Inside Lookout: Opinion!, trivializing Wallace, local puzzles – and Lookout’s growth

Trivia Night intro Ken Doctor newsletter

What do you think? What’s your opinion?

Being able to freely answer that question is a gift – a gift that we all enjoy by accident of our birth. It’s a gift that we see increasingly under threat around the world as autocratic leaders on every continent threaten, jail, and kill people for expressing their opinion, their democratic opinion.

Opinion is the lifeblood of a free people.

That’s one of the reasons we’re so pleased with our launch of our Community Voices opinion section in late April. Out of the gate, we balanced two priorities: Giving fair, balanced and helpful voice to voters on the candidates and measures of the June 7 primary and going beyond those immediate issues to begin giving and sharing voice with those concerned about disability access, abortion rights and racial profiling, gun rights, sustainable gardening, community growth and design, libraries and more. We’ve featured pieces that talk about how Santa Cruz is changing and who is being left out. And, we’ve worked to bring you thoughts on how to cope with the stress and huge burdens we now carry – post-COVID-19, post Measure D, post Roe.

Keep reading and watching. We will soon do more. This is the space where we want interaction from you. We want to know what you are thinking and to elicit and expand the conversations you are having.

Amazingly, opinion sections are the next thing to go in daily newspapers across the country. “The biggest chain wants less opinion in its pages,” wrote the Washington Post this month of the Gannett newspaper chain – which now, unbelievably, owns 25% of newspaper audience in the country. Why? The public reason cited: Civic argument isn’t good for keeping subscribers.

The even more bottom-line reason not cited: If you don’t run opinion columns or letters to the editor, you save newsprint, which is up as much as 30% in price this year. And yes, it’s still the print tail that is wagging daily newspaper companies. Alden Global Capital, owner of the Sentinel and most of the Bay Area press, just made moves to print its Chicago Tribune in Milwaukee, meaning even earlier deadlines and later paper delivery. Why would what has long been Chicago’s flagship paper be printed 90 miles away? The Tribune’s longtime printing facility is becoming a Bally’s Casino, perhaps the perfect metaphor as once-proud newspapering turns into a game of bottom-feeder poker.

At Lookout, Community Voices editor Jody K. Biehl has brought in new and diverse points of view, as well as tried-and-true ones, across the country and political spectrum. We don’t need newsprint to run those or the increasing flow of letters to the editor. We believe pointed, curious, passionate opinion is a fuel to help Santa Cruz County become a better place. Given what’s going on in the world and here at home, this isn’t a time to shy away from smart dialogue. This is no time for any of us, or good local media, to stay on the sidelines.

This week, you’re seeing two new Community Voices features. Thursday, we launched our “Why I Live Here” series, with a piece by Claudia Sternbach. Sunday, you’ll see the first “Conversations with Jody,” in which Jody interviews people you will want to know more about.

the logo for Lookout's Community Voices opinion section

Into July bravely

Only a fool would predict what the second half of 2022 may hold for us.

The first half of the year produced so many surprises, too many of them unpleasant. We’re lucky as journalists to be witnesses and interpreters of the news, and the good news for us and you is that Lookout’s growing coverage is making a difference in Santa Cruz County.

Let me share with you that May generated the largest local audience we’ve seen in our 19 months of publishing – only to be topped by June. Each month, Lookout’s total audience, including our site, newsletters and social reach, now generates more than a half million views.

And, as I may have said: We’re just getting started.

We’ve got a lot planned for you as July fast approaches. First up, in a couple of weeks: We’ll be changing over to our new sign-in system, making your experience of reading Lookout easier. Expect word soon from Jamie Keil, our membership and student engagement director, on how that will work.

In the meantime, if you haven’t yet done so, join us as a member. You’ll be supporting the county’s largest (10-person) newsroom and helping fund the news you tell us you want to see.

The Catalyst nightclub, first opened in 1966, has been in three locations on or near Pacific Avenue. What business was in its current location before it became the present-day Catalyst?

Do you know the answer to that one? If so – or not – get ready for our new monthly Wallace Baine Trivia Nights. We’ve got them planned through the summer, the first on July 26 at Abbott Square. Among his other talents, Wallace is a master trivialist, and skews – as does everything we do – local. Register today and get more event details here.

I got a glimpse of Wallace’s early days covering nightly concerts, which he did for years at the Sentinel. Last week, after the COVID-driven music disruption we all experienced, that means three concerts in three nights. Tommy Prine, son of the legendary and dearly departed John Prine at Michael’s on Main. Lyle Lovett, and his Very Large Band, at Mountain Winery. And, for the finale at the Civic, Bob Dylan, who somehow picked the only building older than him to play in, in Santa Cruz; the Civic opened in 1940, the year before his birth.

If you missed Wallace’s take on Dylan, don’t. It’s a classic, and is still swirling around the web. And the short ICYMI on Wallace’s wider-ranging work lately:

And sneak peek: Look for his piece Sunday on the legendary Esalen.

Those are pieces you shouldn’t miss. But make sure you are checking in with Wallace every week. His new Weekender, with the fun B9 planner of the week, and Down the Line for months-ahead planner, comes to your inbox each Thursday. Look for it in your inbox if you don’t regularly read, and check those silly spam folders. Or, if you aren’t signed up for it, and our other newsletters, do that here.

Last, two more resources for your summer enjoyment: BOLO, our always-on searchable, browsable most-complete-guide-in-the-county to arts and entertainment and our growing Guides page to help you navigate the fun.

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How puzzling is Santa Cruz County?

We launched our puzzles section a few months ago, and now we are making it even more local. Coming in mid-July: local puzzles. You’ll find the crosswords, word searches and Sudokus – and puzzles specifically giving you local clues and answers.

Among our chief puzzlemakers is one of our new interns, Maren Detlefs. Maren, born and raised in Santa Cruz, recently joined us as a Community and Commerce intern working with Ashley Holmes, our director of sales and marketing. She’s focused on increasing Lookout’s outreach and engagement, building community relationships, and customizing our Santa Cruz Puzzle Center. She’s a student at Santa Cruz High School, graduating in 2023, and has just returned from a novel writing intensive program at Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy. She’s also working on the second draft of a novel.

The budding puzzlemaker says the work ties together her interests. “I hope to study linguistics or creative writing in college, so creating Santa Cruz-themed word searches and crossword puzzles for Lookout is a fun way to stretch my creativity with words, while exploring aspects of my hometown.”

We’re fairly set on internships for the summer, but fall awaits, info here.

And we’re hiring. We’ve written about our expanding student engagement initiatives at UCSC, Cabrillo and area high schools. Now, we’re hiring an Education & Events manager. Please share this new, great job.


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