Newspapers have a civic responsibility towards citizens, and in my view citizens have a civic responsibility towards their local newspaper. Many American communities have lost their local newspapers, and so have lost an essential tool for understanding and protecting local identity.
2019 is apparently the year when it is time for Napa residents to protect a necessary local resource by subscribing to the Napa Valley Register ("From the Editor: Making the Big Ask," April 29). When I compare the modest cost of one year’s digital access to the Register to a typical restaurant bill, or one bottle of pretty darned good wine, or one of the several Napa Valley College bond issues on a tax bill, I am embarrassed that not enough residents subscribe to sustain this newspaper.
When I moved to Napa from the East Coast, I had two primary sources of information to help me understand Napa’s particular culture, and such issues as the wine industry, housing, tourism, the environment, traffic, and taxes.
Both sources were able to explain both sides of a controversy, provide background facts that were not just one side’s cherry-picked talking points, and stay above the us-vs.-them simplicity of some national media and most internet media. I would have been guessing, and voting blindly, without them.
My two trusted sources were a wise neighbor, Charles Slutzkin, and the Napa Valley Register. The Register was especially important before elections, because of their news coverage relevant to various measures and because of their thoughtful interviews with candidates. I was impressed that some of their endorsements generously acknowledged strengths of other candidates.
Without such coverage, I believe that Napa voters would be at the mercy of competing spin. Voters would be at the mercy of the often empty rhetoric of candidates’ door hangers, slogans, unauthorized mailers from special interests, and expertly manipulative TV ads.
Because local newspapers are essential to the health of a community, not optional, I think of a subscription as just as important as a charitable deduction for some good local cause, especially because the newspaper provides a key service to every citizen, not to just one particular worthy sector.
Of course, subscribing to a local newspaper is better for us personally, too, because the content helps us in many ways, such as by helping residents find items on sale, alerting them to a Lucky Penny production or other arts event, and keeping people informed about crime and police matters.
The Register is asking Napa to support the newspaper that supports Napa. I hope to read soon that their campaign has succeeded, and that Napa rejects the trend toward homogenized regional and national news coverage than only mentions a locality when there is some bizarre crime or natural disaster.
Digital access to local news for as little as $60 a year? That is a bargain. Home delivery is a treat that nearly every American once enjoyed. Let’s not let Sean Scully move on and the Register fade into lamented history.
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