Jun 29, 2023

Be safe, considerate on all our roadways

I’ve struggled to focus on this week’s column topic.

Should I write about the writer’s strike that’s left our film girl unemployed for the past 93 days and counting? Or should I dedicate this space to my annual driver safety column, considering the horrific traffic accident that took place just before the start of harvest and right before this weekend’s Tucker Mesker Memorial Softball Tournament? Or should I focus on the trials and tribulations of sending the college boy off to study in Berlin next week for five months – without speaking a lick of German?

Maybe I’ll hit all of these topics. And if I’ve got room, I’ll share my thoughts on our local columnists retiring and taking some time away from Page Three.

Let’s start with the tragedy just a few miles from my doorstep. I can’t imagine losing a loved one, especially a child, in a traffic accident. I happen to live near one of the deadliest intersections in Tehama County and have had the unenviable task of talking with distraught family members who’ve knocked on our door asking if we saw or heard anything in the minutes leading up to their loved ones’ departure from this earth.

I’ve given the farm husband blankets to cover injured and dying drivers and passengers while I called 911 to report yet another tragedy near Hall Road and South Avenue. These stories are not going away. They just keep happening again and again. This recent tragedy with six fatalities, including an unborn child, on I-5 just north of the casino is unthinkable. It’s also a not-so-subtle reminder to drive carefully, fasten seatbelts always, and drive as every second on the road depends on our survival. My heart breaks for the families and first responders whose lives will forever be changed because of one mistake.

This is also a good time to remind everyone that in just a few short weeks, almond harvest will begin and our seasonal (also known as amateur) truck drivers will deliver products hither and yon, north and south, and down every gravel and dirt road between I-5 and highways 99E and 99W. Let’s make sure to give farm equipment space, slow down when the road is dusty and difficult to make out what lies ahead. What’s the point of hurrying if we never make it to our destination?

I’m definitely no expert on the Writer’s Guild of America. Being a writer, I empathize with their struggle. I come from a dying breed of journalists who actually went to school to learn how to be objective, only to be outnumbered and outwitted by a bunch of keyboard warriors who work for unknown news sources and probably don’t possess a journalism degree.

In the golden age of journalism, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and more were actual sources of information. Now we’ve got a million ‘sources’ and we have no idea if they are owned by China, Russia, North Korea, or just some person occupying space in Cyberworld who claim to be ‘experts.’

So I completely understand the writer’s strike. They are upset over the number of writers in a writing room, being unfairly compensated for streaming services, and even worse, potentially being replaced by Artificial Intelligence.

There are above-the-line and below-the-line jobs, according to the film girl who belongs in the latter category. Actors, writers, and directors are above the line. Cinematographers, gaffers, sound, lighting, props, and more are all below the line. And the poor PAs (production assistants) don’t even have a union to look out for them.

I’m not sure how I feel about 93 days of leaving all the below-the-line employees – who number in the thousands – out of work. I just hope they come to an agreement sooner than later because living in New York isn’t cheap and the price of nuts isn’t enough to bail out a starving artist.

The latest news as of Wednesday, according to the film girl, is the AMPTP has actually reached out to the WGA and requested a meeting to discuss negotiations this Friday. I’m crossing my fingers we can make the writers happy so the film girl and her colleagues can lift their chins up and figure out how to stay afloat in New York City.

Speaking of happy writers, we’ve lost our Friday columnist and now our Saturday one is on hiatus. I completely understand the grind and toll it takes to write a weekly column. Liz Merry puts her heart and soul into her work and it shows every Saturday. I, for one, am a big fan. She makes me a better columnist.

I just hope she isn’t upset because not everyone is as passionate or proactive about the issues she cares for deeply. Not many (although enough to make me write) are passionate about farmers and their need for water, either.

As a journalist from the olden days, it was not uncommon for someone to give me a phone call and demand an apology. Likewise, another reader would call me to praise the exact same article the previous person disliked.

When I endorsed a school board candidate many years ago, Corning’s Marty and Gayle Mathisen came into my office and placed a crinkled-up Corning Observer on my desk and proclaimed, “This newspaper isn’t worth lining a bird cage with,” and promptly canceled their newspaper subscription.

Several years later, I had children of my own and was elected to the Corning Union Elementary School Board. Marty (a fellow board member) and I became dear friends and respected our differences. Sometimes we even changed each other’s minds and votes because someone convinced the other about a position we hadn’t realized.

My advice to our Saturday columnist is to enjoy the freedom of no deadlines, refresh, and come back ready to make people think long and hard.

I guess I’ll save the Berlin study abroad dramedy for next week.

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