One of the more renowned institutions of Bay Area journalism is to be found slightly more than hour's drive north of San Francisco, in the coastal cow town of Point Reyes Station. It's there that The Point Reyes Light has for decades brought the roughly 14,000 residents of West Marin's sprawling ranchlands their news. In 1979, under former Editor and Publisher David Mitchell, the weekly was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service for its investigation of the Synanon cult — the journalistic equivalent of a small-town bareknuckle boxer winning the world heavyweight title.
More recently, The Light has itself become the story. After Mitchell sold the paper in 2005 to Bolinas resident Robert Plotkin, a former Monterey County deputy district attorney, the ensuing conflict between the two men made national news. The paper's managing editor, Jim Kravets, eventually left The Light and and in 2007 started a rival publication, The West Marin Citizen. Since then, the two papers have been slugging it out for a dominant share of West Marin's readership. (Disclosure: I worked at The Light under both Mitchell and Plotkin. During that time, Kravets was my colleague and friend.)
In a recent editorial, Plotkin revealed that the two papers had been involved in merger talks, which had stalled and then collapsed. One sticking point was setting a buyout price for The Light. Plotkin purchased it from Mitchell for $500,000. In his editorial, however, he said that a group of local investors hoping to combine the papers was willing to pay only a “fraction” of the roughly $274,000 he named as his initial selling price. In an interview, Plotkin declined to comment further on the talks.