Small-Town Paper’s Column Shames National Dailies
Sometimes it takes eyes on the ground at the scene of the crime to describe things clearly.
Rory Crowley, an occasional columnist for the tiny Chico Enterprise-Record and farmer, is just such a witness.
Crowley penned a piece on March 1 that deserves recognition for its clarity of thought and ability to say — in less than 650 words, no less — true observations about California’s ongoing water crisis of famine and feast and its political causes.
His “get-to-the-bottom-of-the-story” writing repeatedly eluded all the Pulitzer-prize-winning national papers and journals, including California’s top papers — the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury-News, The San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee — despite their vast resources and distanced perspectives.
This is not to say they didn’t cover the story Crowley wrote about, it’s to say rather that they missed the real story behind California’s decades-long but still critically important water wars.
Crowley first decries the media’s hero-building tendencies in crowning powerful state agencies for rescuing a few hundred stranded fish from the Feather River downstream of Oroville Dam when a million or more died because of the state’s neglect of critical Oroville Dam infrastructure that failed when it was needed, victim to insufficient competent maintenance.
Crowley also tears back the covers and leaves naked the false narrative media built around a Farms-vs.-Fish-Fighting-Over-Water storyline that made the state agencies — Department of Water Resources, Department of Fish and Wildlife — hero once again, while relegating those who grow our nation’s food supply to the role of villains.
He goes further, showing that powerful politicians and statewide elected officials embrace climate change for its dire predicted impact on our water security, but tells Californians a nonsensical tale that farmers are the root cause of our state’s environmental ills.
He calls the act of creating an all-powerful state populated with agencies and legendary heroes while ignoring the simple truth that the state’s actions cut both ways for good and bad, “ironic, inconsistent and ludicrous.”
What a seasoned writer and farmer in Chico sees as California’s infrastructure and water problems stands in stark contrast to what equally seasoned editors, publishers and broadcast news leaders regularly report to their readers and viewers.
Maybe they should get out more. Crowley is right: We are not fighting a water war between farmers and fish, but one over fiction and non-fiction.