Left Coast Media

North Bae 011 - All This Muck and Too Few Rakes

February 08, 2018 Left Coast Media
Left Coast Media
North Bae 011 - All This Muck and Too Few Rakes
Show Notes Transcript
Local comrades and reporters Kate Maxwell and Adrian Fernandez-Baumann from The Mendocino Voice sit down with Tiberius for part one of two episodes on local journalism and leftism. This week examines the news from an insider's perspective.Follow their paper on https://twitter.com/TheMendoVoice and support their work at https://www.mendovoice.com/membership/(the death toll from the fires was 42 http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-fires-20171018-story.html)

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Speaker 1:

Thank you for listening to North Bay, a podcast from the left coast media collective to connect with the show. Follow us on Twitter at left-pad or the hosts at checker informant commune or source and our our, our, our n. You can email us@leftcoastpodcastatgmaildotcomandourpatrionisatpatrion.com slash left coast media. We love you.

Speaker 2:

Okay, so jumping back into the fire.

Speaker 3:

All right, and welcome to another episode of the North Bay.

Speaker 2:

It's just me today housing again. I am of course as always type areas, Caracas, you can find me at checkout informant on Twitter. And today we have a couple of, uh, local leftists reporters who are actually interested in finding out the truth and not just, you know, the typical liberal bullshit that you normally find in. So flattering. I know, I try, I try, but um, you know, before I bloviate on too much, go ahead and introduce yourselves. We have of course, Kate Maxwell.

Speaker 4:

Hi, I'm Kate Maxwell. I'm a reporter living in Mendocino County and I'm the publisher of the Mendocino voice, which is a online newspaper based in Mendocino county covering local news there. And My newspaper cofounder is here with me.

Speaker 2:

Adrian Fernandez, Bauman, Adrian Fernandez, Bauman. Thank you too.

Speaker 5:

Uh, yeah, I'm the reporter in Mendocino County. I'm editor of the Mendo voice. It's a news we started about a year and a half ago and um, it's still kind of a Beta in the Beta stage. We can get more into that. We, we started out as a, there, like a very normy kind of newspaper and we're, we're sort of in the process of thinking about how to attack things differently with the, the genesis of it is in, in the, uh, oh man.

Speaker 2:

Um, I, I'm on the spot here.

Speaker 4:

Oh yeah. I think we started it with a lot of criticisms. You know, we had both worked at national corporate chain newspapers prior to that and also, uh, you know, a variety of different media outlets. But, um, I think, you know, we, we started a newspaper with a laundry list of issues and complaints and criticisms that we had about how those previous jobs and previous, those other kinds of media outlets were functioning. Yeah.

Speaker 5:

I think a lot of those criticisms, you could kind of look at them as professional criticisms that come from doing journalism within this big national chain. And then at least for me in the process of then trying to look at those problems and figure out ways to solve them or do things better. You keep coming back to two left as interpretations that say, well no, this would all work so much better if you didn't have a cap.

Speaker 2:

The system. I mean it's not, it's not our fault that reality has, uh, a Marxist bias. Right,

Speaker 5:

right. Like your reinterpretation of Jon Stewart,

Speaker 2:

I think it brings us into our first topic pretty well. So, so where did you guys are or how did you guys actually get into your current politics? Like how, how did you guys actually get into the left?

Speaker 5:

Okay.

Speaker 4:

Well. Um, I think for my experience with different kinds of involvement with leftist politics and organizing started in high school in Washington d c with the World Bank IMF protests that were happening in the year 2000. Uh, so that was a very different political moment in time, but living in Washington DC, um, and I also grew up in San Francisco. There's sort of, you're right in the heart of a lot of different kinds of political activity and you can, you can sort of see those things from a different perspective. I, since then, you know, I've[inaudible] that involves in different kinds of labor organizing, um, and some kinds of inner kissed organizing. I have worked with jobs with justice for awhile and I think I had a lot of criticisms of the mainstream corporate media as someone that cared about leftist politics and felt like issues that I cared about were regularly misrepresented or just glossed over or not covered by mainstream media. Um, and so I, for me it was always really valuable in my involvement with leftist politics to sort of have this constellation of independent media outlets across the country that, you know, have changed a lot in the last 15 years, um, with how printing has changed. But, uh, those were always sort of inspirational outlets for me. And then I think, so becoming a journalist, it's been an interesting journey for me in trying to figure out how to do that job while keeping all the things in mind that I always used to hate about how those things were covered. And so I think I sort of went, got into journalism with a lot of critiques of that as a leftist. So I think we actually are sort of coming at it from

Speaker 2:

opposite angles.

Speaker 5:

Can I just see what their real quick, and I had a professor, a lot of girls who says that every, every journalist should spend some time being interviewed by someone because we spend all day interviewing people and like being assholes to people. Are you interviewing, demanding, quick, succinct answers? Tell the truth. And then you get in front of a microphone and you freeze cause you're on the wrong end of it. You know, and uh, it, it's, it's, it's humbling, you know, it's something that journalists really should, should do often enough to remember that it sucks on some level. But so yeah, we're where I came from, I come from probably a more, you know, liberalish past history. And so like my, my mom's from Mexico, prop one 87 you're, you know, you probably remember prop point 87 that was a big moment as a kid where you just, you have this, this sort of awakening awakening because where I grew up, where I grew up with mostly Mexican American, right? Right. So like your understanding of how prejudice works or that, that stuff is a little distorted by being in that bubble maybe. Right.

Speaker 2:

And, and just for listeners who aren't aware of proper, and 87 was the proposition that essentially deputized teachers to be ice agents.

Speaker 5:

Bye. It was, it was fucked up and a lot of ways. Um, but I remember being in, in school, I'm like, oh, prop point. And that was like a moment of political, old consciousness like this, like at nine year old, and, and realizing that there's politics and there's a whole world and they kind of don't like you, you know? And, and so that, I mean, that's the starting point. And then, so I've always had a, in both of my parents were teachers, so they were in the union. So I've always been on the liberal end of things. Um, but I, you know, I was pretty just liberal, you know, normal liberal politics. But I worked in a construction in jobs like that, and I think I had a sort of intuitive Marx's understanding of like, wow, the boss makes a much of money from my labor, you know, uh, oh look, I built this thing and, uh, the homeowners get to live in it and the boss gets to make money from it. And I made basically minimum wage from doing all this work and that that's screwed up. But I wouldn't say it was like a super or radicalized awareness that I wanted to act on in a strong way until I got more into, you know, I campaigned for Obama right now whom some among us. Yeah, we're, we're, we're all going there. And I worked for different media outlets and I worked for this small newspaper in, in, in Mendocino County, which is part of this nationwide conglomerate, which is owned by a hedge fund in New Jersey. But in the process of trying to start a newspaper, I still, when we started out my critiques of News and journalism, we're, we're sort of just professional critiques from like, well, I didn't like the way my editor did this and I like the way the bosses and the publishers did this and if we could do these things, excuse me, if it could be kind of work around, um, that would, that would simplify things. So we didn't have to respond to corporate. That would simplify things. But the more and more you get into it and the more and more you actually have the freedom to look at how you're going to write a story as opposed to knowing that your boss wants you to write it a certain way, you, you, it's things you all always kind of knew, but you encounter in a much more immediate way. Oh, I can reinforce this universal, unspoken prejudice that,

Speaker 2:

right. So, so instead of, instead of just your, your bosses and editors telling you the narrative that you need to run with eating, you actually had to sort of sit down and examine that narrative yourself and then come to like, oh wait,

Speaker 5:

okay.

Speaker 2:

Did, is this really the narrative that I want to use? Is, is this really the narrative that brings the truth to the story that I'm trying to tell?

Speaker 5:

Right. And I don't, I mean, I don't, I don't want to say that the, uh, I have done a good job of responding to that. You know, it's, I think like a lot of people nowadays, there's a bit of an awakening. Kate has much deeper and, and older bona fides as a leftist. There's a, there's a kind of awakening and saying the things that I thought incremental liberal Wiggin reform could achieve actually can't be achieved within this system. You know, and there's a disillusionment followed by looking around for something and then saying like, well, actually this is, this aligns with a lot of my intuitions and a lot of the ideas that I had for a long time, but, uh, you know, let's talk about praxis instead of just critique. So I think, I think that's, that's some of the, the path and, and on the local level, there's, there's, there's a, you know, there's this paradox in journalism right now. We're, we're, we're sort of living through a kind of a golden age where there's, there is some fantastic journalism out there, uh, stuff like the intercept, you know, and that's just fantastic. That's questioning norms that, that's challenging in American imperialism.

Speaker 2:

I mean, shit, they just, they just interviewed David Harvey, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's actually a really good, it's a really good episode. Yeah.

Speaker 5:

Yeah, it was, but that's on a really national, international scale. And the, the s an equivalent thing doesn't exist on local scale local news. Uh, and we're, we're, uh, within the, within journalism where like a hyper local publication, local news, hyperlocal news is still overwhelmingly conservative, almost conservative, almost from like a Nixonian way. Like, you know,

Speaker 4:

well, I think some of that is, even if there are these constraints about challenging the system when you are working in a small community that can feel really different from the perspective of a reporter and also from the perspective of people, your sources and that you interview. So I think there's ways in which it's actually easier to make those challenges on a national scale. Whereas for instance, if we, you know, there's, there's been a variety of stories. We got a tip from last week about, um, some high up a thing that may or may not involve law enforcement or, you know, there's, there's things that people come to us with as reporters that not only can be a lot more difficult in terms of just what the consequences are personally when you make that public. Um, and you pursue the challenging things in a small community, but it can also be actually logistically harder in that, for example, getting a court transcript in a small rural town of what happened in that trial is actually sometimes there's months delay for because there's one transcriber and she's got to do all the other cases before that. And so there's a lot of just challenges in terms of resources that also come into doing deeper investigative journalism. There's a local scale even though at sometimes that much more important or immediate, the impacts would be much more immediate in someone's everyday life.

Speaker 5:

The, the is a question you always ask yourself on the local scale, which is, is it malice or incompetence where when you're at higher levels, you know, it's malice because the people are pretty competent. Um, but on a local level, people can just be wildly and competent. They can also hide their malice behind in competence. But I want to add one point to that. And, and it's, um, there, there's kind of a brain drain thing that happens too where if you're really good, you, you go to a bigger paper. And then you go to a bigger paper

Speaker 4:

and then you end up at a national level

Speaker 5:

and when you're at the New York Times or the Washington Post or the La Times or something, right. And you, you have really great reporters working there and the people that are at the local level are either young or young or not as good or a not as careerist. They're good at playing the career posters, you know, and where we fit in that I won't say,

Speaker 4:

I think that that's compounded by the fact that there's something that certainly we both experience. Um, so Adrian and I both had the same job at a local newspaper and basically we met because I, he worked there for a year and put in his notice and I interviewed for and took the job that he left. And so, um, you know, that was a job that at one point had been, it was a hundred year old, locally owned newspaper. Um, the publisher's lived in town. They really cared about the town. They were committed to providing, uh, uh, informational resource and good news coverage for people that lived there. And through a series of corporate buyouts that happened. Um, and it happened in similar ways with different chains around the country. The new, the job that Adrian and I both ended up having was one that was$11 an hour. And at the time that I took it, there had been a national hiring freeze and a national salary freeze for at least a year. And there were several guild papers that were part of that chain so that we're, the reporters there had unionized before the buyouts. And the corporation was basically refusing to negotiate with any newspaper that had a union contract and they were just waiting for all those union contracts to expire. And so, you know, the job that we had, which was a general assignment covering the northern part of Mendocino county job, um, would have in the past been wine where someone could have stayed at that job for 40 years. They could have been paid a decent wage, they would have had been able to buy a house in that community. They would have had expertise that accumulated. Um, and so it would have been a job that would not necessarily cause all the talent to run away looking for better opportunities, but it would have been something where it, even if you are talented and you have ambition, you, it would have been something that could have been a supported, sustainable position for people that want to do, you know, local journalism in that way.

Speaker 5:

So yeah, so like small newspapers across the country, I've seen these massive cuts and you end up with really low paying jobs. So it was$11 an hour job and they didn't pay over time. But you had the fact that it had to work 10 to 20 hours overtime a week to really do it

Speaker 4:

well if you wanted to do a good job.

Speaker 5:

So, so you're, you're, there's massive wage stuff involved and that's national, you know, this, this, this corporate chain is called digital first media. I mean, if you're in California in a small town, they own, they probably on that newspaper. Uh, but they all newspapers from San Diego to May and they own the Denver Post. Then what used to be the San Jose Mercury News, we used to be the Oakland Tribune is now the East Bay Times. Uh, the Daily News in the San Fernando Valley, the Orange County Register, the Pasadena Star, the Longbeach press telegram. I just know the California ones. So they own huge numbers of newspapers and they're slashing and slash or slashing and they're slashing wages and they're depending more and more on very young, inexperienced reporters. And it produces a quality issue. So you have these jobs that used to be middle class jobs and they're now starter jobs or their, their, their jobs where you really struggle. Uh, two of the newspapers, I think it was the trip, the Oakland Tribune, and it was the torn daily breeze in the last two years had reporters that won a Pulitzer and then quit because they weren't getting paid enough,

Speaker 4:

her and fired, which is fine, which is what happened in that fired after winning a Pulitzer got laid off the team at the East Bay Times that won a Pulitzer for covering the ghost ship fire. Um, they were laid off the week after getting the Pulitzer and I think, you know, replaced by who is making a entry level wage at that position. And so certainly the people, you know, where Adrian and I both work, that people that I had lived there prior to taking that job and so I was already committed to being in that community in some way. But the people that have filled the position since have all been people that have moved from either out of the county or out of the state, they have been a

Speaker 5:

22,

Speaker 4:

just graduated either from bachelors are getting their masters, but it's pretty much their first newspaper job. And then none of them have stayed if they're lucky, they make it a year and then they moved to somewhere else. And so what that has meant for those local communities is that they have people who just show up having no idea who anyone is or what's going on or the history of things. They try and figure it out, they're underpaid and then they're just looking for a way out as soon as they can. And that cycle repeats

Speaker 5:

and they're young you to reporting reporting's not like physics or something like you, you need to, you need experience and you need relationships to relationships. But I want to be careful not to mythologize or be nostalgic about some golden era of newspapers 30 40 years ago when that was a middle class job because you know, back then those newspapers were also just, they just upheld the status quo. They were racist, they were sexist, they were, they weren't corporatist, but they were, they were capitalist mouthpieces for the local capitalist elite. And that, that, I mean that's still, it's far less to a lesser extent because they're owned outside of the county or outside of the local area. Uh, but it's funny cause there's, the expectation is still there until you'll get like local leads sort of come to you and be like, how come you guys are the writing a story about how awesome

Speaker 2:

my m a staple of that booster as capitalists, right? Yeah.

Speaker 5:

And you're like, well, you know, the guy that used to have this job would have done it because the old boss, like you paid the old bosses salary, but now there's an even richer guy who pays my salary. So I, you know, I just don't have the time to talk about how great you are as a capitalist or whatever.

Speaker 2:

Right. So capitalism, socks covered that need can probably go on. Right.

Speaker 5:

Have a lot of our readers heard this conversation, we'd lose those readers.

Speaker 2:

That's another interesting thing. She really,

Speaker 5:

we have to be quiet about being left because

Speaker 2:

really that, that's not a, that's not a niche that you think would be like, wouldn't be able to fulfill you guys's needs of subsistence that we used.

Speaker 4:

You know, it's interesting, I think in that when I was here to talking about there being this history of independent media outlets, I think a lot of those were also funded by like a wacky, eccentric dude that had money, but he just wanted to be the gadfly. Um, and so in terms of, you know, I think there have been moments where people have been, where there's been publications are reporters that have been financially independent in a way that they were kind of able to buck the system. I think we both like to thank, there's a model of that that we could build that people would value and appreciate. I think part of what we were trying to do when we started, and you can correct, I don't know if maybe what I was trying to do when we started was I think there were sort of a lot of other kinds of gaps and criticisms that we had about local news coverage like Lee do. The cannabis industry is a big thing in Mendocino county and sort of how the local press had covered that at all or something that I think we both had issues with. And so there are sort of a list of things that we wanted to try and do better or differently with this newspaper that we have been, we're just scratching the surface at. Um, but I think it's been an interesting experience in starting it. And having, you know, we get a volume of people saying, cover my new business opening or you know, people in engaging with us as if we are the same thing as this cancer traditional models.

Speaker 5:

There's this, there's a trope you hear people say like, you know, people are Socialists but they don't realize it. You, I think you would probably have listeners across the country, right. But I, I, and people have an image of California in northern California. There's very wealthy, but we're where we work. It's like Appalachia and

Speaker 2:

yeah, one of the things that I try and like remind my listeners, like especially this area here, this a lot of, a lot of the culture of this area and a lot of the, a lot of the people who are are here and to the north and to the northeast of us like that, that was settled by like Okies essentially, you know, a lot of, a lot of people from rural South uh, came up here during the dust bowl era and you know, they really did become a very deep part of uh, uh, what makes northern California Northern California like this is like sauce likes to say the, the liminal space between that, um, you know, bay area, a hipster and bourgeois and like super redneck rural. It's kind of an interesting melting pot here. But yeah, this is, this is a place where I could, I could take you to a, within a quarter mile of where I live, I could take you and point out a 10 different houses that have either a confederate flag or a thin blue line flag or both. Right? Like hanging outside their house.

Speaker 5:

So, and then the other thing is this is an agricultural region and so you have a large, um, uh, Mexican American Mexican population and, uh, like compared to to La, less make fewer Mexicans, purity economist, right? If you were people who were born here and more people who are actually recently arrived from Mexico and work in the fields, uh, so it's poorer. But anyways, that's, that's a day we try to publish in Spanish too. Um, that's a, that's a sort of a different cultural valence. Oh, okay.

Speaker 4:

I think, you know, one example of that is we recently the medicine, okay. Board of supervisors has decided to give themselves a pretty significant raise. Um, and the way they decided that was by comparing the wages of the supervisors in surrounding counties. And there was some controversy over, I think they included either Sonoma or Napa, which raised the average really significantly. And so, um, there's a lot of public backlash to this, but I am part, it was because people said, look, you're including these much richer vineyard counties that are really skewing it so that you can give yourself a higher ways. But also there's a significant proportion of Mendocino county. It's one of the poorer counties by average income in the state. Um, where the supervisors are getting a raised from 60 something to 80 something thousand is the jump there. And I think a lot of the backlash has been very few of us make 60,000. You know, there's a lot of people in the county that are feeling like we're entering an economic downturn, that our businesses are closing and we don't think competitive supervisors raise wages is a good way to spend from the county coffers. And so there's, there's a lot of issues like that that I don't think are, the income inequality isn't necessarily well covered by what does it actually look like in a structural way. Yeah.

Speaker 5:

I mean in agricultural regions you have this really stark in committee quality between the people that work in the fields and the people that own the fields, that it's in some ways more visible than you're going to see in a suburb for sure. Or in in parts of the city. And so that's true. And then you have sort of like generalized rural poverty. So I just to give people some context, right? So, so take it back to why you would lose readership if, if people knew that you were left. So, so a lot of people are, are socialists without realizing it. And if you engage in them in a conversation, they hate the boss, they hate the hate, certain kinds of landowners, they're angry about, you know, outsiders. It's always outsiders coming in and buying up this land or doing this and that. And, and they're, they're in their couch and the different language that they're broadly left critiques there. Bradley critiques of Capitalism. But people don't come to contextualize it that, that way for themselves, you know? And so if you then say, oh, you're, you're basically saying something that's left are socialists or whatever, they'll get mad at you. Yeah. And so we, we, you know, I, we have to do a lot of, we're all online, so we use Facebook a lot and you get to see what other people post on their Facebook pages and it's all these, these Trump memes and these racist memes and all this fake news stuff. And then, and then I'll run into somebody on this too and they're like, oh, I love your coverage of that, that fire that happened. So we got it. We did it. We did really thorough coverage of the, of the recent fires. Oh my God, your coverage of the fire was fantastic. And I'm like, Oh yeah. The other thing, we joke about his case Jewish and I'm Mexican American, so it was like, Oh, if you only knew that it was still left as Jew and a Mexican that was actually reporting on the fire.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I think so. You know, we, because we do do breaking news, we do do emergency coverage. We do, you know, a lot, some of those gaps that we wanted to fill or just, it's hard to know if there's a crazy winter storm if your road to get home as open in Mendocino county. And so we sort of started in that direction, right? I think there, there is a version of, we're going to be a weekly lefty investigative thing that we have not given up the dream on, but is, I think we didn't want, at least when starting out, we really wanted to build trust in the community is just a reliable source of information. And we, we didn't want people to say, Oh, well I'm not gonna read that Jewish Mexican coverage of the fire. Who cares if there's a fire, if I have to go read that paper to find out. And so I think

Speaker 5:

what we'll get people complaining, well, I'm, I'm a really slow translator and so we don't translate enough. I get my mom to translate stuff and um, but we'll, we'll publish something to Spanish and people will be pissed. Hmm. Eh, but, but so I think there's, there's, there's two levels to look at. At the capitalist critique of local news specifically, and the, the obvious level for us as reporters working within the system was there's a giant corporation that's strip mining, these local newspapers that are very often hundred, 150 year old newspapers that have been bought by this company and they're there, they have an explicit policy of trying to extract as much value as they can and sort of collapsed them in the process. Right. And you can, you see the gears of capitalism working in a way that's detrimental to the institution of the newspaper and to the community and so on. And, and that was, that was like the intimate obvious way for us in which we, we want to say, well, we don't want to, we don't want it to be that way. We, we want to have a like a worker owned newspaper that we're not beholden to what the Hedge Fund in New Jersey says the newspaper should be. And that's a really, that's like that obvious critique of capitalism that I think anybody that works has, like anybody that's not a manager or an owner, they ha you have that, you feel that obvious critique. And then there's this, this other level where there is a culture of what local, there was a culture, what journalism is in the United States. And it's very, you know, it's very liberal and Wiggin and, and about institutions and the reverence for the constitution and a reverence for it. You know, there's, there's this, this civic public religion, right, that newspapers are, are very much integral to propagating and supporting. And then there's a local version of that, which is how do you, how do you tell a certain story? So during the recent fires and for people that don't know, our region had a crazy, horrible rash of wildfires in the, in the fall, very late. And there was a big fire, there were three big fires in Sonoma or two fires in Sonoma, one in Napa, and then a big one in Mendocino.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. There was the, um, there was the, the main fire. And that started in Calistoga, spread into spread into Sonoma county and then split off into two fires and a pocket fire up close to a Calistoga. There was a another fire that was over a further east and I think a little bit south in, in Napa. And then there was a fourth one that happened up in Mendocino. Are you guys

Speaker 5:

and the, just to give you an idea, like when that fire started, it spread so fast and it got so big that we couldn't come to Sonoma because the highway was burning. Yeah. I mean the literal guardrails on the highway, we're burning. So the roads were closed during that. The, the sheriff in Sonoma and the sheriff and Mendo made a very big deal to talk about looting.

Speaker 2:

Yes, I remember that.

Speaker 5:

And there was like one case of quote unquote looting in, in, in Mendo Mendo has, we see the police reports, men know, has a fair number of burglaries and property crimes that happen on any weekly basis. I think there was actually less property crime and fewer burglaries during the fire because everybody was fucking running from the fire came on. I think this, this, this, this, this a bit that like there's a certain, there's a Burr, a burglar that like it has a fireproof suit

Speaker 2:

can jump through flames, but what it is is that, um, it's, it's exactly that kind of liberal reverence for institutions that they can't, it, that hogs Ian view of humanity where if you don't have the state, if you don't have the police control, people just revert to like the worst kinds of, of criminality and violence. And so like, as soon as, as soon as it seems like those institutions are going to be weak or not available, people start freaking out about, oh my God, my property. Oh my God, I'm going to get killed by a serial murderer. Yeah.

Speaker 5:

And, and so we just didn't, we didn't mention it, you know, so a bunch of papers ran with that looting thing and, and, and this, this is part of the, like how the sausage gets made thing. It's when there's a fire and it burns everything down. It burned everything down. There's, there's not that much more to say. So some extent should burn down and like people ran away and you can go to the shelter and you can cover that. But, but you know, there's certain things that are really big deals that actually don't generate a lot of intricate stories unless you want to spend a shit ton of time and you have the resources to really go and follow people and do a lot of interviews. But you don't because you're on deadline and you don't have any money and you gotta be quick about it. And so the looting story, it's a quick filler. The sheriff puts out a press release or whatever and it makes a speech. And this happened in Mendo and in Sonoma, I dunno about Napa and everybody ran with that. I don't, we, we just didn't, we just didn't mention it. And that's the thing that's about that, that cultural level of critique where like you can you, I honestly think you can do a lot by just not magnifying the though like of the law enforcement paranoia line.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. And you know, those agencies, those f institutions of the state have a very easy platform to get their message out and you can just reprint that press release. And then, and then they weren't,

Speaker 5:

they weren't publishing anything in Spanish. And there was like on, um, on like Mendocino, Spanish, Facebook, right? Spanish language, Facebook, I'm reading through the threads, everybody was like, oh my God, the towns are going to burn down. And I'm like, no, the town's not going to burn down. And they're like, yeah, but the newspapers aren't saying anything. And I'm like, they are the dues not being translated. So then we had this, we had to like repeatedly go to the sheriff and the county CEO and stuff and see like, you guys need to have a translator here, you guys need. And eventually I called up my mom and I was like, can you come trans? Like I can't be the translator because I'm, I'm a reporter. Can you come translate? And, and at some point they got a firefighter who could translate but they didn't. And as a result there was a

Speaker 4:

evacuation orders and people like really urgent. It was three days, almost four days until KSR row had someone who could like five minutes at the top of the hour, just give like brief headlines in Spanish. And that was pretty good. Yeah,

Speaker 5:

well we went to the local radio station and me and my, my butcher, I Spanish was like trying to try and explain things. But

Speaker 4:

as far as we, I think, you know, there's a, there's a Spanish language only media outlet and Mendocino that's sort of, but there used to be a printed paper and is now online on Facebook. Um, but you know, none of the main radius, community radio stations or the newspapers did anything against KBBF I think. Oh, here, here. But yeah, up there, there was no way to really get that info out. Yeah.

Speaker 5:

So here's where you have that, that like that two level thing again, where is the reporter who's just like, you don't even have to walk. You just, you know, fucking were Mexican or whatever and you're like, no, nothing's happening in Spanish quarter of the county. Speak Spanish, you know, and nothing's happening in Spanish. That's an easy critique. There's these structural things that, that the capitalist system is just not doing well and you can, and you can sort of make that critique without making a broader critique of the system or, or the government, the local government and so on to then say, well maybe we shouldn't publicize the sheriff's rant about looters that takes, that's another, that's a different level of analysis. And you, you see this as, as media, the ecosystem sort of collapses. People are trying different things and there's a lot of things that are going out there and they're trying to fill those gaps that can do that inside institutional critique. But the larger critique is, is harder to get out cause it's more subtle because the ways in which the news as a genre reinforces norms of capitalism. It's hidden. It's hidden to you. You know, you grow up in this country, in this system. It's hidden to you to a large extent.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. I think, you know, in terms of going back to what we were talking about it as to if we were really upfront, publicly with our politics, um, you know, would we still have readers? I think there are ways in which, you know, we want to write about housing issues in like there are topics in which I think if you were to start by saying Mendocino county has no rent control and a shortage of housing and affordable housing is this and that we should

Speaker 5:

okay

Speaker 4:

take back all the vacant airbnb properties. I think there are people that won't read past that. Whereas there's ways where if you, if you don't start from that, but you can still sort of show what's going on by how you are shaping the story, um, that can be more effective.

Speaker 2:

Right. Well, and that's kind of, um, I think that's probably going to like one of the biggest challenges of presenting the news and it's in local news, whatever news in a leftist framework is that the first thing you have to do in order to present the news in that way is provide all of this context, which is just assumed by the reader. And, and by typical liberal media, uh, you have to unpack that and then recontextualize and then you can get into the story and you just don't have the time or the column inches to do that. But I see, I don't,

Speaker 5:

I don't think that's necessarily the case cause I think that, I think that local journalism more so than the national press does a lot of the work of reinforcing these ideas and uh, this culture, whatever you want to call it. Right. You know, and when we're guilty of this, like I, I'm, I'm not saying that we were, we've created a perfect version of this. Like I still think of what we're doing is very experimental and we're very constrained. So like we, we reported the shit out of the fire and then the fire ended and then we both had to go back to our, our side jobs or day jobs, whatever you want to call him. You know, so like the F we reported like, you know, 16, 20 hours a day for eight days or nine days. And then we, we like took one day off and then I was back working as a handyman in. And so you, you need a certain amount of resources to, to do that kind of stuff. But I also think when, so I'm, I don't want people to sell, I'm going to Google these guys and then be like, oh they don't, they don't do any of this shit that they, that they said they do. Because I do think of it as this experiment. There's learning process and we're trying to figure out how to do it in a lot of the things that we did initially were, well for one, we had invested initially that actually had a certain ideas about how we should do it. But the other part is we also have this idea, or I had this idea of reproducing a standard kind of news format in a way that that would give us legitimacy. Right? And so I was very careful initially to follow all the rules that you're supposed to follow. Those rules are rigged. So, for instance, we're having this issue right now where there's these trailer parks in Mendocino County and people are getting evicted. They're right, they're raising the rents. They got taken over by a different company, the raising the rents, right. So I call up the whole, it took me some digging to figure out who the owner was. Right. So I figured out who the owner was, I call him up. It took, it took me weeks to get a quote back from him. And in one of the basic rules of journalism is when you're living in an accusation against someone, you need to give them a chance to respond. But there's this huge asymmetry there because the people that are getting evicted, about half of them don't speak English. And then you know, a third of them, a quarter of them are retired people that are not equipped to under, you know, they, they've been paying rent to the same old man who died for 40 years or something. And then he died and the company got the property got sold to somebody else and they don't know

Speaker 4:

going on to just be able to stay there and not. And then another place, these,

Speaker 5:

not everybody knows how to talk to the press. Not Everybody has is a good can do PR for themselves. And then you go to the p, the, the company that now managers is in the dude, super slick, you know, and he's really good at giving you the answer. These really good at delivering a quote that can go into a newspaper and respond exactly in deflect everything, you know. And that, that basic idea that you need to give them a chance to respond in an, in a normal local newspaper is going to mean that you get a presentation of these facts that is extremely biased towards the powerful, the people that have the resources to present a certain kind of image. And so that means you as a reporter have to be aware of that. And then you have to then you, you know, I think that you should then tip the scales back in the other direction. But that's very much frowned upon within the norms of journalism cause cause, cause then you're not a jacket. Yeah, exactly. So objectivity itself, rigs the game and, and there's people on the national scale, good left as journalists on the national scale of good investigative journalist on the national scale that will point that out and we'll do the extra legwork to be able to do that. But also demonstrate it in other ways that whatever the response they got from someone, it's bullshit. Right. But if you're running a fucking local newspaper and you're not making any money and you, you, you know, you're getting paid$11 an hour or not even running, so you're working in a local newspaper, you got to pay 11$15 an hour and you, you're not going to get paid overtime. You know, you're not going to get paid over time and you've got this deadline and you've got to do all these other things. You don't have the time to go get those additional facts to sort of demonstrate my, my old boss used to say, give them enough rope to hang themselves. Right. Which you can do sometimes, but also it takes time and it takes resources. And so like when I was at that newspaper, she would, she, she tells me that and then I'd be like, all right, I'm just going to ignore all your demands to like meet this deadline or go work on another story so I can do the extra work. And then she'd be super pissed at me. But I'd come, I'd produce a piece that I felt better about on this one thing. So the process itself is rigged and it's doing a lot of work for, for the capitalist system. And I think you can do a lot of of work in the opposite direction by just recognizing that and trying to try to try to provide a different perspective. Just don't publish a story about the loading cause you know, that's bullshit cop propaganda, but it's really tempting to publish because it's there, it's ready made, it's quick, you know you're going to get click. Yeah.

Speaker 4:

And on top of that, you know, if the other paper publishes a front page, big headline, Sheriff Warren's everyone of looters story, then that circulates widely. And everybody freaks out. And that is the shared story and all the business model for a lot of newspapers at this point is about clicks or is about your Facebook privileges, the algorithm to how many people see your story if it's more shared. And so there's all these sort of other ways that those things get skewed towards just being sensational or towards, you know, having, it's hard to avoid being nervous about, okay, that other paper is now everybody's reading that and worried about looting and they're asking us, why aren't you talking about looting? And so I think there's all these kinds of insidious pressures and in that way, similar, like, I don't know if we should get into it, but there's a cat. We've kind of debated at length what to do about mugshots and press releases about crimes.

Speaker 5:

When we started it, we had somebody that was very insistent on running mugshots and since they've left, we've stopped running mark shots. But

Speaker 4:

it is a thing that, you know, we get every shouldn't run motions every week or every other day you'll get some kind of announcement from a police department or the sheriff or something saying, here's our report of this kind that just happened. We just arrested this person for this thing. Here's our mug shot. It is the, it's a kind of story that a lot of readers think is important or they want, they think they, it's important for them to see the face of the person so they know who it was that did the thing right now. But you know, just, you know, taking that, taking that story. And then even if you add onto it, you're essentially just a snug refer for the cops. Exactly. Yeah. So doing the,

Speaker 5:

this, it costs a lot of money, right. And especially in a large rural county, the courthouses is a 45 minute drive. And if a crime happens, one hour and a half north of me, I could see, you know, the, the entire day will be spent driving to two interviews. Right. And, and, uh, and again, we have, we're, we're starting out, we have side jobs and at, you know, when we used to work at the other paper that the editor was not going to authorize that kind of time expenditure, gas expenditure. And so I, you know, I, I was listening to like, um, citations needed and there's these great critiques of a big papers that are really good critiques and then I'll, and then I'll sort of apply them to myself for applying the newspapers, the places that I've worked at a local level. And it's, it's a harder thing to apply that critique because you just don't have the resources to make those kinds of things happen. And so that, like, the simple answer to that is we definitely need the Jeremy Scahill hills of the world to keep doing what they're doing. But there's a lot of really important stuff that happens on the local level. There's a lot of, a lot of uh, both like light corruption and, and, and uh, you know, stuff that like I'm from a Marxist perspective as a corrupt system and stuff that from a liberal perspective as a corrupt individual within a system that happens on a local level that's completely ignored. My favorite example of this is there's a, there's a little city in bell in La called Bell where my, uh, my dad used to work there and my dad is funny cause my dad actually knew a lot of the, the, my dad was a school teacher so he'd like interacted with a lot of people. Um,

Speaker 4:

not even became national news, that'd be

Speaker 5:

game nationalist. But the La Times just didn't cover the bell city council for years. And then, and then they had some initiative and they got to reporters and they said, go to bill in the, they went to bell for like two months and they figure it out. There's this giant scan and then they spent another six months reporting it. But it, it had gone. It was. And so the, the, the version you hear is like, Oh, the La Times did this great muck raking and Bella and these, there, there was these mayor and the city council guys and one of the poorest parts of La that we're making like$800,000 a year. Right. It was crazy. It was incredibly corrupt. And My, my dad knew somebody that actually likes stood up to want it to, I forget it was a mayor of the city council guy and they put a bus stop in front of his house. They would do shit like that. And, and so this, you know, and I, I saw those two reporters talking, they were great reporters and you know, the story is, oh the La Times did these great McCray thing, but the, the story you ignoring us for like 10 years, they ignored that cause, you know, cause they didn't have the resources or they didn't care because that's an overwhelmingly Latino neighborhood, uh, is Latino and then like 2% Palestinian. So you know, who cares about that neighborhood. But that problem with bell, that's true in every little tiny city in La. Not every put a lot of little tiny cities in La county. A lot of little tiny say cities and like San Mateo County, you know, and then across rural America, you know

Speaker 4:

well on the same thing is true with the yellow. There'll be a big national story about the backlog of rape kits or something in some place. Whereas the reality is there is a, you know, processing autopsy, there's, there's a lot of similar situations that are happening everywhere, but unless you have kind of daily reporters who are regularly going to check on things or unless you have someone who makes it their cause to bring attention to this particular thing, it's not often the case that those sort of see the light beyond that. People that are dealing with them in the, you know, waiting to get the result of that rape kit or whatever the particular situation. Yes.

Speaker 5:

The recent fires are the deadliest far as in the history of California and I had 47 people died

Speaker 4:

in Mendocino. I don't know what the Sonoma and Napa numbers all right. Yeah.

Speaker 6:

Yeah. There were, I think total, um, for all the nor cal fire's, there were 24, 25 dash oh

Speaker 5:

no, there was more than the, anyway, we'll look that up. Yeah. But, um, the, the, I know this, the Mendo came the Mendo numbers nine dead Mendo a lot of the people were burned up so bad they couldn't be identified. And so you have to identify them by dental records. And the person that was doing a lot of that was actually our state assemblyman. She, um, would cause he used to be a dentist and so he was going around doing I body identification. And so the story that that came out in the La Times, and we mentioned it, cause it's kind of weird and interesting, but also the deeper question is they're like, why the fuck is the only guy that can do this? Yeah. The assembly men, there should be more people that they should be other systems in place. Like, you know, we could identify bodies faster. Yeah.

Speaker 4:

And it's not like we have a shortage of

Speaker 5:

dentists. Yeah. So who know? I don't know why that happened that way. That's a question to ask. That is, every story has another question like that, that where you can begin to interrogate resource distribution. You can be begin to interrogate how the system operates. You can begin to interrogate what people benefit and what people don't benefit. But it's going to take you another day.

Speaker 4:

Well, any of them with, you know, the issue of Spanish translation like in, in the moment, in the middle of the fire, the question is just, okay, how do we get this translated as quickly as possible to get that out there? The question of how come nobody ever thought about this in advance or how come there aren't resources available to just hire a translator and a county where there's a substantial proportion of people who are fluent Spanish speaker, you know, that that shouldn't actually be a hard thing to come up with. But in the middle of the emergency, as a breaking news reporter, you know, you, it doesn't, it's hard to figure out in what moment do you raise that question? And um, you know, that's, that's about resources. And staff. And do you have someone that can just stay in the office and might that article while you're running to the evacuation zone?

Speaker 5:

And so the, the, the fact that there's this institutional decimation of local news has contributed to an inability to interrogate these deeper questions of systemic questions, resource allocation, et cetera. But on, you know, and that's on top of the fact that there is a cultural professional bias towards the belief in the system. There's a tacit set of things that you can question versus what you can't question. You know, and, and my, my favorite big that want me to stop my favorite example, but like a very prominent to go off of this. There's nobody ever in, in the press at large questions the constitution, people questioned interpretations of the Constitution. People Question Lee, you know, rulings having to do with the cost, but the constitution fucking sucks. It's the oldest constitution on earth. It was written by a bunch of, you know, raising slaveholders intentionally biased towards the slave states and on and on and on. There's all these critiques of the Constitution, but that's totally taboo in the American press, right? The t, the constitution's holy, you cannot critique it in that way. And so you get, you get these weird contortions where people have to critique a thing that's a objective, really a bad thing, but they can't point out that it's bad because the constitution itself was, but the like people can, will critique the electoral college, but it's hard to say. Well, it's because the whole, the whole documents stupid. Yeah. You know, so[inaudible] Senate, you know. Right. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

That's, that's, that's definitely, that's definitely a rabbit hole that we're going to get your quad these days. Yeah. Um, but you know, we're, we're running a little bit long and I think that this is probably going to be a two parter where we interrogate this situation from the opposite end of the reporter's notebook. Um, but I, I kind of want to end this part with, all right, so let's just pretend, uh, I know it's going to be challenging that I am a fairly young, a fairly young person with a, a podcast who is interested in, you know, actually doing more than just like he yammering on about the things that are already in the news and wants to know more about an area. I already have, you know, lived here for a number of years. I have relationships, all of these kinds of things. How would I then actually, you know, set aside, you know, whatever it is, like 15, 20 hours in a week and, and actually start to, to do the actual, like primary source reporting and, and how would I go about sort of like going from, from someone who just critiques the news to someone who is actually like providing news that might actually be valuable?

Speaker 5:

Well, the, I think the thing that somebody's, a hypothetical person like that has, uh, the advantages is a lack of deadlines, which means that you can, you can follow paper trails. So there's this whole world of lawsuits that that needs to be looked at and it doesn't look at it, but you know, which vineyard is suing, which in specific to Sonoma County, who's suing this vineyard, what property disputes are happening like that, it longterm looking at that stuff. Uh, we'll tell you a lot about power dynamics and there's this fallacy I think in a lot of people's perceptions of journalism, but in journalism too, that the, the, the domain of investigation is the government. But in a capitalist system, our lives are just as much or more controlled by businesses by capital, right? And that gets a lot less reporting them in the business press is booster, right? The business press a examines Capitol from the perspective of what companies being the best capitalists company and, and boosting the, that kind of company. And so I think there's, there's avenues to explore like, look, no court records are public and going to the courthouse and looking at court records like that is, is a good, it was one good thing. In other words, if, if you, if like if you came to me are like, Hey, wait, what can I do? And be like, Hey, go look at all the court records for me and then tell me if you see anything interesting. But that's that maybe that's too in the,

Speaker 4:

I think that they're, I think journalists can get hampered by the idea of objectivity in terms of how they need to pitch something to their editor or how they need to present something to the reader. But I think that, um, I, there have been situations in reporting where, you know, I have said, okay, I think that this thing is happening and I think it's a, and I need to go, how am I going to go report on this and write an article? And there have been moments for, Adrian has advised me to go sort of approach researching something which is often called enterprise reporting. Um, that in a way where you sort of try and not engage with the idea of objectivity. Um, not, not say I'm going to go find the objective truth that is happening here, but just sort of say, okay, I'm going to start following these paper trails. I may have this idea in my head of what's happening right now or the story that I think is going on here, but, um, I'm going to start from sort of a position of fact checking and see just what I can find out. Um, and I think that that is a way that can be kind of psychologically freeing in terms of just doing the research. And then I'm sort of seeing what you can find out without looking for what proves your story. Um, because you can also often uncover really interesting things from that angle, um, that you wouldn't necessarily uncover if you say, okay, I want to show everyone how this particular thing is destroying affordable housing or something.

Speaker 5:

The other, the other thing I'd say is, um,

Speaker 7:

okay,

Speaker 5:

then, this is trite maybe, but magnifying certain voices are, what do they say? Whatever the saying is now, um, you gotta be careful with that because there's a trap. There's like a neo liberal trap of, of representation politics. And my favorite joke about this is like the idea of neo liberalism is a, is a drone company that has perfect racial and gender equity on their board. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. But there's a lot of people whose voices aren't heard because it's hard to find their voices, um, in, in Sonoma county or in, in Mendocino county or in, in rural areas and places away from the limelight. It's much easier to go to the mayor or the city council or the lawyers and reporters will get cozy with certain groups of people. And reporters come from the same social classes. Those people might live in the same neighborhoods, drink at the same bars and so on. And, and you get cozy with people. And you see this in Washington where reporters just can't. This is like the thing with, with the, the wolf book that just came out where he burned his sources. Basically. Reporters don't do that. They won't burn their source. And so they had these decades long relationships with powerful people where they're failing to actually, um, speak truth to power because they're buddies with power. And so there that, that, that truth in Washington replicates all the way down to Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, Mendocino. So amplifying the voices of people who aren't being heard a is a big deal because if that gets loud enough, then the mainstream press will listen if the work has been done for them. It's like the really hard leg work has been done for them. The Press Democrat, which is the, the Santa Rosa paper where you're based, we'll, uh, we'll show up and, and crib from you. You know, like that's, that's definitely a way that reporters find stories. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

I ate, I still do. And used to work at, um, you know, small local chain of gas stations and one of the, the gas stations was in Santa Rosa on the train tracks. And so, you know, if, if for those people who aren't familiar, like un up until very, very recently with the addition of the smart trains through, um, the one on one corridor, the train tracks, uh, you should be colloquially known as the Hobo highway. So if you're working at a, if you're working at a tiny seedy little gas station on those train tracks, you like a good quarter to a third of your clientele are houseless people. And, and I got to know a couple of them pretty well. One of'em, you know, God rest his soul, a died a couple of years ago from a drug overdose. But he was this, he was this guy who you always kind of wondered how we ended up on the street because he was always just really smart, always paying attention to things, always knew what was going on. And, and I feel like if, if you have a or confined that kind of person who, who knows what's it, who can have those connections like way away from like the, the centers of, of politics and[inaudible] tell you like, oh these, these are the guys you want to talk about. If, if like what you want to do is, um, you know, find out what happened to this other guy in this other town who mysteriously disappeared or are these kinds of things like that? Maybe. Maybe that's the kind of like sourcing

Speaker 4:

well, yeah. I also think asking people, what stories do you think aren't being co, you know, particularly the people whose voices are often not included. Um, even if, you know, people will have really interesting out their answers to that question. But, um, I think the more that you ask it, the more you do get a sense of like, okay, these are the types of issues that are really concerning to people in the community. You know, it may be that the way they phrased it makes it clear that there's a lack of transparency around this particular public process. And so people really don't understand what's, what's going to happen if you got evicted from the trailer, Parker or whatever. But I think in, in saying, you know, what are, what are you worried about in terms of the issues here that you don't think are being covered, you do actually get to, you get a lot of insight and you build trust with people, at least them thinking that you're willing to listen and hear and try and understand those things better. And so those also, that helps you build sources in, uh, through different communities in a longterm way where maybe you don't do that thing that one time, but a month from now you do come to them and say, Hey, I remember you were talking about this thing and it's actually come up in these, came up with the city council meeting or going to the city council meetings. You enough that you hear whoever happens to show up that day

Speaker 5:

system. Like it has an immune system. You know where if you went and talked to your buddy who knew a bunch of stuff about what was going on before the press dem and Krista was pretty good paper that you know, their, their shills for certain things in Santa Rosa. But you know, I've known some reporters at the press down there, good reporters before it can get there. That has to be whitewashed the few times it has to be, it has to be passed through filters of respectability. And so there's, it's very easy to dismiss certain kinds of things. Is that a drunk talking or that's a crazy person talking, you know, not to be able to spend. I'm saying that's like the language that's used right. And ignore a whole, whole sectors of people, whole groups of people based on that or to say I remember a bye. I pitched a story to the New York Times when I lived in New York and I had a story about something that was happening in Queens. I pitched it to New York Times in the New York Times editor, uh, whatever or section it was that got back to me. It wasn't even like, it was like a blog part of the New York Times something and he said, we've hit our Latino feminist or Latino something quota for the month.

Speaker 4:

Oh, I'm sorry we ran something about cannabis three months ago. So I think we're good for the year.

Speaker 5:

And you're saying, well, but then I know I'm not talking about what's the best way to turn. I want to talk about like labor, politics and cannabis in the, and the editors will be like, no, it's all good. It's all weed. I don't care. We already did that one or we already hurts. Uh, you know, we already did a story where the people speak in Spanish this week, so we're not, so there's these filters you have to get through, um, to get to the mainstream press that, that keep dissident or uncomfortable voices and ideas out of the discourse. Particularly

Speaker 4:

I think if there is a sense that you're an activist trying to write about a thing, I think that that unfortunately is a huge deterrent. And you know, writing about something that you personally care about is a difficult thing. Whether or not you're a professional newsperson or not. Um, and I think I can be, I think it's, it's a lot of the issues that we've talked about are things that also come up when people are, reporters don't feel any kind of connection, that community. And so it becomes a lot easier to just say, okay, what's the easy quick thing I can get dynein deadline that satisfies this quota that we have and then I'm good for the month. Um, and so per, you know, both as a professional or as someone that cares about trying to get better information about certain issues or were things out there, I think it's, it's a worthwhile exercise to say like, what's the thing that I, you know, what's a story that I don't think is being covered well and then what is the way that I think I could, I could present that that is true to what, you know, my beliefs are about this issue, but also presents that's in such a way that isn't going to be off putting immediately off putting to someone that doesn't come from the same place as me. So, you know, being able to write that story in such a, write that article in such a way that people read past the first paragraph or that they're willing to give you a, you know, listen to what you have to say because they don't think it's necessarily coming from this particular place to begin with. Um, is it hard but worth it?

Speaker 2:

There's, there's more stuff along those days. We'd get it into the next[inaudible] get into it in the next section maybe. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I think it's a pretty good place to wrap up part one here. You know, stay tuned. Next week we all talk about what to do about reporting and, and local reporting when you're on the, when you're on the other side of the microphone or when you're on the other side of the, the reporters

Speaker 4:

bad. Like that right. There is a visual for those of you not watching at home. I'm holding right

Speaker 2:

porters. No federal my hand. Yes. Yes. So, um, you know, uh, thank you all for listening. I want to thank my two guests for, you know, being here today and having this conversation about a topic that is

Speaker 8:

incredibly important for all of us. You know, with that, we'll see you next week, Dylan piece and be in solidarity.

Speaker 7:

Yeah.