Eagle's Eye

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Opinion: If we lose our local paper, will we lose our local voice?

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Opinion: If we lose our local paper, will we lose our local voice?

A local reader grabs the last issue of the North Lake Bonanza.

A local reader grabs the last issue of the North Lake Bonanza.

Kyly Clark

A local reader grabs the last issue of the North Lake Bonanza.

Kyly Clark

Kyly Clark

A local reader grabs the last issue of the North Lake Bonanza.

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Leadership at the Tahoe Daily Tribune and North Lake Bonanza have recently informed local communities of the consolidation of news outlets at Swift Communications, the media company that owns the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Sierra Sun (now Truckee Sun), North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and the Nevada Appeal, among other publications in the greater Lake Tahoe area. The South Shore-based Tahoe Daily Tribune is replacing the Bonanza and will publish expanded news unique to Incline Village on Fridays, in addition to covering content on South Shore on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as well as online.

The Sierra Sun, formerly partnered with the Tahoe Bonanza, has been renamed the Truckee Sun and is being repositioned to better serve the Truckee community. It will shift its focus to Nevada County and will partner with the Union newspaper in Grass Valley, Calif.

With so many outlets to look for news, we’ve taken for granted what local news has to offer a community.

Without a local voice, I believe we are left with some degree of vulnerability. Local publications oversee the systems and services of a town, and without accountability in the form of watchdog journalism, we can’t be sure that issues in our neighborhood are being addressed.

Today we are living in a changing media landscape, where journalism is becoming more than words on paper. The digital rise is taking over and while many print publications have been shuttered in the process, many are forging ahead and adapting new business models to engage an increasingly online audience. Not only that, but media companies are adapting for the long term, adapting a sustainable business model that also supports journalism with integrity.

Unfortunately for these businesses, the decade-long shake-up of the newspaper business has also interrupted what was once a highly pro table ad revenue stream. Gone are the days of fully-staffed newsrooms, daily publication and robust, community-driven news coverage. Consolidation has brought with it a new reality: more press releases rehashed in the pages where once-local content lived, stories slipping by, sometimes without mention, and a general turn away from the “names and faces” paradigm that used to guide community news coverage.

Gone are the days of newspapers like the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.

The shuffling of newspapers in the greater Lake Tahoe area is nothing new, according to Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association. Smith explained in an article on the NPA website that Nevada newspapers have “combined, renamed, and reconfigured over the decades.” He lists examples of new and old changes in Nevada newspapers.

“I’d hate to see any loss of any publication, but I see what they’re doing, and I tried to put that in context, that it’s not that unusual that different papers combine editions, make changes, do the kinds of things that they think will be best for the market,” he said.

Smith notes the loss of the Bonanza name for Incline will affect customer loyalty and explains the importance of focusing on what local readers want.

“For 47 years that’s been a well-known, well respected publication and a brand there on the North Shore, he said. “People know what the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza is, they have local customers and they built up a reputation for trustworthiness in their news values and their news judgments and how they’ve been able to cover the North Shore for that long.

“Somebody coming along trying to create that today wouldn’t have that history and that loyal readership. They are going to have to show that loyal readership that they can still meet the challenges, and that they can still do what they do best.”

In a recent column, Rob Galloway, publisher of the Tahoe Daily Tribune, acknowledged that there will be mixed feelings related to the Bonanza’s closure.

“I cannot change those feelings,” Galloway wrote. “But I can say that even though you are losing a brand that you may have an attachment towards, you’ll also be gaining a brand that will aim to deliver more (and better) news that is unique to you. That’s the goal, and the main reason as to why we are making this move.”

Kirk Caraway, owner and publisher of Carson Now, an online news publication in Carson City, noted the changing market. “There’s actually more people reading news now than they ever have,” said the onetime Bonanza editor.

Smith agrees. “Everybody talks about, ‘Well, print circulation is down,’ but readership overall in general is up. It’s up greatly. The reason for that is it is accessible, there’s a lot of ways to get information and news out there. There’s no shortage of people interested in what’s going on,they’re just getting it in a lot of different ways.

Caraway tells the story of Big Ski Tahoe publication, a North Shore-only product in the 1990s that at one time generated nearly $100,000 dollars in advertising revenue. The publication transitioned into a lake-wide product, including South Shore, but according to Caraway it saw a major shift in advertising revenues, dropping to $30,000. “And that’s because people in North Shore didn’t need to advertise in South Shore and they didn’t want to pay the extra rate. And I have a feeling you’re going to see the same thing happen now.”

Caraway served as editor of the Bonanza for six years, has worked with the Nevada Appeal, and started Swift Communications’ first online newspaper, also Nevada’s first online news website.

“I think they are being extremely misguided,” he said, noting the importance of having people with institutional knowledge about the area. “Trying to combine the North Shore with South Shore has been something that has been tried in the past and failed miserably, and they don’t understand that the markets between North Shore and South Shore are very different and I guess they are going to learn their lesson at this point.”

The Tahoe Bonanza has served incline for 47 years, and it began as a free shopper in the 1960s.

“There’s a lot of people up there that love their little paper and it reported on what they wanted, and now that they’re combining it with the South Shore they’re going to have to take the South Shore paper to nd out what’s even happening in Incline,” said Caraway.

The Bonanza won multiple general excellence awards and national newspaper association awards over the years. “We had a lot of great journalism that came through there,” Caraway said. “It’ll be sad to see it go.”

Carson Now is advertising supported, and has been profitable for several years, according to Caraway.

Mayumi Elegado, publisher and owner of Moonshine Ink, has learned to tailor news content to the different audiences in print and online platforms, and pushes to create multimedia experiences for the newspaper’s readers. “People are trying all sorts of creative models and revenue generators which I think it’s what’s necessary,” she said.

She explains the struggle is to find the right business model.

“On the one side I say for sure we all know that the newspaper industry, especially print media, is in dire straits, and yet I still think the model makes sense and there are those that believe the same,” said Elegado. “Print media, local newspaper, community newspapers-I think they are very important and the model is still there and there are no other ways that we’re going to continue to have that kind of democratic watchdog role unless we have these local community newspapers.”

Elegado believes Incline Village and the Tahoe Basin are complex, and that it’s important to have as many reporters on the ground as possible, with all eyes on the government. “I think what we lose is another watchdog, another independent (somewhat) voice, and the importance of the role of journalism in our democracy cannot be overstated in today’s world.”

Elegado notes how much of what people see on TV and big publications comes from local reporting.

“I always like to remind people that I think journalism is about highlighting the issues but it’s also about highlighting the assets in a community.”

I think quality journalism provides the public with information that is necessary to inform our viewpoints, promote discussion, and make decisions. Preserving the free press means preserving credible sources and ideas, and holding those with power accountable. is is just as critical to our democracy nationwide as it is to our local community.

The Eagle’s Eye, published in the North Lake Bonanza since 2010, will now be distributed by the Tahoe Daily Tribune. Previously published bi-weekly on Thursdays, readers will now find the Eagle’s Eye inserted on Fridays at the same locations in town. It will still be distributed throughout SNC’s campus.

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Opinion: If we lose our local paper, will we lose our local voice?