by Judy Hodgson

The problem with trying to write a story like this month's cover is that there is no end to it. You can't do a story about Lois Busey, Louisiana-Pacific's stalwart defender, without telling the story of L-P itself. And you can't do a story about L-P without telling the story of Harry Merlo. And Merlo is such a complicated man a genius? a demon? both? it would take a book, not a three-page article.

This story turned Into a tar baby.

Another problem was all the material I have left over from the research, things I couldn't cram into the article. Like Busey's opinion of the local media.

Busey is in a unique position to have an opinion. She was head of public relations for nine years, then administrative assistant to all the general managers of the Western Division headquarters in Samoa for the next 16 years during times of great controversy and turmoil. Although there were others officially handling public relations, she was never more than an office away when a crisis would strike.

"The biggest problem over the years I had with reporters is their lack of knowledge," she said. "They wouldn't take the time to learn, so everything they reported on was on face value without any depth. Local reporters print, TV or whatever just did not have the background. Lately they've been staying around a little longer, but in the past, the turnover was astronomical."

I was struck during my lengthy interview with her how un-PR like Busey really is. She is an unusually frank person. PR people generally speak in words wrapped in cotton.

In fact, Busey was so candid the main story was a breeze to write. The side story about the history highlights of L-P and Harry Merlo and the company's Humboldt County operations was much more difficult.


Now, to follow up on last month's election results.

The Journal staff is apparently not too bad at handicapping state and local races. (We had sealed our predictions not our actual votes ahead of time and later compared them with the results.) We correctly picked party candidates for governor and state senate. We were right on with the Humboldt County Superior Court judge race runoff in November between Eris Wagner and Chris Wilson. We correctly predicted Dennis Lewis would be re-elected sheriff. We were certain Paul Kirk would come out on top in the 5th District supervisorial race, but we thought he would face a runoff against Ben Shepherd, not Sara Senger. We thought Bonnie Neely would not have to face a run-off in the 4th District, but she will against Lance Madsen.

And lastly, The Journal staff was split on Measure A. Most thought it would pass except for the reporting staff. My ballot notes read:

"The telephone polls conducted are probably faulty because people was say one thing to an interviewer over the phone then do something else entirely when they pull the curtain closed in the polling booth. Voters also know the state is sitting there with a big surplus right now.

"Not a good time to get a new tax passed."

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