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Stepping sideways, not down

by   JUDY HODGSON

THIS IS A TOUGH COLUMN FOR ME to write, although I do so with joy and a certain amount of pride.

I have been editor and publisher of the Journal -- and its owner, along with art director Carolyn Fernandez -- since 1990, the year the newspaper was founded in a tiny one-room office in Old Town Eureka. With a little borrowed money, we purchased our first Mac SE, a printer and a waxer to paste ads, photos and stories on the pages -- and we were in business. I still remember running down three flights of stairs and across the street to the make photo copies, since we didn't have our own machine. In those early years, we always paid our bills but sometimes not ourselves.

We struggled as a monthly until 1998 when, after much research into what was working in other communities across the U.S., we converted to a free weekly regional newspaper with all-local content. And thanks to readers who stuck with us and advertisers old and new, we have grown substantially. Today we employ 10 people -- eight full time.

This week I am giving up one of my jobs, that of editor, and our editorial department is growing from two perpetually overworked reporters to three.

When I made the decision last fall to step aside, we started our search for a new editor. We advertised nationally and had applicants from as far away as Canada and the Virgin Islands. It turns out we didn't need to look quite that far.

Keith Easthouse was born and raised in Berkeley, where he attended the University of California Journalism School as a graduate. Most of his reporting experience has been with two very fine newspapers, the Santa Fe Reporter, a weekly, and the daily Santa Fe New Mexican, where he won numerous awards for science writing, spot news, feature writing and investigative reporting.

For the last three years Keith has been associate editor of Forest Magazine, a national publication based in Eugene, Ore. One major story he broke in 1999 was called "Time bomb in the forest" about the extreme wildfire hazard at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Eight months later the conflagration he warned about erupted, and he ended up being interviewed by NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, The New York Times and National Public Radio.

While new to the North Coast, Keith is not unfamiliar with some issues we face. He wrote two major pieces for Forest Magazine, one on Redwood National Park and another on Pacific Lumber Co.

My favorite quote about Keith is that when I was checking his references, one publisher said, "If Keith wants to work for you, you must have a good paper."

While I am stepping aside, I am not going anywhere. I will remain publisher and I will be working on a number of projects this year to grow the paper, including improving distribution. I will still write my column and occasionally report. But best of all, I will finally have an editor.


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