Hey, I’m the Editor now! How did that happen?
With apologies to the heroic Chico State professors who initially helped rewire this Redding hick’s brain, the most important schoolin’ in my 52 years has been provided to me by the Chico News & Review.
As an avid reader since 1989, I’ve devoured this most vital textbook, which provided an entry point for me to find my place in the Chico community. As a writer and editor the past 18-plus years, my time at the paper has been spent unintentionally training for a career that today finds me in the chair of the Editor in Chief.
The CN&R has been my journalism school and my Jason school.
The Jason Cassidy whom CN&R readers have gotten to know in these pages is not too far off from the real-life person. I feel like many of my defining moments and traits as a writer, critic, events producer, local-arts cheerleader, musician, husband and downtown dude coalesced during and because of my time here. Since I’ve been an arts editor with an arts column for most of those years, and am not shy about talking about myself, I’ve freely shared my life as it happened. Complete strangers know all my pets’ names and have suffered through my indie-rock blatherings and updates on my latest surgical procedure (the nasal septum remains properly aligned, my friends). The Arts DEVO guy from my columns is kind of just me—although in real life I don’t give hippies such a hard time.
The journalist who readers know—and are now likely looking to for insight into the paper’s direction as we recover from the pandemic—was trained right here, as well. Before I was hired as arts/calendar editor in 2003 by then-Editor Tom Gascoyne, my experience was limited to creative-writing classes as an English major at Chico State; one semester on the staff of the Butte College Roadrunner; and a year or so of freelance arts and music writing—first for the Chico Enterprise-Record, then for the CN&R.
My first months on the CN&R job were a crash-course taught by an all-star team of local journalism legends—Gascoyne, Senior Editor Bob Speer, Designer Tina Flynn, Associate Editor Devanie Angel, News Editor Josh Indar and photographer Tom Angel.
Tom Gascoyne taught me courage and curiosity (prodding me to always try and open closed doors) and to appreciate the work we do (frequently pointing out how “cool” it was that our words were read by the community every week). I studied storytelling with Bob, copyediting with Devanie, and I (kind of) learned to stick to deadlines thanks to Tina (who has also been my longtime partner in arts appreciation). And from that entire editorial crew I learned to be cynical—mostly in questioning everything and not relying on one source for answers, but also in just kind of being a smartass.
As new heartbeats came into the office, I tapped into the fresh blood for knowledge and inspiration. Under Editor Evan Tuchinsky, I received a lesson in kindness (the health of the staff should come first); Managing Editor and master copy editor Meredith Cooper broadened my editing horizons; and righteously principled friends like Sales Manager Alec Binyon and Greenways Editor Christine LaPado stoked the fires of my passion for community journalism. The list of excellent (and often award-winning) writers and passionate scene-watchers who influenced/inspired me is too long for me to do justice here, but I’ll at least mention Richard “Doc” Ek and my good buddy Ken Smith among the former and my longtime dude Mark Lore among the latter.
My capstone course, of course, has been the tenure of my predecessor and friend, Melissa Daugherty, probably the finest journalist I’ve ever met. Her standards of rigor and commitment to getting things right are nonpareil, but her greatest and most influential trait is her conviction to purpose. More than anybody in Butte County, Melissa honors the journalism credo of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” and I have seen firsthand how she’s lived that role tirelessly (and sleeplessly), speaking truth to power and standing up for wildfire survivors, our unhoused neighbors and anyone else whose voice wasn’t being heard.
Now that Melissa has officially passed the reins to me, I will do my best to guide my efforts with those same principles (hopefully squeezing in a little more sleep than my friend was able) while bringing nearly two decades of tutelage under the faculty of CN&R U to bear as well.
As for any ideas I might have for the direction of the Chico News & Review, I will save those for another column. There is a vision coming into focus for an editorial team of longtime journalists/friends—me, Managing Art Director Tina Flynn, Contributing Editor Evan Tuchinsky, writers Ken Smith and Ashiah Scharaga, Calendar Assistant Trevor Whitney and Editor-at-Large Melissa Daugherty—to steer the newspaper into a new reality.
I’m very grateful to News & Review owners Jeff vonKaenel and Deborah Redmond for this opportunity. I plan to repay their faith in me by continuing to try to make good on meeting the CN&R’s mission of having a positive impact on the community as well as live up to the legacy of this newspaper that, since 1977, has endeavored to empower the full range voices here in Butte County.
More to come …