Reflections and Projections

Key coverage to expect from Moonshine Ink in 2022

By the Moonshine Ink Reporting Team

The Ink’s coverage area spans four counties, two states, almost two dozen special districts, and only one incorporated town among a full-time population of roughly 35,000 — though that number spikes due to visitation to the tune of millions. That geographic boundary encompasses Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River; countless pockets of neighborhood identities; an interstate that never sleeps; endless miles of jeep roads, national forest, and state parks; and trailer park residents living side-by-side with some of the wealthiest homeowners on the planet. (Hi, Zuckerberg!) What connects all these disparate elements comprising North Tahoe/Truckee is a vibe. An ethos. Our commitment to a crown jewel among America’s landscape, to mountain living. What’s essential now is to remember that even among our incredibly complex community, and the challenging times, we are connected. If we remember one thing in 2022, we hope it is this.

PERCHED ON THE BASIN: A soaring view from Martis Valley West, proposed site of a 760-home development project that is winding its way through state courts. Photo by Chase Schweitzer/Sierra Watch

How did we do in 2021?

January is the time for reflecting on the previous year and putting down plans for the next one. Our newspaper’s resolutions for last year, in a story titled 2021 Vision, outlined central issues for our community — Covid-19, housing, wildfire, land use, poly-armed government, tourism, and Tahoe/Truckee culture. We also shared how we planned to address them in 2021. How did we do? Overall, we believe we kept our focus on the issues we outlined, doing particularly well in delving into our ongoing housing woes, shifts in the tourism industry, and land use topics. Where we see room for improvement is our push for transparency from local government and deep reporting about wildfire.
We entreat our readers to do their own assessments and let us know what you think at editors@moonshineinkcom. In the following pages, we sketch out our retuned resolutions for 2022. Looking toward the Tahoe-blue, evergreen-tree, soaring-peak, and soft mossy meadow-laden horizon of 2022, we want to keep the momentum going. Come with? ~ ME

Government, magnified

We enjoy many freedoms in this country, not least of which is access to information and the right to speak our thoughts. So here’s us, sharing our thoughts: We need more transparency from our local agencies, and more so than ever as we enter year number three of a global pandemic. While media outlets across the U.S. gained access to hospitals to show the realities of a battle against Covid-19, North Tahoe and Truckee’s own Tahoe Forest Health System denied the Ink’s requests for on-site access. We found and still find ourselves having to take executive staff at their word regarding conditions within public agency campuses. Let us sound the horn on behalf of all news entities across the globe: The public deserves to know and see what’s going on behind the doors of our critical service providers.

Transparency from our special districts extends into how money is being spent. We took a dive into the Truckee Tahoe Airport District’s community funding in 2021, but that was a small bite of a very large apple. How is money funneled around the 20-plus districts guiding our region? What’s the cost of these many tiny governments to taxpayers? Who’s making what, where? To put an oft-used journalism term to use, in 2022, we’re looking to follow the money.

~ AH

Show me the money

Moonshine Ink spent a whole lot of 2021 understanding the state of Truckee/Tahoe’s future from an economic point of view, and why local organizations and agencies are plugging sustainable tourism as the best route to take. This year, we want to home in on the financial side of things. There’s money to be had, certainly — Tahoe is flush with it. What is the relationship between the area’s many millionaires and projects pushed to the forefront of local board agendas? Who are the folks playing puppet master in our region, and are they working behind the scenes or center stage?

As people continue to visit and move to the area, infrastructure is playing catch-up. Increasing broadband effectiveness is top of mind for counties surrounding the Basin, and the strategy for success will help or hinder a lot of people enjoying the remote work lifestyle.

~ AH

Fanning the flames

Wildfire season is now officially a thing. An ever-growing number of catastrophic-level fires has put the entire Western United States on high alert, changing the feel of once cherished Tahoe summers. We will report on the best ways to prevent and fight fire, including the techniques of those who did it first — the Native Americans. We will also focus on how each of us can do our part to be fire safe.

A highly controversial opinion piece submitted by an anonymous state firefighter to Moonshine in fall 2021 laid the blame for out-of-control fires like Dixie, Tamarack, and Caldor at the feet of the U.S. Forest Service, claiming mismanagement. Our mission is to investigate these claims and those who contradict them, opening the pandora’s box of what’s happening on the fire frontlines.

Meanwhile, the solution to the West’s wildfire problem seems to be to throw more and more money at it. Will green help save greenery? What buckets is this funding going into, and is it actually working?

~ AH

Housing, housing, housing

The housing crisis continues to plague the region. Long-term renters — some of whom have lived here for decades — are being displaced as homeowners decide to cash out, taking advantage of inflated sale prices bolstered by the pandemic. In 2021, Moonshine brought these folks out of the darkness, putting faces to the people behind the statistics, showing they are more than just a number. They are individuals and families, blue- and white-collar workers alike — ski instructors, contractors, engineers, bartenders, chefs, biologists, educational professionals, and even retirees.

Looking forward, we will continue to address the region’s big question: are short- term rentals really the root of all evil in the region’s housing crisis? What about the trickle-down effect of the inflated real-estate market? Businesses are struggling to find and maintain employees, resulting in limited service and cutbacks in operating hours, which leads to diminished profit and sometimes lower wages. For many, it’s not worth the time or cost driving up the hill from Reno to work a low-paying job, and the remote-working culture that exploded during the pandemic means that many newer residents are working from home rather than filling the jobs vacated by the displaced. It’s a vicious cycle with no end in sight, and in the coming year, Moonshine Ink will continue to further the discussion about ways to find solutions to the region’s housing woes, which will go hand-in-hand with maintaining its workforce.

~ JD

Cultural infrastructure

We share these borders, demographics, distinctions, categories, and definitions; yet it doesn’t spell out who we are. Being a Tahoe/ Truckee resident is about the weather; it’s about taking a quick break from endless snow shoveling at 6 a.m. to wave in solidarity
to your neighbor who similarly needs to dig out their car to get to work. It’s about hike and mountain bike etiquette, real conversations on a lift chair with a stranger, and making new dog friends alongside your canine companion. It’s about small, local businesses fighting in an increasingly corporate economy and minds coming together to create innovative solutions on issues like housing, conservation and climate change, and disease. We’re not a monolith, but we’re all mountain folk. Moonshine’s mission in the cultural realm in 2022 is to continue covering the trials and triumphs of the Tahoe/Truckee region, while doing a better job of representing youth perspectives and our growing and diverse community, particularly to highlight more voices in our communities that are Latino, Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color.

~ BL

On the ground and all around

From covering conservation efforts by nonprofits and individuals to the government agencies that manage the land, the Ink team understands that place and community are intertwined. This past year, our coverage, especially in the You Asked. They Answered. segment in our News section, has probed public agencies and private landholders to share how they’re managing the land. We have examined the tourism industry’s impact, backbone as it is of our economy; provided a platform for Opinion writers to lobby for funding and attention regarding their most vital land use and conservation priorities; and covered government, business, and community efforts and setbacks to protect the vital natural resources we cherish in the Tahoe/Truckee region. While we are a human-run paper, we strive to report from the ground, both that which is paved and occupied by Homo sapiens and the parts covered by pine needles and home to bear, deer, chipmunk, and the full pantheon of Sierra creatures.

We will continue to hold public agencies and organizations to account as they navigate the tricky balance between the needs of the natural environment and an increasing population and a diversifying economy. We will report on how courts are ruling on proposed Tahoe/Truckee developments such as Martis Valley West and Palisades Tahoe, as well as the status of projects in motion. Our culture-oriented sections, such as Mountain Life and Arts & Culture, will maintain their focus on deepening our understanding of our place.

~ BL

Going deeper

Moonshine Ink delves into issues affecting its readership area in a manner more in-depth than any other local news outlet, posing questions that need to be asked but seldom are. Being a monthly publication affords Moonshine Ink’s hard-working journalists the time to do more than scratch the surface to find answers to the questions readers are asking. With hard-hitting news stories, the research and interview process is begun weeks, sometimes months, before a piece is set to run in print or online. The intense scrutiny of our reporting team sometimes necessitates upwards of a dozen or more versions of an article before achieving the final draft. Readers can be assured that our team has done its due diligence to deliver a well-worded, balanced piece of journalism. In September, when
a young woman posted on social media rape allegations prior to taking her own life, Moonshine did not rush to cover the incident. Rather, our team worked together over the course of a week and a half to fill in holes and answer questions that arose from the incident, ultimately illustrating that there are always multiple sides to every story.

Moonshine will continue to strive to deliver its best journalistic work while also providing a forum for the public to express their opinions on both its coverage and matters pertaining to the community at large, albeit controversial at times. In looking ahead, the newspaper recognizes the role today’s youth play in the world tomorrow and will work to promote media literacy and engagement among the youth of Tahoe/Truckee.

~ JD