Short stories that grew

by Judy Hodgson, Editor and Publisher

In January we changed the Volume number in the Journal staff box to VIII as we entered our seventh year of publication. (I know it's confusing but 1990 was our first year and you can't have a Volume Zero.)

Although it might not seem like it, the Journal is always in a state of evolution. We have gone through several graphic design updates over the years. We have grown in number of pages and advertisers. The content has been broadened, and columnists and features added.

One section of the magazine that has been with us almost from the beginning is the New Briefs section. It started out with tidbits that didn't seem to fit anywhere else. Sometimes there were short items reported as breaking news that eventually grew into a cover story, like in 1990 when jail correctional officers shaved the dreadlocks off the heads of four men arrested for protesting on Pacific Lumber Co. land.

Mostly news brief items have been interesting local statistics, updates on ongoing stories, and occasionally crime and court news -- although we usually leave that to the daily media. Once in a while we would throw in an oddball story like the time the telephone wires got crossed and people calling a child molest ID hotline ended up talking to someone offering telephone sex.

But the section has evolved primarily into a hard news section, a place where we recap the top stories of the month and other items. The section has grown in importance -- and in length. In December we realized that the briefs were not very brief anymore, so we renamed the section, Upfront.

The section has also provided space to highlight stories we feel are being underreported elsewhere. The CHP program of searching motorists' cars for drugs and the battle over the bay billboards are two recent examples.

This month we started working on an item about Humboldt Bay for the Upfront secton and it grew into a full-blown story (see Special Report, page 10).

Some of us in the news business have grown callous over the years about stories related to bay development. Since I have been reporting (1981), there has been no shortage of ideas on the subject, but quite frankly, very little action. We even have our own name for it: Bay of Dreams. I stopped paying attention -- until last month when staff writer Jim Hight said something like, "Well, we're going to vote on this in March."

My reply was, "Vote on what -- exactly?" followed closely by, "What is it going to cost me?"

It is not a master plan for bay development but it is an important first step -- the deepening and widening of the main bay channels -- that has huge economic ramifications for the county. The question before property owners -- even many of us in rural Humboldt -- is whether we are willing to pay for a part of this project.

Our hope is that when you finish this special report, you will be able to answer for yourself the questions: What is it and is it worth the cost?