By Dr. Kevin Trutna
Feather River College Superintendent/President
It was Monday, August 6, 2012 when I left my home at 4:30 a.m. to start as Interim Feather River College Superintendent/President. I recall driving up Highway 70 as dawn broke, only to be stopped by Forest Service fire fighters who were escorting traffic past open flames next to the highway from the Chips Fire. I then wondered – what kind of adventure had I accepted? In my 11 years as interim, and later, permanent Feather River College Superintendent/President, I have come to a deep appreciation for Feather Publishing and Plumas News. They have helped me grow in my role at FRC. I am amazed when I think of the contributions they made to our community. Plumas News will be sorely missed by so many people when it closes at the end of the month.
One of my first interactions with Plumas News was their article announcing my appointment as Superintendent/President by the FRC Board of Trustees. Being from “The Valley,” I am indebted to then Feather Publishing owner Mike Taborski. I spent many hours in his office asking for advice and discussing my ideas for FRC. Several meetings took place in the Feather Publishing Conference Room where I met various groups like the Downtown Business Owners Association and Quincy Chamber of Commerce meetings. Mike would invite me to meet state and federal elected officials, including others running for office, when they visited Feather Publishing for an interview. He introduced me to the staff, including Cobey Brown, who worked tirelessly in the backroom producing all of the printed publications. Mike Taborski also introduced me to many of the leaders in Plumas County. He was never afraid to call me with tough questions. On the other hand, he would also call to warn me of upcoming issues his reporters found, both good and bad related to FRC. Every CEO knows of the “no surprises” rule with their Board. I learned to appreciate this principle to include the press as well. Mike is a true advocate for Plumas County community and residents. I recall once he called me to warn me to bring $100 to a Quincy Rotary meeting because he wanted to start a “chain reaction challenge” for Rotarians to each donate $100 toward a fellow member who had fallen on hard times due to health complications. I thank you Mike for always being supportive while separating your professional responsibilities from personal relationships. Cobey Brown continued this mantra after purchasing the business and always made time for my questions.
I learned to both trust and include Plumas News in covering Feather River College. I always give a preview of my monthly president’s report to the owner (then Mike Taborski and now Cobey Brown), along with Editor Debra Moore. They provide a valuable service informing the community of important updates and how tax dollars are utilized to run the campus. I learned that it is best to include reporters on the front side of information, as opposed to having to uncover the details after the fact.
I have had some difficult discussions with Feather Publishing. I recall being at a workshop in Tucson, Arizona one Sunday morning several years ago when I received the phone call that a student had died at a party. I immediately made phone calls to learn about the situation, caught the next plane back to Sacramento, and set up a late night Sunday meeting with our senior management staff and Plumas County Sheriff. Frantically driving back, I parked as the sun was setting over the Yankee Hill Vista Point, stopping to give an interview to a Plumas News reporter before I lost cellphone coverage in the canyon. Several facts I was uncomfortable discussing, but I do remember the reporter saying that Plumas County residents deserved to know both sides of the situation. They were doing their job and providing a service to the community. I always respected that.
I have also come to appreciate all of the work that Debra Moore and the reporters do for our community. One of the first Plumas News reporters I worked with at FRC was James Wilson. We are friends to this day. He would tell me about his daily reporting assignments, often covering a ribbon cutting ceremony in Quincy, then to Portola for a City Council meeting, and end up in Chester for an evening PUSD Board meeting. His poor old car he drove since college must have gained 30,000 miles in a year. A six pack might randomly find its way into his car as appreciation for his dedication. Thank you James, as well as all of the reporters who covered FRC throughout the years.
Debra Moore is a consummate professional, toiling away every day of the week providing information to our community, sometimes singlehandedly, as the newspaper business evolved. Her dedication is indescribable. She was essential while FRC offered services during the pandemic and kept Plumas County informed of FRC campus COVID updates. I did not enjoy sending those early announcements and answering Debra’s questions about cancelled classes, contact tracing, students quarantined in dormitories, or an outbreak at the Child Development Center. I always felt like FRC could have done more as Plumas News published every case I reported. Later, community members would stop me and thank me for the detailed information, claiming they felt that FRC was upfront with sharing COVID cases early in the pandemic. Lesson learned.
I call and text Debra Moore often, not only providing FRC information, but with questions about recent events. She is my best source of first-hand local information. I do have direct contact with Plumas County Sheriff, Fire Chief, and CHP Commander, but they are often too busy dealing with the emergency situation for my questions. Debra knows the information, and if FRC was involved. I consider her a friend and appreciate all that she does for our community.
My experience with journalism is limited to my one year stint as sports editor for the Arrow student newspaper at Ahwahnee Jr. High School in Fresno. I learned to include the who, what, when, where, why, and how in the first paragraph of any news article. I also remember having the blue mimeograph papers spread on a large table where we walked in a circle assembling the monthly student paper by hand. This is germane to Feather Publishing because during the pandemic, and as the newspaper business changed over the past decade, FRC became an active partner in providing written information, trying to assist Feather Publishing wherever possible. Given the limited staff at the paper, FRC started writing our own press releases and stories. I have sent many articles to Plumas News with the email “Here is an article. Feel free to change anything, edit, and use the information as you can.” My 8th grade journalism teacher provided a solid foundation.
I also learned to send in pictures of the college or the community. I would chuckle as one of my iPhone pictures was included with an article. I recall stopping at the turnout above Pulga to take a photograph of the Plumas National Forest sign with the Dixie Fire billowing far in the background. This was displayed in Plumas News. Debra would always give me credit, even though I never asked. My mother would read about FRC, notice my name on the picture credit, and tease me about being a photographer.
Plumas News did an outstanding job of promoting athletic and campus accomplishments. Coverage of the first FRC state championship, from the volleyball team in 2019, was a sense of pride for not only FRC, but to all of the community and program supporters. Recent bowl game victories were featured, as were graduation ceremonies, and the announcement of FRC being one of the first community colleges to offer a bachelor’s degree in California. Plumas News published these large-scale accomplishments online so that not only our students could enjoy their successes, but the pictures and details could be shared with family and friends outside of Plumas County.
So, how will Feather River College interact with the public and share information, deadlines, and celebrations after Plumas News closes? The challenge is reaching future potential college students, and at the same time, knowing that their supporters, parents, and grandparents need to know about FRC programs as well. We will continue to use local sources as much as possible, including radio, local events, and a presence in local high schools. Online resources will be expanded, explored, and tested. It will be a new endeavor as FRC tries to keep the community informed of events, information, new programs, deadlines, and ways to participate in campus activities without a local paper. Our website at www.frc.edu remains active, posting important announcements, updates, and articles.
With the closing of Plumas News, one thing is for certain: when I was driving up the canyon almost 11 years ago to begin as Superintendent/President, I did not understand the importance of a local paper, local reporters, and the leadership in the community that Plumas News provided. Their partnership and coverage of the exceptional student and employee accomplishments has been central to the success of FRC. On behalf of Feather River College, our community definitely thanks you for your contributions to Plumas County. You will be missed, Plumas News.
About Feather River College
Feather River College (FRC) is located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountain range in Quincy, California. It is a small, rural public community college offering traditional courses in transfer programs, career and technical training, basic skills, general education, as well as specialized programs in equine studies, outdoor recreation leadership, and fish hatchery management. The only California community college to offer a bachelor’s degree in Equine and Ranch Management, and recently approved for a new bachelor’s degree in Ecosystem Restoration and Applied Fire Management, FRC also features a variety of other unique programs and degrees. FRC offers intimate class sizes so students receive individual attention from faculty and staff to enhance their education. FRC is changing the way people think of a typical college experience by utilizing “the million acre classroom” surrounding campus. On top of offering unique programs, competitive athletics, and student housing; Feather River College is a leader in environmentally sustainable practices, including managing the on-campus forest. Academically, FRC ranks at the top for transfer, graduation, and retention rates among small California community colleges. For further information, visit www.frc.edu.