Beach at the lighthouse
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Inside Lookout: Ambitious school engagement, introducing new Lookouters and housing hub

In this month’s newsletter from CEO and Founder Ken Doctor, get a preview of Lookout’s ambitious student access initiative, our new hub for housing coverage and a welcoming of new Lookouters.

Like you, we’ve had a hell of a year at Lookout Santa Cruz. It’s been an amazing Boardwalk Giant Dipper of a ride. We knew that digital news start-up life would be eventful and uneven, but we, of course, had no way of factoring in the curveball of COVID-19. Now (can we say it, can we believe it?) life is returning more and more to normal, and we want to get into a more normal rhythm of talking with you -- Lookout’s best readers.

This is the first of our new monthly newsletter, Looking Forward. In it, we’ll share a preview of what’s coming, introduce you to new Lookouters, as well as new features and series, peek behind the scenes and let you know about community get-togethers.

Astoundingly more than 100,000 people visit Lookout Santa Cruz each month. To everyone who has found us, read our daily newsletters and are sharing the word. I, in two words: Thank You. If you want to support this work and are not one of our 1,000+ members – consider signing up today. For a limited time we’re offering TWO CineLux Theater tickets with each new membership. Click here for more details.

Now, as we do increasingly round the clock, let’s get to the news of the day in and around Lookout.

We believe that modern local news services need to reach everyone in the community. That’s why today, we announce our countywide Student Engagement initiative. Thanks to generous donors, we’ve made full Lookout access freely available to all current UCSC and Cabrillo College students. That’s right: 30,000 local college students can now sign up for free Lookout membership and get complete access -- just like our individual paying members.

Older readers may call it “civics” — preparation for becoming an active citizen in a democracy. Today, most call it “media literacy.” As digital platforms of every kind rightfully get questioned for the outsized news role they play in our society, we believe that local students can make good use of fact-based, trustworthy, locally directed, mission-driven stories.

So starting this week, any current UCSC Students can sign up here using their .edu email address and any current Cabrillo students can sign up here and enter group code ‘seahawks.’ Learn more about the program here.

Announcing the ambitious program is one thing. Deploying our secret weapon to advance it is another. Please meet Jamie Keil. Many in Santa Cruz know Jamie for her impressive six-year run leading community engagement and events at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. We are so happy that she can build on that experience with us.

Jamie Keil headshot
Jamie Keil, Director of Student Engagement & Membership
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Lookout hired Jamie more than a month ago as director of student engagement & membership, and she has already made many connections on both campuses. Jamie leads our connections with student groups, faculty and staff at both campuses, and if you are on campus and want to get your class, group or self connected, please contact her at – she’ll make membership access easy.

Like much of the Lookout mission and model, we’ve borrowed the student engagement program model from our friends at the New York Times’, the globe’s leading example of digital news transformation. Like the Times, we charge for full access to Lookout; that’s how we’re able to pay good and fair salaries and benefits to our newsroom that will soon number 11 — the largest (and best) in Santa Cruz County. And like the Times, we believe the next generations must be offered news beyond what TikTok and Facebook can offer up.

We thank our own donors, an impressive group that recognizes both the short- and long-term value of this initiative. They include:

  • Rowland & Pat Rebele
  • Linda Peterson
  • Carol & Doug Melamed
  • The UCSC Foundation Board Opportunity Fund
  • Santa Cruz Community Credit Union
  • Turnip Top Foundation

We thank them all and want to particularly point out the generosity of the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union (SCCCU). The credit union is a valued marketing partner of Lookout’s, and in our conversations, we told the credit union’s Katie Fairbairn about our next big student push: Making Lookout student access free to all of the county’s 12,000 high school students. Within two weeks, the credit union has supported free access for the Diamond Tech Institute, one of Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s charter high schools. It’s part of SCCCU CEO Beth Carr’s strong support for Diamond Tech over time.

That’s our next frontier: completing access for PVUSD students, for which we are more than half funded, and then offering to all the high school students studying within the county’s nine other districts and private schools.

More about our fast-growing student programs is on our new Student Engagement page. Please point students to it, and share it widely. And, of course, we welcome all support, financial and otherwise. Send your ideas on the program, direct to Jamie and/or me.

Over the summer we burst our COVID-time seams. We moved from our fourth floor Abbott Square aerie, a great, if too small, office to the heart of what will be lower Pacific redevelopment.

Yes, we are in the eye of the storm that our new affordability correspondent Grace Stetson has so well reported on, a six-block area that will see the wrecking ball over the next two years. We’re located right next to Metro, one of our Marketing Partners (have you seen our BOLO bus ads?). It’s a spacious headquarters, now coolly painted in Lookout tangerine and teal, and adorned with not one, but two, Lookout logos, meticulously drawn by Laurel Bushman, our first Lookout intern.

Lookout's new office space in Downtown Santa Cruz.

Even as Laurel has graduated her internship, she remains a Lookout contributor in her speciality of visual arts. And, we’re proud to say that our growing internship program is working as planned: offering students first opportunities to be part of our new model of local, thriving journalism.

(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Interns Haneen Zain, former co-editor of UCSC’s City on the Hill Press, and Westside native Max Chun have already built on early internships — they were instrumental in birthing our BOLO entertainment guide — to now write stories for you.

Christian Abraham
Christian Abraham, Lookout’s C&C Intern
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

And we can welcome our newest intern, Christian Abraham, a UCSC senior. Christian joins our Community and Commerce team.

At Lookout, we have a worldly crew.

This month, we bid goodbye to Hanna Merzbach, who served as Lookout’s first reporting fellow. Hanna jumped right into our new newsroom and has contributed good reporting on a wide range of issues. She’s headed now for Hokkaido, Japan, where she’s off on a new adventure teaching English.

Speaking of adventures, Alex Sibille, who has led our community partnership work for the last year, is off on one as well. She’s headed to Hungary for an extended look at that part of the world. We wish them both well.

Lily Belli, Food & Drink Correspondent

In the past two weeks, you’ve noticed more new bylines.

Lily Belli, a young and well-respected veteran of our one-of-a-kind Santa Cruz food landscape, joins us to cover all things food. Her newsy Eaters Digest is a must-read, as we reopen, and she is finding the people, events and issues in and around food that we want to know about.

Hillary Ojeda, Education Correspondent
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

And just one week ago, Hillary Ojeda joined as our education correspondent. As our education correspondent she’ll cover the ever challenging beats of K-12 education and both UCSC and Cabrillo. Like Grace, Haneen, Max and Lily, Hilary is a native Californian. (Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce head Casey Beyer also tells me: “Hire local,” and we are doing the best we can.) She joins us after three years of excellent education reporting in Iowa and after working as a news editor for Peru’s largest English-speaking website, Peru this Week.

Look for more additions soon.

Is there any issue more universal than affordability in our fair county?

Housing affordability, and all the related equity issues it raises, touch both on daily lives and much of our politics and government decision-making.

Screenshot of Places section
Lookout’s new housing and affordability section – Places

Lookout has committed itself to covering affordability in all its many forms, and now that coverage has a single home, though, of course, you’ll find related stories through many sections of Lookout. Check out Places here, a place that Grace Stetson’s timely work anchors well. Look for more on Places’ expansion next month.

Check out our continuing coverage here.

Has anyone felt the pain of affordability more than the hundreds of Santa Cruzans who lost their homes in the CZU Fires a year ago? We’re proud of how our newsroom team has stayed on this issue, in its impact and legislative detail. Find our complete CZU coverage here.

News and Notes:

We’re thrilled that the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County one of area’s most impactful non-profits – has joined us as a Civic Partner. New members can now designate the Volunteer Center to receive Lookout’s 10% giveback when they join up.

The Sempervirens Fund, Cosmic Design, Santa Cruz Symphony, and David Lyng Real Estate Agent, Greg Lukina have all joined us as Marketing Partners this month, bringing the total of Partners to 27. Our Marketing Partners are, like Lookout, relentlessly local. They tell us Lookout is very effective to get their messaging and marketing directly to you – carefully differentiated from our news. Their support helps us keep expanding Lookout. Ashley Holmes, our director of sales and marketing, leads our program. Ping her for more info on Marketing Partnerships and Places advertising.

Lookout in the News:

As many of you know, Lookout is part of a national movement to replace the struggling local print press. The decline of the Sentinel in Santa Cruz unfortunately parallels that of most local dailies throughout the U.S. In “How Creative Ownership Structures Can Help Local News Publishers Stay Local,” journalist Mark Glaser puts our work in Santa Cruz in a national context.

And then there’s this new epic piece on Alden Global Capital, the owner of the Sentinel, and the damage it has caused to local journalism across the country. “It’s the meanness and the elegance of the capitalist marketplace brought to newspapers,” I’m quoted as saying by writer McKay Coppins. In a nutshell, the piece is an elegant description of loss, though it focuses solely on The Problem. At Lookout, we’re looking forward and aim to be part of The Solution.