“The past is a foreign country,” author L.P. Hartley famously wrote in his book The Go-Between. Perhaps that’s why we hold on to the postcards…
May marks the first anniversary of the Topanga New Times. In the editorial for issue No. 1, we wrote: “the Topanga New Times is meant as a lifeline during one of the most difficult times in living memory. We hope it will be a way to bridge the gap and provide essential community information, a calendar of online events, and coronavirus emergency resources. This is a way to give our neighbors reassurance, support our local businesses, give advertisers the reach they need, recognize the efforts made by many, and share a little canyon spirit to help all of us cope with the fallout of this global disaster.”
The TNT crew has worked diligently to meet those goals. Here’s a look back at our eventful, challenging, exciting and adventure-filled first year in print and ultimately, online.
May 8, 2020 Inaugural Issue
Our first issue was small (16 pages), but it launched our Guide section, where we canvassed local restaurants and provided info on their takeout and delivery options for the community. We would continue this Guide to update people during Covid of what the restaurants offered and what other food resources were available to the community. We also launched a print calendar, the only one available in the community to keep track of what would largely be Zoom gatherings, classes and organization meetings.
May 22, 2020 Musical Community
Probably the biggest blow to the community as the pandemic became more of a reality and not just a temporary inconvenience, was the cancellation of the yearly iconic Topanga Days music event. TNT rose to the occasion, and with the blessing of the TCC board, our fledgling TNTV multimedia staff put on a four hour + music event in just over two weeks! More than 40 contributors participated in the live-streamed event on Facebook and Vimeo; the show resides in its entirety for your viewing pleasure on topanganewtimes.com/tntv.
Another casualty of the pandemic shutdown was the yearly Topanga Canyon Gallery Studio Tour that traditionally led art lovers up and down the canyon hills and into private studios for an intimate view of how the artists work and live. TNTV staff undertook video interviews with many of the artists via Zoom so viewers could experience some of that intimacy. We ended up with a good baker’s dozen of interviews, deftly executed by contributors Diana Mathur and Saori Wall, that were launched again on Facebook and Vimeo and now reside for further viewing on the Topanga Canyon Gallery website as well at topanganewtimes.com/tntv
TNT worked diligently to report on how the community moved through the summer. How were people dealing with postponed weddings? Diana Mathur explored that one. Fathers Day at home? 4th of July without barbecues or fireworks? With keen eyes and warm hearts our writers focused on our local businesses and restaurants, profiling their owners and trying to boost their sales online or delivered.
By the end of summer we had covered over 30 such entities as well as several that even decided to LAUNCH their businesses during the year. In the words of our editor, Suzanne Guldimann, “While we struggle to adapt to this strange new normal, Topanga’s small businesses continue to work hard to safely keep the community supplied with the things we need during the pandemic. They need our support more than ever to stay in business. Restaurants across the state have once again been ordered to stop indoor food service, but takeout remains a lifeline for customers and restaurant owners.”
Many of our features focused on the few things that people could do throughout the summer months, like how to camp safely, or camp at home or hike the mountain and canyon trails. One of our most popular offerings has been our Discover section. In it, Suzanne Guldimann, who is also our resident naturalist and local historian, has focused on the flora and fauna in our hills, from snakes to bats to bunnies. We even made a Backyard Bio-Blitz segment for TNTV, where she encouraged us to look more closely at home to explore the nature right around us.
At the end of August, our Topanga New Times website went live bringing us a new tool for reaching our audience. After the burning of much midnight oil, topanganewtimes.com was launched and included all of our content since our inception in May. Following our promise to provide resources for the community, the Resources section on the website contains up-to-date information on Fire Season Preparedness, School and Homeschooling, coverage of programs to help bring food to seniors and the homebound, local restaurant offerings, snake wranglers and more. We also launched a newsletter–TNT Blast@!–to communicate with the community on a regular basis.
One of our stated missions is to inform and educate the communities of the Santa Monica Mountains in sustainable practices that help us navigate living in the WUI (Wildland Urban Interface). We’ve carried numerous articles on composting, recycling and “wish-cycling.” Under the initiative of Saori Wall, TNT has held and continues to hold beach cleanup Sundays inspiring people to gather together in the tradition of the Topanga Trash Warriors to clean up our local beaches of trash.
The year was viscerally marked by the administration of Donald Trump but TNT largely remained removed from the fray (though we did weigh in when it came to environmental issues)—except when it came to voting in the November election. Graphic artist Urs Baur created super-compelling posters for our two issues leading up to November 3, urging everyone to vote despite continuing pandemic conditions.
We continued to provide fire preparedness information to a community nearly as traumatized by frequent near-miss fire events as by the pandemic.
Launching our Storyland section this month was a way to bring a little lightness to the existential dread hanging over the community. It was also a way to accommodate more writers and a variety of voices. We continue to seek submissions from writers, poets and artists to keep TNT fresh and inviting.
History and reflection has been one of the big themes of our issues, carried with wit, humor and intelligence by our columnist/historian, Jimmy P. Morgan. He has introduced our readers to a myriad of books and unexamined ideas and controversies, while Suzanne Guldimann has shared fascinating historical visits to the past in the Santa Monica Mountains.
The holidays brought us together to Shop Local with our Window Shopping video series online. A video tour through a local store was supposed to emulate the usual shopping experience but perhaps it took it one step further. We feel this massive initiative pulled people virtually into the shops of our local entrepreneurs, hopefully easing the brunt of the shutdown that has been on their shoulders.
A new year and we’re still here! The weirdness of the shutdown was beginning to make the world go crazy with the challenged election results and the January 6 attack on the Capitol. We responded by continuing to highlight the good works of others and help families cope with working from home and perhaps zooming with their childrens’ teachers. Life coach Olivia Pool began her regular column on Work + Life Balance bringing us all some sane techniques to tame the madness and “covid fatigue” that seemed to descend upon us.
A bittersweet time broke upon us as vaccines became a reality not yet available to most, but Covid deaths surpassed 500,000 in the country. With the inauguration of President Biden and the promise of a functional administration, we all began to have hope. During the time of Covid and in nearly a year covering a community, death inevitably raised its head. Facing the passage of some of our oldest and most loved community members, we found ourselves realizing that even if we chose a “magazine” format over a strict one just covering the news, we still need to address the grief that accompanies the loss of loved and respected and even famous members of our “tribe.”
Our editor expressed it best: “Spring is officially here, and so is the first anniversary of life in COVID-19 quarantine. Soap, toilet paper, flour, and yeast are back on store shelves. N-95 masks are not. We’ve grown accustomed to Zoom meetings that have expanded beyond work to classes, parties, weddings and memorial services, but there is no way to fully adjust to the strange sense of anxiety and aloneness this year of coronavirus isolation has imposed on all of our lives.” The launch of the Spring Coast and Canyon Almanac opened our eyes to the potential of the new season to ease all of our cares despite still being on lockdown in the county.
April & May & Beyond
Sustainability and stewardship will always be a strong driving theme of our work. We continue to celebrate community leaders, activists and personalities, and love to bring the community’s attention to programs that serve others less fortunate and address community issues. We started TNT to help our community weather the coronavirus crisis. As we begin our second year and the community finally begins to emerge from the pandemic, there are new stories to tell, more news and resources to share, more things to discover and celebrate. Thank you for joining us on this adventure. We wouldn’t be here without our dedicated staff and contributors. And, we wouldn’t be here without you.
Topanga New Times is a hybrid print and online news magazine and lifestyle and arts publication. We are committed to service journalism, and our mission is to provide information, inspiration, and sustainable and essential resources for Topanga and all residents of the Santa Monica Mountains. We cover a wide range of subjects, with the unifying theme of life in the WUI—wildland urban interface.