Closures and murders

Two newspapers shuttered; and this week’s cover story explores two long-forgotten murders

Last August, just about the time we at the CN&R were about to celebrate our 40th anniversary with a block party outside our downtown office, I learned that the granddaddy of alternative newspapers, New York City’s The Village Voice, had stopped its print operations and moved to an online-only format.

That storied paper started in 1955 and, like this one, made its name by speaking truth to power and keeping a finger on the pulse of the arts and culture scene. One of its founders was the journalist and novelist Norman Mailer. Among the many prestigious awards the Voice earned during it six-plus decades is the Pulitzer Prize—three of them, in fact.

And now, dear readers, that newspaper is finished. Last week, the Voice’s owner, a billionaire who’d operated the paper for just a couple of years with the intention of keeping it alive, made the announcement. Of course, this leaves New Yorkers with one less, well, voice.

Unfortunately, this is a scenario befalling cities throughout the nation in the digital age. That includes one close to home.

In a note to readers on Friday, Aug. 31, the 137-year-old Gridley Herald—a small paper covering mainly Gridley, Biggs and Live Oak—announced it was immediately ceasing operations. The culprit: the economy, but especially the rising costs of newsprint, according to its publisher/editor, Lisa Van De Hey, who worked there for 26 years.

Van De Hey wrote a heartbreaking goodbye in the final edition: “To think that this will be the last thing I write for the newspaper is so hard to grasp.

“Many, many thanks to my devoted and loyal staff who are all close friends, I love you all.”

The Herald’s parent company, New York-based GateHouse Media, owns hundreds of publications, including nearly 700 community papers. The closure, which reportedly took place after giving employees a single day’s notice, leaves these communities in a local news desert.

Considering Gridley was only sporadically covered by the Chico Enterprise-Record back when that paper had a sizable stable of reporters, there isn’t much hope the daily will pick up the slack.

Fortunately, however, according to a rogue post on the Herald’s Facebook page, the paper’s former prep sports reporter, David Vantress, is going to continue the region’s coverage of that realm despite the closure by its “corporate overlords.” Find his work on Facebook by searching for Southern Butte County Prep Sports Zone.

Vantress doesn’t mince words on the new page: “[He will produce] the same high-quality coverage readers came to expect from the Gridley Herald before its greedy, sleazy, shady, unprofessional corporate owners decided to pull the plug last week.”

I’m cheering for him.

In not totally unrelated news … I hope you’ll take the time this week to read our cover story, by Ken Smith, a writer we often turn to for historical narratives. This one is about a double murder that took place in Chico in the 1930s, and it involves much drama, as we learned from old newspaper clippings, but it also has a modern twist. One of the central characters is a San Diego man with a passion for research—he contacted me months ago to relay what he’d discovered. I was hooked and contacted Smith, and the rest, as they say, is history.