My local newspaper is now unreadable, and I’m damn mad about it.

In order to understand the earthshaking significance of this turn of events and its emotional impact on me, you have to understand the role my paper, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, plays in my life.

It is the centerpiece of a long-standing ritual, one that started when I emigrated from the corrupted streets of what had once been a great city—San Francisco—to the green pastures of Sonoma County, a hegira I’ve described in past columns.  After flipping a few houses in the outer reaches of the county, I eventually wound up in the town of Sebastopol, where the noted horticulturist Luther Burbank once flourished, and where the sylvan beauty of the countryside is surpassed only by the dull conformity of its predictably liberal inhabitants.  Upon arriving in this utopia, I immediately subscribed to the Press-Democrat, and we have been companions for going on five years now.  The relationship has been often uneasy, as my own views are quite different from those of the paper’s editors, but that has never been a problem—until now.

It was never a problem in part because it was the ritual that mattered.  Going to get the paper is the first act in the day’s drama, with the journey out to the road, where the Press-Democrat awaits me in its special little green-and-white tube with Press-Democrat emblazoned in white letters—my first encounter with the outside world.  I go down the easement—a gravel road that I share with my landlocked neighbors—scanning the sky for hints of weather, inspecting the ascent of the giant evening primroses that line the path, breathing in the cold air suffused with morning fog and the smell of cows and horses across the way.  Ah!  There it is!  My paper!  It’s rarely late, and the regularity of its delivery is one of the few dependable events that mark my day, my life, my world.

The second part of the ritual commences in the kitchen, where I arrange the paper to the left of my breakfast and infuse myself with life-saving doses of caffeine.  The front page presents itself: I pointedly ignore the so-called national news and its international cousin.  After all, I can get these stories anywhere, and the Press-Democrat’s national and international coverage amounts mostly to reprints of the New York Times and the Washington Post.  Who cares?  What I really care about is the local news, i.e., the real news: Will they force through that “homeless center” in Guerneville, the Russian River hamlet where I used to live?  There’s been another gang incident in Santa Rosa, and yet another meth freak has gone crazy, destroying part of a local church because “the devil made me do it.”  Oh yes, he did.  And the Apple Blossom Festival is scheduled for next week, there’s been another mysterious fire in Guerneville (vagrants are suspected), and the county is now regulating private wells because of the drought that is no longer happening.  (It’s been raining constantly for the past three months.)

Oh, I cursed and railed—sitting alone in my kitchen—at the follies unfolding before my eyes, and the editorial page is always good for an embittered laugh.  But the comics do much to alleviate my ire, and on Saturdays there’s the garden column.  Then I’m ready for the big items: the weather report and, of course, the horoscope—portents that may or may not be useful, but what the heck.

Yes, those were the good old days, when I could simply read my paper in peace.  But those days are over, my friend, dead and gone.  For now the editorial page has invaded the news section, an act of aggression that has thus far gone unpunished.  I’m about ready to retaliate.

It started during the presidential campaign: Every story involving the race for the White House was clearly biased in favor of Mrs. Clinton.  When she was nominated, the Press-Democrat account began with the phrase “Striding into history . . . ”!  When Trump partisans were physically attacked at rallies in the Bay Area, the facts went unreported; but when one single man was slapped at a Trump rally, it was the equivalent of a five-alarm fire.  I simply ignored all of this.

After the election, however, things got worse.  A story by one Christi Warren on how the holocaust is taught in local schools contained the following:

And while planning for the program began almost two years ago, it happened to align with the episodes of hate and racism that came before and after the U.S. presidential election, which, teachers said, made the program all the more impactful for students.


“In terms of the timing, it just really worked out,” said Kate McGerity a teacher at Rancho Cotate who taught the program to her 10th-grade world history students.  “It worked as kind of a platform or a jumping off place to respond to prejudice, and the kind of hatreds we’re seeing.”

The author of this story didn’t bother to hide her bias, or her unhinged view that Trump is the modern-day equivalent of Hitler.

I called the author, and she refused to discuss the article with me.  So I called an editor.  At first he defended the story, but soon he relented, relating to me his jaundiced view of the paper and its editorial direction.  It’s a small-time rag, he said, a joke.  I sadly agreed.

And then the bias escalated.  Every alleged misstep of the Trump administration was given front-page coverage, and the aura of a Trotskyite propaganda sheet pervaded the entire paper.  The pronouncements of our local Democratic officeholders were offered with no counterpoint, especially when they criticized Trump.  The last straw for me was one Sunday issue in which no fewer than three long articles uncritically reported the “fact” that Trump was about to order mass deportations of all illegal aliens.  This was, of course, a lie.  Yet the paper continued to state it as fact in articles reporting on several “community meetings” held to protest this nonexistent threat.

The reality is that the Trump administration is deporting illegals who have committed crimes: Residents of Sonoma County who are here illegally (20 percent of the population) have nothing to fear.  To date not a single noncriminal illegal living here has been deported, a fact you won’t find reported in the Press-Democrat.  What bothered me about that particular Sunday paper, however, was the deliberate intent to spread fear for political gain.

Trump is supposed to be the Great Fearmonger.  On that score, his opponents in the media have outdone him.