In our small town, we often like to blame the faceless bureaucrats across the county line for our woes. We’re not so good at holding up a mirror and asking, “What could we have done differently”?
A prime example is the detour of big rigs through our county because of Caltrans roadwork on I-80. People are understandably upset — though not all of “Nevada City is fuming,” as the local paper tried to infer Wednesday — just the most vocal ones.
First of all, The Union was well behind in bringing the detour to the public’s attention.
In addition, the article ran inside the paper — not on the front page where it belonged. The paper also was late in reporting that a Web site getacross80.com was launched to explain the project. Here’s my version that ran two days earlier.
My “newsgathering” came from watching a county supervisors meeting on TV, reading the county’s “Friday memo” and a Caltrans press release — not exactly investigative legwork. I was on the road when I posted the blogs — a benefit of “self publishing.”
In addition, our public officials should have worked more closely with the paper, each other and Caltrans officials to get the word out.
Supervisor Hank Weston and Nevada City Vice Mayor Reinette Senum have both blasted Caltrans. But did they get together to discuss a community-wide communications plan?
Doubtful: The two are polar opposites politically — though we’re supposed to work together on nonpartisan issues such as roadwork. The paper should have asked both of them the same question.
Meanwhile, the bureaucrats of Caltrans — also a favorite “whipping boy” of the editor/publisher in his columns — were more “proactive” than either the paper or the county bureaucrats.
They mailed out brochures to homeowners including our family, as well as launched the Web site. Our family knew what was planned — and we accepted it as the “best of evils.”
For background, here’s how I got the “scoop” on this major story as a “citizen journalist” — not exactly a “Woodward and Bernstein” effort: I watched a county supervisors meeting on television and blogged about it on Friday, March 13.
“I hope the local officials get together with the media to publicize this,” I warned in my blog post. “People will need to be prepared — or wear earplugs when they go on vacation.”
Then I wrote about it the next day after the Rood Center’s Friday memo provided more details: “OMG: 112 nights of detoured truck traffic coming.” I also linked to the Caltrans brochure and map: It generated a lot of traffic.
The Union also gets the “Friday memo” and is free to attend public meetings, but their story didn’t appear until the next week — first as a map online. Readers begged for more.
“Who, what, when, where, how and why,” a reader asked the paper in a comment. “This covers the what and the where, but without knowing who, when, how and why, we might as well be reading about the Lost City of Atlantis.”
In short, the blame for the fallout on this road project needs to be shared by all of us, not just Caltrans. Our reaction shows our provincial mindset.