Farewell for now

Forgive me for stumbling here, but I’m still in shock.

On Monday (March 16), I learned this newspaper would suspend publication and that our entire staff would be laid off in a matter of days. I stayed up until 5 a.m. trying to come up with a plan to save our region’s longest-serving alternative voice—a Chico institution—and carry on the legacy that a fine group of journalists and free thinkers started in August 1977.

Know any billionaire First Amendment champions? Neither do I.

Like other small businesses, the CN&R has been knocked hard and fast by the fallout from the coronavirus. Struggling amid the sweeping shutdowns, our advertisers pulled most of what they’d booked into the paper. Last week, we were profitable. This week, we’re not. It’s that simple for a company that runs on small margins, fueled by a passion for journalism more than the almighty dollar.

This could be our last issue. And that, dear readers and supporters, would be a heart-breaker. What the exceptional journalists at this newspaper do, week in and week out, is unparalleled in the North State. I say that not to be egotistical but to underscore the crater-like hole the CN&R’s closure will leave in the local media landscape.

Think back to our best work in recent years—our watchdog reporting related to local environmental issues, police shootings, city government and, more recently, the 300-plus stories we’ve written on the far-reaching and devastating effects of the Camp Fire.

Last week, I learned that we were named finalists in nine categories in the annual California Journalism Awards contest, including for our unmatched local arts and entertainment coverage led by my dear friend, Arts Editor Jason Cassidy (aka Arts DEVO). We compete against the largest weekly newspapers in the state—publications with much larger circulations, resources and staffs.

I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to have worked with Managing Editor Meredith J. Cooper, Advertising Manager Jamie DeGarmo, Art Director Tina Flynn, retired Editor Robert Speer and Contributing Editor Evan Tuchinsky over the past 13 years. Or how proud I am of staff writers Ashiah Scharaga and Andre Byik, whose skillful, compassionate reporting has helped so many struggling fire survivors. The thought of not being able to continue this type of journalism—serving as an anchor in our community during this especially worrisome time—makes me incredibly sad.

Suffice it to say, depriving myself of sleep did not result in a plan to sustain the operation through this disaster. It’s surreal not knowing whether this is a farewell for now or forever.

After learning the devastating news, the CN&R’s reporters and editors did what we’ve always done in the face of a crisis—get to work. Sixteen months ago, that meant driving up to the still-burning Ridge. This week, it’s informing our community on the global threat that has taken away the jobs we love in our beloved community.

It’s that type of unflinching response and dedication that sets this publication apart.

I know I speak on behalf of our entire company—delivery drivers, salespeople, designers, and especially our owners, Jeff vonKaenel and Deborah Redmond—that we want nothing more than to continue serving our community. If you want to help us do that, you can make a donation at newsreview.com/chico/donate.

No matter what happens, thank you, dear readers, for your many years of support.

About Melissa Daugherty 75 Articles
Melissa Daugherty is an award-winning columnist and editorial writer who started her career as a higher education reporter at a daily newspaper. Daugherty spent 17 years at the CN&R, eight of them as editor-in-chief. Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable is her super power.