Jim Hightower, A Texas populist with liberal leanings as big as the Lone Star State, can pack a lot of truth in 300 or so words.
In a recent column, Hightower talked about how corporations located far, far away have hollowed out the heart and soul of local newspapers that they have snapped up over the years.
Businesses, including newspapers, have to make money in order to exist. There is nothing inherently evil about that.
But in words that Hightower might type, corporate ownership by and large tends to be a horse of a different color.
The Journal — along with the Manteca Bulletin, Oakdale Leader, Ceres Courier, Westside Index, Gustine Press-Standard, Escalon Times, Riverbank News, and 209 Magazine — are owned by Hank and Kelly Vander Veen who live in Ripon.
Their company — 209 Multimedia — is also in a partnership that launched a weekly newspaper called The Westside Express that serves Los Banos, Dos Palos and Firebaugh. That is on top of having a printing press in Manteca and not relying on a large corporate facility in the Bay Area where the Stockton Record and Modesto Bee are now printed.
Our press also prints 15 other newspapers that are locally owned publications in places such as Dixon Gridley, Carmichael, West Sacramento, Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova, Madera, Rio Linda and Calaveras County among others.
Every penny you spend on a newspaper subscription or an advertisement stays in the communities we serve. Those people — press crews, delivery people, inserters, advertising representatives, reporters, editors, paginators that build pages, support staff and even the publishers — all live here.
Not only do they spend their money here, but more importantly they have roots here.
And while having a local impact economically was a part of Hightower’s point, it was only a sliver of it.
Highwater was zeroing in on content.
Having worked on newspapers — all locally owned, by the way, except for a side gig with Associated Press covering the Sacramento Kings for over five years during the past 51 years — I’ve gotten an earful of what people think about what I do every day and what they read in the pages of their newspaper.
Some good, some bad.
Sometimes feedback comes via a phone call but most of the time it’s when I’m shopping at places like Target or Food-4-less, dining at El Jardin, walking my dogs, attending a community function like a parade or when I’m volunteering with an event like the community Thanksgiving dinner that I missed this year due to a conflict with work.
We are invested in the community not just because of our jobs but because we live here as do people we care about. They run the gamut from family and friends to neighbors and those we come across during the course of a day that live or work here as well.
That concern is reflected on the pages of the Journal.
The Dec. 28 edition is an example.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is about as slow as you can get for news.
Yet there were stories about:
*The City of Turlock entering into a partnership with Legacy Health Endowment to implement a multi-pronged approach to address homelessness.
*The retirement of longtime Turlock Police Detective Tim Redd, who during his 30+ long career helped put multiple sex offenders behind bars working the crimes against children division and High-Tech Crimes Unit.
*The Turlock Irrigation District’s new podcast that informs listeners about the complex issues of water and power — along with surprising stories like the time a disgruntled farmer charged into the TID Directors board room and attempted to assassinate the general manager.
*How the Turlock Moms Club is turning a social gathering into something more with community projects.
*How the community as a whole is doing when it comes to conserve water.
*How a host of new state laws will affect local residents.
*How the Pitman High wrestling team is off to a hot start this season with record participation.
*The multiple Hilmar High football players who earned all-league honors.
On the Opinion page there was an in-depth look at how Legacy Health Endowment CEO Jeffrey Lewis plans to tackle the issue of homelessness in Turlock.
Not all the content was local. The Cuisine page is full of recipes from a wire service — but food is good not matter where the recipe comes from, right?
It is extremely rare to find a front page in the Journal that isn’t 100 percent local. That’s not the case with other corporately-owned regional papers.
Sometimes we have more local stories just on the front page than either have in their entire newspapers.
This is not a criticize per se, but that decision was made by how the corporations that own those newspapers chose to operate them.
The Journal will often have non-local news you may not see in either of the other two papers for a day or so if ever.
This is possible based on decisions made by local owners who didn’t decide to outsource the building of pages to Kansas City or Hong Kong or to get rid of the printing press to reduce costs and increase their profit margin.
Both the Record and Bee go “to bed,” or send their pages to a press facility, a good five hours or so before the Journal does.
It makes a difference in not just what you get in local news and sports, but also local events. You can pick up the Journal the next day after a council meeting to see just exactly what is being done with your tax dollars as well as decisions being made that may eventually impact your life.
That fact that can be done is because we are not only locally owned but have publishers who are committed to the concept of local journalism and not focused on squeezing the proverbial turnip for every last cent, they can in profit to please Wall Street hedge fund investors.
We are not riding the high horse because of how the world has evolved when it comes to newspapers over the last 20 years plus.
Instead, we are simply riding the same horse that others who have worked delivering community journalism have done since the first edition of the Journal was published 119 years ago.
Our world is Turlock, Denair, Keyes, Hilmar and the other communities we cover.
It is not Wall Street, Sacramento or Washington, D.C.