Tuesday, August 19, 2008


By Michael Althouse
The Placer Herald

Since mid-2006 I have worked as a reporter in some capacity or another for Gold Country Media, the parent company of the Placer Herald. It all started as an internship with the Colfax Record; I was simply fulfilling one of the requirements of my Bachelor’s degree in government-journalism at California State University, Sacramento - better known around these parts as Sac State. That internship turned into a part-time reporting position, one I held for about six months before giving it up to concentrate on finishing my degree.

It was only a matter of a few months, however, before I was back at the Record writing stories as a freelancer. Before long I was writing stories for other newspapers in the Gold Country Media family - many of which appeared in the Placer Herald. After graduating from Sac State last December, I had many irons in the fire, but always remained committed to community journalism and the unique service a small paper provides, keeping its community connected.

The nature of the news business has been rocked in recent years by changes in the way news is reported. Nation-wide news organizations have been scrambling to stay afloat in an industry hit by major changes spawned by the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle. There has never been more access to more news sources - organizations that can’t adapt won’t survive. Throw in a faltering economy and the picture for a middle-aged aspiring reporter looks mighty bleak.

My role as a reporter with the Placer Herald was a part-time job, but I gave it my full-time commitment. Although I didn’t pursue a career in journalism to get rich, it is also true that a part-time job could never be more than a temporary position for me. It is therefore with a great deal of sadness that I must relinquish my job with the Herald and move on.

I have decided returning to Sac State in pursuit of a Master’s degree was the best of several options. My decision was based in part by the state of the economy and its effect on the news business, but it was also influenced by the fact that I am not a kid anymore. Now 45, the opportunity to obtain an advanced degree and the job security that comes with it might not soon present itself again.

But my view of community journalism has not changed. I firmly believe the small-town newspaper will always have a home in places like Rocklin.

And Rocklin is a very special place.

For a little more than four years, I have called Fair Oaks my home. It is a nice place to live with a great deal of small-town charm. But it is not a city. Neither are the nearby communities of Orangevale, Carmichael, Gold River, Antelope or Arden Arcade, just to name a few. All are unincorporated Sacramento County communities and are therefore dependent upon the county government for many services. Although some of these and other Sacramento County communities have a “Community Planning and Advisory Council” with advisory authority only, and some like Fair Oaks have limited authority in land use decisions through their “Community Planning Councils,” they are still not autonomous; they are still not cities.

But Rocklin is, and it shows. I have dealt with many, many civic leaders - both elected and not - and to a person the pride in their city shows. Although not everyone always agrees, the best interest of the city at large is always present in any discussion. The Rocklin City Council and the city’s staff have always been open and accessible. The city leaders past and present have grown a town that its residents can be proud of - and it all happened locally. In Fair Oaks, most of the decisions are made by county supervisors who don’t live anywhere near me.

The school district in Rocklin is among the best I’ve ever been associated with. The San Juan Unified School District, one of the state’s largest, runs most of the schools in Fair Oaks, but its board comes from a much larger geographic area. The Rocklin Unified School District, despite budgetary constraints combined with rapid growth, has managed to be among the state’s top districts year in and year out. And those running the show live right here in Rocklin.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Fair Oaks - it’s a wonderful place to live, but there is something to be said for local control and the pride that comes when it results in a community that commands the respect Rocklin does.

Part of a reporter’s job is establishing relationships with people; civic leaders, opponents and proponents of a given issue, everyday citizens and other news sources all become part of a reporter’s world. We can’t stay behind a desk, we don’t work in isolation - we have to be outgoing. Although those relationships won’t necessarily come to an end, the regular contact I have had with many of you will, and it is perhaps this aspect of the job that I’ll miss most.

Rocklin, like Colfax before, has grown on me. I care about what happens here as much as I would if I lived here. I’ve had the opportunity to interact on a very personal basis with many of you and it is very hard to say goodbye. Although I might have the opportunity to contribute to the Herald as a freelance writer in the future, it is not the same as sitting here in our office on Pacific Street - only a few minutes away from anywhere in Rocklin. For a few months and in a very real way, Rocklin was my home.

And for that, I am forever grateful.


Anonymous said...

I love Rocklin too!! So i feel kinda dumb but i don't yet understand how to communicate on this so im doing it on your blog.. sorry.. yes put you on my link, whatever you said :0)

Anonymous said...

yes please i need your help thank you and so i should be emailing this some where else to huh? uggghhh..

Love you too

Bobkat said...

My mother always had a phrase which seems pertinent to the point you made: 'Don't poop on your own dorrstep' and in the same way, if you care bout the place you live then you not only don't poop there but you darn well make sure no-one else does and that any other poop is cleaned up sharpish. I guess it's no surprise that if people on local councils actually live locally too then they care more about their own 'doorstep' and they also know the community better.

Good luck on your Masters degree. Having just finished mine I know you are in for a tough time but also a very rewarding one.

Michele sent me this time which is great as I am overdue a visit here.

Anonymous said...

Good luck on your Masters.

As it happens, I was in Rocklin on business (from Missouri, no less) just a few weeks ago and found it to be a charming city. I'm not a huge California fan, having lived in the environs of L.A. when I was kid, but Rocklin/Sacramento seemed quite nice to me.


Sara said...

Hello, Michele sent me to say that is a great piece you wrote. I love small community papers!!!! Have a great week-end.

Anonymous said...

So you're diving into the "Masters Pool"? Good for you Michael. It is amazing how our world is changing. Sounds like you're making the right decisions to change along with it.

carmilevy said...

When I wrote for our local weekly during j-school, I always reflected - to myself and to anyone who would listen - how important local media outlets were to our everyday lives. They may seem trivially unimportant when compared with major media, but when people run into each other in the street, they seem to talk only about what's in their community paper. Anything bigger just doesn't seem to matter.

You wrote this with eloquence...and I related to every word. No doubt your Rocklin experience will influence your ongoing journey. Nicely said, as always.

Andi said...

You are a person full of thought. Michele sent me. :-)