Turkey Day is four days away, but I’ve already had a pretty great Thanksgiving. That’s because I asked you, our readers, what you (still) loved about Chico a few weeks back, and your response continues to put a smile on my face.
It was a reminder that even in a world driven by partisan TV news and social media echo chambers, the good old-fashioned printed product (and its ever-growing digital presence) can still play a mighty big role in the day-to-day life of a community and its citizens.
Seriously — the response was touching. Many of you said you cried while reading the things people love about our town. I teared up reading about how a couple of you were moved to tears.
So for a few minutes there, we were one big tear-soaked, red-eyed blubbering city, which beats the heck out of the angry red faces that always get too much of the attention around here for one partisan reason or another.
I was especially touched by the way many of you included our newspaper among the things you love about our town. And make no mistake, we are a part of this town, and have been for 168 years. The good Lord and Gods of subscriptions and advertising revenue willing, we’ll be around for a good time to come, too.
And without you, none of this would be possible. So today, in a week where I always find myself counting my blessings in life, I’m putting “people who still read newspapers and even want to work for one” at the very top of my list.
First, I know it’s no small thing subscribing to a newspaper these days, especially for a digital subscription. To read our stories online, it means you need to (a. Sign up when you get one of those annoying “You have reached your monthly maximum of free stories” notices and (b. Dig out your credit card and punch in a bunch of numbers. That’s a lot to ask of people who didn’t see that coming when they first called up one of our stories. (I know. Yes, I’ve done it myself.) And you’re doing it in greater numbers than ever before. That helps keep our industry alive and for that, I’m thankful to each of you who support local journalism.
And advertisers? I’m incredibly thankful for each of you who don’t buy into this “print is dead” nonsense. We’ve still got a great number of readers who rely on a printed newspaper every day; they look to us for news coverage, political commentary and, yes, the ads. We’re more appreciative of you than ever before.
I’m also thankful for the people who still choose to get into this industry. Nobody ever retires young from a newspaper job; I’m proof positive. The pay is bad, the hours are worse and the blowback from the public can be the worst part of all. (Unless you come up with an idea like “Why we (still) love Chico,” but I digress.)
Who would want to do such a thing — go to work in such a demanding, oft-thankless industry? People who care, that’s who — and there still seems to be a never-ending supply of them.
COVID hit our industry like so many others — like a sledgehammer right through the heart of our revenue stream. If there was any hidden benefit, it was this — it meant no newspapers were hiring, which meant big-market newspapers weren’t plucking away our best talent for a change.
That changed a few months ago. In rapid succession we lost Natalie Hanson, Sharon Martin and Will Denner — the backbone of a staff that placed second in the state in General Excellence last year — to bigger newspapers.
Coming on the heels of the retirement of Laura Urseny — pretty much the community voice and conscience of our newspaper the past 40 years — and we were facing what baseball general managers like to call “a rebuilding job.”
Meanwhile, the handful of us still here were filling numerous roles every day, often battling health issues while doing so. I won’t lie; it’s been a tough slog, and it’s been especially frustrating knowing we weren’t getting to all of the stories we wanted to cover.
But rebuild we have. We brought Jake Hutchison back from the Red Bluff Daily News, moved Justin Couchot into a full-time sports role, hired a great story-teller in Jennie Blevins from the Monterey area and now we have two promising, energetic newcomers In Michael Weber and Rebekah Ludman.
If you don’t recognize the names yet, you’ll get to know them all in a hurry.
I love having new reporters on the staff. It reminds me of why I got into this business all those years ago; it even reminds me that when I first started, I had energy and hair, pretty much in equal amounts.
This coming week, we’ll meet as a “full staff” again for the first time in months. There are so many stories and issues out there and we can’t wait to get to them.
Mainly, I can’t wait to see more local stories in our paper again, and serving our loyal readership with the level of award-winning coverage they’ve come to expect.
That’s a whole lot to be thankful for, and I thank each of you for that.