Trials by fire stoke optimism for 2019

From the Winter 2019 issue of California Publisher

Ron Hasse From The President

Even on the best days, journalism is a tough business. We pursue difficult investigations, hold those in power accountable, and report the facts without bias or influence. And that’s par for the course.

Beyond the day-to-day, we knew 2018 would be a busy year. February’s Olympics in PyeongChang featured high-profile California athletes. Smart money was on Golden State in June and the Dodgers in October. We also planned for robust election coverage in November.

Harder to anticipate were times of crisis, when local media played a critical role to keep citizens informed. And when it came to breaking news, 2018 hit hard, close to our industry and close to home.

In July, San Diego firefighters dealt with high winds and flames in the Alpine area. The blaze was the start of the worst fire season in state history, culminating in November with the Woolsey Fire in Southern California and the Camp Fire north of Sacramento.

The Camp Fire leveled the town of Paradise. Yet the Chico Enterprise-Record and Paradise Post continued to publish. It’s the one contribution we can make, Enterprise-Record Editor David Little told CNN: “You know, the paper still lives; it’s kind of a symbolic, important message to send to the community, that not everything’s lost.”

2018 also saw even more incidents of mass gun violence, including a shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis. Five staffers died, and while the Gazette eschewed “becoming the story,” they persevered with professionalism and grace, earning designation as one of Time magazine’s “Persons of the Year,” which also included slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“We’d like to thank the journalists at Time for including us in their cover story,” the Gazette opined, “It is a great and terrible honor. It’s great because we continue to do our job, despite the death of our colleagues on June 28. We’ve carried on. We’ve put out the newspaper.”

Closer to home, the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting in Thousand Oaks claimed 12 lives. The Borderline shooting happened on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the day after California’s midterm election and the day before the Woolsey Fire sparked, making for one of the busiest news weeks in recent memory.

How did our newsrooms respond? We stretched. We pulled extra shifts and volunteered on weekends. We did not break. In fact, we achieved and excelled. Kudos to all California journalists for your extraordinary work in 2018.

Seeing what we can accomplish in trying times inspires me to face the challenges of 2019 with optimism. And we have reasons to be confident.
2019 brings new laws to support our newsgathering efforts. At CNPA’s urging, outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that repeals a provision of law that made secret enforcement actions by the Department of Business Oversight against PACE solicitors and agents. Additionally, SB 1421 grants access to police officer personnel records. It was challenged several weeks ago by the Los Angeles Police Protective League in L.A. Superior Court. The LAPPL claims the new law should not apply to any record created before Jan. 1, the law’s effective date. CNPA, with the Los Angeles Times, Digital First Media, the First Amendment Coalition and several other media organizations, have opposed LAPPL’s action, which is scheduled for hearing on Feb. 5.

California Publisher Winter 2019

Another new bill that will help newsgathering is AB 748 which, on July 1, will give reporters access to all audio and video footage held by a law enforcement agency, including footage from dash and body cams.

We continue to deepen CNPA’s strategic partnerships and leverage our opportunities. That focus on collaboration has led to one of the most significant transformations in our activities: the combining of our Governmental Affairs Day and Annual Press Summit into a single event.| The Capital Conference will be held Feb. 4-6 at the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel in Sacramento.

Produced by our visionary incoming CNPA president, Paulette Brown-Hinds, the inaugural conference, “The State of News: Trust, Technology, Transformation,” will be co-produced by the California Press Foundation. We invite you to join us for three impactful days of panels and discussions.|

Finally, a sincere thank you to Tom Newton and the entire CNPA staff for their efforts and focus this year in renewing our mission of prioritizing its members and strengthening our industry. I’m proud to report that CNPA is on solid footing with a talented and motivated staff and an engaged board of directors.

CNPA President Ron Hasse is publisher and president of Southern California News Group.

Note: The CNPA Capital Conference agenda changed after the deadline for California Publisher. The correct schedule is here.