Terry McAteer: Community press is binding force in Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Terry McAteer: Community press is binding force in Nevada County

Terry McAteer
Terry McAteer

The concept of “freedom of the press” has been under greater scrutiny these past few years due to the proliferation of online news agencies and social media sites.

This new era of being subjected to a barrage of instantaneous information has left us, the consumer, having to readjust our information filters. In our not-so-distant past, we in Nevada County had a handful of reliable media sources: The Union, KNCO, KVMR, NCTV, YubaNet, the Sacramento Bee and a few Sacramento-based TV stations — and that was about it.

With the addition of the Internet, we have begun to question the reliability of all news, including local news. Moreover, with so many news sites, we have begun to lose sight of the importance of our local news entities.

In particular, The Union, KNCO, KVMR, NCTV and YubaNet are the essence of what makes us a community. They are the means that bind us together. They are the way in which we listen to each other, the way we talk to each other and the way we learn about each other. Without them, Nevada County would just be a geographic unit bounded by the Yuba and Bear Rivers.

The people behind our local news are dedicated professionals and volunteers whose sole goal is to inform and enlighten. They are paid, if at all, a pittance but strive daily to uphold the ideals of freedom of the press and balanced reporting.

Having a degree in journalism and having published a community paper (The Portalwood Press in Southwest San Francisco which served 23,000 homes), I’m fully aware and understand the value of a small and independent community news organization. It is essential for our democracy.

As Thomas Jefferson so aptly noted in 1787, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

My wife and I spent the last eight years away from Nevada County, living in Bishop, a rural county on the eastern side of California, where I ran the Inyo County schools serving as its elected County Superintendent. I quickly realized that the bonds of Inyo were due not to the quality nor quantity of the press but solely due to its rural isolation. News in Inyo is often spread by word of mouth.

This is the case in much of rural America where the demise of community newspapers, radio and TV stations has led to more disinformation and less bonds that tie its rural fabric together.

Being away from Nevada County, it was apparent that the bonds of our community were held together by a vibrant community press. The Union, KNCO, KVMR, NCTV and YubaNet are community treasures that we need to nurture and support. We cannot take them for granted as they can quickly disappear, leaving us to fall to the fate of other rural communities: news based on gossip, based on blogs, or based on nothing but the buzz of the national airwaves.

Sure our local news agencies are fallible and often ridiculed but they are ours! We follow the actions of our local government or our local arts events by reading The Union. We find out our weather and swap our goods on KNCO. We listen to the beat of our community on KVMR. We hear our varied voices on NCTV and we track our emergencies on YubaNet.

Just for a moment, pause to reflect on what our community would be like without a local newspaper, local radio or local TV station. We wouldn’t be a community. We would just be a beautiful place to live with no heart or soul.

In this fast-paced, 24/7 news cycle, I suggest you unplug a bit by refocusing your attention back to what really matters — our local community. Reconnect with The Union, KNCO, KVMR, NCTV and YubaNet as they have plenty of heart and soul and indeed remind us of what a wonderful community we live in.

Terry McAteer is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at editboard@theunion.com.

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