A decision not lightly made

This column was originally published under the title "Pondering, should I stay or should I go?'  in the "Davis Enterprise" on June 9, 2024.

By Autumn Labbe-Renault

It’s been a chaotic few weeks for this newspaper and community. In the wake of other departures, I’ve had people ask me if I’ll continue to write this column.

I’m here, so the answer is yes. I write not as an individual but on behalf on an organization, so it’s not my choice alone. I write for free, and The Enterprise has published my writing for 25 years, helping to give voice and visibility to our nonprofit.

I’m also in the process of developing a community information needs assessment for Yolo County, and it deserves the visibility this column in the Enterprise can help deliver. I’ve publicly stated that a primary goal is not to replace local newspapers, but to fill in the gaps in civic information, and to utilize technology and technological expertise that is Davis Media Access (DMA’s) bread and butter.

Though based in Davis, DMA is the only noncommercial media center in Yolo County. We are in year four of an ongoing project supporting Woodland Community College's eLearning Suite. We work with elected officials, candidates for office, and nonprofits throughout the county, and our community radio station KDRT 95.7FM has had tremendous regional impact.

Although journalists are migrating to Substack and finding other ways to continue their work, DMA is the only entity proposing a comprehensive assessment to determine needs in the wake of declining local news media.

Our outreach, comprised of listening sessions, surveys and more, will take us all over the county to learn how current media serves its communities. We want to identify the gaps, determine needs, and identify the manners of delivery that will suit those needs. This is very similar to the process we successfully used prior to launching KDRT 20 years ago, and the data gathered will greatly inform our civic media project. 

The community conversations held prior to launching KDRT were one of the most gratifying and fruitful professional experiences I’ve had, and the impacts of launching and nurturing KDRT are evident today.

For those who may wonder what I mean by impacts, consider:

Last December, KDRT programmer Bill Buchanan did an episode of “Davisville” on the expansion of I-80 through Davis.  He recently noticed an uptick in streams for that particular episode and wondered why. It was because this episode—produced by a volunteer at a small community radio station—had been referenced as a source of information by both the Sacramento Bee and SFGATE.

“Davisville” has won 13 Excellence in Journalism awards from the San Francisco Press Club, in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. And later this month, Buchanan will accept a Hometown Media Award from the Alliance for Community Media for his May 15, 2023 episode, “Integrating a Traumatic Week into Davis,” which sought to make meaning out of the tragic events of last spring.

Buchanan is just one example of community members contributing mightily to our community information media system, and DMA’s goal is to facilitate that on a larger scale.

I’m pleased to announce that the City of Davis, and Yolo County Supervisors Lucas Frerichs and Jim Provenza’s offices have each committed $5,000 in community resilience funds towards the assessment process. We’re mapping out the process while working to secure the rest of the funding for it.

— Autumn Labbe-Renault has served as DMA’s executive director since 2007, where she writes about media, nonprofits, arts and culture and their intersection. Learn more at http://davismedia.org, email info@davismedia.org, or call 530-757-2419.