We'll return to our regular programming next week, but right now there's just so much good news emanating from the NCJ and its extended family that we're going to go ahead and devote a whole goddamned column to it. If you have a problem with that, stop reading right here.
First things first. No one was more overjoyed than we when we heard that news that Jack Davis and Steve Jackson, ink-veined pressmen of many years' standing, had completed their purchase of Western Web, the Fairhaven-based company that prints this and just about every other independent publication in the region. Davis and Jackson take over the company from Eureka kazillionaire Rob Arkley's Security National family of companies, which lost its main motivation for owning a printing press when its upstart daily, the Eureka Reporter, went under a couple of years ago.
This is fantastic news, because it keeps the finest printing press between the Bay Area and Oregon running and in independent hands, and 20 super-professional employees on the job. For the Journal, the fear has long been that the media mogul Dean Singleton, owner of the Times-Standard and related publications, would seek to replace his creaky old equipment by buying out Western Web and its state-of-the-art Tensor press. This, thank the Heavens, did not come to pass.
Rather, Davis and Jackson and crew take over as an independent company with a surprisingly huge client list, given the general doom and gloom that infests all discussion of the printed words these days. Not many people know that Western Web doesn't only work with local papers: It also regularly prints a multitude of Bay Area publications as well, including the venerable San Francisco Bay Guardian. The crew out there was just putting this week's Bay Guardian run onto pallets for their journey south when we called to congratulate Davis Tuesday morning.
How did Western Web beat the tech-heavy Bay Area printers for the Bay Guardian contract?
"Being up here, we're more competitive," Davis said. "Our costs are less. Our lease -- the cost for property is less."
Is that all?
"And we can outprint ’em."
Congratulations, too, to NCJ "Media Maven" columnist Marcy Burstiner, whom the California Journalism Education Coalition recently named "Journalism Educator of the Year." Among many other things, the Cal-JEC specifically cited the excellent work of Burstiner's Investigative Reporting class, whose annual project appears in the Journal each May.
Burstiner received her crown at Hearst Castle, appropriately enough.
Finally: We've been dancing the chicken dance all around this joint ever since last week's announcement of the California Newspaper Publishers Association's octadecamensual "Better Newspaper Contest" awards, which celebrated acts of journalism committed in California between April 2008 and October 2009. Once again, the Journal ruled.
Heidi Walters was the big dog of the office this year. She brought home a first place award for local news coverage with her work on county code enforcement raids ("Fear In The Hills," April 24, 2008) and another first in environmental reporting for her Headwaters Forest retrospective ("Headwaters Forest at 10," Feb. 26, 2009). Walters also nabbed a second-place writing award for "Saving Sam" (Dec. 25, 2008), her heartbreaking examination of a young woman's suicide.
Ryan Burns continued our winning streak in business reporting with a first for "When Weed Is Legal" (April 2, 2009), which shrewdly foresaw by one year the hubbub currently surrounding the economics of legalization. Burns' general awesomeness allows us once again to mercilessly taunt our well-heeled circulation classmates at the San Francisco Business Times, who have been defeated by their country cousins on their own home turf two contests running.
Polymathematical whiz kid Joseph Byrd took second place for column-writing with two wildly different food pieces: a scorched-Earth treatment of local sushi ("Rot from the Head," May 1, 2008) and a wistful look back at the Polynesian cuisine craze of the late ’50s and early ’60s ("Tikis, Traders and Candied Meat," Jan. 15, 2009).
Finally, maybe the sweetest victory of all: We mentioned above that Walters won a second-place award for writing, but we didn't tell you who edged her out. Well, it was none other that Journal publisher Judy Hodgson, who transformed her jury duty into a toe-curling courtroom drama that we called "The Notebook of Alternate Juror #4" (April 17, 2008). And with that, we can say that the Journal is likely the only newspaper anywhere to be helmed by a publisher who is, objectively speaking, also one of the top newspaper writers in her state of residence. Suck on that, Tri-City Penny Pincher-Gazette!