Compare, contrast

The Chico Enterprise-Record is a shell of its former self

On Monday morning, as I sat in my chilly office waiting for the power to come back on, I started going through some boxes, tossing out all kinds of old stuff. Unlike many of my journalism colleagues, I haven’t held onto stacks and stacks of papers. I have a handful, though, and during this unintentional break I ran across a Chico Enterprise-Record from almost exactly a decade ago, a yellowing relic from my time at that paper.

It is dated March 30, 2005, and, boy, is it a different paper from today’s E-R. For starters, the front page of this old issue has four local stories. Three of the A1 pieces are by yours truly, which accounts for me keeping a copy of this particular issue.

The lead article is one I wrote about an L.A. Times reporter parachuting into Chico and doing a hack job on a piece about Chico State’s Greek life (a story the reporter was later sacked over); another top-of-the-fold story is a follow-up piece to one I’d broken a few days earlier about Phi Kappa Tau’s participation in a porn film (locals will never forget that one); I also wrote a story about the Chico State Latino Council’s demonstration outside of Normal Street Bar, following what many protesters called racist depictions of Mexican immigrants in advertisements for César Chávez Day drink specials (printed in the now-defunct Synthesis). Those things all happened on my beat—covering higher education.

The other front-page byline is by Barbara Arrigoni, then the Glenn County beat reporter. She wrote how a cyclone fence had gone up around a field in the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, where hundreds of tons of undischarged military ammunition were reportedly buried. Helluva news day, I suppose. But then again, it was typical for the E-R to have four or even five local A1 stories back then. In fact, that was a point of pride for my then-boss, David Little.

It’s a big contrast from the March 30, 2015, Chico E-R. That paper has a single A1 story with a local byline (a large feature on Kite Day), although there also is one of those now-ubiquitous “staff reports” on the front page. Inside the paper, aside from that “News from our past” feature, which is a compilation of Chico history facts, all of the stories are nonlocal wire content. The older paper had five locally written stories inside.

Another thing I noticed about these two decade-apart papers is that the old one is physically larger, about 2 1/2 inches wider when holding the papers open. The newer version is much prettier, though. Last year’s long-overdue redesign changed the E-R’s dated masthead (the top front-page portion with the paper’s name), including removing that lame clip art of the American flag.

Most of the bylines today are different names, of course. Arrigoni is still around but now mainly covers the city of Oroville. Nobody’s dedicated to Glenn County. By my count, the E-R’s newsroom alone is down at least five reporters. Much of the institutional memory, in the form of Roger Aylworth, Larry Mitchell and Greg Welter, is gone. To sum it up, it’s rough going for the local “paper of record.”