Stirring the pot
Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories, "From the ground up."
The paper: The North Coast Journal, published weekly in Arcata, Calif., for almost 18 years, features in-depth journalism with a strong arts and entertainment section.
The local media scene: Two dailies, one printed in Humboldt County for many years, the other recently started by an out-of-towner. The San Francisco Chronicle says the area has the most competitive print-media environment in California.
The story: Publisher Judy Hodgson and her husband moved to the area 35 years ago. Hodgson went back to school and studied journalism, then was hired by one of the area’s many community weeklies. "I got fired because I was not being friendly enough to the local timber companies. I still wanted to work in journalism, so I got a job with the local daily, which was part of a chain. They didn’t want reporters who stirred the pot. Then the opportunity came up to buy the Journal."
The battle plan: "Serious, aggressive investigative journalism. We specialized in in-depth environmental, basic science and natural resources journalism," Hodgson says. "The local daily had maybe three local stories a day. We were breaking stories all the time. Most of our awards have come from environmental reporting."
Notable stories: Last year’s prize-winning stories included an in-depth story about the impact the timber industry has had on local forests — "The dailies would not touch a story like that, because they are afraid of the timber industry," says Hodgson — and a story uncovering a Democratic Party operative who was writing letters to the editor under multiple aliases.
Advice: "You have to do a careful market analysis," Hodgson says. "You need to know who advertises where and why. Look at things from an economic point of view. Pay your reporters well and have high expectations."
The North Coast Journal is distributed free at more than 350 locations in Humboldt County. A mail subscription is $25 per year; call 707-826-2000 or see www.northcoastjournal.com