For this first issue of the Chico News & Review for 2022, I had hopes of sharing good news of a holiday boon and a return to normal for our county and this newspaper, but we are not out of the woods yet.
The reality is we are going to have to continue to be patient. The impact of COVID-19 on the health and economy of our community continues to hamper recovery efforts, including the CN&R’s. A spike in state cases has triggered another indoor mask mandate in California, and Butte County’s infection numbers are once again surging—with 703 cases reported between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1. Barely half of our county is vaccinated and with the fast-moving omicron variant spreading across the country, there is real potential for another significant wave in our isolated neck of the woods during the winter months.
For now, the CN&R will squeak by. Our small newsroom will continue to tell as many of our community’s stories—of fire recovery, of controversies in local government, of triumphs in the arts, of pandemic struggles—as possible, but it is too early to tell when things will improve for good.
Yet there are reasons to be hopeful about the paper’s prospects. For one, we have loyal readers and generous contributors to this newspaper who, along with a steady base of committed advertisers, have inspired our staff and enabled us to maintain a monthly print edition and regular online content. We continue to be here thanks to you.
Plus, this new year will potentially bring some form of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act—which can hopefully be revived—with tax credits for local newsrooms. If the bill passes with the credit intact, papers such as the CN&R could get $25,000 per full-time reporter the first year and $15,000 each for the following four.
Also in the new year, we are bringing back one of the paper’s signature publications—the Discover Butte County guide. The glossy-covered handbook for culture, food, parks, etc., is popular with visitors and locals, and the spring/summer edition will hit the streets in March.
There is a measure of hope that, with vaccinations now available to everyone five and older, even if omicron infections are widespread, hospitals won’t become inundated and far fewer people will die. Maybe the spring or summer will finally bring some normalcy to life. It will almost certainly be a new normal, one that will require a measure of adaptation, but we remain optimistic that our county and this paper can prosper again.
Thanks as always for you support of the CN&R and for sticking with us during this time of enormous change.
Jason Cassidy is editor of the Chico News & Review