For me, the print CN&R died not with the monthly issue you may be holding in your hands, but rather the one published on March 19, 2020, the last weekly edition.
I found a copy the other day. It was smaller than usual, just 36 pages, because businesses pulled their ads as word of the state shutdown spread. Yet it was chock-full of arts and news coverage—all local stories written by CN&R reporters and contributors—as well as a long-form essay by yours truly about life with a disabled child.
Even as the paper was being kicked down, the entire staff informed our jobs would be gone in a matter of days, we finished articles about how the pandemic was affecting others in the community. In an editorial, we encouraged readers to help one another.
“Comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” has always been my favorite journalism maxim, and it’s what this newspaper did best, week in and week out, until the coronavirus came along. I’ve been grieving its loss each day since. Indeed, that is the CN&R I’ll remember fondly, the one I’ll eulogize.
This is not to slight the monthly version that has slogged away since August 2020, after which time I handed the editing reins to Jason Cassidy, who has dealt not only with staffing challenges but also had to repeatedly reinvent the paper.
Like others, I’d hoped the CN&R could find a way back to weekly publication, with or without me. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.
The paper is now going to embrace a fully online presence. That’s the nice way of saying the print version is a goner. We’ll have to wait and see what the new incarnation looks like. What we do know is that it’ll be a solo editorial operation—Cassidy doing everything.
That means this is my last Second & Flume, the column I named after the eponymous intersection my corner office looked down on after I was named editor-in-chief back in 2013, the first woman to hold the job.
I can’t tell you how much I miss that view. It felt symbolic to sit there, just a few blocks from City Hall, watchdogging the folks doing the people’s business. I was surrounded by the best reporters in the county, journalists equally invested in getting to the heart of each story, as they helped set the agenda on important community issues. Despite the stress and workload, I loved my job.
I’ve played Monday morning quarterback many times since Cassidy told me the paper was ceasing print permanently, wondering if things could’ve turned out differently if I’d done more than write a column and the occasional editorial. I’ll never know, and it doesn’t matter anyway. Staying home with my son to shield him from the coronavirus will always be the right choice, a hundred newspapers be damned.
Still, I’m sad as hell.
It’s not my style to sugarcoat things. Fact is, newspapers are dying at a rate of two a week, turning the communities they’ve served into news deserts with higher rates of corruption and lower voter turnout. That could easily happen here.
The CN&R ceasing print means it’s on the brink of becoming another statistic. Supporting Cassidy and the operation through donations and advertising is the only way to ensure Chico’s alternative voice lives on.
As for me, as I depart after nearly 17 years, the conventional thing to do would be to list off the stories and awards I’m most proud of over my career. But I’ll skip that cliché. Instead, to everyone who has turned to this page over the years, I simply want to say thank you. It’s been an honor.
Melissa Daugherty is editor-at-large for the Chico News & Review