The first to be distributed was the MH Reporter on Sept. 7, delivered by volunteer carriers going door-to-door. Resembling a tabloid newspaper, the eight-page publication is a reflection of the views of its publisher, John McDonald, by his own admission.
“It was started primarily to be an outlet other than Mountain House Villages (forum) as community news,” McDonald said. “It’s hard to get anything through (the forum) on the political side — any real information out. I love opinions. I love politics.”
McDonald — who ran as a Republican in the 10th Congressional District primary election in June — said the publication was decidedly editorial in nature. The idea for the paper sprouted out of a website started in June of the same name.
“Definitely has a bias towards government,” he said. “Nobody should read it and think there is a journalistic standard of un-bias.”
Not short on opinion
At first glance, it’s obvious that MH Reporter does not stray from controversy.
The entire front page is a story written
by McDonald that objects to the decision by the Mountain House Community Services District board of directors to extend a landscaping contract with Valley Crest.
He wrote that Rajesh Dighe, who is a candidate for the board, was discredited by the directors for taking more than 200 photos of landscaping throughout the community that McDonald said showed deterioration. A believer in a bidding process for community contracts, McDonald wrote: “Sadly, it seems that some board members are more concerned about the reputation of our contractors than our residents.”
In another story, McDonald writes about a controversial ballot initiative calling for the recall of Director Jass Singh.
In the story, McDonald discredits the recall supporters, calling them liars, while highlighting Singh’s actions as a director, particularly his call for the community services district to open up its landscaping contract to a public bidding process.
“Politics is editorial in nature,” McDonald said during a telephone interview. “I don’t believe I’ve written in an inflammatory way. I don’t believe it’s bad at all. Believe it’s well within the norms of political behavior.”
McDonald said he supports and writes about people who share his beliefs about government, such as competitive bidding, sustainable pensions and bond rating watchdogs. His publication even has an article that supports the reelection of Director Andy Su.
Su said in reaction to the political endorsement: “I have nothing to do with that publication. I’m not affiliated with them in any way.”
McDonald said his endorsement of Su and other candidates is because he wants to support proponents of a “normal government.”
“I just want to open the door, but I want to do it in a way where people don’t get verbally attacked — called names and legal stuff,” he said, noting that this would happen to him on the local forum site. “Sometimes, we need to keep our government a little more simpler.”
The September edition of the MH Reporter also contained human interest stories that include an article on a Mountain House woman in need of a bone marrow transplant; a story promoting local home purchasing; and a story on a new breed of spider discovered in Oregon.
McDonald said his publication was delivered to 95 percent of the community, and he said he has received positive feedback from his website supporters.
But not everyone is a fan of the Reporter.
“I’m not a fan at all,” community advocate Mike Klinkner said, regarding MH Reporter. “Just a political posting. Same old stuff he’s been putting out for two years. Everybody is wrong, he’s right. I don’t think there’s anything to it at all, except political reasons.”
“People don’t like it,” Klinkner said. “I’d have to say the majority of the town is saying no way, this is a disgusting piece of paper.”
Jim Lamb, who is a member of the community service district board and is defending his seat in this fall’s election, said he felt MH Reporter was designed to assist Singh in his quest to remain on the board, and get political newcomers Dighe and Tariq Khan elected.
“John’s position is saying he talks about it like some sort of objective news source and I don’t think can read it and say its news,” said Lamb, who is also related to the coordinator of the mhvillages.com forum. “One side of the story, and with no attempts to be objective about it. He seems to be wanting to use aggravation to win an election.”
A supporter of the publication, Jass Singh, wrote in an email to the Tracy Press that he felt the publication was “fact-based and fair,” and admitted that he and McDonald are friends.
“John wanted a website and publication that focuses on important issues that face Mountain House where resident authors could go into detail as a free public service,” Singh wrote.
MH Reporter has only 11 articles, nine written by McDonald.
He is not sure if this will be the last edition of his publication.
“Don’t know if I’ll come out in paper again — thinking about it,” he said. “The Web is free, so to speak. On the other hand, we’ve got to get the message out.”
For information: www.MHReporter.com.
A community clearinghouse
Also arriving at Mountain House homes last week — this time via mail — was a colorful, 12-page newsletter entitled Mountain House Matters!
The publisher of the newsletter, Bryan Harrison, is no stranger to the community. He is the vice president of the Mountain House Feral Cat Rescue group, which recently received regional recognition after a resident mistakenly identified a feral cat as a mountain lion.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t the cat rescue that propelled Harrison to create a new local publication — it was his awakening to the idea that websites and word-of-mouth are not always enough to get a message out to a community.
An advocate for a local dog park, Harrison recalled working hard to encourage people to log onto the Bark For Your Park website so the community could be awarded the prize of $25,000 toward a dog park.
He said supporters tried everything to spread the word via the Internet, but people kept telling him they never heard about the contest.
Mountain House finished in second, behind a small town in Vermont.
“It planted a seed in my head that it would be nice to get something out in a regular basis to the whole town,” Harrison said. “Not all online. The forum only represents a small population. The post office introduced the Every Door Direct mail program, and it went from ‘How can we do this?’ to ‘Wow, this is pretty affordable.’”
Mountain House Matters! is an example of what Harrison does for a living, creating newsletters and websites for companies.
“I figure there would be some groups who would appreciate putting information out,” he said. “Put out information that would benefit people in the community.”
The front page is covered with colorful photos that represent each of the article subjects, as well as a story index. Inside the publication, each story is accompanied by additional photos or graphics.
The content in the newsletter focuses on local groups and organizations. Among the nine articles are features on the Mountain House youth flag football program; a mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group; and feral cat rescue efforts.
One area that Harrison hopes to embellish upon is more featured columnists. In his premier issue, he has the first of a regular series on real estate advice by local Realtor Angela Lamb.
Harrison said he hopes to produce the newsletter monthly, but the real challenge will be to get more advertising to support it financially. Since Mountain House is still growing, the business community is limited, he said. But he said he was happy to see an interest in the publication from numerous in-home businesses.
Harrison hopes to someday make his newsletter profitable so he can donate a portion of the funds to two of his strongest personal interests, the feral cat rescue and dog park projects.
“I wanted to see a community newspaper,” he said. “I think the concept is pretty well-represented in the first issue. It’s probably never going to be like a regular paper. I see it more like a forum for the community to make announcements and know what (various groups) are doing.”
Mountain House Matters! is scheduled to arrive in residential mailboxes the first Thursday of every month. For information: 229-8240.
• Editor’s note: Neither MH Reporter nor Mountain House Matters! is affiliated with the Tracy Press.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.