A variation of the phrase has appeared many times in my Moonshine Ink inbox: “[insert concern here],” then, “the public deserves to know about this.”
These emails (or similar phone calls) serve as the springboard to many stories I’ve written: a breakdown between the school district and teachers union, alleged mismanagement at local special districts, purposeful ignorance of state healthcare requirements …
I could go on.
In 2014, reporter David Bunker revealed the ties of Tahoe Forest Hospital’s then-CEO, Bob Schapper, with his wife’s company, contracted with the hospital for nearly $1 million. The concept of “deserve to know” was a baseline for the in-depth reporting series, as expressed in an editor’s note published at the time: “The public has a right to know whether these decisions were made in the best interests of the public.” Ultimately, based on Moonshine’s reporting, Schapper’s hospital contract was not renewed and the Nevada County District Attorney’s office launched an investigation.
The articles are still mentioned today in unrelated interviews, and I’ve often heard stories of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the investigation. The internal back-and-forth conversations of the Moonshine reporting team to bring important issues to light are thorough. Hours and hours of research and conversation lead to many, many drafts between reporter and editor(s). Moreover, in a small community like ours, reporting on touchy matters is difficult, often leading to fissures and heated emotions. Advertisers pull ads; readers get angry; Moonshine staff feel like they have targets on their backs.
It’s not an easy task. But we don’t believe the difficulties of reporting on such sensitive topics should stop us. We do believe that we must keep the public’s interest at the heart of all stories. And from the volume of emails, phone calls, and conversations with tips, praise, and critique, it seems you readers agree.
In late September, talk around town blew up regarding the tragic passing of Tiffany Thiele and the information she posted on Facebook just prior to her suicide. In a lengthy post, Thiele wrote of an alleged sexual assault and the trail of injustice she was struggling to deal with years after. Names were shared, as well as a picture.
No matter how you look at it, the situation is heavy with sadness and the loss of an incredible woman. But Moonshine received input from people close to Thiele saying the full story was much more complex.
“What she chose to do … is tragic but also is affecting many in our community negatively, and since it is in the public, I feel like more detail is necessary,” one person wrote to us.
Another person shared, “Though the story fills me with great sadness, I feel morally obligated to reach out, as the life of another human is at stake, a human I don’t know … I just don’t think the story is quite as told, and I would certainly caution you to do due diligence.”
Our small staff threw ourselves into finding the truth, making uncomfortable calls to discover what happened. To those who were willing to take our calls, despite the heaviness of the topic, we thank you. You can read our discoveries in A Hall of Mirrors online.
These examples relay how hard Moonshine Ink staff works to share important information, even in incredibly challenging and emotional situations. The articles we publish aren’t made up of slapdash information; we go deep. There’s a massive difference between the education our articles provide and the kiddie-pool-depth stories many news outlets share today.
The work takes time. Lots and lots of time. That’s why we turn to our friends and families and neighbors, our community, to ask for their support. Moonshine Membership, which starts as low as $10 a month, is put directly toward staff digging deeper into the true stories of our region, into experiences needing to be shared. And we can guarantee that the articles we write aren’t clouded by higher powers with vested interests, as Moonshine is fully independent.
By becoming a member, you buy us more resources and time to uncover the goings-on in North Tahoe/Truckee. Not as tangible (but just as important), your membership tells us that you believe in what we’re doing, that you support our role as journalists to share the necessary information that makes this area a wonderful, but sometimes challenging, place to live.
We do what we do because we believe that you, dear reader, deserve to know the truth.