Hope in hard times

Someone I know is homeless. Not someone I know well—a professional acquaintance, whose path I cross once or twice a week—still, someone about whom I thought I knew the basics … until Monday, when I found out this individual has been seeking refuge in the Torres Shelter and meals at the Jesus Center.

This person doesn’t know I know (maybe not even after reading this column) and doesn’t know all the people who have rallied to help. Identities aren’t important. This isn’t about charity; it’s about community.

It’s also about awareness. Papers and broadcasts are full of bleak financial news: businesses posting losses, filing for bankruptcy, closing; workers taking pay cuts, losing shifts, getting downsized. Earnings are down; jobless claims are up.

Look beyond the stats. Each digit is a life story—maybe one you know, or unknowingly encounter. It’s not necessarily a tale of addiction and affliction; it could be foreclosure, eviction, repossession, layoff, loan cancelation, delayed government check or fractured family.

Stay connected with the people around you. Make sure they’re OK. Let ’em know if you’re not OK. Folks need help, and folks want to help—and, in both cases, they may be the folks you’d least expect.

Hard times II: In the news section this issue, we have a Downstroke item about the local MediaNews Group papers. Soon after replacing the publisher of the Chico Enterprise-Record and Oroville Mercury-Register, MNG mandated one-week furloughs for employees at all its properties, a list that includes the Paradise Post.

Circumstances aren’t as dire here, yet the CN&R isn’t immune to economic pressures. Faced with hard choices, my editors and I reduced our pay rather than cut content. But our mold is different from the big corporate model.

For one thing, we’re not a publicly traded company. We don’t need to impress Wall Street whizzes. Our value doesn’t hinge on speculative trading.

Mainly, we’re not debt-leveraged to the tune of our annual revenue. We aren’t paying off the acquisition of other media chains. We have a pretty basic balance sheet: revenues versus expenses.

I don’t say this to trumpet my company and blast competitors. No pleasure comes from the struggles of others, particularly those engaged in an endeavor so vital to a free society. There are plenty of stories to tell. There’s room for all of us.

My fear: The MediaNews shift to multipaper publishers will claim the publisher in Paradise, and once under the E-R/M-R umbrella, the Post will cease being autonomous, then cease to exist.

Happier news: The future of newspapers may seem perilous, but that hasn’t dissuaded students from continuing to pursue journalism careers—and internships. As a result, we have another great group with us this semester.

Back for another term are Katie Booth (writer, Chico State), Serena Cervantes (writer, Butte College) and Matt Siracusa (photographer, Butte College). Joining them are Sarah Hubbart—an agriculture communications major, from Chico State—and Robin Bacior, a Chico State journalism student who has written music stories for the CN&R.

A quick smile: This week, I received the most unusual Fiction 59 entry in the three years I’ve been here. It’s called “Whiskey and Horses” and goes as follows …

Unsaddled horses. Duffy’s. Pals. Stories. Dancing. A lady’s bed. Dawn. Head out.

“Entries need to be exactly 59 words,” I pointed out.

The reply: “Man, am I getting old—I wrote 59 letters!!!!”