I <3 the NCJ

It has been pointed out to me that I am guilty of the very behavior I claim to be disappointed by: Highlighting what I don’t like, but failing to remark upon that which I do. Let me thus announce LOUDLY AND CLEARLY that, overall, I greatly admire the North Coast Journal and the people who work there. (Yes, the use of the qualifier “overall” does rather tone down my otherwise LOUD AND CLEAR announcement, but hey, suck it up, Journalistos.)

Yes, I hated this story (oh, how I still hate that story) and was disappointed by this one (which I am officially declaring no longer a conversation topic), but let’s not miss the stone cold fact that the other 95 percent of the time, the North Coast Journal kicks ass. Here’s just a few reasons why:

  • Heidi Walters doesn’t just string words together using proper grammar: she’s a storyteller, and that makes all the difference. The story on Trinidad’s sea-stacks is all-time. The recent story on The Golden Rule, solid and engaging (please don’t let the icky cover cause you to miss the good stuff inside!). “Waiting for Tish Non“? Another example of complexities addressed and transcended due to Heidi’s focus on the human. If a topic exists that Heidi Walters cannot make interesting, it has yet to be seen. More examples of her fine work here and here.

A couple of hours past noon the turkey vulture rode a current from the northwest into the blue space above the Bald Hills, east of Orick. It soared, black-and-gray wings fixed in a teetery V, up over a grass-yellow pointy hill topped with trees and out over a broad ridgetop prairie dense with tall grass, dandelions and low tufts of dark brackenfern. The past few days, there’d been food down there: dead bear. The smell had been enough to draw the keen-nosed bird in, and the black furry heap a confirmation.

Oh, hell, just go here.

Which is how it happened that in the late-night hours of March 1, with rain and wind gaining strength off the coast, Milushev and Gustafson found themselves approaching the Arcata-Eureka Airport in a rented Diamond DA-40, a lightweight, single-prop four-seater being mercilessly tossed about in the escalating storm. Through radio static, Milushev complained to the Seattle-based Air Traffic Control operator: “It’s really turbulent right now.”

Ryan’s a reporter in the classic sense: stridently curious with a bit of a soft spot, a solid layer of cynicism and an ability to get at the truth of a story and lay it all out for the readers with thought and care. The Story That Shall Not Be Mentioned Aside, the man has a stellar record.

Chris Durant is crazy. In April, after years serving, at various times, as the Times-Standard‘s court reporter, Northern Lights whip-cracker, homeless ambassador and Fat Guy on Whatever, Durant left Dean Singleton’s supple, life-sustaining teat to strike out on his own. What cushy gig lured him away? No, it wasn’t a lobbying position with NORML. The former Republican Duck Hunter had the audacity to start a monthly Humboldt County culture ’zine. That’s right. Chris is putting all of his eggs in the disintegrating basket marked “The printed word.”

I lament that even on my best day, I will never be funny like Andrew Goff.

  • And who was genius enough to value Heidi and hire Ryan and recruit Andrew? Hank Sims. Sure, I will never completely forgive him for turning me into one of those people who shows up at a newspaper’s office to freak out about a story that’s run. A few people I care about hold grudges against him, it’s true. And since I still write a couple columns for the Journal, I hesitate to praise him too much lest I seem like some sort of NCJ sycophant. (“Too late!” the haters cry.) And I don’t even agree with him a whole bunch of the time. But, still – in a day and age when the value of the printed word has, yes, Andrew, greatly disintegrated, Hank has not only managed to hold the Journal together as editor, but has reinvigorated it, improved it, catapulted it into a whole new world of relevancy that no one who pays attention to newspaper trends had any right to expect. He’s also a hell of a writer, evidenced by his routinely eviscerating Town Dandy column and even more so in his too-rare news stories.

I could go on about the excellent freelancers and many other fine features – and certainly many more people at the Journal deserve praise for putting the paper together. I know what a team effort is required. So, thank you to all the folks at the NCJ for managing to create, week after week, something worth reading.


4 thoughts on “I <3 the NCJ”

  1. Jen,

    I didn’t like the Hooked story. I couldn’t finish watching the video. But, I thought it had value in that it exposed me to a subculture and yes, a character within that subculture. I don’t understand Kat. I’m still grappling with my emotions and my thoughts about her choices. But,…Isn’t that an indication about how valuable this story is? It makes me think and gives voice to a subculture I would never otherwise hear. I don’t like what I hear but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be exposed to it. And for God’s sake, while I wouldn’t throw that story in front of my 8 year old, he’s heard worse stories on npr–child molestation, children dying in war while fathers watch–much uglier and more likely to touch his life. I don’t go out of my way to expose him but I talk about issues when they come up.

    This is a subculture that is growing. Self-harm is large among teenagers, for example. We need to grapple with it as a society not cover it up because it isn’t pretty.

  2. Kym – I appreciate your comment. Ultimately, I didn’t like the story for myriad reasons and remain unconvinced of its value; what I do value is your insight, so certainly I respect your opinion on this. My opinion is by no means definitive and I’m sure some of it boils down to “ick” and a desperate hope that my own children never feel the need to engage in such behavior. But that doesn’t mean endless other icky-to-me options aren’t available nor is out-of-sight equal to out-of-mind.

    My own kids have certainly been exposed to more disturbing images, both real and fictional, and I have mixed feelings about that, too. The kid factor is one huge complicated discussion. What’s appropriate and necessary for shared cultural space is another. So yes, one thing this story did successfully do is trigger interesting dialogue on all of the above.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  3. Jen,
    I think part of the reason I couldn’t finish watching the video was my surety that Kat’s father was going to see the little girl he cherished strung up on meathooks while a group of people salivated. I ached for him and for Kat.

    Being a parent sucks sometimes.

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