While local newspapers make up only 25% of the country’s media outlets, they are responsible for half of the country’s original reporting, stories that get picked up by bigger outlets every day — a striking fact reported by NiemanLab in 2019. Who’s writing these stories that essentially comprise 50% of our historical record? Journalists like me.
As a journalist for 25 years, I have reported for newspapers from small-town West Virginia to Vail, Colorado; Washington, D.C.; and the Bay Area. For the past 16 years I have lived in Tahoe, writing for the Sierra Sun, Tahoe Weekly, Moonshine Ink, and the now-defunct Tahoe World. I reported in the streets of our nation’s capital during 9/11, in San Francisco City Hall for the legalization of same-sex marriages, at Lake Baikal in Russia, and about Tahoe’s housing crisis.
Of all the locales I have reported in and on, small towns have my heart and soul because of the people who live in them and the closeness of our connections. Everyone has a story to tell, and Tahoe has some of the best because the history here is rich, and the locals have so much passion for their mountain hamlet. I moved to North Tahoe as a young reporter, but soon became ingrained in the fabric of the culture and lifestyle. Now I am a solid member of the community.
And being an established community member means people trust me. They tell me things. It was not that way when I moved here more than 16 years ago. It took me a long time to gain the trust of Tahoe’s longtime citizens. And I work hard to keep that trust.
Recent stories I authored were dependent on my living in the community I report on. I run into sources at the post office, in the local art shop where I work, and at restaurants I frequent. These sources know I write for Moonshine Ink and trust that I, and the newspaper, will tell their stories with the honesty and thoroughness that the Ink is known for.
Last month, I was at a dead end on a piece about the history of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. But, I happened to run into a longtime local at the Kings Beach post office whom I knew was familiar with Tahoe’s history. I introduced myself, and grabbed my notebook from my car as she began telling me stories and details that I was looking for. I jotted down her contact information, as well as contacts of others she gave me. That information became the heart of the article. All due to a visit to the post office.
The articles in Moonshine Ink are written by hard-working local reporters seeking out stories important to our — yours and my — community. We talk to people. We ask questions. We make sure we get the story right. For our readers.
Tahoe’s current housing crisis is pushing out the workforce at an alarming rate. That no doubt includes young reporters, which means the seeds for tomorrow’s history will not be planted. That would eviscerate our local newspapers, and Tahoe/Truckee would lose a key part of its democratic ecosystem. Because without local journalism, local democracy suffers.
“Accurate journalism isn’t just now more important now than ever; independent, close-to-home reporting has always — and will always — be a life-giving resource to communities, because information is foundational to modern life,” wrote journalism professor and reporter Matt Laslo, in an opinion piece for an NBC website in April 2020. “Accurate data and free speech together are empowering, and actionable.”
Small communities like Tahoe/Truckee rely on local newspapers to be its eyes and ears, to keep a tab on government and issues, and to help share the community stories. I cannot imagine our mountain community without Moonshine Ink. The storytelling and accuracy in reporting the publication provides is needed now more than ever. To keep reporters on the street — in our community — this newspaper needs your support.