Matador With A Toothpick

This is the 100th edition of the Valley Voice since the Chief and I took ownership of it more than four years ago. I don’t know what–if anything–we’ve accomplished during that time. I’ll let our readers decide. But let me describe the experience.

Operating a newspaper during this era of their contraction and decline is tricky. Except for actually printing it, we do everything ourselves. You might think, then, that because of this we’d be enjoying at least a tiny margin of profit. Au contraire. At the bottom of the ledger is a figure in red that negates what the IRS reckons I owe it each year.

I’m fine with this–although, if we’re not in it for the money, the Chief is wont to ask me why we are bothering with it at all.

To combat local BS, of course, simply by reporting the news. And I must confess that, in this capacity, I feel like a matador with a toothpick.

Please–no Freudian cracks; sometimes, a toothpick is just a toothpick.

I stand here, ludicrously, in a traje de luces two sizes too tight, hip-on to the rampant, snorting nonsense before me–with a toothpick poised between my thumb and forefinger.

Maybe make that a pen. You remember the old adage: “The pen is mightier than the toothpick.”

Because journalists are only ever armed with the facts as we’re capable of uncovering and corroborating them. What is incumbent upon us is accuracy, followed by performance in terms of how we convey it in writing. That’s the shooting match. The whole enchilada. The corrida.

If we’ve done our job properly we’ve brought something to light and presented it straightforwardly. Without bias, that is. Bias is reserved for editorials.

“Here–” we say, “take a look at this!”

It is then up to our readership to take whatever action it deems appropriate–if it trusts us. Which is why unbiased accuracy is so vitally important.

For us it’s then a return to our shovels and computers. More digging. More Microsoft Word.

About the highest claim we can make, if we’ve been accurate, goes to accountability. Our readership might sit on its hands, for instance, but we will have created a record.

I’m always pleased–and in equal parts amazed–to find a Valley Voice article tucked inside court documents as exhibit something-or-other. It’s validation.

So is every interaction with the public. It doesn’t matter whether we’re loved or hated–if, by either side of the spectrum, we’re at least considered important enough to respond to. And on some fundamental level, being a forum for the give and take of ideas is the perfect platform from which to combat BS. It’s the very sand of the bullring.

All gravy, right? Not so fast.

Heavy lies the ever-present threat of a lawsuit that can emerge from virtually any quarter.

But we’ve experienced that Pase de pecho before, and–enriching as it was–it has only encouraged our pen to seek the Rubio–“The ideal point for the matador to place his final, killing sword.” Ole!

I’d never attend a bullfight, of course, or a lawsuit, either–except I’ve been personally involved with seven of them over the last four years. You don’t just not appear. And I’ve lost count of how many Tulare Regional Medical Center suits we’ve covered live from the courtroom.

Then there’s this: Last year the paper bought a 1987 Toyota SR5–the Rolling Flotsam–whose chief virtue, I’m delighted to report, is a new, out-of-the-crate engine. If only its suspension were equally up to date. Twice per month I drive to Fowler to collect the freshly printed bundles of the new issue. Now, the 99 is dreadful under the best of circumstances. But on the return journey, with the truck bed loaded to the gunwales, steering is reduced to a suggestion. Imagine riding bareback on an angry, pregnant rhino while guiding your progress by grasping her horn. How I haven’t been torn to mincemeat under the wheels of many a semi eludes me.

Maybe the pen is also mightier than the semi.

Still, it’s been something of an honor to risk life, limb and bottom line to bring you these 100 issues–and it fully is our intention to risk 100 more.

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