When I was a boy and my parents had occasion to travel into town we would oft times stop by the office of The Mendocino Beacon to say hello to August Heeser, the publisher and editor of that newspaper. Many adults called him Augie. The term Mr. Heeser was reserved for Augie’s father, William Heeser, who founded the Beacon in 1877, the year of Augie’s birth. Augie was named for William Heeser’s younger brother, August Heeser, a man of many talents and trades. All three Heesers were shrewd businessmen who did well for themselves, but they were always men of their communities. Without the foresight of Augie Heeser, Mendocino’s headlands might be dotted with real estate developments today. The Heesers prospered in business; they not only ran newspapers but served as surveyors, justices of the peace, notaries, and Wells Fargo agents. However, these were men of the people, not corporate puppets.
Sadly, the newspaper that William and Augie Heeser published for nearly 90 years, The Mendocino Beacon, has become nothing more than a profit margin on the ledger of the corporate conglomerate, Media News Group. The current hollow pages that purport to be the Beacon have been running excerpts from the 1877 editions. Some weeks these “excerpts” are so slight that one cannot help but think they were only included as filler. On a couple of occasions the current Beacon has run “A brief history” about its various publishers of the past. Within that “brief history” is the line: “In 1927, at the age of 29, Augie purchased the Fort Bragg News and the Advocate.” August (Augie) Heeser was born in 1877. He was not 29 years old in 1927. This same “brief history” with the same error also ran in an October, 2012 edition of the current Beacon. Apparently, there is not a single creature in a position of authority at the 21st century Beacon who has the sense that the Almighty gave a jaybird to give a dang about getting the math correct in their so-called tribute to the long existence of a newspaper that now pretends to be a “coast paper for coast people.”
This “coast paper for coast people,” ran an editorial in its December 13, 2012 edition decrying the lack of timely notification by four federal and state agencies about important public meetings, such as the ones regarding a potential granting of an 80-year habitat conservation and timberland management permits to Mendocino Redwood Company. The editorial ran a day after the public meeting on the coast but never mind that. Frank Hartzell, a reporter for the Beacon, attended the coastal meeting on Dec. 12th. Mr. Hartzell asked several questions during the meeting and appeared to be taking voluminous notes. You can look long and hard through the issues of the Beacon that followed on Dec. 20th and 27th and not find a trace of Mr. Hartzell’s article. Are you kidding us!? The Beacon rails about the failure of public agencies to give notice about important meetings, sends a reporter to said meeting, then fails to print that reporter’s story about the meeting during the remainder of that month and year!
Mistakes are made by all, but they mount almost exponentially in the Beacon. Another Media News Group paper, the Willits News, ran two December articles detailing how five Mendocino area residents were allegedly caught up in a Kansas drug ring. The story appeared in other Media News Group papers, but was never picked up where it would be most relevant, in the dimly lit Beacon.