Ex-Voice reporter recalls the old days
Bob Brownne now reporting on sports for newpaper in San Joaquin Valley
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By Bob Brownne  February 7, 2014 12:00 am

The 21st anniversary of The Community Voice proves that local journalism is still strong, even as other media compete for their place in modern society.

Yatin Shah and the publishers of the Sonoma Index-Tribune, Bill and Jim Lynch and their father Bob Lynch, took a big chance when they decided to start up a new newspaper to replace the Rohnert Park-Cotati Clarion. The Clarion’s experience showed that newspapers are a tough business venture.

They also understood from their own experience with the Index-Tribune that a local newspaper defines and reflects the local culture. As newspapers around the country decline and close, it’s still the community-based publications that thrive because they are that important to the local readers and businesses.

Today, I cover sports for the Tracy Press, and find it to be a great window into our community. I get to meet the people involved in our schools, including three large high schools and two charter schools, and see our local young people at their best. This kind of local coverage is what people who are active in our city look for in a local paper because it’s the type of coverage that big media outlets overlook.

I still look up The Community Voice web page from time to time to see Jud Snyder’s columns on the latest happenings in Rohnert Park and Cotati city government, to see if anyone I know is still making the headlines, and also to get a reminder of what I enjoyed so much about covering these Sonoma County cities.

Looking back to the 1990’s and the nine or so years that I covered Rohnert Park, Cotati and Penngrove, I remember feeling that all of the local festivals and celebrations were my connection to the community. It sometimes seemed like there was never a break during the summer. Being the community newspaper at these events gave me a chance to see the many facets of these towns through the activities that people enjoy.

It turns out that showing up with a camera and trying to get the best photos I could was the best way to experience events like the Cotati Jazz Festival, Penngrove Independence Day Parade, Cotati Accordion Festival and Rohnert Park Founders Day. There were many others, and each event that we covered for the newspaper showed me a unique aspect of these towns. 

Much has changed in Sonoma County since then. Among the later stories that I covered for The Community Voice was the construction of the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center at Sonoma State University, and the fundraising effort for the Donald and Maureen Green Music Center. Now these places are fixtures that make Sonoma State even more important as the region’s educational and cultural center.

In reading The Community Voice website, it looks like Sonoma County still has its battles over growth and development just as it did 21 years ago. Back then it was over residential subdivisions and big grocery stores, and it was well before the idea of a new casino came to light. Now as then, your community has plenty of people who will make their voices heard, and a good community newspaper is just the thing to make sure everyone knows what these changes will mean to their hometown.

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