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Inside Lookout: Celebrating our first birthday and moving boldly into 2022

Just a year ago, we were working around the clock to one end: Launch Lookout Santa Cruz. After a year of planning and another of building the site and company, we were ready to push the button and go live. One last glitch, befitting both our digital-native birth and the outsized powers of the new world order. Facebook questioned our very identity and wouldn’t allow any Facebook users to share Santa Cruz’s new local news company with their friends. That could have been a big problem for an unknown, brand new news site. We delayed. We petitioned. We emailed and Slacked. Finally, five hours later, we became real.

That was then, the deep Covid late fall of 2020.

Now, one year later, we have little time to recall those birth pangs, the utter unbelievability of launching a new Santa Cruz news company in that chaotic time.

Let me give you a sense of how we approach our first birthday. We’ll blow out a few candles, but far fewer than the number of original stories we’ve published in our first year: more than 1,400 and counting. Many of them covered local topics, issues and people you could not have read about anywhere else. Many showed faces that usually aren’t seen in the press; many raised voices that otherwise would have been unheard.

First, we’re throwing an Open House. It’s Tuesday, Dec. 7 and open to all Lookout members and partners. We had hoped to invite you to our new office, painted in Lookout colors, but new COVID-19 concerns won’t allow that — yet. We all look forward, though, to meeting members and partners at the MAH’s Secret Garden, that evening. Click here to come celebrate with us and meet your fellow Lookouters.

At our upcoming event, and with an increasing number of Lookout Listens sessions now in the planning, we look forward to talking with you, our loyal readers. Just as all local news companies should do, all the time. If you’re not yet a member, just sign up here.

Many of you have asked us what you can do to support Lookout and share the word of our work with those who haven’t yet found us. If you aren’t a member, of course, become one. And for those of you who are, please consider making a gift of Lookout this holiday season. Just click here. It’s a twofer: A real nice present for someone and an investment in Santa Cruz’s betterment through trusted community news and analysis.

Please also let your friends, associates and neighbors know they can get our free newsletters and text alerts by sending them this link.

Approaching this year-end, which is unlike any one in memory, we’ll soon launch our “Looking Back, Looking Forward” year-end series. We’ll look at the highs and lows, the big stories, topics and themes of this extraordinary year that is almost gone. We’ll revisit some of the “21 for ‘21” people we profiled a year ago, to see how 2021 has played out for them.

Marking this unprecedented year, we’ll highlight “Unsung Santa Cruz”, the little-known people who stared down some of the worst crises we’ve seen and helped pull the rest of us through. People in the hospitals, nursing homes, schools, grocery stories, government and more. Nominations have been pouring in this week, and you’ve still got time to submit yours to news@lookoutlocal.com. Just tell us briefly who you are nominating and why.

Unsung Santa Cruz

What’s To Come

We’ve got lots in planning for 2022. A sneak peek or two:

  • You’ve told us how much you like Lily Belli’s food coverage. It satisfies a long-time Santa Cruz craving, and has arrived at a perfect time as food resumes its more normal, farm-to-our-tables rhythm — a prized component of county culture. I’d read Lily’s work for much of the last decade at Good Times, and we are so happy she’s become a Lookouter. Soon, we’ll launch her weekly newsletter, to join her weekly Eater’s Digest must-read columns.
  • Places is our new home for all things housing, affordability and real estate, with correspondent Grace Stetson heading up that coverage. Soon, we’ll offer a new set of area guides. Everyone here knows how much Ben Lomond differs from Seabright and the Westside from Watsonville. What makes each of our places distinctive?
  • In the year ahead, we’ll focus both on the new Santa Cruz — one of the fast-emerging questions is “What Is The Next Santa Cruz?” — and old Santa Cruz, some of the cultural landmarks that may be slipping away. Wallace Baine, of course, is skilled at seeing both, and his columns increasingly explore those questions. If you missed it, check out his recent column, “The Nickelodeon is a local treasure trapped in limbo”. Binging on “Squid Game,” “White Lotus” or the “Great British Baking Show” can be fun, but only-in-Santa-Cruz hometown movie theaters offer unique pleasures.

Our Growing Roster of Partners

We’re thrilled to announce that United Way has joined us as a Civic Partner. Civic Partners include top non-profits in the community, and they become part of our 10% Civic Giveback program. Each new member can pick one of those Civic Partners — they include Community Foundation, Digital Nest, Second Harvest, and also recently, Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County — and Lookout provides 10% of your payment to the one of your choice.

To celebrate our newest civic partnerships, this holiday season, we are upping our own giving if you choose either of our new partners. When you choose United Way or Volunteer Center in purchasing your membership, we will do 15% giveback, though this is only for a limited time.

Lookout is all about civic betterment. So this holiday season, in addition to our Civic Partner giveback, we’re also shining a new light on other nonprofits doing exceptional work in our community and letting them share their story of impact and visions of the future. Launching next week, stay tuned for updates from these seven local nonprofits:

  • Community Bridges
  • Santa Cruz Mountain Trails Stewardship
  • The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
  • The Bird School Project
  • Senderos
  • Habitat for Humanity Monterey Bay
  • Housing Matters

Many have matching campaigns they’re eager to share with you, so please stay tuned for this new local feature.

The Bigger Picture

Many of you understand the increasingly fragile nature of local news across America. It’s an old story -— more than a decade in the making — and it is getting worse. PBS’ NewsHour recently ran a seven-minute segment on the Sentinel’s owner, Alden Global Capital. Just yesterday, Alden announced its intent to take over yet another newspaper chain. That move in and of itself would threaten 200 more newsrooms across the country. Alden’s appetite for buying — and mercilessly cutting — apparently knows no bounds. The national accounts of Alden’s local press devastation — “A Secretive Hedge Fund Is Gutting Newsrooms” — though haven’t slowed down its buying pace. Unfortunately, the national coverage focused on The Problem, not real-world solutions.

Lookout Santa Cruz is part of that solution, and we’ve got company. Just a month ago, several of us ventured to Denver (first business trip since 2019) to meet with other mission-dedicated digital news startups. Check them out: The Daily Memphian. Colorado Sun. Long Beach Post. You’ll see lots of local news done by fairly paid local journalists — and the determination to make these self-sustaining within a year or two.You’ll see lots of local news done by fairly paid local journalists — and the determination to make these self-sustaining within a year or two.We are all on track, with others in the offing.

Communities must have strong, fair local news institutions as we navigate the ‘20s together; your support is making Lookout that force for good here.

Know that Lookout — and your support of it — is highly meaningful as we approach uncertain winds ahead. As we enter 2022, we’ll talk more about the challenges and emerging triumphs of local news revival, and your place in that quest. We believe that a Santa Cruz model will help lead the way.

Ken Doctor
CEO & Founder

In this month’s newsletter from CEO and Founder Ken Doctor, get a preview of Lookout’s ambitious student access...