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Zombies of the ER



The death of the Eureka Reporter came as no surprise. But no one expected that a piece of it would continue to live, like a severed, still-talking head in a bad ’50s horror movie.

Now, I'm not ashamed to say that I enjoyed reading the Eureka Reporter. Its staff worked hard and often produced interesting stories about local people. To try to save the hardworking spirit of the paper is an admirable idea. But that's not what happened. Just open up a Wednesday or Sunday issue of the Times-Standard, flip past the editorial page and you'll know what I'm talking about.

This is what I want to know: How long does the legal contract that transferred over the Eureka Reporter to the Times-Standard force the Times-Standard to print that stuff? And how crazy is Peter Hannaford allowed to get? He's the editorial page editor for the severed head.

I opened up the T-S the day before Christmas to find on the ER page a reprint of a 111-year old editorial reaffirming that Santa Claus exists, a column from the ever-grumpy Bill O'Reilly reminding us why Christmas matters, a cartoon about the baby Jesus with the words Prince of Peace on it in big letters and a column by a George Wittman from the Committee on the Present Danger about how Christmas celebrations brought some peace to the Congo back in 1960. You don't have to be Jewish to think that's a bit of Christmas overkill for a general interest newspaper that purports to speak for all residents of Humboldt County.

I'm not a complete Scrooge. But it frustrates me to see an entire page of newsprint and not an inch devoted to local issues or even a pressing national one.

I thought maybe the Committee on the Present Danger was local but when I Googled it I discovered that it's a national conservative group whose mission is to "stiffen American resolve to confront the challenge presented by terrorism and the ideologies that drive it." As it turns out, Hannaford headed the Committee on the Present Danger for a short period of time. He and Wittman probably go way back.

So besides wondering how long the T-S must print this ER craziness, I wonder how crazy it can get. Can Peter Hannaford publish whatever he wants on that page? I don't think that Dean Singleton, whose giant MediaNews Group owns the Times-Standard, would get himself into a situation where his editors couldn't censor anything libelous. So there must be some kind of out in the legalese. Perhaps the contract gives Hannaford a life estate, like a condo that you inherit from your dad but you can't take possession of until your stepmother dies. Or maybe Singleton's lawyers just forgot to include the boilerplate language that would give the paper the ability to take a red pen to crazy rants.

I didn't think I would miss Dave Silverbrand's column from the Eureka Reporter but reading the editorial page of the Eureka Reporter inside the pages of the Times-Standard makes me long for it.

Perhaps you also miss hearing about those Dominican boys and their baseball gloves. So in the spirit of the T-S/ER merger, I decided to set aside some of my allotted space for Dave's ruminations. I'll get back to you after he's had his say.



By Dave Silverbrand

I didn't know about the brothel next door when I booked the rooms. I swear it. Maybe in the uncertainty of El Limón, the business had opened since my last visit a year ago.

We'd come to the poor Dominican village to bring baseball equipment to its children as I have been doing for the past four years. Now, I also help the women's softball team and the modest medical clinic, sending gear through the town's matron saint, Onfalia Morillo. She'd recommended our hotel, cold showers, intermittent power and all. She hadn't mentioned the brothel either.

When I stopped there for a soda one day, I took it at face value, the woman proprietor serving beer and soft drinks, the barrel-chested Spanish guest and the two Santa Domingo women in tight clothing. They said they were there for the weekend, describing themselves as single lonely moms. Valentina was 48, every hard year etched on her face.

In the brothel business, companionship-for-hire means expensive drinks, a long night and a kickback to the hotel, love for sale when you have little else.

The next day, I saw Valentina's other "job," mopping the hotel's floors. I took the mop from her and made her sit down while I finished her task. Then, in a spontaneous act I still don't understand, I washed her bare feet.

Baseball is a game and, in the Dominican Republic, a way of life. It also has a way of teaching us about ourselves, peeling back the layers of our souls.

Dave Silverbrand teaches at College of the Redwoods and is a writer and former news director at KVIQ-TV in Eureka. He is the founder of Cleats 4 Kids.


Now, I wonder. Just how far will Judy Hodgson let me go? Can I turn over this valuable newsprint forever to all my crazy friends? Will I have to die before she kicks me off these pages? Check here next month. That's when I'll print a column from Rose Imperato. We went to kindergarten together.

First let me check the fine print on my contract.

Marcy Burstiner is an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at Humboldt State University. If you have some crazy rants you want published, send her a writing sample.

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