In 1989 Jack Porter opened a small bulletin board system (BBS) in Madera called Zen Den Systems. The one line BBS ran on the commercial Wildcat software, while many of the other boards in the area used a free software called Opus. ZDS was a part of the FIDO-Net system at the time and there was controversy with the Fresno boards because of it. For the next five years the bulletin board grew and was named the 11th most popular board in North America by Boardwatch Magazine in 1991.
As the Internet grew in popularity, bulletin boards faded away. ZDS, however, Mr. Porter found a home on the Internet with a new name: The California County Connection. The country music website followed the entertainment scene around Northern California as it related to country music. Nearly every country star to make an appearance in the Valley was on the California Country Connection. It was when an artist named Garth Brooks sat down with us for an interview the site's founder got the idea for a local Internet portal called Madera Online.
Madera Online began as an Internet portal on October 6, 1997 with community information about the city of Madera. We would run press releases from service clubs and provide information about local events. Then we got a call from a local business that changed everything. He was facing an unfair situation at the hands of one of Madera's city council members and asked us for help. On August 29, 1997 we became a newspaper.
MJ Nabors, who ran the Madera County Action Agency, had a skateboard park in Berry Construction industrial complex off of Pine Street in Madera. In the complex was a skateboard shop that was being provided free rental space at the skate park. The Madera business owner was also in the skateboard business and wanted to see the agreements between the shop and the Action Agency. Ms. Nabors fought public access to any of her agency's records claiming the Madera County Action Agency was not a public entity despite the fact that she was a county employee.
Mr. Porter received threatening letters from the agency's attorney Russ Ryan who also claimed the agency had no obligation to turn over any records. The agency's board members were told not to talk to us and it seemed like we hit a wall with our story. After a month long investigation by Madera Online the Madera County District Attorney finally ordered Nabors to turn over the agency's public records.
After this experience with Madera's local government, Jack Porter and Madera Online was in the news business. For the last nineteen years we have broke many of the biggest stories in Madera County. When a police officer shot a man in the back of a squad car, we were there. We were the first to write about the district attorney's extortion complaint and the lawsuits against the county because of it. After a while there were two types of readers on Madera Online: the ones that loved us for our truthful stories and the ones that hated us because of our truthful stories.
In 2005 we acquired several new domains with the Big Valley theme but never did anything with them until late 2009. At that point we teamed up with a web designer and built the website you are on today. We are quite proud of what we have built. With the change in the sites name to Big Valley News (BVN) we intend to cover more of the Central Valley.
Expect to see stories about Fresno and Clovis, as well as Madera. In time we hope to expand to the north into Merced County. Only time will tell where we will go from here. We have come along way from the small little one line bulletin board and we have a lot further to go.
Keep an eye on BigValleyNews.com.