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Winning Your Attention



Have we ever looked more critically at the news? You can't throw a crumpled up newspaper without hitting a think piece on journalism as an instrument of propaganda or the last defense of the republic. Or both.

Everybody and their cousin has an opinion on the impact of fake news, bias and click bait — about what news organizations should cover and how. We duke it out in the comment sections and about the comment sections. We lament shrinking newsrooms and cheer investigative reporting — sometimes in the same breath, as with the East Bay Times, which won a Pulitzer and laid off 20 newsroom staff members only days later.

These are conversations we have in our newsroom, too. Among the factors we weigh in editorial meetings is the feedback from readers who tell us week after week, by visiting our site and picking up the paper — not to mention in comments, on social media and in letters — what they want to know about. Turns out many of you are willing to go past fluff and crime porn, and dive into complex issues — even those long reads everyone said people don't have the attention span for anymore. We're a free paper and advertisers don't hand us money simply because they like our stories or believe in the importance of a free press and an informed public in the service of democracy. They are buying the attention of our readership.

Real talk: We sometimes worry about issue fatigue as we grind out another 4,000 words on homelessness (see this week's cover story) or our legal system or the heinous conditions in which our elderly live or, yes, the cannabis industry. We know we're asking a lot and competing for space in your day and your brain against an entire Internet, the novel you've been meaning to read and the siren call of a Netflix binge. And we know not everyone is coming along for the whole cover-to-cover ride. (No shade, folks who just skim the music grid and calendar — we're happy to help and remind you that the Arts and Music Festival this week looks like a blast.)

A few weeks back, we shared that the Journal was in the running for first or second place awards in a number of categories from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. The CNPA announced its Better Newspaper Contest winners at a dinner at which our news editor Thadeus Greenson and attorney Paul Nicholas Boylan accepted the Freedom of Information Award for their two-year fight for access to video footage of a police arrest ("Under the Color of Authority," Feb. 16).

We're proud of that and the six other awards we took back up north: First Place Investigative Reporting for Linda Stansberry's "The Case of the Missing $5 Million" (that's two years back-to-back for her coverage of skilled nursing closures); First Place Columns for Stansberry's Week in Weed pieces; another back-to-back for Non-Profile Feature Story for Greenson's "Sanity on Trial," detailing our legal system's handling of insanity pleas in local cases; First Place Arts & Entertainment, three years running for which I tip my editorial hat to our calendar editor Kali Cozyris and our excellent regular contributors, including Andy Powell, John J. Bennett, Grant Scott-Goforth, Pat Bitton, David Jervis, Gabrielle Gopinath, Mark McKenna and Mark Larson; Second Place Infographic for Miles Eggleston's "The Chase," a map of the police pursuit through Old Town in the story "44"; Second Place Environmental Reporting for Greenson's "Until the Sun Sets," about the Klamath dam removal project.

The Journal garnered honorable mentions, too, for Greenson's "Prove Them Wrong," Lifestyle Coverage, Breaking News for the staff cover story "Clearing the Marsh" and Infographic for Eggleston's "Humboldt County Indian Massacres" map in "American Genocide." Eggleston is kind of crushing those maps.

Those stories, written and visual, don't reach our readers without, of course, the efforts of our sales, production, distribution and administrative staff. And despite rumors of sweet pot kickbacks and payoffs from Big Pharma and whoever is responsible for all those chemtrails, the lights don't stay on over all our desks without readers who choose to make us part of their daily lives. So while we won't pretend awards don't mean a thing to us — we're human — we are most grateful for our audience right here at home. And we aim to keep earning it.

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor at the North Coast Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill


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