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Doing our best to do our best covering the TRPA

Andrew Pridgen

Those who read the Bonanza vigorously know two things: 1) I cover the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and 2) Sometimes the TRPA doesn’t like how its covered.

Or, more specifically, in executive director John Singlaub’s latest column:

“The media often have a tendency to cover stories with negative or sensational biases. I would urge all of you to check out the facts by calling our office,” blah blah blah.

This little barb came as no surprise to me (other than the fact that it was in a column, not an e-mail).

For a basin reporter, getting the TRPA beat is akin to a child finding a $20 bill at a carnival. Just step right up…

Stereotypically, TRPA-type organizations are fun-filled groups rife with pension-seeking prototype megalo-bureaucrats at every turn. In other words, there’s always a story there somewhere.

A churlish old reporter who smelled of menthol decay and never ate anything that didn’t bleed, once taught me his game of “random extension roulette.”

He covered the City of Oakland and, on a slow news day, would dial city hall’s main line and enter a three-digit number at random.

Then he’d fire away: “When are the potholes on MLK going to be fixed?” “Are you expecting riots at the Caesar Chavez Day Celebration?” “What’s the deal with the vacant Sears building on Broadway – is it true the Boys and Girls Club is thinking of taking it over?”

Viola … instant story.

He did stick to one rule though:

“People, as a general rule, don’t talk as smart as they think they sound.” he said. “So we don’t have to try to make them look dumb, they do it for us.

“… That’s a lot of power, so be careful.”

(His other good advice was to avoid using words nobody understands like “gambol” – to frolic, play; or it’s antipode, “lugubrious” -mournful, dismal, gloomy, just because – unless it’s in a column.)

Stick with me here people, I’m rounding the bend to Make-Your-Point Station.

…You see, John, and the rest of you who’ve cared enough to read this far, we here in the newsroom make no money so any power we wield to identify our self-worth lies specifically in the space between these words, or the five minutes you push pause in your day to read them.

That is our only asset.

So, like you, there is a little envy that fuels us, that and pride… (oops, that’s two of the seven deadlies…)

Strip away all the human flaw stuff and what we’re hired to do is to make sure you’re doing what you’re hired to do – the right way, not to sensationalize or report only the negative.

Like you, sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes there are things going on you don’t want us to know about, and sometimes we don’t find out until it’s too late.

But I hope you can agree that all the time we try our best, and know that you do too …

Because when we’re not at our best, and snip back and forth …

It’s as plain as black and white.

– Andrew Pridgen is news editor of the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He is a regular contributor to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.


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