Don Rogers: Good company in the holy cause
January 18, 2018
We're blessed with so many local news providers. You know that, right?
Of course I'll pat my own back with the daily newspaper, for all its many real and imagined flaws that critics are only too happy to point out, as if we were puppies earning our whacks with a rolled-up copy of the morning edition.
But I mean also the radio stations still doing local news: KNCO and KVMR. Almost none do anymore in communities as small as ours. Sure, there's a fair amount of rip and read of the paper on the air. But both do their own reporting, too.
I mean the news website YubaNet, especially for wildfire coverage but also county government and whatever else intrigues founder Pascale Fusshoeller enough to cover directly.
Yep, we’re the only enterprise that shoots itself in the foot as an essential part of the business model.
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And the every-other-week publications serving Lake Wildwood and Lake of the Pines, along with the monthly Nevada City Advocate.
We have an impressive flowering of local blogs commenting on the news and each other. We even have our very own news satire site with a national following — or rather, we had Scooper until they quit suddenly a couple of weeks ago.
That's a lot in a community our size, especially given the pressures of a local economy stuck mostly in stall, with a siren's call just down the hill for shopping and other tempting ways to spend money outside our county.
Advertising is the life blood for news organizations other than perhaps NPR. But they can't survive, either, without their ads, whatever fancy pants euphemism they use, "underwriting" or somesuch. Memberships or subscriptions don't hurt, but they don't come close to sales revenue.
So yes, we're all highly interested in the fuel for the news engine, our capitalist answer to that even worse funding source, the state. Think Russia, China, North Korea while whining about whatever you think Fox, The Washington Post or Whathaveyou missed or made up.
But the local media's interest in the local economy goes well beyond advertising. Thriving local businesses are key to local jobs, a higher quality of life, and with well-run government their tax dollars benefit us, too. To the degree the local news media help businesses reach their customers and prospects, the whole community benefits.
Of course, my family's chief household officer is not shy about declaring that local businesses bear responsibility, too. Namely, to entice us to buy here. To have what we seek at prices we feel good about paying and convenience as well as service exceeding what we can find out of town. Simple, if far from easy.
There's something else at play, of course. Nothing stays the same. We're in the grip of progress, from our long predawn as a hunter-gatherer species to the Agricultural Revolution and finally the hot spark of the Industrial Age.
We're living through the natural progression, or consequences, as advancement speeds up, faster, faster. And to think the Digital Age has only just begun.
News remains expensive, and all the media feel it, including the online-only ventures. BuzzFeed is more broke than The New York Times. More hot sexy online news sites have gone bust than papers. Nothing is more disrupted by the digital revolution than digital enterprises. Remember MySpace? America Online? Yahoo?
News also is dangerous for the business side, if done fairly without fear or favor. A business owner in the spotlight may plead out with the authorities, accepting responsibility for some embarrassing transgression or another. But sure enough, he'll blame the paper and stop advertising just when he should double down.
Yep, we're the only enterprise that shoots itself in the foot as an essential part of the business model. Better to play soft syndicated music than risk reporting, do only fluffy sales pitches instead of news, duck every tough story. Only thing missing: listeners or viewers.
Do it exactly right and someone's ox is always gored, or squeals as if so. Get something wrong, as certainly happens, and it's worse, far worse. Them's high stakes before we even get to handwringing over presumed ideology of the local rag or station.
Still, radio here takes it on. So do the papers and YubaNet. There is something heroic about this, I think, with critics chirping, an occasional quick nod of appreciation, a public better informed.
I take our cause as holy: Getting you the news and recording the ongoing epic story that is western Nevada County, each edition a new chapter, the first draft of history and all that. Helping our business community flourish. With a more informed populace, along with a healthier local economy, maybe a better place all the way around.
There you go, a look through my rose-colored glasses, a sip of my Kool-Aid, my professional quest, my passion, my dream as expressed through our extremely humble podunk little small-town contribution online and in print.
Oh brother, I know. But I can't help it. And I do have a lot of company in this community, more than most. This is good for all of us.
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-4299.