What were they thinking?

Stories that left us dumbfounded

Not so Funny Latino students protest the Normal St. Bar ad, while cartoonist Thorn Hart (right) comes to its defense.

Not so Funny Latino students protest the Normal St. Bar ad, while cartoonist Thorn Hart (right) comes to its defense.

Photo By Tom Angel

Head stop program
It’s still unclear what prompted the federal government to take over Butte County’s Head Start program. First they said it was because a toddler with a hypocephalic condition was not wearing a helmet, but then it came out that he wasn’t supposed to be wearing one. Then it was supposedly over shoddy record-keeping, yet local administrators say they were told by the feds earlier this year that those problems had been fixed. Seems like something’s fishy here to us, but operations of the preschool program have been taken over by a government contractor based in Colorado and the county Community Action Agency decided to give up the fight.

Speed killed
Opponents of an advisory measure on the ballot in Yuba County chose a strange way to make their case against casinos, using doctored stories from the CN&R’s Web site to link the spread of Indian casinos with methamphetamine addiction.

A Willows organization called Nor. Cal. Lincoln Club PAC, which opposed the advisory pro-casino Measure G, clipped a story about meth from the CN&R, using the text from the story but adding a new headline stating “Casinos linked to Meth Epidemic in Poor Rural Counties.” While the CN&R has written extensively about Indian gaming, the Lincoln club chose to clip text from a story describing the harmful effects of speed addiction, using images of tweakers who happened to be at a casino.

The flier also included, for no apparent reason, a photo of a sink full of syringes with the heading “Do we need these problems in Yuba County?”

The measure, which would have cleared the way for a new casino to be built near Olivehurst, failed by a margin of less than three percent.

The fliers, distributed to voters in Yuba County, were funded by Mooretown Rancheria, the tribe that runs Feather Falls casino in Oroville. Apparently, Feather Falls is more worried about the possibility of competition than it is about linking speed and gambling.

Hail to Cesar
Latino students said they were angered and offended last Cesar Chavez Day upon seeing an ad in The Synthesis for Normal St. Bar which portrayed brown-skinned farm workers as Corona-swilling, sombrero-wearing liquor shills who sport bandoliers or red cha-cha heels while happily picking fruit.

The ad also encouraged students to “Imigrate [sic] to Normal St. for some fine pickins'!” and offered “1/2 off pricing for anyone dressed as Ceasar [sic] Chavez (costume must include Sombrero).”

Bar owner Erik Nielson offered the explanation that. “From a political standpoint, it’s in poor taste, but from a business standpoint it makes sense,” Nielson said. “As business owners, we have to take advantage of the situation. Any excuse for a party.”

Latino groups protested the bar, saying that the holiday honoring United Farm Worker founder Cesar Chavez is meant to honor laborers, not drunks.

Artist Thorn Hart, who drew the ad, was perplexed by the reaction, and explained, “It’s an ad to get people down to Normal St. to drink some goddamn beer. It doesn’t get any deeper than that.”

Hart later criticized the CN&R’s coverage of the issue saying we “kept this nonstory alive for over three weeks with degrading adjectives and personally insulting hyperbole.” Hart got back at the paper by drawing an ad in which a curvaceous female superhero taunts a small, dorky-looking man wearing a CN&R shirt while defeating him at dodgeball.

What’s that under your toga?
Adding to the already damaged image of fraternities in 2005, was the now infamous Phi Kappa Tau porn party, which Chico State officials found out about in February.

The fraternity struck a deal with adult film company Shane’s World in late 2004 to come in and film a toga party complete with porn stars and a wholesome game of “dildo ring toss.”

The Interfraternity Council had had enough at that point and stripped Phi Kappa Tau of university recognition.

Joe Wills, university director of public affairs, said that, even if no violations were committed, Phi Kappa Tau’s activities still go against the ideals of the fraternity system.

“Even if everything was legal, it was still colossally in poor judgment.”

Demon be gone
The city defeated Halloween once again this year, running an anti-party ad campaign and putting extra officers on the street to discourage large gatherings. This is the third consecutive year the city has taken such an approach, and while it has been criticized as excessive by students and some downtown business owners, it has seemingly worked to lower crime.

Not satisfied with quashing the Halloween party tradition, Chico police also set their sights on the annual Labor Day float, in which thousands of Chico State students take to the Sacramento River on inner tubes and homemade rafts. The tradition calls for drinking copious amounts of beer and the flashing of nubile boobage, which police say makes for a dangerous situation on the river. Local agencies often perform dozens of rescues during the float.

This year’s crackdown was more effective than anyone involved had planned. Fewer than 700 floaters hit the river on Labor Day, an enormous drop-off from last year’s approximately 20,000.

Krispy Kreme—R.I.P.
We love tasty, melt-in-your mouth donuts as much as the next guy. But only once or twice a month, not every day. Apparently, a lot of Chicoans felt the same way, because after only two years in town, Krispy Kreme shut its doors on Oct. 30.

Blame the low-carb craze, blame the hype—just know that you’ll have to drive to Sac or get ’em cold in the grocery store from now on.

What were we thinking?
Hated and misunderstood

Despite winning one of the most coveted awards in alternative journalism this year (General Excellence in Weeklies given by the California Newspaper Publishers Association), the CN&R was dogged by controversy and scandal at every turn in 2005.

First, our annual Goin’ Chico issue, a guide for new and returning CSUC students, was banned from campus for its inclusion of a satirical piece called “The Party Rules,” which was meant to mock the Chico State party culture.

School administrators and members of the Associated Students governing body took offense to the article’s shocking tone and refused to distribute the issue to students. When advertisers threatened to withhold payment, the CN&R reprinted 3,000 issues meant for inclusion in student orientation packets, substituting a year-old welcome from university President Paul Zingg.

The controversy made national news. The paper received scores of responses to the article, both positive and negative. Many Chico alums were outraged over the article’s suggestion that their diplomas are “worthless,” while others felt it was “about time” we addressed the school’s problems. Although the remainder of the 45,000 issues distributed in August still contained the offending article, the CN&R was still accused of kowtowing to school administrators in allowing itself to be censored. Sometimes you can’t win.

The next controversy came with the dismissal of founding CN&R staffer, former Senior Editor Robert Speer. When the paper offered no official explanation for the sudden departure, the rumor mill around town went into overdrive. A story in the E-R allowed the departed one to vent over the issue, which spawned more rumors and letters to the editor accusing the CN&R’s management of being cold-hearted corporate bastards. The less said about this issue, the better.

Around this time, the paper’s CEO decided to rent out some extra space on the ground floor of our Second Street headquarters. A sign announcing the lease opportunity predictably stirred up rumors of the paper’s demise. Chalk it up to wishful thinking.

Somewhere between firing editors and pissing off the university, we angered the parents of two girls featured in a photo used to illustrate a story about childhood obesity. Although the photo was altered to obscure the young ladies’ identities, it was obviously not altered enough, because the two Chico High students’ peers recognized them above the headline “Big Fat Problem.” To their credit, the peers comforted the young women and chastised us. We still feel bad about that one.

Then came the dildos. Nobody on the editorial staff had any idea that running a story about a female entrepreneur who hawks vibrators at parties would cause such an uproar. At least a half-dozen businesses kicked our papers to the curb, and at least as many advertisers threatened to or actually pulled their support. We probably lost a couple grand on that one. One reader even asked our editor, Tom Gascoyne, to explain to his 9-year-old daughter what a dildo is! Gascoyne turned down the creepy request. We’re still scratching our heads over that.