Lookout Update: Christopher Neely’s new newsletter, scholarships, interns & River Health Day

award photo
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

If you missed it, catch up with Roy Wood Jr.’s comedy set at last week’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, though second banana Joe Biden’s routine is worth a listen as well. Wood, most known as a “Daily Show” comic with a keen sense of the politics of the day, related his journalist father’s story of covering the news and iterating a Black press in the 1960s. And then he decried what is happening to journalism across the U.S.: “Most of the great stories in this country were first local stories. If we can’t find a way to pay local reporters, then we’re only left with more blind spots to find out where the bull is happening. You hear of all these newsrooms being cut,” he told the assembled crowd, quite seriously. “Now how do we fix this? I don’t know. I’m just a comedian,” he finished, trailing off.

That’s a too-familiar story across the U.S. — and the Western democracies. Just last week, I spoke to a Zoom gathering of the major Latin American publishers and editors, assembled for the Inter American Press Association. Their story is as bleak as we find across North America: More than 30% of communities in Brazil and of Colombia no longer have any substantial local news source.

This is the world into which we together — Lookout’s team of 15 and all of our members — launched. And it is in this one community that we have reversed that national and global trend, not less and less news, but more and more news, as we continue to expand our offerings through the year. Thank you for making us, and you, a national example — where your membership and advertising dollars pay our journalists to continue their community news reporting.

Just two months ago, we delivered our sixth newsletter to your inboxes (and if you’re not sure you are signed up for all the content you want, click here to log in and update your newsletter preferences). Christopher Neely’s In the Public Interest has already generated lots of fan mail. Before Lookout, Christopher covered city halls and county government from Austin to Monterey. Today, he brings that practiced eye to the gnarly issues of Santa Cruz County: housing, homelessness, CARE Court and uncovering private meetings that were supposed to be public meetings. The In the Public Interest title says it all: “The newsletter’s highest aim is to help the average person understand how their community works and develop informed, independent thought about the world most immediately around them,” he wrote in his first newsletter. “I now wait for it each Monday morning,” one well-practiced local politico told me last week. Join him if you haven’t.

Christopher and his colleagues Hillary Ojeda, Max Chun and Wallace Baine have also joined together to propel our Changing Santa Cruz series forward. Just last week, Wallace’s piece, “For 2024, downtown Santa Cruz’s changes will be nothing less than transformational,” won wide readership as he detailed the once-in-a-generation changes to much of downtown. The affordability crisis has spawned a housing building boom never before seen. How much of a boom? As Christopher explained last week: Four times more housing will be built in Santa Cruz County over the next eight years as was built in the past eight. Our whole team is staying on this story — in all its many dimensions — through the year.

Want to hear from elected officials on their housing plans directly?

Join our moderated discussion with elected leaders via Zoom on Thursday, May 18, as part of Housing Santa Cruz County’s Affordable Housing Month programming.

We’ll hear from Watsonville Mayor Eduardo Montesino, Santa Cruz Mayor Fred Keeley, Scotts Valley Mayor Jack Dilles, Capitola Mayor Margaux Keiser and County Board of Supervisors Vice-chair Justin Cummings. Then Chris will lead a moderated discussion around this “housing squeeze” and how our elected leaders are responding. Register here to join us on Zoom at 7 p.m.

Student Journalism Scholarship: Spread the word; deadline fast approaching

The deadline is approaching for Lookout’s first-ever Santa Cruz Journalism Scholarship. This scholarship opportunity allows high school and college students to explore their writing and journalism skills, while also highlighting a local unsung hero who is making positive contributions to our community. That’s right, the same kind of Unsung Heroes we’ve profiled during the holidays the past two years

We’ll publish the top 10 stories on Lookout — and the top two high school students and one college student each will win a $500 scholarship for any educational/career use.

The deadline is May 12, so please share this with any students or teachers you think might be interested and reach out to jamie@lookoutlocal.com if you have any questions.

Coastal Watershed Council x Lookout event

River Health Day banner

I bet your calendar is filling up as community events seem to be scheduled now for every day of the week as the weather warms (except this week) and pandemic restrictions have slipped away. Jamie Garfield, our director of student and community engagement, is the master behind Lookout events, those she organizes directly and those we support as media partners.

Those events include a full roster of warm weather members-only events — first-come, first-served. Here’s the next one:

Volunteer and support the San Lorenzo River ecosystem with Lookout Santa Cruz. Join Coastal Watershed Council river ecologist Kaiya Giuliano-Monroy and Lookout staffers on Saturday, May 13, to learn more about the San Lorenzo River and get your hands dirty maintaining the native ecosystem along the riverbanks.

We invite Lookout members to meet the Lookout staff at Cat & Cloud at downtown Santa Cruz’s Abbott Square at 9:15 a.m. for a complimentary coffee and a walk along the riverwalk with Wallace Baine. We’ll discuss the upcoming changes and construction projects coming downtown as we make our way to the restoration site.

RSVP with this link, limited to 25 people.

Thanking the awarders

Lookout staff award acceptance

Thanks to United Way of Santa Cruz County and its powerhouse leader, Keisha Browder, for giving Lookout the “Movers and Shakers” award at last Friday’s United 4 Youth event. It was a boisterous evening at the Hotel Paradox as involved youth and their supporters celebrated a year of great work. We’re proud to have United Way as one of Lookout’s Civic Partners. That award followed on the heels of our Small Business of the Year Award from the Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce. Just two weeks ago, we got to celebrate that one with more than 300 community leaders at the Cocoanut Grove.

And then this past week, we got news that Hillary Ojeda has won a 2022 John Swett Award for Media Excellence from the California Teachers Association, for her continuous coverage of educational news. Hillary covers the wide expanse of education in the county from South County to North County, including public schools, Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz. We’re thrilled that the excellent work of the only full-time education reporter in Santa Cruz is receiving statewide recognition.

Meet the interns

Our student engagement program has brought in more than 5,000 students to Lookout’s pages as UC Santa Cruz, Cabrillo College and Santa Cruz County high schools tap into their free memberships. That, plus our journalism scholarship and free educator resources, have been integral to the role we want to have in our community. We’re also fortunate to be able to welcome student interns every school year/quarter who help push our work forward.

Gabe Castilla, Ameen Taheri and Dylan Reisig join our business team this spring as Community & Commerce interns. Seniors and part of the UCSC Economics Field Study Program, they have their hands in many projects, including graphic design, marketing, student engagement, data organization and audience analytics.

A freshman at UCSC, Arianna Fabian joins us this spring as our first Education intern. She is working on our high school engagement program, spreading the word about our various high school offerings. That involves updating our educator resources, including the creation of news quizzes that test reading comprehension.

Franny Trinidad also continues as our social media intern. You have probably seen her work as she helps develop our Instagram Reels.

You’ve seen the work of newsroom intern Kaya Henkes-Power every week with her informational How I Got My Job series, and students see her work within Student Lookout, the weekly newsletter. Wrapping up her final year majoring in English at Cabrillo College, Kaya plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in journalism after graduating this spring.

Last but not least, Jean Yi joined our newsroom last week for a spring internship through Stanford University’s Rowland and Pat Rebele Journalism Internship Program. Jean graduated from Stanford in March with a bachelor’s degree in human biology and also completed courses in journalism. She is contributing general assignment reporting, along with data journalism and graphics during her two-month placement.

I wish for a cheerful spring ahead of you. As the weather warms and we all begin to gather more often, be sure to check back on our public calendar, BOLO, for all your entertainment planning. Regularly updated by you, our readers and our staff, the calendar is full and ever-evolving.

Thank you for your readership,

Ken Doctor, CEO & Founder
Lookout Local | Lookout Santa Cruz


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