Aug 05, 2023

Valley Oak Press passes torch to Messenger Publishing Group

A Letter From The Publisher,

As I’m sure you have gathered from the headline, Valley Oak Press Inc. has sold its eight community newspapers to Messenger Publishing Group (MPG). River Valley Times, Elk Grove Citizen, The Galt Herald, Laguna Citizen, Pocket News, Arden Carmichael News, Land Park News and East Sacramento News will start their first edition with MPG after Labor Day. All papers will be Friday edition papers.

This has been one of the most difficult decisions to make. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as publisher of these papers, but as they say, all good things must come to an end.

More so, I have loved getting to know each of these communities in ways most would never attempt … just us dedicated reporters.

After becoming managing editor of The Galt Herald in 2012, I began to realize just how important local news coverage is to communities, especially small communities. The “big guys” don’t have dedicated reporters for each community and only jump in when there’s something dramatic or something extraordinarily fun to report on. They aren’t the watch dogs at every city council or every school board meeting, but local publications are. That’s why the local community newspapers are incredibly important. We usually live in the communities we serve and understand what local issues are important to our readers because we are the readers.

I can honestly say I have attended thousands of community meetings over the last decade. Between city councils, three school boards, planning commissions, parks and recreations, youth commissions, three fire boards, two county supervisor boards, LAFCo and many community meetings, including local organizations such as historical societies, teams and clubs, I have likely spent more time in public buildings than I did in my own home. I vividly recall a high school board meeting lasting into the early hours of the morning, not getting to bed until after 3 a.m., and my alarm clock loudly going off at 6 a.m. telling me it was time to get up and get my kids ready for school.

One of the best parts of being a reporter and publisher is being “in the know.” I’ll admit it, I’m nosy! I love knowing things that others don’t, and I love helping others to connect dots that they may not have even known existed. I am so grateful for the opportunity to tell these stories.

I have also loved getting to know the people in our communities. I looked forward to the spontaneous visits from the “locals” and newfound friends who wanted to chat about a meeting, or an accident, or an award. I had frequent visitors, you know who you are, who showed up with a cup of coffee and a diet Pepsi for me just to shoot the breeze. And the phone calls! So many phone calls with “did you knows” and “you gotta get over here’s.”

Don’t get me wrong, there were many difficult stories and situations in our communities that we reported on and experienced throughout my time with the papers. I can’t count the times that grieving family members visited the office with tears in their eyes and obituary in hand needing a listening ear. I’ve reported on so many unfortunate events and polarizing decisions that rocked our communities and made reporting on them difficult — accidents, shootings, floods, fires, water meters, ghost malls, and garbage contracts — just to name a few.

And there were calls for help.

One of my favorite calls for help was nearly 10 years ago when a gentleman said that his elderly friend’s adult tricycle had been stolen. I visited with the victim, who ended up having an amazing history. But what made the story even better was that after reading about this theft, community members started dropping off checks and cash to help purchase him a new bike! We didn’t ask for money, it just showed up! That’s what community is about!

Of course, there were times when there were unhappy readers, for various reasons. I recall a time that I answered the phone call of a woman calling to cancel her subscription. She stated she wasn’t very happy, and she let me know under no uncertain terms that she was canceling “because of Bonnie Rodriguez!” She didn’t know she was talking to me, and unless she started reading the paper again and reading this story, still probably still doesn’t know she was speaking to me. But I’m proud of the journalistic integrity that all of Valley Oak Press’ reporters and staff have shown over the years and stand by every word we’ve published. Like my mama said, “you can’t please everyone.”

So, as I hang up my reporter and publisher hats, I have one request of you: Please keep reading the newspaper, any newspaper, all newspapers, but especially local newspapers. I fear if you don’t, if we don’t, this industry will disappear, and our rural communities will not have their stories told and local officials will have little to no continuous oversight to have to answer to. Without local journalism, our communities will not have someone sitting in the council chambers for hours on end listening for the important decisions being made, promises not being kept, and they certainly will not have an unbiased source to turn to for local information.

Support your local newspapers, please!

To my staff: Thank you for your dedication. I admire your hard work, whether on the press, writing stories, building ads and pages, sorting papers for mailing, selling ads or processing billing. We were quite the team and I will miss you all.

To my “regulars,” I’m still here. Let’s grab a cup of coffee and chat. And to our local officials, I’ve still got my eyes on you!

Thank you for letting me tell you stories.

Bonnie Rodriguez

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