When brown water overflowed the banks of the Salinas River in January, flooding thousands of acres and throwing an untold number of farmworkers out of jobs, the leading newspaper in this agricultural mecca did not cover the story.
Candidates in the November race for mayor also went absent from the pages of the 152-year-old news outlet. Ditto non-coverage of a police staffing shortage so serious that the police chief said the department might not have enough cops to respond to all complaints of theft, fraud, vandalism, prowling and prostitution.
The Salinas Californian missed those stories, understandably, because it employed only one journalist until December. That’s when the paper’s last reporter quit to take a job in TV. The departure marked the latest and perhaps final step in a slow-motion unwinding of what used to be the principal local news source in this city of 163,000.
Owned by the largest newspaper publisher in the nation, Gannett, the venerable Californian now carries stories from the chain’s USA Today flagship and its other California papers. The only original content from Salinas comes in the form of paid obituaries, making death virtually the only sign of life at an institution once considered a must-read by many Salinans.