It's your local rag, so long may it wave

They say that when you're being run out of town on a rail it's best to get in front of the line and make it look like a parade.

Well ... I'm not being run out of town and if there is a parade it will likely be headed by the sheriff or perhaps the head of the Nevada Department of Transportation. I'll guess neither is too disappointed to hear that I will be leaving this newspaper at the end of the month. And there are undoubtedly many out there who would join in that parade. I didn't get into this business to make friends.

As some of you may have heard, the Ackerman Family is headed to Grass Valley, Calif., where our company owns another daily newspaper not much different than this one.

In fact, the Grass Valley Union, which I will soon be publishing, is a year older than this newspaper, having lived more than 137 years.

I'd like to say there will be no difference between Grass Valley and Carson City, but I'd be kidding myself. Carson City has had a powerful impact on me and on my family. Mostly due to many of you. This business allows you to get to know a community and its people fast. It's what fills our pages. It's what community journalism is.

I get a kick out those folks who come here from a larger metro area such as Los Angeles and complain because this newspaper is filled with local news.

"Your paper doesn't even compare with the L.A. Times," they'd shout on the telephone. "You're just a local rag."

"Nope," I'd answer. "We don't compare with the L.A. Times, but I've never seen a reporter from the L.A. Times at a Carson High basketball game."

When we first moved down here from Lake Tahoe after our company purchased the Nevada Appeal I'd never thought much of Carson City. The Ormsby House was boarded up (the first time) and the only redevelopment going on downtown was a fellow on the corner of Telegraph who was adjusting his belt while balancing a beer bottle on his knee.

I learned quickly that the soul of a town is off the beaten path, out of view of passersby, who make opinions during stops at red lights on the way to somewhere else.

That's how the poor town of Battle Mountain recently came to be selected as the Armpit of America by some writer from Washington, D.C. He didn't stay in town long enough to enjoy the silence or to soak in the beauty of a desert summer sunrise.

My friends from California and beyond still think Carson City is where Wyatt Earp made his stand, or where Hoss would come for some "fixings" for the Ponderosa Ranch.

I never argued with them. Carson City is too good a secret to share with just anyone.

During my time here I've simply tried to improve this newspaper a bit and I tried to do that by focusing as much attention as I could on its role as a local rag. It's an important role and as far as I'm concerned there's not another local rag that does it better than this one.

The Reno paper is just that, a Reno newspaper. So long as the Nevada Appeal does its job well, that newspaper to the north will never take its place. Carson City is still the state's capital and it ought to always have its own newspaper.

At the same time, I've tried to have a little fun. Many writers and columnists take themselves far too seriously. They get so worried about making themselves look smart they sometimes forget who they're writing for and why. The fact that I'm not very smart helped me greatly in that effort.

This column also allowed me to beat a few things to death. Carson City ought to have a bypass by now and it's a crime that the governor hasn't given his highway department head stronger direction. Then again, it's no secret that nearly 70 percent of the state's voters are in Clark County and smart politicians need to keep those voters happy.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean our southern friends deserve a nuclear waste dump site, either. Every single Nevadan ought to fight like the dickens against that effort. This is your state and it needs you to stand up for it. Tell the feds they can stick that stuff right there with higher taxes. Write letters, make phone calls, send e-mails and try your best to be such a pain in the ass that they'll keep the waste with its owners.

Carson City also ought to have a larger facility for the hundreds and hundreds of kids who use the Boys & Girls Club every afternoon. With your help perhaps the wait for a new clubhouse isn't that far off.

And with two children in our school district, I've come to deeply appreciate the work of our teachers and administrators. My son Luke is autistic and the wonderful people at Bordewich Bray have treated him like family. I will never, ever forget their kindness, professionalism and generosity.

Nor will I forget the many others who touched our lives in so many ways. The calls, e-mails and letters I have received these past few days have truly touched my heart. I'll take that with me forever.

Thank you for having me. Thank you for opening your arms to my family. Please continue your support of this local rag that will be 137 years old this year. It may not be the best rag in the country, but it's yours and it's not going anywhere.

Jeff Ackerman, publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal, will take over as publisher of the Grass Valley Union on Feb. 1.


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