Thirty years ago, having just wrapped up their brief time as salesmen at self-made Toyland USA, Carlo Pedrioli and Michael Ross set their sights on journalism. At just 11 and 13 years old, the pair started “The Local Informer,” with a slogan “it’s our business that it’s your business.”
The Oakdale Leader – which featured a story about the young duo while they were operating their paper – recently caught up with their competition from so many years ago to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the past publication.
Pedrioli and Ross have been friends for decades. They met as kids when their parents moved into the same neighborhood, and spent summers in the Ross family’s pool.
“I just know that Carlo was a constant presence in my life. I mean we spent every single day with each other in the summers, and I think we had a lot in common,” Ross shared.
Both had younger brothers that were more interested in sports, while Pedrioli and Ross were “more cerebral.” They embarked on a few ventures together and were very entrepreneurial from a young age, including Toyland USA where they sold some of their old toys around the Christmas season. Their parents supported these endeavors, and even helped with the Local Informer by providing a space for them to work and helping with designing the logo.
“We had these two old typewriters, and we thought they were great,” Ross explained. “Then we got a donation of a computer at the end …”
“…and the disk ...you could have dinner on it,” Pedrioli finished with a laugh.
Altogether, they published over 100 issues, including newsletters and the “Auto Informer” which was Ross’ special piece on automobiles. They experimented with business cards, office spaces, and different roles. Both recall being the editor in chief at some point and writing stories.
“We’d report on all of the major things – like the Challenger disaster – anything big happening in the world,” Ross explained.
Pedrioli added that they did a few local stories as well. As an elementary student, he went and interviewed his optometrist and the Local Informer had a highlight about sunglasses. They even reported on a small, local burglary at the trading card store Nostalgia.
Admittedly, they confessed that most of the material that came from international and national news was borrowed from the daily Modesto paper and the nightly news. The pair would just add their own spin to it.
The Local Informer was read by family, teachers, neighbors, and anyone else who was interested in the boys’ news (and was willing to pay the five- to 15-cent charge). Though the pair never really made much of a profit – instead, the price of the paper just covered printing charges – they continued the endeavor for about two years.
Pedrioli noted that the official reason they stopped publishing was “that we were unable to rent the space in my parent’s house to produce it. I think it became a bit of a burden, too. I was starting middle school and Michael was starting high school.”
“It was for the same reason a lot of shows are cancelled,” Ross expounded. “We wanted to move on.”
After they closed shop, the pair went different ways. Ross, after working for some time in hospitals, is now finishing his graduate degree and is hoping to pursue a PhD in the biomedical field. Pedrioli, who has already obtained his PhD, has “stayed with words” and is now teaching law at a university in England.
Copies of the paper from decades ago are now being sent out to past subscribers to enjoy, along with “two special commemorative issues that offer retrospectives of the paper.” Though neither Pedrioli nor Ross ended up pursuing working in newspapers full time, they definitely gained an appreciation for the craft and writing skills.
Pedrioli concluded with a sentiment any journalist, past or present, can value: “Now all these years later, as an attorney who likes writing on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, I have a much greater appreciation for journalism.”