A Closer Look: On the value of a hometown newspaper
Published: October 27, 2006 | 4961st good news item since 2003
It has been almost two years since I began my job as public safety reporter for the Oroville Mercury-Register. Some people have wondered why I remain in this job after I worked so hard in college and earned two bachelor’s degrees with honors, a social science teaching credential, and earned a 4.0 grade point average during two years in graduate school. How can I describe how incredibly rewarding this job has been over the last two years? Yes, it can be stressful at times, but the intangible rewards are truly momentous.
Let me briefly share a tiny glimpse of why I love being a reporter for the Oroville Mercury-Register.
It provides infinite opportunities to help people. I cannot tell you all of the times this newspaper played a positive role in bringing people together and building community. Well, I could just share with you some most memorable moments.
• I remember covering the Oroville Police “Shop with a Cop” day when officers gave young children in need $50 to spend in Wal-Mart during the holidays. When one of our subscribers read in the OMR how a little girl wished she could buy her mother a sewing machine, she called the newspaper to find out how she could donate her old sewing machine to the little girl’s mother.
• I’ve covered numerous heartbreaking stories about house fires that left parents and children homeless and in need of clothing, furniture, cooking appliances, utensils, toothbrush, soap, and everything else you can imagine a family would need. Many times we have run the shirt, pant, and shoe sizes of all family members and the locations where people could drop off donated items to help the family. Our newspaper also informs people where to send money to a trust fund set up at a local bank to help fire victims or other victims of unexpected tragedies. This is another example of how this newspaper has helped to bring people together to help make a difference.
• When the Sheriff’s Captain Bob Pancake Wagon was damaged in a fire, and the sheriff needed to raise $30,000 to repair the wagon, our newspaper put out the word and let people know the wagon’s historic significance and how it raises money for non-profits and funds Little League, soccer, Boy and Girl Scouts, veteran’s groups, among other worthy causes. Many non-profits groups and citizens rallied the cause of the pancake wagon and learned about its need for restoration after reading about it in the OMR.
• Our community has learned about many fatal, tragic accidents and the precious lives lost by reading about them in our local newspaper. Hundreds have turned out for funerals and there have been numerous times people told me they read about the deceased person’s life in the newspaper and felt moved to honor the deceased and their family by attending funeral services or by donating to a charity in his or her name. Oroville is still a “small town” at heart and when a young person dies, the community mourns. And, it is the newspaper that informs the public about these events. I remember a high school principal thanked the Mercury-Register for reporting on the fatal collision that claimed two teens’ lives. She said the article greatly helped to dispel the rumors that had started to circulate about the deaths. The OMR articles also remembered the teens’ lives and helped bring the community together to remember them and mourn.
• When the owners of a local market had one of their beloved relatives drown in Lake Oroville, the community came out in support of this family after reading about it in the newspaper. Neighbors, friends, and customers came to their store to express their sympathy and support. Some even offered to loan them a boat to search for their relative’s body in the lake. The family expressed their appreciation to the Oroville Mercury-Register and said even their relatives who lived out of the country were able to learn more about what happened on the OMR’s online edition of the newspaper.
• When an Oroville Police officer suffered major injuries in a motorcycle accident, the community turned out to support him after reading about it in the newspaper. The officer said it made such a big difference to receive so much support in the form of cards and letters from well-wishers and also donations to help with expenses.
• When the local fire departments needed support for their fund-raisers, the local newspaper spread the word. The first disc golf tourney was successful and the newspaper played a role in publicizing the event. When El Medio Fire’s water tender broke down and they needed support, there was an in-depth report about the tender and one generous person gave them $1,100 check after reading the newspaper.
• The public health department expressed their gratitude to the newspaper for the story about their upcoming seminar on obsessive compulsive hoarding. A nursing supervisor said the response from the article was overwhelming as many people called to say they knew someone with the disorder who needed help.
• The sheriff wrote a letter of thanks for the OMR’s three part series on the severe methamphetamine problem facing our community.
• Members of the Oroville Rescue Mission also expressed thanks to this newspaper for covering their annual Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We helped spread the word they needed more volunteers and donations, and the dinners were a great success with feeding over a thousand people at the Municipal Auditorium and giving out toys to every child.
• There were countless times when the Oroville Police Department and Butte County Sheriff’s Office have been helped by this newspaper in getting out information to the public, such as warning people to “be on the look-out” for armed robbers or missing persons. The newspaper also publicizing their fund raising events like Shoes-That-Fit and the Bike-Give-Away every year. The newspaper also educates people on how to protect themselves and their property by practicing safety habits. We also publish the Butte County’s Most Wanted every Friday.
• When locals were having fund-raisers to start up a horse rescue ranch, they later said the newspaper was an enormous help in their succeeding to raise the required funds. We’ve also covered many stories about the local SPCA.
• I’ve had a number of people express their appreciation for my weekly “A Closer Look” column. One woman said the column about “care of the soul” and learning to love yourself “changed her life.”
There are so many other examples I could share with you. (I cannot even begin to address them all in this small space.) These are only some of the ways this hometown newspaper has made a difference and helped people in our beloved Oroville.
There are so many good, caring people who live in Oroville and who work hard to build a wonderful community and place we are proud and delighted to call home. And, the Oroville Mercury-Register has a special place in the history of this community and has an invaluable role to play in continuing to bring the community together and make a positive difference in people’s lives.
And, experiencing being a part of building community and helping people (and, of course, animals too) is extremely rewarding.
As a battalion chief at a local fire department once said, “When I first started out as a firefighter, I thought my job was all about fighting fires. But when I got older and gained some experience, I realized it was really all about the people.”