During my high school years in Marin County, I recall neighbors gathering with glasses of wine quoting Irish philosopher George Berkeley from the mid 1700’s; “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?“. Well that was Marin in the 70’s, where white wine and fondue were staples at weekend cocktail parties.
As an aside, did you know that this same George Berkeley, known as Bishop Berkeley, is who the city of Berkeley, Ca is named after? Although this tidbit doesn’t add anything to my line of thought, you will thank me if the question ever arises in a hot game of Jeopardy.
But I digress, due to recent cutbacks from their parent company, the Lake County Record Bee has been forced to make staffing adjustments and reduce yet again to keep their doors open to continue serving our community. It made me wonder if we could be looking at the same type of question but relating to local news. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to report it, is it news?”
Maybe that is a bit of a stretch but considering that what is happening with our local paper is not unique and we are seeing newspapers across the country shutting down. In fact, 18 newspapers have been forced to close since the start of the year just in California. The evaporation of newspapers in rural America should not be overlooked. If a tree falls, by God we need to know about it.
So, you may ask, why is this such a big deal? We can still get our news digitally on our smartphone. It is no secret that digital and electronic media have made life tough on printed news and, worse case, there is the possibility that we could be left with only a handful of national newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, etc. I don’t know how you feel about that scenario, but it doesn’t sit well with me.
I don’t believe newsprint will go the way of the dodo bird, but there is an ongoing erosion of local choices that is quite disturbing and going unnoticed by many. Local news plays a vital role in informing citizens about public affairs and monitoring the actions of government at all levels. Can you imagine a time when there is no Record Bee reporting on local government?
Last year, Assembly Bill 5 would have forced delivery drivers to be reclassified as employees creating an economic hardship that would probably put drivers out of work and close the doors of many more local newspapers. But a last minute reprieve was created with AB170, whereby newspapers were granted a one-year exemption for delivery drivers. That year is swiftly coming to an end.
I urge everyone who appreciates local news to please contact your state representatives and ask that they keep the extension in place or make the exemption permanent for newspaper carriers, with AB1850. Here are the contact numbers:
4th District California Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry: Capitol Office: State Capitol P.O. Box 942849 Sacramento, CA 94249-0004. Telephone: (916) 319-2004. Fax: (916) 319-2104 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2nd District California Senator Mike McGuire: State Capitol, 130310th Street, Room 5064, Sacramento, CA 95814, 916-651-4002, Fax: 916-651-4902 email: email@example.com