Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Sacramento Valley Mirror: "I don’t see many small papers doing what we do."

Now THIS is what I'm talking about. Thanks to the Bookseller for the link. As he notes, we've both really needed this timely reminder of how things ought to work.

Granted, I can't link to something (The Sacramento Valley Mirror) that isn't on-line, but it's enough to know the district attorney and sheriff in Tim Crews' town seem annoyed at having to answer questions.

Boy, can we relate to such attitudes here in New Albany. Then again, our bunker-ensconced elected officials don't have a newspaper of any sort yapping at their heels.

There's a blog, of course, and this comment from the article hits the center of the target.

"It does get people talking, that’s for sure. Nobody will admit to reading it, but everybody seems to know what he writes."

I'm interested in hearing from readers who are or have been in the newspaper business. Why does it take a cranky country publisher/curmudgeon to be the exception to what should be the rule?

A few highlights ...

Meet the ‘cranky country publisher’ who files lawsuits instead of tweets, by Daniel Funke (Poynter)

At the Sacramento Valley Mirror, Tim Crews is everything.

He’s the founder, publisher, editor and owner. He reports, takes photos and sells ads. The newspaper is so small that he even helps deliver copies when it prints twice a week.

And you wouldn't know it by his blank email signature or no-nonsense tone, but Crews is also a controversial, bulldog investigator. He’s used open records to expose wrongdoing by public officials, penned countless editorials about various misdeeds and published long-form investigations about local government. But what people think of the plucky 73-year-old varies widely, from a noble bastion of watchdog journalism to a scandalous rabble-rouser who’s up to no good.


Crews said he has been shot at, his office burgled, his building set on fire, his car's brakes weakened and his dog Kafka poisoned. In late March, Crews and reporter Larry Judkins were the subject of threatening phone calls and complaints after writing about a local homicide, according to a recent Reporters Without Borders (RSF) article. The Mirror publisher even sent the journalism advocacy organization a photo of a noose that was left in front of the newspaper's downtown Willows office in late April.

Just imagine:

In a time when many local papers have been decimated by cost-cutting and shrinking print ad budgets — merging, folding and compromising good journalism for clicks — the Mirror stands out. The 16-page broadsheet has become known for both its fight for open records access in California and its penchant for local gossip — despite having only a three-person full-time staff and a smattering of volunteers.


For Crews, the fight for press access and government transparency isn't a principled or glorious one. It's a way of life — one he’d like to keep up for another 10 years.

"You have to just stand up for yourself," he said. "If someone is messing with you, you have to fight back. It's just the American way."


"So far as small papers are concerned, we’re a little unusual," Judkins said. "When people run out of other options, they often come to us with the hopes that maybe a little light — a little public exposure — will help whatever problems that they may have."

“If we don’t report it, who will?”

That's the question at the top of each copy of the Mirror, which has a surprising amount of influence in a town of a little more than 6,000 people.

Hey -- Bill Hanson, you of your former minister's weekly religious advocacy column -- Roger is tanned rested and ready:

The Mirror has one of the only Atheist columns in the country, and it doesn't charge for wedding photos or obituaries.

Investigative? Be still my throbbing heart.

"That kind of stuff that newspapers in the past always did, we still do. But on the other hand, we’re very much an investigative organ," Crews said. “People want to know what’s going on.”

"He’s really done a wonderful job of showing people what a newspaper can do when it really covers the news, and really goes beyond just covering the news — when it finds foul play or a lack of public access," Rebele said. "That's the kind of thing Tim does.”


Crews has no website. He doesn't tweet, isn't concerned about growing his digital audience and says the migration of newspapers to the internet is "ruinous." What he does have is a desire to seek out and report the truth, a record of improving his community and a substantial network of people who support him. And it's not limited to his mostly senior audience or old newspaper pals.

Teaching access. It's like an alien language, eh?

"Tim Crews has been probably our most successful mentor of interns when he takes one. All those interns come out of that experience with Tim just raving because they learn so much about public records and how to get access to meetings," he said. "In its own way, and for its own community, Tim Crews has done the same thing (as big newspapers). It's just that Tim's reach is not as great as the L.A. Times’ reach is."

But what about sports, sports and more sports?

"If you want to know what’s going on in Iraq, this is not the place to look," he said. "People in small towns deserve A1 journalism the same as everybody else."

Treat yourself. Follow the link, and read the whole article.

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