Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The First District, Local Papers and their Editors

I live in the First Congressional district of California. An area that is huge (larger than many States) and very, very Republican. This district runs from Marysville, California (about 40 miles north of Sacramento), goes east to the Nevada border and north all the way to Oregon. Everything east of Interstate 5 is in this district. Here  you will find lots of rural cities and towns like Yuba City, Grass Valley, Nevada City, Susanville, Quincy, Chico, Oroville, Alturas, Red Bluff, Redding and a small town with the double entendre, very descriptive, name of "Weed".

This huge rural district includes all of Northeastern California. And it is beautiful. Both Mount Lassen (which is a National Park) and Mount Shasta (which should be a National Park) are in the district. It includes the northern tip of the Sierra and the southern edge of the Cascade mountains. I live in the Foothills where the Sierra ends and the Cascades begin. On the valley floor, agriculture is plentiful growing many of the nuts you will eat. Walnuts and almonds. You also will see rice paddies on the valley floor. In the foothills, we are in the "Emerald Triangle" meaning that cannabis is the number one crop. And it is everywhere. The intersection where the bus picks up our 11 and 12 year old girls is the juncture of three marijuana plantations. We call it "Cannabis Corner".

You'd think that the political persuasion of pot farmers' would be liberal. Wrong. They tend to be Rednecks who are mostly interested in making a buck and being left alone. Or as a friend of mine put it: "Have you ever noticed how the kids of Hippies turn out to be Rednecks?" True. They also tend to use their product in large amounts with the general,  predictable consequences you would expect of heavy use of a drug that disengages you from reality and saps your motivation to improve your life.

On a more local level we have four newspapers in this part of Butte County. Three of them are owned by the MediaNews Group which is the second largest newspaper chain in the United States. Two of the papers are dailies: The Chico Enterprise Record and the Oroville Mercury Register. Really, these two papers are pretty much the same entity and are edited by the same person. Only the masthead is different. This is how the MediaNews Group tries to make a profit by sharing newsrooms for more than one paper. A trick they are famous for which has been only partially successful as the MediaNews Group had to file for bankruptcy in 2010.  The other two papers are the weekly (and excellent) Chico News-Review--the alternative paper that caters to the college town of Chico; and the two-edition-a-week Paradise Post (another paper owned by the MediaNews Group). There is yet another MediaNews Group paper in the town of Red Bluff (which is about 40 miles north of Chico).

All of these MediaNews Group newspapers reflect the demographics of the area with the exception of the Chico Enterprise Record which is a right wing paper in the liberal University town of Chico. Read these papers on a daily basis for awhile and you will see that their respective editors influence the political persuasion of the paper.

By the way, the Chico Enterprise Record's DNA can be traced back to a paper that existed in the 1870's called the Chico Caucasian. The Chico Caucasian morphed into the Chico Enterprise. This was back during the time when Chinese labor was used extensively in California. Oroville had a large Chinese population, the only remnant remaining from those times is a Chinese Temple. The Chinese were persecuted to the point that most of the population was forced out of northern California. These local Podunk papers have almost always been rather racist in tone; it continues today with all the blather against the "Illegals", the attempt to ban migrant workers from receiving social services and the "English only" movement.

Back to the editors. They are all predictably Right Wing in their politics. David Little edits the Chico and the Oroville paper. He sits on the editorial board and also writes a Sunday column which is at its best when he writes about camping trips. When he writes about politics, well, let's just say he isn't at his best. I do admire him for being in support of returning wolves to Northern California. However, he also ascribes to reducing the numbers of mountain lion so that deer hunters can get more tags.

Rick Silva edits the Paradise Post and also writes a supposed-to-be weekly column. He is unabashedly right wing in his politics. It seems that his real love is sports (he started his career as a sports writer). In my opinion, he should go back to sports writing. His last column claimed that the Republican Party would be best served by turning even more to the right. He claims that running moderates doesn't work. Silva is a pro-lifer  whose advice to candidates is to just not answer questions regarding their stance on abortion. Ugh.

Rick Silva does deserve credit in that he has several good liberal columnists who write for him. Jaime O'Neill is perhaps the best writer in Northern California and has a must-read weekly column. Much to Silva's credit, he always runs a local liberal on the editorial page. Unfortunately, Silva has a difficult time finding a talented local Conservative pundit. However, the editorial page is livelier than most.

Chip Thompson is the editor of the Red Bluff paper. He probably wrote the stupidest editorial ever when he defended the town's flag being hung upside down and at half mast after Obama's re-election. However, he also has a good local liberal columnist in Richard Mazzucchi. Thompson also runs one of the worst Limbaughesque Awful Columnist in Don Polson. Polson bought the Republican Kool Aid and predicted a massive landslide for Romney. Oops.

And so this is an introduction to the cast of characters. A motley bunch. A rich treasure trove of material to be visited again and again.

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