Robert Several

Robert Several

Robert Several was down at the press in Milpitas through the night as The Independent printed its first issue on Sept. 21, 1963.

During his years with The Independent, he worked as a photographer, sports writer, reporter, and eventually took on the role of editor.

Independent publisher Joan Seppala stated, "In person, Bob was soft spoken. Behind his typewriter and then his computer, he was a warrior, passionately fighting for social justice and the environment. When I think of both his compassion and his bold, courageous stands, I see him as a great leader. In his 49 years with the paper, he helped to transform the Valley into a better place to live."

He worked to rally residents around a variety of innovative initiatives aimed at curbing development. Among the causes, was the effort in 1972 to pass the Save All Valley Environment Initiative. Bob supported initiatives to preserve Pleasanton Ridge starting in 1993, as well as projects on Sunol Ridge. All the developments on sensitive lands were blocked.

Bob expressed moral indignation about things that were happening in society that he believed were harmful. He argued in support of fair housing legislation in Livermore and affordable housing for all. He advocated for Tri-Valley Haven and its efforts to stop domestic violence. He favored outreach to those who might not be noticed, such as the homeless, farm workers, and those with disabilities.

Associate Publisher David Lowell said, "Bob was with The Independent from the very beginning in 1963. His talents, his articulate journalistic ability and his courage were vital in helping establish The Independent’s position in the community - in the political environment and in the hearts of the residents of the Tri-Valley.

"I remember at the very beginning of The Independent, one evening before we published our first issue, Bob and I were having a quiet talk in our old offices across the street. I still remember him saying, “I love it here.” He meant the communities and what they represented, and he meant The Independent. His stories and editorials, and his role as editor encouraged the citizens and the citizens’ governments to act in the best interest of the communities. Nothing altered his focus on what he saw as the best for the Tri-Valley."

• • • •

Bob wrote a story for The Independent's 15th anniversary. In it he talked about the start of The Independent.

By Robert Several

"We're going to Livermore to put out a newspaper," said Dana McGaugh to me. "It's gonna be a newspaper run by newspapermen."

The way McGaugh spoke, "newspaper" and "newspapermen" made it sound like a lusty heroic calling. It roused me out of my cynicism and made me suddenly yearn to be a newspaperman on a newspaper. I'd worked for the Fullerton News-Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Burbank Daily Review and San Leandro Morning News and all of them, and virtually every other paper I'd observed seemed cut from the same cloth: fat, safe commercial ventures, rather than real newspapers willing to go all out for truth and justice.

McGaugh, The Independent's first editor from 1963 to 1966, hired me a week before the first edition. I drove out to Livermore with him one day and saw The Independent for the first time. I climbed the stairs to the second floor of a two-story building that had overlooked Livermore since the turn of the century. In a huge bright room of ballroom size with a high ceiling and tall stark front windows, The Independent was putting itself together. People were installing equipment, pasting up ads, typing copy . . . but I noticed later they were engaged in those specific tasks. My first impression was of a torrent of movement and sound.

And in that moment something leapt to me out of the vortex of it all and I knew here was the newspaper where I wanted to be the newspaperman. I can't explain it - that barn of a place didn't look like a newspaper or even feel like one. Outside of McGaugh, not a soul in that room was a newspaperman. In fact, I suspected no one there really knew what they were doing. But everyone looked alive. A birth was in the making, and I thirsted to participate.

On the 21st of September 1963, a Saturday, the first edition of The Independent was delivered to the residents of the Livermore-Amador Valley. The labor pains were awful, but we got her out. A 100-degree indian summer hit the valley, a blistering week of it. We baked and sweated and were up all night during the last stretch, but on the afternoon of the 21st, The Independent was on the doorsteps. (The paper actually was dated for the following day, the 22nd.)

Not exactly the world's greatest weekly showed itself in that first edition. It contained some hard news, a tame editorial boosting a lecture series in town and another editorial stating our principles, stories about The Independent's founders and editor, a Lively Arts page, some caustic comments by McGaugh, writing under the name Junius, about the backroom doings of politicians, and several very undistinguished photographs.

But that describes only part of it. In keeping with what McGaugh had said, The Independent aimed to be a "newspaper." Joan Kinney, the publisher, and David Lowell, the business manager, both intended to make it so, as well as McGaugh. That birth edition radiated with something human and fervent.

People in the community responded instantly to it. Not everyone, of course, but enough to make us know we had a place in the valley and a purpose to fulfill.