If you visit Humboldt County newspaper racks (and, since you're reading this, I assume you do) with any regularity, you've almost certainly picked up a copy of the Emerald Magazine — the glossy, colorful lifestyle monthly that popped up in Arcata couple years ago. If you've gotten used to the breezy business features it contains, brace for change.
The Emerald has been boostery from the beginning, highlighting wineries, inns and other Northern California companies in the colorful pages of its issues. But the magazine has always felt a bit like it lacked an identity. With themed editions ranging from "fathers" to "desserts," the magazine apparently found a niche satisfying a common complaint that anyone in the newspaper business has gotten used to: "Why don't you ever write about good news?"
Editor and founder Christina DeGiovanni sought to do just that, at least for the well-off NorCal set. The magazine's goal has been to promote "local opportunities for attending exciting events, embarking on luxurious getaways, experiencing fine dining and keeping up with the latest local trends in upscale living," according to an "about" page on the website.
Elsewhere, in a Craigslist help wanted ad, DeGiovanni characterized the magazine another way. "The Emerald aims to be the premier boutique women's magazine for the North Coast. We have a strong leadership connection to women in Humboldt County."
One thing that DeGiovanni has explicitly not featured: the Emerald Triangle's most notable product — weed.
DeGiovanni launched the Emerald after legal troubles. She was arrested at her boyfriend's Arcata home in 2012 on suspicion of possessing marijuana and firearms. Eventually, her charges were dropped, but, as she writes in the introduction to this month's issue, "Perhaps in reaction to my personal trials relating to my proximity to the industry, when I launched The Emerald, I wanted it to chronicle a Humboldt County that was much more than the marijuana Mecca it's almost always portrayed as."
She was adamant about ignoring pot, despite the magazine's focus on lifestyles for people with disposable income, its marijuana industry ads and its namesake.
Well, that's all changing now. In a 180-degree turn, DeGiovanni completely rebranded the Emerald, launching the May edition with a new focus:
"The Emerald Magazine is Northern California's cannabis culture review guide for business, medical and lifestyle trends. ... The Emerald highlights change in the industry by bridging the gap between the cannabis community and the media. The magazine intends to educate and enlighten the public on social, medical and on-going advancements, and works to establish a public tolerance and awareness as we move towards the age of legalization."
Talking in her small office off the Arcata Plaza recently, DeGiovanni says she is tired of "ignoring the elephant in the room."
She still looks to Sunset Magazine for inspiration, pointing to a stack of the West Coast magazines on her desk.
"I wanted to maintain that lifestyle feel and cross over into cannabis," DeGiovanni says. "I want to be the Martha Stewart of marijuana."
She called magazines like High Times "grungy," saying she wasn't going to switch over to a magazine "dripping with hash." The inaugural cannabis issue's cover features, instead, a stock photo of a bowl of sticky bud and an enormous joint on a soft linen table cloth next to a bouquet of lavender.
Readers found a light-on-details story about a "bud and breakfast" opening in Humboldt County (maybe), DIY instructions on making marijuana-infused vaginal lube and cocktails, reviews of strains and soils, and other pot-related articles, as well as features on Arcata artist Laurel Skye and Dell'Arte.
DeGiovanni says the impetus to change the magazine came after her mother's lung cancer surgery at the end of last year. After spending several months helping her recover, "I lost momentum," DeGiovanni says. "When I came back in January, I just wanted something fresh and something new."
DeGiovanni discovered weed when she moved to Arcata to attend Humboldt State University. She says it helped reduce pain from an old gymnastics injury but she hasn't been able to convince her mother that using marijuana might help the symptoms of her cancer treatment. "She's too scared."
In an almost uncomfortably personal letter from the editor introducing the magazine's change in direction, DeGiovanni rehashes her arrest and the trauma she says she experienced from it, and suggests that the magazine was a form of therapy. She invites readers to share their own stories of arrest for a feature called "My Bust." So far, she says two people have told her about being raided, but that they didn't want their stories published. But she says her website's views have shot up since the rebranding.
"I think this is going to be better for enhancing the magazine, and my career as well."