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 AJR  The Beat

From AJR,   January/February 2000  issue

Becoming the Boss   

A San Jose Mercury News writer trades in her union-portected job to co-own and edit a Hollister, California, weekly.

By Kent German
Kent German is a former editorial assistant at American Journalism Review.     

To many, Tracie Cone probably had a journalist's dream job. A writer for the Sunday magazine of one of America's top newspapers, she enjoyed a union--protected, seven-and-a-half-hour-a-day job with ample vacation time.
Why, then, did she trade it all in for longer hours and less vacation to edit a small weekly newspaper in a tiny California town that formerly advertised itself as the "Earthquake Capital of the World"?
"I'm still trying to figure that out," she says in jest.
Cone, who left the San Jose Mercury News to enter the world of weeklies, is confident of her choice. After six-and-a-half years at the Merc, she now co-owns the Pinnacle, a 17,500-circulation paper in Hollister, California. While Cone, editor and publisher, handles content, co-owner Anna Marie Dos Remedios, a former Mercury News photographer, handles design and business matters as the paper's executive editor/general manager. They oversee a full-time staff of eight.
"My whole life has been, ĆI gotta get to the bigger paper with the bigger story,' " says Cone, who also once worked at the Miami Herald. "But after seeing this paper, I discovered this is what community journalism is all about."
Started by a local grocery store owner in 1986 and named after rock formations in a nearby state park, the Pinnacle is delivered free to every home in San Benito Countyč-a rapidly growing county of 46,000 just south of San Jose.
Cone, 42, and Remedios, 29, moved to Hollister, the county seat, three years ago. After reading the paper regularly, they approached the Pinnacle's owners, K&S Market Inc., with an unsolicited offer in October. In mid-November, a deal was signed.
"We really thought of it as a long shot," Cone says. "We didn't know how to put out a newspaper."
Cone reports on high school sports, city government and town events. She's launching a Web site for the paper at www.pinnaclenews.com.
A California native, Cone is not worried about the competition the Pinnacle faces from her former employer, which is making a push into the county, and from Hollister's Free Lanceča 4,500-circulation local paper published five times a week.
However, she has plenty more to contemplate now that she's running her own paper. Says Cone: "I never in my life had to [lie] awake thinking about advertising."