Inside Lookout: Election season plus new faces, puzzles, & tech

two podiums on a stage

All those lawn signs tell us something: June 7 is coming soon.

We may take our right to vote a little more seriously this year than in years past, given the many unrelenting threats to democracy in the U.S. and around the world.

At Lookout, we’re glad to be able to cover our first election.

You’ll soon see “Election 2022” running through our site and in our newsletters. Our newsroom team of 10 plans on offering the most comprehensive reporting on all the candidates and measures before us. In addition:

  • It all starts with basic voter information, and we’ll soon publish a primer on voting, registration, what’s on the ballot and more.
  • Then, our Election Calendar will debut, keeping all of us informed about every event involving a candidate or measure that we know about, day by day, with all the relevant actionable information. (Start sending such events to, with subject line “Election Calendar”.)
  • Our Community Voices opinion section debuts soon, at this perfect time. We’re soliciting thoughtful, useful candidate columns and stances on each measure. I wrote about Community Voices last month, and we are now putting the finishing touches on it: offering Santa Cruz County a vibrant, fact-based forum for tackling the many issues before us. As Community Voices Editor Jody K. Biehl launches the section, we’re providing strong election-related opinions, even as we begin to inject non-election commentary into the community on topics wide, far and personal.
  • Jody will also moderate a major candidate forum in early May; look for the announcement soon. Co-sponsored by the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council, the Santa Cruz Downtown Association and Santa Cruz Works, this forum will feature candidates for both the 3rd District County Board of Supervisors and the 28th California Assembly District. We appreciate the Paradox Hotel for hosting the event, which will also be available virtually. During early COVID days, just as Lookout launched, we were proud to be able to offer a series of well-attended Zoom forums. Now, with normal times returning, look for a growing number of Lookout events to come.

Friday: “Poisoned” series begins

We know we need to be careful using the terms pandemic and epidemic, after our recent experience. But, how do we describe the growing number of deaths in Santa Cruz County, all over California and across the country from fentanyl? Correspondent Max Chun first brought the news of recent deaths of young people to us in a news meeting; unexpectedly, several others said they knew of other young people who had recently succumbed to the incredibly powerful synthetic opioid, 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.

That discussion launched Mark Conley and Max on a months-long reporting trail. They’ve now assessed the mushrooming terror of this drug locally. Friday, our multi-part series, ”Poisoned,” begins — just as county leadership sounds the alarm with a virtual town hall on the topic Monday — and will roll out over the next several weeks. In subsequent stories, Lookout explores the faces of those touched by fentanyl and how the stigma surrounding addiction slows valuable solutions.

Open House!

Image of Lookout Santa Cruz team

We hope members and partners will join us for our Open House next Thursday, April 28, from 5-7 p.m at our offices. Meet the 13 of us, editorial and business, that bring you Lookout – and each other. It’s for all current members and partners – so sign up for membership today or reach out about advertising, and join us. Refreshments, good conversation, and even a little Wallace Baine Trivia contest. It’s free, of course, and you can sign up here.

Our Student Initiatives

It’s spring, and if you’ve been on campus at either UCSC or Cabrillo, you may have seen Lookouters talking with students, tabling and getting sign-ups for the new Student Lookout newsletter. (And if you are a student or know one who hasn’t signed up for it, you can do it here.) This school year, Jamie Keil, our director of student engagement and membership, has centered our efforts at both colleges. In anticipation, though, of extending our student initiatives to all high school students in the county, Jamie has worked closely with Diamond Tech Charter High School in Watsonville. Just recently, she and Giovanni Moujaes, our director of audience development, spent time with students and teachers at the school. Our Kevin Painchaud captured a bit of the day on video, which you can view here. It’s just a taste of how we are working with local educators on making local news a key part of the curriculum.For more information, check out our student access page, or contact Jamie.

New Faces

Photo of Riley and Nik

In a year and a half, we’ve made time, and space, to work with eight interns. All are UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo students, exploring journalism, digital media and the business of paying for it. This spring, we’ve got four in-house interns at our Lower Pacific Avenue office, as two new ones have just joined us.

Riley Engel

A UCSC double major in Business Economics Management and Film and Digital Media, Riley (she/her) is set to graduate in spring 2022. She works closely with Ashley Holmes, our Sales and Marketing Director. Learning the business of marketing and advertising, Riley has been in touch with local businesses, sharing about Lookout and ways to partner. Welcome to the team!

Nik Altenberg

Nik (she/her) is a newsroom intern and student of Latin American and Latino Studies at UCSC. She is a human rights investigator with UCSC’s Research Center for the Americas and is pursuing a career in investigative reporting. As a Cabrillo College student, Nik interned at KSQD, operating the board and producing short-form audio pieces. Born and raised in Santa Cruz, she brings the distinct perspective of a local who has lived abroad in London and has a deep connection to the issues of her hometown. We’re glad to have her aboard.

Job Bundles!

Among Ashley’s many responsibilities is our new Job Board. She created and launched it last month, into the timely, if unprecedented, hiring environment of these times. The listings are featured prominently in our newsletters and throughout our site. Now she’s added a new innovation that employers already have gravitated to: Job Bundles. They’re now available in packages of four or eight and meant for companies with continuing openings or ones that are growing quickly. “They are flexible, with employers able to use the listings at any time within the next year and take advantage of a 25% discount,” is her pitch. If you are hiring, contact her at


We love all our devices, and digital delivery is a key part of how we can build a large local news company quickly and get the news to you. But…..we all are seeing the challenges of the digital life. As I noted in an email a couple of days ago, an invisible-to-you “tech stack” makes it possible for our team to focus on local news and outsource the tech. That’s largely gone very well. And yet an exception has been our access system. That system is supposed to make it easy for all of you to access our site, and for members to read everything on it. That system has frustrated some of you, and consequently us. The good news: We are well on the way to fixing it. Those “magic links’ that annoy many of you will be gone, and access will be easier. Thanks for your patience; expect your experience to improve markedly by late spring as we transition the software. Thank you for hanging in there with us!


Many of us are starting to make a daily habit of our new Puzzle Center. Tell us what you like best of the mini-crosswords, Word Searches and Sudokus – and our bespoke Santa Cruz Puzzles. Write us at

Lookout in National View

I’ve had conversations with many of you about Lookout’s place in the grand effort to rebuild local news around the country. For those of you who want to know more about our building process, our challenges and how much we appreciate this community’s support of a tough COVID-timed launch, check out my recent column for Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab:“Eighteen months after launching a local news company (in an Alden market), here’s what I’ve learned.”