Emily, our brightest star
Many young, bright journalists have gotten their start at The Sonoma Index-Tribune, and during my 50 years with our local newspaper before my retirement in 2012, none has shown brighter than Emily Charrier, who announced that she has resigned her position as editor and publisher of the Index-Tribune and Petaluma Argus-Courier to take a non-newspaper job in Napa.
Over the last two decades, as the community newspaper business nationwide was forced into drastic downsizing and painful changes, many towns like Sonoma and Petaluma lost their local papers. Supported by the Sonoma Media owners who believe in community journalism, Emily kept ours alive.
From the day in 2006 she showed up at the I-T, all of us in the newsroom knew she was special. We hired her, a Marin County native fresh out of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, as our entertainment reporter, but at a small community newspaper like ours, the keyword is “reporter,” which meant she, like the rest of us, was expected to cover just about anything that we might define as news. In a small town, that covers a lot of different topics.
She told us she chose journalism because "I love hearing people's stories. I love being invited into their homes. People don't always have a grasp of what's going on in their own backyards. I like being a voice for the voiceless."
She, indeed, loved covering entertainment. She was a film major at Oregon before she switched to journalism. Almost immediately, we noted a dramatic increase in the quantity and especially the quality of the coverage of the local arts and entertainment scene, especially during our local film festival and the Sonoma Jazz Festival.
But we also threw her into the deep end of local controversy by assigning her to cover Sonoma Valley Hospital at a time it was bleeding red ink and contemplating changes, including a new site, that would tear this community apart. She did a fantastic job.
In fact, she took on every assignment, from the small stories about our fellow Sonomans that were the bread and butter of our local coverage to the more dramatic breaking news, with the same professionalism and enthusiasm that made her such a great joy to work with. In addition, her work earned state and national journalism awards.
She was part of the I-T’s news and editorial team until 2013, before moving to Dallas, Texas, where she became the managing editor and publisher of Advocate Media, which published hyper-local magazines in that city.
But she was a Californian at heart and returned in 2015 to become the managing editor of the Petaluma Argus-Courier. Then, thanks to the good sense of Sonoma Media’s management, including Darius Anderson, she was promoted to editor and publisher of both the Argus-Courier and the Sonoma Index-Tribune.
It is impossible to compare the community news business today to that in which I spent virtually my entire life. That drastically changed when the internet exploded. Emily started her first job in the “old days,” with me and lots of other ink-stained wretches. But she was in the middle of her career when the World Wide Web wrote the obituary for traditional newspapers like ours.
Despite shrinking staff and very tight budgets, she was asked to keep the two newspapers alive and find new ways for them to operate as the devices and methods for delivering information keep changing.
Having retired in 2012, avoiding the most difficult of those challenges, I was not only very proud that she took over my former job, but also very grateful. As far as I am concerned, the Index-Tribune and Argus-Courier couldn’t have been in better hands.
My hope is that somehow we can carry on without her.