Before COVID-19, I never thought twice when a co-worker asked to meet up for coffee or lunch. Now … I get a little nervous.
It’s no secret that the pandemic dealt a serious blow to newspapers, the Chico News & Review included. We are adapting and surviving, which is good for us and good for the community, but as as we’ve soldiered on continuing over the past three years to publish monthly—with no immediate plan to return to our former weekly schedule—our resilient editorial staff has gradually thinned.
Folks have moved on, and the latest to embark on other adventures is longtime CN&R Staff Writer, and my good friend, Ashiah Bird (née Scharaga), who very sweetly over coffee recently gave notice for the very-part-time writing position at the CN&R. This will free her up to commit fully to her main gig, as Marketing and Communications Director for True North Housing Alliance, as well have time to continue teaching theater to children.
In January, we celebrated Ashiah’s fifth anniversary at this paper. She’d interned with the CN&R while in the journalism program at Chico State. After graduation she moved on to an internship at the Sacramento Bee then a job at the Chico Enterprise-Record, where she worked until 2018, when then-CN&R Editor Melissa Daugherty poached her from the daily’s news department.
It’s very appropriate that Ashiah’s last story on staff (we hope that she will contribute as a freelancer when the time and the story is right!) is one focused a social-justice issue. For all her great writing and her commitment to the mission of community journalism, what will likely stand as Ashiah’s legacy at the CN&R is her passion for trying to give voice to those who have none—from telling many stories of the often forgotten refugees of the 2018 Camp Fire to illuminating the plight of trans kids looking for support as divisive politics drive policies hostile to their existence (see “Crisis Care“).
To me, and to many in Butte County who’ve told her their stories, Ashiah has been the voice for our marginalized and underserved neighbors. I respect her immensely for her work at the CN&R, and I look forward to seeing the great things she will do as she continues in other roles devoted to this community.
As I’ve said many times, Ashiah, thank you for kicking so much ass.