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Inside the Fishbowl: State of the community, newspaper quality are both about people

By: Deric Rothe
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As I start my 15th year as editor of the Auburn Journal this month, I can’t help but reflect on how much has changed, although much remains the same. This week we heard from the California Newspaper Publishers Association that the Auburn Journal won a couple of statewide awards for excellence. The Journal’s editorial pages, which you are reading now, took a first or second place in the 10,000 to 25,000 daily circulation category. We are on the smaller side of competitors in this tough category and the contest judges are our peers, professional journalists who have some understanding of the challenges it takes to put out a daily newspaper. On our editorial pages, however, are also letters to the editor. Those thoughtful comments come from you, our readers, so the award is in part yours as well. Andrew Lukkonen, our editorial cartoonist, is also featured on the page, adding to the hyper-local emphasis. The Journal editorial page is a place where the people of greater Auburn can communicate with each other. Though some say we are too open with what we publish, I believe we simply reflect the ideas and opinions of our readers. The other award we won was a blue ribbon (being in the top 10 percent) for public service. This award recognized our efforts after the 49 Fire to help raise money for the victims, and unite victims and service providers to help the healing process. The 49 Fire was one of the worst disasters in my tenure here. I am proud that our staff and newspaper played a small role in helping the victims. Many other local groups and businesses joined with the Journal in creating the Auburn Disaster Relief Fund. Community First Bank collected the donated funds and Auburn’s Salvation Army helped distribute the money to make sure the right people received the aid they needed. Over the years I have been at the helm, the Journal has won many newspaper awards, including a general excellence designation among nine statewide awards we won last year. While nice and validating, our readers and advertisers are ultimately more important than awards. Without your interest and support, we have no business. The Journal is about you, the people of Auburn. Our outstanding residents deserve recognition, too. The Auburn State of the Community Dinner is coming up April 15 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. At this prestigious Auburn Chamber of Commerce event, the Journal gives out our version of the Citizen of the Year — the Vernon Gould McCann Award. Among the night’s festivities will be a state of the city speech by Mayor Bill Kirby, a state of the county speech by Supervisor Jim Holmes and a state of the business community prospectus by Chamber President and Journal Publisher Tony Hazarian. Several other awards will be presented to outstanding residents who have contributed to the arts, agriculture, education, healthcare and recreation. The city and county Employees of the Year and the Business of the Year will be honored as well. The State of the Community Dinner is truly Auburn. The evening offers a chance to stop and realize why we all love this foothill community. It’s not just the beautiful mountains, rivers and wildlife, the people here are pretty cool, too. While these ceremonies can go on and on if speakers are not kept on a tight leash, I was pleased to see Bob and Jennifer Richardson would be this year’s co-emcees. Bob is Auburn’s city manager and Jennifer is a former KAHI host, fun personality, great singer and capable crowd-pleaser. For a while it seemed like the City Council wanted to exclusively be the spokespeople for Auburn. I appreciate seeing Bob and Jennifer in the limelight and believe many others will as well. We are lucky to have a city manager of Bob Richardson’s talent, especially since he is paid considerably less than city managers in other Placer County cities. What’s in this for me, you might be asking? In a very real sense, you get out of our community what you put into it. And it’s not that hard to get involved, whether as a volunteer at the SPCA, Boys & Girls Club, with the Amgen tour, Seniors First or numerous other worthwhile organizations. Or you could choose to give back through a service club like Rotary, Soroptimists, Lions, Kiwanis and more. You get back more than you give. It’s amazing. Once a year the newspaper industry honors those that do it best. Once a year our community honors those who give of themselves to help others. Starting my 15th year as editor of the Auburn Journal, it’s easy to see that recognizing those who make life better for others is one of the best parts of the job.