Our family has always been news junkies. For nearly 50 years, we have been subscribers to both the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Mateo (County) Times. Additionally, for many years I have religiously gone to newsstands for the San Mateo Daily Journal, which has become the de facto newspaper of record for San Mateo County.
These past several years have been tough times for the home delivered dailies as reflected in dramatic cost increases for subscribers coupled with reduced coverage. The Chronicle continues to shrink its size and scope and focuses its local coverage almost exclusively to the 49 square miles of its namesake city. The San Mateo County Times, as part of the Bay Area News Group, continues to suggest its local section deals with Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. That’s just a bluff, of course, as the paper’s interest almost always stops at the Santa Clara County’s northern border.
Admittedly, San Mateo County has no one dominant city, is suburban in nature and is usually, as famously quoted by the late Tom Lantos, a "hotbed of social rest.” Nonetheless, were it not for the Daily Journal, a recent day’s stories of a new police chief in Redwood City, the outsourcing of police services in Millbrae and the rehiring of John Maltbie as acting county manager would have gone unreported. The same stories did appear the following day in the County Times, suggesting that its skeleton crew read about the stories the day before and virtually reprinted them. That unfortunately seems to be the foreseeable future of coverage.
For those of us of a certain age, access to newspapers across this country via the Internet remains an option of last resort, offering no tactile satisfaction of turning pages and having a cup of coffee nearby. And it certainly affects our daily lives to know what is taking place not only in our own community, but those cities surrounding us.
We will likely continue our longtime subscriptions to the two major dailies as these habits are hard to break. Most of my neighbors have managed to disconnect with the papers, as the delivery folks only make one or two car stops per block in our neighborhood. It’s just a little sad to peer out into the future, because it’s evident that things are unlikely to reverse course.
So thanks to Jon Mays and his staff for doing the task others have ignored, and contributing to a sense of community involvement that only comes from being aware of community happenings.
Gene Mullin is a former member of the California Assembly and the former mayor of South San Francisco.