20-year timeline


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The Sacramento News & Review publishes Vol. 1, No. 1, accompanied by a billboard promotional campaign with the slogan “You should be getting it once a week”; C.K. McClatchy’s memorial service is held on the same day SN&R is launched. The Sacramento Bee launches Ticket in response to SN&R’s new presence in the local market. Sacramentans make history by becoming the first municipality in the country to vote to shut down a nuclear power plant—good riddance, Rancho Seco.

SN&R reporter Tom Johnson writes a cover story about the local methamphetamine trade, titled “Crank Capital, U.S.A.” As a result of the story, federal laws get tightened on transportation of a key methamphetamine ingredient. Formerly obscure alternative cartoonist Matt Groening launches The Simpsons.


SN&R launches its Talking Personals section and everybody starts getting dates; publishes its first annual Women’s Issue and is flooded with responses to its questionnaire about love, equity, power and sex from local women (and men); and also debuts what would become a reader favorite—the Best of Sacramento issue—which featured thousands of ballots cast in a readers’ choice poll.

Sacramento continues its attempt at a skyline as the Wells Fargo office tower on Capitol Mall goes up. President George H.W. Bush commits American troops to war in the Persian Gulf. SMUD verges on something great with a decommissioned nuke plant, a new green agenda.


Movie critics Jim Lane and Mark Halverson, who were writing film reviews for SN&R since its inception, become increasingly known in Sacramento as “the popcorn guys.” Rodney King is arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department, and the infamous beating he takes at their hands is videotaped by an onlooker. Magic Johnson announces he’s HIV positive. Timothy and Buck Busfield open the B Street Theatre. Joe Serna Jr. is elected to replace Anne Rudin as mayor of Sacramento.

SN&R begins a state bureau with the goal of providing independent, nonmainstream political and cultural content to alternative weeklies throughout the state; the project runs for many years until chains buy up many of California’s weeklies.


SN&R launches the Sacramento Area Music Awards (Sammies) to showcase the best and brightest in local music talent. SN&R reporter Curt Guyette investigates the allegations of a handful of Sacramento police officers who charge the department with institutional racism; a month later, Chief John Kearns announces his retirement.

The King verdict comes in, letting L.A. police off the hook and resulting in the famous L.A. riots. Hurricane Andrew devastates Florida. Bill Clinton is elected president of the United States.


Sacramento’s Downtown Plaza nears completion. SN&R reporter Sarah Lavender Smith authors award-winning cover story “Deep Smoke”—one of the first to fully outline the tobacco industry’s influence in California politics. An SN&R writer takes a look at Sacramento’s leather underground, and the paper gets in all kinds of trouble—with the religious right and others. SN&R launches ArtView, which helped to propel Second Saturday from a few gallery events into what it is today.

Sacramento experiences a rash of anonymous fire bombings, including one at the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People headquarters. SN&R produces a special issue urging racial tolerance.

Sacramento’s favorite band, Cake, makes the SN&R cover for the first time, with R.V. Scheide writing.


The Sacramento Union shuts its doors for good, leaving the Bee without daily competition. California solons pass the legislative mistake of the century, “three strikes.” Bill Clinton becomes president of the United States. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain fatally shoots himself in the head.

SN&R engages in a five-month censorship battle with a right-wing Christian group called the American Family Association; local ministers sign a petition to support SN&R in this battle. Former U.S. President Richard Nixon dies. SN&R’s Guyette investigates Sacramento Cable Television and reveals charges of racism and sexism being leveled at cable-company manager Kim Rueckert; Rueckert resigns two months later.

O.J. Simpson is arrested for murder.


Simpson is found not guilty of murdering Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Bob Wisehart, TV columnist for the Bee from 1984 to 1994, goes down as a plagiarist and later writes his story for SN&R. A cabal of young SN&R women writers introduce Sacramento to the “girl revolution” several years before the national media started catching onto the Girl Power phenomenon.

The Crest Theatre reopens its doors. Sacramento’s McClellan Air Force Base is targeted for closure. SN&R reporter Nick Budnick writes the award-winning “Lies, damn lies and the cover-up at Deer Creek”; the story causes a massive shake-up in the county’s water bureaucracy. SN&R moves to its current location in the one-time city mortuary near 20th and J streets.; AWN, a cooperative sales network for alt weeklies, also takes up lodging in SN&R’s headquarters.

The Unabomber kills lobbyist Gilbert Murray in Sacramento. Yahoo is founded. Timothy McVeigh bombs the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. Craigslist is founded by Craig Newmark as an e-mail calendar; eventually, it will become a Web site that threatens the classifieds revenue of daily newspapers.


In “Newspapers R.I.P.,” SN&R president and CEO Jeff vonKaenel predicts that daily newspapers will no longer be in the business of publishing door-to-door newspapers in 10 years; the story is excerpted and reprinted far and wide. SN&R debuts the Ask Joey advice column.

The Sacramento Convention Center reopens in its current form. Radio deregulation causes the buy-up of all Sacramento radio stations by a handful of broadcast companies.

Sacramentan Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News stirs up an international media furor with his disturbing series linking the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras with the spread of crack cocaine in America; he ends up losing a job but publishing a book; he later comes to work briefly, before taking his own life (see “20 big stories”), at SN&R.

The Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, is arrested at his Montana cabin. Osama bin Laden pens a declaration of jihad against the United States. President Clinton is re-elected.


The Sacramento Memorial Auditorium reopens. Women’s professional basketball hits Sacramento with the Monarchs. Tony Blair becomes prime minister of the United Kingdom. McVeigh is sentenced to death for the Oklahoma City bombing. Princess Diana is killed in a car crash. Mother Teresa of Calcutta dies. The Kyoto Protocols on global climate change are adopted by the United Nations.

SN&R leads a national effort—“Poor America”—that gets alternative weeklies across the country to write during the same week about welfare reform. Before pleading guilty to being the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski requests a jailhouse meeting with SN&R correspondent Christine Craft.


SN&R’s Marcus Crowder invites readers to talk openly and honestly about race when he asks, “How important is race in Sacramento?” in our pages in a cover package called “Black like me”; the response to this issue begins a regional conversation that had been long overdue.

Gray Davis is elected governor of California, ending 16 years of a Republican-led state. California bans smoking in all bars and restaurants. The Monica Lewinsky scandal breaks and eventually results in the impeachment of President Clinton.

Google is founded in Menlo Park, Calif. Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, is found beaten and tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo.; he dies of his injuries. Iraq announces it will no longer cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.

SN&R reporter Michael Pulley writes a cover story, “Tsakopoulos,” on the life, loves and land deals of Sacramento’s most successful modern-day land baron, Angelo Tsakopoulos. SN&R writer Amy Paris has citizens reaching for the bottled water when she writes her award-winning “What’s wrong with Sacramento’s water?” Local band Cake releases Prolonging the Magic; SN&R’s Crowder conducts an interview with band leader John McCrea.


In a show of protest against the church ban on gay marriages, two Sacramento women marry in St. Mark’s United Methodist Church; 80 ministers attend, risking their standing in the church. The new Sacramento Kings take the court now that the NBA lockout is over; Sacramento falls in love with the new team, which includes Chris Webber and Vlade Divac.

Enron energy traders begin to covertly manipulate the price and availability of energy in California. Two high-school students kill 12 students, a teacher and themselves in Columbine, Colo. Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France.

SN&R writer Paris heads to Seattle in a van with WTO protesters to describe the Battle of Seattle. SN&R publishes its 10th anniversary issue, launches its “Think free” slogan and throws a huge block party.


SN&R’s annual Best of Sacramento marks the first time the complete content of SN&R appears online. SN&R writer Scheide goes into surgery, figuratively speaking, to write “Bless the child and pass the scalpel.” SN&R reporter Chrisanne Beckner becomes one of the first to report from inside Sacramento’s sizeable Russian-immigrant community to tell the story of a woman’s journey from abused wife to community activist.

Y2K passes with little brouhaha but some wonderful celebrations. Vermont legalizes same-sex civil unions. The presidential election outcome is confused due to balloting problems in Florida; it is finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore; George W. Bush is declared president.


A driver dies when he crashes his semi-truck into the north side of the Capitol in Sacramento, resulting in new security installations around the infamous building. Nikolay Soltys goes on a local killing spree, murdering members of his family including his pregnant wife and young son; he commits suicide in the Sacramento County Jail before he can be tried.

The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, carried out by the terrorist group Al Qaeda, open the age of terror. The United States and allies invade Afghanistan when the ruling Taliban refuse to turn over bin Laden and other Al Qaeda members. SN&R staffers begin to cover the war on terror in its many local and global aspects; Scheide is taken into custody by police in L.A. for reporting on Homeland Security matters at U.S. airports.

Enron files for bankruptcy protection; the depth of the company’s manipulation of energy prices begins to be revealed.


At the inspiration of SN&R president and CEO Jeff vonKaenel, SN&R holds its first annual A Call for Unity event on the anniversary of 9/11. Choirs from a diverse roster of religious and community groups perform at the Memorial Auditorium. Many participants join forces with Sacramento Habitat for Humanity and commit to working together to revitalize Oak Park and other Sacramento neighborhoods.

SN&R reporter Jim Evans writes the “Naked Preacher Lady” story about the city’s bawdiest preacher, Baby Rae, who appeared every Friday night on Sacramento’s public-access cable channel.

SN&R leads a project to get alt weeklies across the nation writing about the impacts of celibacy on Catholic priests and former priests.

A large section of the Larsen ice shelf in Antarctica begins to disintegrate. The U.S. Congress passes a joint resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force against Iraq.


SN&R contributor Stephen James writes a memorable story, “The night they pulled me over,” about a local African-American woman who, along with two family members, was stopped by local police, battered, then arrested for no apparent reason. SN&R’s Cosmo Garvin pens a cover about the underground architecture that lies below parts of downtown and Old Sacramento; the story leads to more and to increased calls to save the city’s underground.

Despite global protests, the United States and allies invade Iraq. The U.S. Supreme Court upholds California’s “three strikes” law. In May, President Bush arrives in a fighter jet on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, where he gives a speech announcing the conclusion of major combat operations in Iraq beneath a “Mission Accomplished” banner. California voters recall Gov. Davis and elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace him.


In “Closing credits,” SN&R’s Garvin helped derail a plan to subsidize construction of a Century Theatres “art house” on K Street. Garvin and Welsh write “The Dirty Dozen,” an award-winning investigation into the Sacramento region’s worst polluters.

Facebook is founded. San Francisco begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in a challenge to Proposition 22; the marriages are later overturned by the California Supreme Court, and a lengthy legal challenge to the state’s discriminatory law begins. President Bush is re-elected. SN&R contributor Joel Davis writes the award-winning tale of his own brain surgery for Parkinson’s disease.


SN&R’s Kel Munger decides to try drag, goes as Johnny Cash and lives to write about it in “The macho in me.”

Pope John Paul II dies; Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is elected Pope Benedict XVI. The Sacramento Monarchs win the WNBA national championship. Hurricane Katrina devastates the Gulf Coast and destroys New Orleans; the slow and disorganized federal response leads to public outrage.

SN&R reporter Jeffrey Barker, who now works for Gov. Schwarzengger, takes a cross-country driving tour with the goal of visiting every single town in the United States named Sacramento; the results are printed in “On the road to Sacramento” (hint: There are plenty; ours is the largest). SN&R reporter Ralph Brave writes “Stem-cell wonderland” about California’s seeming destiny to become a global epicenter for stem-cell research.


In conjunction with Capital Public Radio, SN&R launches the year-long This I Believe project, encouraging locals to write short essays about their core values; many essays are read on the air at KXJZ. SN&R arts editor Becca Costello’s column, Nothing Ever Happens, debuts in the paper.

A year and a half after Hurricane Katrina, in “Return to New Orleans,” former SN&R staffer Noel Neuburger ventures with his camera into the still-devastated neighborhood and community where he grew up. SN&R keeps up its coverage of the decline in the daily-newspaper industry with Scheide’s “The media, the market & McClatchy.”

SN&R arts editor Jackson Griffith writes the “Secret history of Sacramento music.” Brave continues SN&R coverage, since the mid-1990s, of the climate-change issue, with “Hot futures”; he asks experts if environmental effects from global warming might actually make Sacramento unlivable.

Demonstrations across California and the nation protest U.S. immigration policy. Spinach contaminated with E. coli kills two and sickens more than 100. Google buys YouTube. Gov. Schwarzenegger is re-elected. Ten years later, SN&R president and CEO Jeff vonKaenel revisits his prediction that daily newspapers would soon be gone; in “Greedy vultures,” vonKaenel dismays at the greed of newspaper owners who chose quick bucks over the long-term good.


With Hollywood on his heels, SN&R’s Scheide goes in search of the true killer in “The Zodiac is back.”

SN&R launches a new weekly section, Green Days, as a signal that it will be increasing coverage of the sustainability movement. SN&R introduces the monthly publication, d’ART, as a guide to Second Saturday. Editor Matt Coker launches the Ask a Mexican column by Gustavo Arellano in the SN&R with the cover story “Almost famoso.” SN&R leads 53 alternative weeklies across the country in a joint project marking the 10-year anniversary of the Kyoto Accord.

A strike by the Writers Guild of America results in lots of TV reruns. Sacramento’s Slavic immigrant community becomes more vocal in their opposition to gay rights, including a large counterprotest at Sacramento’s Pride Festival. In July, Satendar Singh dies following an altercation at Lake Natoma with two men who were angry because he appeared to be gay. Rep. John Doolittle of California’s 4th District, under investigation in the Jack Abramoff scandal and nearly beaten in 2006 by a Democratic challenger, decides not to run for re-election.


SN&R reporter Garvin breaks the news that former NBA great Kevin Johnson is considering running for mayor of the city of Sacramento. K.J. is later elected, defeating two-term incumbent Heather Fargo in a runoff.

SN&R’s Scheide scores an interview with newspaper industry golden boy Gary Pruitt (the two share a love of the Rolling Stones) and goes on to write “Sympathy for the CEO.” Tom Hayden writes an analysis of the then upcoming Democratic National Convention for SN&R, and the story is published by dozens of alt weeklies across the country.

Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy protection, the first of a wave of large business failures that severely damages the U.S. economy and, along with the subprime housing crisis, heralds in a global recession. SN&R and its sister papers in Reno and Chico join alt weeklies across the county in urging readers to “Shop local” as a means of keeping local dollars in local economies in response to the failing economy.

SN&R’s Munger trails the anti-gay evangelical “Dividers” across the region and writes it up in “Things to do in Sacramento with a megaphone.”

Fidel Castro resigns as president of Cuba, and the position is taken over by his younger brother, Raúl Castro. The Summer Olympics are held in Beijing, China. Barack Obama is elected president of the United States, but the good news is dampened in California by the passage of Proposition 8, a ban on gay marriage.


Just before Barack Obama is sworn in as president, SN&R publishes “Letters to Obama,” a collection, in print and online, of hundreds of personal letters to the new commander in chief written by area residents; the project was the second one accomplished in coordination with Capital Public Radio, which aired letters from five locals in the days leading up to the inauguration.

SN&R turns 20!