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Chris Smith: Publisher of Sonoma County’s ’Upbeat’ paper moves on

It will come as bad news to some that the publisher of Sonoma County’s good-news-only newsstand periodical has ceased publication and is leaving the state.

So it’s understandable that no readers of the 22-year-old Upbeat Times will read of its shutting down in the Upbeat Times.

In his final column, founder and man of myriad interests Paul Andrew Doyle wrote in the August issue not about moving on but about the joys of cooking. At the end he notes in a terse P.S., “There will be some changes with the Upbeat Times in near future.”

The most notable change is that unless somebody steps up to take over for Doyle, the monthly, free-to-readers Upbeat Times is kaput.

Doyle, a genuinely cheery and clearly inquisitive Montgomery High alum, teen Cattlemen’s Steakhouse dishwasher, cartoon illustrator and long-ago candidate for KFTY-Channel 50’s weather reporter, is off to new ventures and adventures in Oregon’s splendid Rogue Valley.

"I get to fish again,“ beams Doyle, who’s 56. The outdoorsman intends also to make a business of his passion for creating culinary marinades and rubs, to grow his own herbs and spices, to greet shoppers to a new trading post and to co-host a weekly radio show with his media mentor and friend Cam Parry, the ex-Sebastopol writer and civic leader.

Vows Doyle, “I’m just getting going.”

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THE UPBEAT TIMES, he says, did not fail. Though it has seen advertising fall off because of the pandemic-induced stress on commerce that menaces newspapers everywhere, Doyle said the publication has had very a good year.

He said it’s simply that he and his wife and Upbeat Times partner Valerie Doyle, who’s leaving her client-services job at a Santa Rosa veterinary hospital, are ready to move on.

Doyle is feeling good about what he and Valerie and their helpers created with the Upbeat Times, which they create at home and have printed in Samoa, in Humboldt County.

As a consumer of newspapers who worked at the former Channel 50 and a number of weekly papers in Sonoma County, said Doyle, “I was tired of the bad news.”

He asked himself more than two decades ago, “Why don’t people publish good news?” Imagining an advertising-supported publication that would feature only content that’s positive, inspirational, humorous and/or informative, he tested the concept in 1998 in Fort Bragg.

He says his Upbeat Times & Shopper was so well received by readers and advertisers in that part of the Mendocino Coast that he returned to his hometown of Santa Rosa and went to work creating Sonoma County’s Upbeat Times.

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’I HAVE A FORMULA,’ Doyle says.

Among the primary elements of an issue of the Upbeat Times are photographs that readers submit of themselves holding up copies of the publication while traveling. The August issue features such photos shot in New Zealand and at Mount Rushmore and in Union Creek, Oregon, and at Doran Beach.

Placed alongside ads by local businesses are jokes, recipes, sage quotations — “Ability without honor is useless”: Marcus T. Cicero — and also trivia, announcements of community happenings, and photos and paintings of nature. Anchoring a good many of the 24 pages are columns by regular contributors that are never controversial, confrontational, carping or conflicted.

For the August issue, columnist Marcia Singer shared puns and funny signs and headlines. (A sign in an Acapulco hotel: The manager has personally passed all the water served here.)

Contributor Ellie Schmidt offered up a recipe for a flaky galette. Music man Jim Corbett wrote of how true joy is different than fleeting happiness of the sort that flows while driving a new Prius. Golf coach James Fish advised that when gripping a club, less is more.

Barry O’Meara’s August column mused that though the COVID-19 crisis is like the “worst episode of the Twilight Zone,” at least mortgage interest rates have dropped. J.J. Velarde offered suggestions for parents of students now learning from home: “Prioritize self care, and try these boredom busters: break out the old board games, go for a walk, plant some seeds, and nurture their artistic talents.”

Gardener Kimberly Childers proposed that amid the August heat one retreat to a lattice porch for “sipping iced organic French roast, organic soy milk and stevia in a tall white glass polka dotted with black circles.”

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PUBLISHER DOYLE believes that a steady drip of bad news affects a soul like poison. He hopes that readers of his paper have found it to be an antidote.

“I wanted to do the right thing. That’s why I did this,” he said.

Doyle hasn’t tried to sell the publication, but speaks of willingness to hand it over to someone at a good-news price. He said, “If anybody comes to me and says, ’Hey, Paul, can I take this thing over?’ I’d say sure.”

He’s biting off a lot right now: Leaving Sonoma County after living most of his life here and preparing to find his way in a new area outside of Medford and to pursue several ambitious enterprises.

Some people in his shoes would be anxious, perhaps fearful of what might lie ahead. But Paul Doyle, he’s upbeat.

You can contact Chris Smith at 707 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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