Crews and the news

Valley Mirror publisher goes back to basics

I’ve known Tim Crews, about whom I write in this week’s cover story , since the 1980s, when he worked at the Oroville Mercury and later the Paradise Post before being recruited to be general manager and managing editor at the Willows Journal.

He’s always had too wide a stubborn streak to work for others, and when he ticked off someone in the power structure in Willows, the Journal fired him. He remembers to this day what the West Coast VP for Morris Media, then-owner of the Journal, told him: “Don’t you understand? People are in power because they deserve to be in power.”

He liked Glenn County and its people and decided he wasn’t going to be pushed out. On Christmas Eve 1991, he founded the Sacramento Valley Mirror, plunking himself and his staff of about three, including his wife, Donna Settles, and his black poodle, Nixon, in a shack next to a rice dryer in Artois. I thought he’d lost his mind.

Crews has a back-to-basics approach: Give the people news, pull no punches, kowtow to nobody, and keep the government honest. He likes to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, as the expression goes. That hasn’t made him popular with the elite, but the common folk trust him, and his paper has grown steadily over the years.

Several years ago he moved to a storefront office in downtown Willows. The display window in front showcases a rack of newspaper award plaques, most of them honoring Crews’ determination to make local agencies follow the state’s open-meetings and public-records acts. After 18 years and innumerable lawsuits, they’re starting to get the message.

More from the Herger file: Was Bert Stead being “sarcastic”—the word used in a recent Enterprise-Record editorial—by calling himself a terrorist at Rep. Wally Herger’s now infamous town-hall meeting in Redding? Perhaps. Do I think Stead is a terrorist? No. Terrorists don’t usually advertise.

Some have said Stead was responding to a couple of government reports supposedly linking right-wing believers like him to terrorism of the Timothy McVeigh type. That could be, too.

But this isn’t about Bert Stead. It’s about Wally Herger’s embrace of such rhetoric, his refusal to put a stop to it, the way he smiled and soaked up the applause that greeted Stead’s remarks.

The E-R editorial lets Wally off with a slap on the wrist: “If he’s guilty of anything, it’s of playing cheerleader for one of his supporters instead of listening with impartiality to what his constituents had to say.”

No, guys, he’s guilty of lying. Of saying the health-care plans in Congress are a “government takeover,” that they “will force people to give up the health care they like” and that “120 million Americans would lose their current coverage and be forced into a government program.” All of that is untrue, as he well knows.

And he is guilty of the worst kind of partisanship. Instead of inviting an honest discussion of current legislation concerning an issue of vital importance, he has joined the Republican effort to scare people and wound President Obama. He’s put party ahead of country, and that’s a shameful thing for a U.S. congressman to do.