodega Bay IS a good-sized advertising market.

At the same time that Plotkin is hustling Sonoma County's Bodega Bay for bucks, he has regularly stayed ignorant of issues in the San Geronimo Valley as well as most issues right here on the coast from Muir Beach to Tomales. His concept of the "new" Light is as a magazine of sorts, filled with what he terms "literary journalism." One of his favorite writers to emulate is Joan Didion. While Joan Didion is a fine writer in a small town, she has been noted as using the character and characters of the small town as humorous pawns.

My opinion is that Plotkin, in his hubris, imitates Ms. Didion only in using the small villages of West Marin and Dave Mitchell's old Pulitzer Prize as the back on which he stands each week, uninterested in, and unaware of, what is really going on here, while exhorting his unpaid interns to produce "literary journalism" with us as a charming backdrop. I had hoped for more from the sale of the paper.

Recently, the Light printed a cartoon that intimated prices here were high to take advantage of the tourists and hurt the locals. Local business people immediately let Plotkin know that the cartoon was "out of line" in their opinion. Next issue, Plotkin backpedaled, hat in hand, with apologies for the effrontery. Never a word has been heard since from the Light on the subject! The end result was that locals were left with the impression that the cartoon was correct and had been squashed by the business people via Plotkin. What should have happened was that Plotkin did some investigation to find out the truth - WHY the prices seem higher here than over the hill. There is silence from the Light, which cowers before the issue, as someone might be offended and he might lose an ad. Ah, the new world of the Point Reyes Light. Sad.

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