A California town is scorched and empty, but local journalists still deliver

Posted at 8:20 PM, Nov 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-24 22:20:38-05

(CNN) — Despite some colleagues losing everything in Northern California’s destructive Camp Fire, journalists at the Chico Enterprise-Record and the Paradise Post are still putting out their newspapers.

“It’s like the one small contribution we can make to make things normal for the community,” said Enterprise-Record Editor David Little. “You know, the paper still lives; it’s kind of a symbolic, important message to send to the community, that not everything’s lost.”

With their community burning around them, Little and his staff continue to cover the devastation wrought by the deadly blaze, which has claimed 84 lives and destroyed thousands of homes in the area. In addition to publishing a print edition, the journalists are also constantly updating the paper’s website.

Members of the Enterprise-Record staff were among those who lost their homes, Little told CNN’s Brian Stelter in an interview this week on “Reliable Sources.”

“We’ve had 10 people who work at the newspaper lose their homes,” he said, adding that other staffers were still under evacuations orders. “And of course everybody’s touched by friends and family members who have lost homes.”

Little also oversees the Enterprise-Record’s sister paper, the twice weekly Paradise Post. But the Camp Fire has almost completely wiped out the town of Paradise, and there aren’t many readers left there.

“Both the Paradise Post and the Enterprise-Record had a good number of subscribers in Paradise,” Little said, “and now we don’t have a town to deliver it to.”

So instead of going to readers’ homes, new editions of the Paradise Post are being brought to them at evacuation centers, Little said. And this week the paper was expected to be distributed with the Enterprise-Record and another sister paper, the Oroville Mercury Register.

“Because we know a lot of people aren’t staying at evacuation centers,” Little said. “They’re with friends and family and maybe that’s a way for them to get their Paradise Post newspaper.”

For safety reasons, many Paradise residents have not been allowed back into town to see the destruction for themselves.

“I don’t think they know how little is left until they come here,” Paradise Post Managing Editor Rick Silva told CNN. “It’s complete. It seems like a complete removal of the town, of what it once was.”

It’s important, Silva said, that readers know the paper is being published in the face of crisis, and see it recording the history of their town, even though not much of it is left.

“The printed newspaper has such staying power,” Little said, “so we all know that years from now, people will look back at these print editions as sort of a history book for what happened during the fire.”

Silva said, “It’s the voice of the community — has been since 1947. We have to continue that.”