The Friday Flyer publisher reflects back on the newspaper’s history

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It was only natural that I would end up in Canyon Lake. As a boy growing up in the quaint farming community of 1,200 residents in neighboring Perris, I would accompany my father who would deliver blocks of ice to Don Martin at the snack bar, bait and boat rental business he operated on the shores of Railroad Canyon Lake.

The lake back then was a reservoir that did not allow body contact with the water, so the only lake activity at the time was limited to fishing from the shore or in a boat rented by Don. A windy dirt road led to his establishment, and he would let us use his boats without charging us. I loved coming to the lake and going out on those boats, never dreaming that the lake shore would be molded and sculpted into the current Canyon Lake.

As an older teenager, it fell upon me to drive the old ice truck filled with 10 300-lb blocks of ice out to Don and his brand new store and restaurant. The main roads were now paved and led to the park-like setting that surrounded his country store. Houses were beginning to be built, but on the weekends, tons of property owners who lived elsewhere would descend on Canyon Lake for its water sports.

That was in the 1970s. Canyon Lake had immerged from Railroad Canyon Lake and began to become a thriving community. After graduating from college in 1981, I took a job working for the Riverside Press-Enterprise Co. as publisher of the community newspaper the company had just purchased in Lake Elsinore. I was the publisher of The Lake Elsinore Valley Sun-Tribune until the summer of 1990. I left The Press-Enterprise Co. to start up my own publishing company in Canyon Lake, Golding Publications.

A few years earlier, I had met the legendary Carolyn Knight, editor of the newsletter the CLPOA was printing and distributing monthly to its members. I saw the ads and flyers in this really healthy letter-sized newsletter and negotiated a contract with the POA to convert the newsletter into a newspaper, The Canyon Lake Community News. Carolyn provided the news content and we provided the ads and paid for all the production and distribution expenses, retaining the ad revenue.

The newspaper was well received. When I left The Press-Enterprise, though, in 1990, neither my successor nor the POA was very happy with the publication. They severed ties and the POA and the general manager came to Carolyn and me asking if my new publications company would be interested in obtaining the contract. We agreed, but wanted to combine the existing Friday Flyer, a single sheet handed out at the gates on Fridays, with the monthly newspaper.

The Friday Flyer had been around almost since the inception of Canyon Lake and was well known and very popular. We named the new combined newspaper, The Friday Flyer. The POA paid us a set amount each month to provide the content and we retained advertising revenue. The publication was owned by the POA.

At first, we printed a 4-page newspaper on all weeks except the week after the monthly POA board meeting. That bigger newspaper was a combination of POA news and regular news, and resembled a typical community newspaper. The very first publication was printed in November of 1990.

As Canyon Lake grew, so did the size of the newspaper. More news and more advertisements resulted in many more pages. It wasn’t long before we were publishing weekly newspapers that were just as big as that monthly one.

As POA Boards changed at each election, so did the community controversies, of course. One particular year, the board meetings were so hostile that the divided board consistently fought with each other. The meetings were televised and were quite entertaining, to say the least.

With the newspaper being owned by the Association and paying for its content, it became increasingly difficult for Carolyn, the editor, to decipher what faction was in charge. We reported as independently as possible, but could not please that entire board. Board members fought, and we got caught in the cross hairs. The board majority changed and the POA canceled our contract, despite it not being up for renewal yet.

The cancelation resulted in a legal battle between our little company and the giant POA. We were represented by John Giardinelli pro bono because of the obvious injustice the POA majority was leveling upon us.

We kept publishing despite a preliminary injunction that prohibited us from using The Friday Flyer name. John successfully argued that we could publish The Flyer.

So, for several months, the newspaper lived on without the revenue from the POA, but with the community firmly standing with the newspaper. Pat Train, a local resident and Realtor, organized a petition drive that had most of the community signing petitions backing our efforts.

The annual election was held and the Board members, who caused the mess, either opted not to run or were not re-elected. The new more friendly and reasonable Board eventually negotiated a resolution to our lawsuit and turned over ownership of The Friday Flyer to Golding Publications.

The POA paid for annual subscriptions for each homeowner and in return, The Friday Flyer would provide POA content (which Carolyn generated as the editor and partner of The Friday Flyer) in the first six pages of the newspaper. That contract continued to be renewed until the POA opted out of the contract and agreement the end of last year.

Since that first edition of The Friday Flyer was published in November 1990, not a week has gone by without the newspaper arriving in Canyon Lake mailboxes. This month marks the 25th anniversary of that first issue. Coincidentally, the City of Canyon Lake was incorporated the same month. We share anniversaries.

The first Golding Publications office was a 300-foot space in the Town Center at 31630 Railroad Canyon Road. Besides Carolyn and me, we had two full-time employees – a graphic designer who produced the ads and layouts and a salesperson.

Marti Norris also came on board in those early days as a photographer, who eventually took a position as our lead advertising executive. She still works in that capacity at Golding Publications, selling ads for all of our publications.

Lynda Hoffman joined the company in those early years, selling Service Directory ads for the newspaper as well as managing the public noticing advertising. She continues to work in that role. Others have had long stints working for the newspaper, including current editor Sharon Rice, who joined the staff as a part-time reporter in 1996. New faces continue to add energy and talent to the staff.

From those early days in the small office, The Friday Flyer and Golding Publications continued to grow. As staff was added, additional office space adjacent to the first office was obtained. Eventually, the company moved to its current location, a 2,000-foot office and mailroom at 31558 Railroad Canyon Road.

The newspaper has evolved as the times change. It is now printed in full color in three sections. Many years ago the newspaper went online and its entire contents has been available at www.fridayflyer.com. The website has been incredibly popular. Thousands of page views a week are recorded.

A new “flippable” version of an exact replica of the newspaper is now available at the website. The Friday Flyer also has a very active Facebook page, which encourages Canyon Lake resident interaction. Twitter feeds by the news staff also report breaking news.

The electronic age has also made it possible for Canyon Lake residents to submit photos for publication. Readers submit story ideas and letters at a much greater rate now that the newspaper editor is just an email away. Online articles have options for readers to comment on the story. The intent of these features is to encourage reader participation and interaction.

The future for The Friday Flyer continues to look bright. Despite large daily newspapers struggling amid the electronic advances, community newspapers continue to thrive. The Friday Flyer, and other community newspapers like it, is the sole responsible provider of local news. The newspaper continues to be read at the same rate as it was decades ago. The online version complements the printed version. And, most importantly for our bottom line, the advertisers report amazing results from publishing their ads in The Friday Flyer.

We will continue to expand and evolve into the electronic world, but our heart and soul continues to be the colorful and feature-filled print edition. The feedback continues to be extremely positive, and we are all focused on making it as useful and interesting as is possible.

The subscriptions that the POA purchased for its members the end of the contract last year are set to expire on December 31. The Friday Flyer will be sending out renewals soon. The $10 per year subscription will include access to the website and other benefits as well as the weekly mailing of the printed edition.

We look forward to another 25 years and are so grateful to the myriad of people who have made our making it through the first 25 years possible. Who knows what would have happened to The Friday Flyer had John Giardinelli, for example, not jumped in to save us?

Our devoted and talented employees who have always gone beyond the tasks assigned to them have made the newspaper what it is. And despite the occasional bad apple over at that POA office, we have had remarkable managers, employees and Board members who have stuck their necks out to save our relationship.

The sudden opting out of the contract we had with the POA for 24 years saddens us, but we live on and the result, I believe, is a better, even more independent, community newspaper.

Most of all, we are grateful for our readers and advertisers. For 25 years we have had incredible support from both factions. Readers have supported and embraced us in controversial times, and our advertisers have been consistent and loyal. We are so looking forward to these relationships growing and deepening.

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