Strange scoop

The Chico E-R sat for months on an important story; plus, TV journalism and generous readers

Here at the CN&R, we have a mantra that goes something like this: We may not write it first, but we’ll definitely write it best.

Indeed, when you’re a reporter at a weekly in a town with a daily, you have to set your work apart by upping the ante. That means digging deeper in the reporting and writing process, not just repeating what the cross-town paper printed.

Over the past decade, those of us working here at the corner of Second and Flume streets have watched the Chico Enterprise-Record’s newsroom contract, in concert with its plummeting circulation. As a result, we oftentimes scoop the publication that puts out a paper seven days a week (at least for now).

Take, for example, our story about a federal lawsuit in which a Butte County Sheriff’s Office deputy alleges sweeping racial discrimination. On Tuesday (Dec. 12), the Chico E-R got around to printing a story on the same subject—nearly two months after we printed ours—but sans an interview with the deputy who filed the lawsuit.

Thing is, the daily should have had that one in the bag. Its reporter interviewed most of the sources that we did back in September, but for some reason the paper held off on printing anything. That’s according to the local chapter of the NAACP, members of which came to us noting that they’d been interviewed, and then crickets. No story. The photos that accompanied the E-R’s coverage are dated in September, backing up that narrative.

It’s anyone’s guess why the newspaper held off on a story that was timely months ago.

I also have to wonder why folks with an important story to tell would go to the daily first. Sure, it’s technically the paper of record. But with one-fifth of the CN&R’s circulation, according to the E-R’s most recent audit (about 8,000, according to the Alliance for Audited Media), I don’t see the appeal. To read the CN&R’s take on the charges against the BCSO, which, again, includes an interview with the complainant, head to our free-to-read archives and search for “Culture of discrimination,” Newslines, Oct. 26.

And just to be clear, I’m not saying the daily is irrelevant. I actually think it’s vital to Chico. Obviously, the CN&R doesn’t have room for everything.

While I’m on the subject of local media, I want to point readers to CN&R Staff Writer Ken Smith’s excellent recent cover story on the armed guards who were pretty much working in secret for the city of Chico before his reporting uncovered the company’s contract with the municipality.

Both local TV news stations chased the story—and acknowledged the CN&R’s investigative reporting, which is much appreciated—but some of the facts relayed in this complex story were misconstrued. For those who missed Smith’s piece, see “Under the gun,” Nov. 30, at

Some good news: Last week in this space, I noted that the CN&R’s office was once again the pick-up and drop-off location for gifts for kids living at the Esplanade House. As in years past, we want to make sure they don’t get left out of the season. I’m happy to report that readers came through—all of the kids now have generous folks shopping for them. Their gifts are due back here by Dec. 20. Thanks, readers!