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|Sheldon Brown- The “Ventura Breeze” Founder and Publisher|
Sheldon Brown has always had a
desire to learn
more about where he lives and Ventura proved to be no exception when he
and his wife, Diane, moved here 12 years ago. It’s this unwavering
that led to an idea tossed across the dinner table and
eventually the Ventura Breeze.
As regular as the ocean tide, bi-weekly issues of the Ventura Breeze have been faithfully turning up on newsstands throughout Ventura for the past 2-1/2 years. As the weeks pass on, it humbly sits free for the taking as Ventura locals stop by to pick it up one by one on their way to lunch, dinner or out shopping until it’s all gone or the next Wednesday edition arrives to relieve it from duty.
For most Ventura city residents, the Ventura Breeze is no ordinary newspaper. Not because it’s free (though that’s a nice perk) but because it has earned the reputation among us as Ventura’s premiere hometown paper full of local news, current happenings and a focus on Ventura residents. By now Venturans are used to seeing the energetic septuagenarian, Sheldon Brown, at various events around the city, camera in tow.
A self-proclaimed “lunatic", Sheldon warmly credits his talented writers for the success of the Ventura Breeze. Not to be overlooked is Professor Scamp (his petigree Shih Tzu) who has his own column and loyal fan base. To find out more about the Ventura Breeze and architect-turned-publisher, Sheldon Brown, we sat down to ask him a few questions...
SB - I’m always curious about what’s happening where I live. Before the Breeze, I read the Ventura County papers but I still didn’t know much about what was happening in the city. Not that the reporters didn’t do a fine job, but I wasn’t getting the local information I wanted to know because they focused on a larger area. One night over dinner I asked my daughter, Staci, if she wanted to start a local paper with me. Staci was working in sales at the time for a local paper and thought I was crazy. We didn’t know the first thing about running a newspaper business.
You often kid yourself as being a lunatic, but jumping from architect to running a newspaper does seem be worlds apart.
- Not really. We did have three things going for us:
1) The first person to do a newspaper wrote it on a cave wall.
2) We had the internet to do research.
3) Architects are good at going from point A to point Z. We’re very disciplined and can turn a sketch on a napkin into a building. So we put a list together and got to work at gathering the knowledge we needed to start the paper. We launched the Ventura Breeze on Oct 24, 2007. After two and a half years, I’m still not sure I know much about the newspaper business!
Why do you think a community-based paper like the Breeze is important to the city of Ventura?
SB - There was and still is a need to inform Venturans regarding events, happenings and news about Ventura. The Ventura Breeze tells Venturans what’s going on with city council and how to get involved. Our readers, ages 19 to 95, tell me they like the hometown feel of the paper.
Since starting the paper, what have you learned about Venturans?
SB - I've found that people feel very passionate about living here. Even newcomers form really strong ties and roots here quickly. I think it’s because Venturans don’t feel as pressured here for some reason. People just seem more relaxed in Ventura. Maybe it’s because we can see the ocean every day. It’s calming.
What have you learned about yourself?
SB - Although I’m very comfortable with people, I’ve always been an introvert. I’ve learned that I’m better than I thought I was at being social. Everybody seems to know me now. I’m still an architect on my “night job” but the Ventura Breeze is my passion. I still get so excited when I'm sitting in a local restaurant and I see someone reading the Breeze.
What do you like best about Ventura and what would you like to see in her future?
- I like the diversity of culture here. You can’t describe Ventura as
linear. There is diversity with the people and architecture of the
city. There are people with money here, but it’s not snooty. Ventura is
nearby everything from the ocean to the mountains. I like the art
community too; and of course the weather is nice.
As for Ventura's future...
I think that the Botanical Gardens proposal at Grant Park is very exciting.
I’d like to see the art scene continue to grow.
There’s also talk of capping the 101 freeway near downtown. I’d like to see Ventura re-connect to the ocean someday.
- I want the Breeze to continue to be the hometown paper, but with me
taking more of a backseat role in running the daily operations. I
currently work about 70 hours per week. Today, our distribution
includes over 11,000 copies to 500 locations. To grow that distribution
we need more advertisers. Hopefully that will come as the economy turns
I like that the Breeze has exceptional writers, writing original articles-not just press releases- researching and coming up with their own stories. I hope that never changes so that the Breeze will continue to educate readers about Ventura and give them an enjoyable experience reading the paper.