Having lived in Siskiyou County for more than half a century, it worries and distresses me to observe the gradual disappearance of the things that make our rural lifestyle what it is, things that make it desirable and economically viable to live here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to move. Just the opposite. Ann and I go down to the Bay Area once a year, for Thanksgiving. Following a tradition my parents began decades ago, my two sisters, who live in Los Gatos and San Martin, host family Thanksgiving get-togethers every year. They are great and we enjoy going, but after spending a few days down there, heading home is a blessing.
What’s disappeared? Quite a few things; but today I will focus on one: journalism. I’m using the term “journalism” broadly, and probably should say “media,” because that’s what I will talk about.
We have no local newspaper. Theoretically, we have the Siskiyou Daily (Weekly – or maybe Weakly) News. I hate to be critical of the Siskiyou Daily News because for years the paper gave me the opportunity to try out my journalism skills. But today it’s a fact of life that it is no longer a Siskiyou County newspaper at all. It is just a small part of Gannett Co., a huge national company based on the East Coast which owns, among other things, USA Today. Those few of us who still subscribe find that only a tiny percentage of the content each week actually covers anything happening in Siskiyou County. Skip Descant, who lives in Yreka, is a freelance writer who contributes articles to the SDN about local events on a semi-regular basis, but that’s about it. Skip is an excellent writer, and his pieces are always very good, but it’s just not enough. I believe that the only reason Gannett even bothers printing the paper is to receive the revenue that comes with the legal notices.
To be fair, the demise of local journalism isn’t just limited to Siskiyou County. It’s a national phenomenon, and a tragic one. In the last few years, local newspapers have disappeared throughout the country, some in cities and towns much larger than we are. It was probably inevitable with the onset of mobile devices and the internet. But much of today’s digital content is in the form of sound bites, not in-depth reporting. Except for sources such as the Grapevine on Facebook, which hardly qualifies as news, it is not local. There is a gaping void.
But there are people valiantly trying to fill that void. One is Jay Martin, and he lives in the Scott Valley. He has recently developed a publication called Siskiyou News Network, only available (so far) on line. It’s accessible at https://siskiyou.news. If you are reading this, you probably already know about the link, but hopefully you will pass it on to others.
When he undertook this project, he had no training, education, or experience in journalism, but he has put his heart and soul into it for the last year and a half, and has learned a lot (the hard way) in that time. He’s still learning, and is continuously looking for ways to keep making his product better. I urge you to be supportive. Siskiyou County needs a local news source, someone willing to take on difficult subject matter, such as the homelessness issue, the fentanyl epidemic, and agricultural water curtailments, just to name a few.
On another front, you’ve surely noticed that we have not only lost our printed newspaper, Yreka has also lost our local radio station, again creating a gaping void. That is why I mentioned “media” at the beginning of this piece. Kevin Sponsler, Susana Fox-Sponsler, and Erik Erickson have launched a new radio station to fill that void. Technically, it’s not a “radio” station (at least at this time) because it’s not on the airwaves. You can access it by going to https://siskiyoucountry.com or downloading Siskiyou Country onto your mobile device from the app store. Give them a try, if you haven’t already.
I also want to give honorable mention to the Z-Channel, who, according to CBS News is a “one-man radio station in the shadow of Mount Shasta that keeps the rock rollin.” Mostly classic rock music, this locally-owned Mount Shasta radio station is on the air as KZRO 100.1 FM or on line at https://www.zchannelradio,com. Give them a try, also.
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