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Valley News Group Celebrates 42

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Valley News Group got its start with the birth of the first Warner Center News in March, 1982.

Publisher Kathleen Bercsi was 22, and Warner Center was considerably younger.

The first cover, drawn by the publisher’s mother, artist Colleen Bercsi, was a take-off on Steinberg’s famous poster of New York as the center of the world. It showed Warner Center at the time.

There was one office tower on Oxnard, no Trillium – it was a tennis club. The Promenade Mall, shown on the right, boasted Saks Fifth Avenue, Bullock’s Wilshire and Robinson’s with their famous bell tower. The popular Red Onion is at the bottom left of the cover on Canoga, and Realtor James R. Gary’s London bus roamed the streets.

The Marriott was still a cornfield, left over from Warner Center’s ranch days, and indeed, Harry Warner’s old ranch house still stood where The Met condos are today off Canoga. Topanga Plaza‘s top stores were May Company, Broadway and Montgomery Ward.

The idea for the paper was simple.  The West Valley was growing from a military-industrial complex with Rocketdyne, Northrup Grumman, Hughes Aircraft and the post-war homes that sprung up around them, to a commercial center on its own, with large insurance companies such as Blue Cross and Health Net, emerging technology companies like Dataproducts, and a myriad of banks, restaurants, real estate offices and service businesses opening to support the growing population.

Warner Center News was a weekly that soon morphed into twice a month.

With the purchase of Valley Vantage in 1992, both papers went weekly. The addition of the Las Virgenes Calabasas Enterprise in the late 90’s brought a third paper into the group.

Today Kathleen Sterling also  publishes the Encino Enterprise and the North Valley News covering from Chatsworth to Granada Hills.

“The strength of Valley News Group,” Sterling said, “in a time when many say the newspaper business is dying, is that we have always been hyper-local. We focus on the news the Internet doesn’t touch, and dailies can’t afford to take time for.”

That news is the local business of the area, the people who’ve won awards, or written a book, or done a good deed. The work of the local Rotary, the nonprofits, the charities that serve the  community,. Local restaurant reviews. Write-ups on grass roots theatre companies. Real estate news of hot properties and trends. Traffic snarls and parking nightmares. Editorials from local politicians. New businesses. Homeless concerns. Local crime.

“We really adopted the USA Today style of journalism,” Sterling explained. “Keep it short and easy to read. Keep it colorful. Keep it informative. We took it one step further and made sure to keep it local. I’m a valley girl. This is my community, and my job is to tell its stories.”


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