October 19, 2017 Last Updated 12:32 pm

Local press distinguishes itself in coverage of California fires

Now that firefighters are starting to get the upper hand on containing many of the blazes, maybe it is time to ask the administration, and much of the eastern press corps why such a disaster hasn’t received more attention

There are at least two major domestic stories that I find it hard not to feel are being undercovered: Puerto Rico and the California fires. Yes, there is coverage, even front page placement in some east coast newspapers. Still, if a major disaster as that which has befallen both places were, instead, to have occurred in New York what do you think the coverage would be like.

The coverage of the California fires is particularly upsetting to me as a former California resident who still pines on moving back sometime before I die.

The local papers look to be doing a fine job. There is, of course, Hearst’s San Francisco Chronicle, but The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa is earning praise from readers.

The Press Democrat was once owned by The New York Times Co., back when that publisher was expanding its holdings. Today the paper is locally owned, and it is certainly hoped that Sonoma residents reward the paper for its recent work with renewed subscriptions.

That the president doesn’t plan on visiting California is surprising no one. Donald Trump is not very popular in the state, and the president only likes to go where he can expect adulation.

A recent poll by David Binder Research revealed that 60 percent of Californians surveyed do not want the president to serve out his first term, and a May poll found that May found just 27 percent of Californians approved of the job Trump was doing. No reason to update the poll, it was bad enough.

“I’ve asked communications officials in the White House twice whether Trump will visit Northern California,” wrote Alexander Nazaryan in the Los Angeles Times. “The lack of response is far more telling than any answer could be. The president doesn’t care about our state.”

Maybe because the press is so laser focused on the president that there is so little coverage of the fires as a political disaster. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans it was not just a news story but a political story, as well. Puerto Rico and California are, as well, just with less press coverage.

The emails I get from California have been both encouraging and heartbreaking. I suppose anyone who knows me would guess that the emails mostly come from wineries that have me on their lists.

“We are all in a state of grief and shock as we write to you. The past week has been devastating with extreme fire conditions taking lives and homes in our community,” wrote the team at Kapcsándy Family Vineyard & Winery.

Their email was particularly good so I have reproduced it here:

Dear Friends,

We are all in a state of grief and shock as we write to you. The past week has been devastating with extreme fire conditions taking lives and homes in our community. From all of us at Kapcsándy Family Vineyard & Winery, thank you for your thoughts and kind messages of concern.

This is the first time we have seen this kind of destruction with our own eyes. These recent fires, in all directions, have taken so much from so many. Although the hills around Napa and Sonoma Valley continue to burn, we are encouraged that the containment numbers are rising.

Our hearts will forever be bruised as we reflect on these tragic events. We are shaken, but fine. We are grateful for the helping hands of our wonderful neighbors and to the courageous first responders. We also appreciate your support as we hope and plan to get back to ‘normal’ in the coming weeks.

We thought that we would share with you the sheer magnitude of the devastation, that spread over 8 counties, destroyed over 5,700 structures and displaced over 100,000 people.

We’ll limit our comments to our immediate neighborhood in the Yountville and the Atlas Peak area.

The fire started at 9:52 PM on Sunday October 8th. Since then it has burned 51,064 acres. Destroyed 360 structures and damaged another 986.

The resources deployed to fight this fire alone was 359 engines, 31 water tenders, 21 helicopters, 6 air tankers, 46 dozers and 3,370 fire fighters.

Nine (9) days after the fire started, the Atlas Peak fires are now 77% contained.

Our deepest gratitude goes to all of the fire fighters who risked their lives for all of us.

All of us at Kapcsándy Family have been extremely fortunate. The fires have devastated many parts of our region and have left thousands with absolutely nothing. Each of us knows someone who has lost their home or workplace, or both, in the last 8 days.

A sincere thank you to everyone who reached out personally with an email or phone call this last week and for all of you who had us in your thoughts and prayers. Having support from our caring members and clients in this trying time is extremely comforting and we wanted to say thank you for your offers to help us, as well. What an amazing group of people we have in our lives.

Wishing you all the best in health, happiness, and safety.


Kapcsándy Family Vineyard & Winery
Lou, Roberta, Louis, Wendy and the entire Kapcsándy Family team

I have to assume that The Press Democrat will win a Pulitzer for its fire coverage. Here are a couple stories for you:

I would also recommend this story from The Daily Beast by Frances Dinkelspiel Searching for My Stepbrother in the Wildfires.

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