When word came through the Reporter’s office on Christmas Eve that Jeffrey W. San Marchi passed away Dec. 23, we were struck by the tragic poetry of the news. San Marchi — the owner, publisher, and editor of the Ojai & Ventura Voice — died while distributing his publication. One might even say that San Marchi perished in the throes of passion, as, for the past 18 years, he poured his heart and soul into getting his Voice to readers throughout western Ventura County.
While we don’t have any official figures, it is fairly safe to assume that many Reporter readers also are familiar with the Voice. Like the Reporter, the Voice is a free publication often found in coffee shops, diners and along street corners throughout Ventura, Ojai and Oak View. Where our publication is a product of the collective efforts of a team of staff writers, designers, sales reps and other professionals, however, the Voice was very clearly the product of one man’s vision, Jeffrey San Marchi. Make no mistake, San Marchi had dedicated contributors and loyal fans, but the perspectives shared on the pages of his publication were clearly filtered through his eyes.
We may compete with the Voice for advertising dollars from some of our area small businesses, but we share an affinity with that publication as outlets for this community we call home. San Marchi was a colorful figure and some may have been rubbed the wrong way by his personality, but his loss doesn’t just throw into question the fate of his publication, it raises the persistent issue of the state of our local media. There was a time when cities had numerous local publications, each with its own unique slant on their community. In recent years, though, media companies have more firmly ensconced profit as their sole pursuit to the detriment of the unspoken responsibility to provide a service to the community. In some cases, all some people can count on to get their perspectives across is the sheer willpower and devotion of people like San Marchi. For better or worse, when someone like him is lost the community loses some of its identity.