Giving up, screwing up

The Synthesis is no more, and biffing it on the date of the City Council’s next meeting

I have the distinction of being the only journalist who’s had a full-time gig at every legitimate Chico paper. I’ve been saying that for years, explaining how I started at Chico State’s student paper, The Orion, before moving on to the Chico Enterprise-Record, and eventually to the CN&R.

“What about the Chico Examiner or the Chico Beat?” someone once asked me. “Oh, well, every legitimate newspaper that still prints,” I said, amending my assertion to exclude those two defunct papers.

Nobody ever asked me about the Synthesis, another local publication that no longer exists. For the uninitiated, the Synthesis was a weekly tabloid that focused on Chico’s entertainment scene. It folded this week, after a couple of decades in business.

I first encountered the tab when I came here for college in the late ’90s, moving up specifically to enroll in Chico State’s journalism program. The publication was about 4 years old then, and had a few sharp-witted columnists. I don’t remember much else about its early incarnation. Some of my journalism buddies ended up writing for it as freelance contributors. But they didn’t last long because they couldn’t pay rent with the Bear Bucks and Duffy’s Bucks that were given to them in lieu of real money.

I never went out of my way to read the Synthesis over the years, like I did with the CN&R before working here. Then again, my interest was always in news, and I never considered the Synthesis to be a newspaper. Wisely, neither did most of its editors, the ones who knew the publication’s niche.

Interestingly, one person who didn’t see it that way is Synthesis founder Bill Fishkin, who evidently believes that weekly was competition for this one. It wasn’t. For obvious reasons. But I’m not writing here to point them out. What I want to note is that none of the CN&R’s staff members are tapdancing on the grave of the local tab, as that aforementioned founder relayed to readers in his publication’s penultimate issue. That’s because any loss in the local media landscape means there are fewer voices sharing ideas, and that’s never a good thing.

Fishkin made a big pronouncement about print media being dead, and he took a swipe at CN&R, predicting this paper’s demise. He also went on and on about how his main business these days is his .net digital marketing firm. (I found his company listed on the third page of a Google search for “Syn Media,” before figuring out it’s one of those one-word monikers.)

Thing is, print—especially community journalism—remains vital. In fact, it’s more important than ever. Fishkin just doesn’t get that.

The CN&R isn’t perfect, of course. But we are a dedicated and hardworking lot, and our readership is growing by the thousands.

Speaking of screw-ups, last week I made a huge deal about citizens attending the next City Council meeting, when the Chico police union’s contract would be under review. Well, I jumped the gun. That meeting is a week later than I reported, on April 7. Mea culpa.