Tamra Lambert / For The Ark, December 2019
The Ark is an independent, locally owned subscription newspaper that covers the people and activities of the greater Tiburon Peninsula, which includes Tiburon, Belvedere and Strawberry. It has twice been named the nation's best small community weekly newspaper, honored as the winner of the 2018 and 2019 General Excellence award from the National Newspaper Association.
The paper is published once a week, arriving in our subscribers’ mailboxes on Wednesdays. With newsstand sales and a pass-on factor to account for more than one person reading the paper per home, The Ark reaches a paid readership of more than 6,000 people.
Kevin Hessel serves as The Ark's executive editor. He joined the paper in June 2011 and directs Its journalistic mission and vision in the community. Hessel came from the Marin Independent Journal, where he had been since 1998, most recently as assistant copy desk editor, design chief and online editor. He studied journalism at San Francisco State University, trained in newsroom leadership at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., was a Knight Digital Media Center fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, and he guest lectures in newspaper design each semester at S.F. State.
Hessel heads a dedicated team. On the editorial side, Emily Lavin serves as assistant editor and special sections editor, and she reports on youth and education. Our beat reporters include Francisco Martinez, who covers Tiburon, as well a long list of talented writers who contribute on topics from the arts to art appraising, finance to features. Copy editor Diana Goodman helps ensure our editorial perfection while also acting as calendar editor.
On the business side, Henriette Corn serves as publisher and advertising director. She joined The Ark in January 2006 and manages all business, revenue and marketing strategies. Accounts Manager Leigh Pagan takes care of subscribers along with classified and service guide advertisers — and the office.
Together, Corn and Hessel run the day-to-day operations and took over ownership of the paper in June 2023.
History of The Ark
The Ark was founded in 1972 by a group of Tiburon Peninsula residents who were upset the Ebb Tide, the local newspaper at the time, refused to run a promotional article about a new community picnic planned for Angel Island called Ayala Day. As event organizers and other community volunteers gathered at the Tiburon home of Marilyn Knight to make last-minute signs and banners, someone floated the idea of starting their own community-focused newspaper.
The paper took its nickname from the California houseboats that once dotted Belvedere Cove, some of which have been moved ashore as freestanding homes and businesses, such as those on Ark Row, the nickname for upper Main Street. Co-founder Rich Sprague of Strawberry, who was handling publicity for Ayala Day, was the first publisher for two trial editions on Nov. 15 and Dec. 13, 1972. By its first regular edition, on Jan. 10, 1973, Sprague had also taken over as editor. But the paper struggled financially until Tiburon resident James B. McClatchy, of the McClatchy Co. newspaper chain, bought it out of bankruptcy in 1975.
McClatchy hired Brad Breithaupt in 1977 to steer the ship as editor, publisher and reporter. In his first job out of college, Breithaupt not only made the paper profitable despite McClatchy's best efforts to keep it a tax write-off, he hired Marilyn Olson and Barbara Gnoss as feature writers in 1979, laying the groundwork for a generation of readers. When Breithaupt moved on — eventually to the Marin Independent Journal, where he spent the rest of his career — Olson became editor. In 1985, now married as Marilyn Kessler, she and Gnoss began sharing the editorship, each working four months and then taking four months off. The arrangement, which was the envy of the community, gave them the flexibility to travel.
Two years later, Kessler, Gnoss and Steve McNamara, former owner of the Pacific Sun, purchased The Ark from McClatchy. The Ark enjoyed a productive run under their combined leadership. Kessler and Gnoss bought out McNamara’s interest in 1999 and continued their unusual job-sharing arrangement as joint publishers and editors.
Gnoss became ill in 2007. When her Ark responsibilities became too much, Judith Wilson took over her editorial role. Wilson had been with The Ark since 1998 as a reporter-editor and since 2003 as editor of special sections. Gnoss died in July 2009.
In January 2010, a four-partner ownership group was formed when George Gnoss, Barbara’s husband, sold their stake in The Ark. Arthur H. Kern and wife Alison T. Gray, as AMMI Publishing Co. Inc., and Wilson joined Kessler as owners. Under the new leadership, Kessler and Wilson shared editorial responsibilities, and Gray served as publisher.
Kessler retired in February 2011 after more than 32 years of writing for and leading The Ark. This marked the end of a remarkable era under the partnership of Kessler and Gnoss. Kessler and Wilson sold their interest in The Ark to Gray and Kern, who hired Kevin Hessel as executive editor in June 2011. This marked the beginning of a new era for The Ark, as Hessel and then-Director of Business & Advertising Henriette Corn took over day-to-day operations.
Kessler died in November 2018. Kern then passed in November 2022, leaving the paper solely to Gray, who stepped away in June 2023. Corn and Hessel became the new owners of The Ark, with Corn as publisher focusing on business operations and Hessel remaining as executive editor focusing on news.