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From the Publisher

May 19, 2005




I had a Bay Area friend in the news business stop by last weekend. He hadn't been here for a while. He dryly observed, "Gee, you have a lot of newspapers in Humboldt County."

Yes, we do, and the number is growing.

First, there are the monthlies (Senior News, EcoNews), high school and college newspapers (the HSU Lumberjack is off for the summer). Then there are independently owned community newspapers: the McKinleyville Press, the Arcata Eye and the new Advocate (which has been on a two-week hiatus). Southern Humboldt has the Independent and Ferndale the Ferndale Enterprise. Fortuna is the home of the oldest weekly still operating in the county: the Humboldt Beacon, formerly the Fortuna Beacon. The circulations of all these community papers range from 1,000 to about 6,000.

The venerable Beacon is in transition. As we reported a few weeks ago, its parent company, Humboldt Group, owned by Patrick O'Dell, is ceasing plant operations at the end of this month. (The Humboldt Group is our printer as well. The Journal and several other papers will begin printing out of county as of June 1.) According to several sources, the Beacon office is being transferred back to its old home on Main Street, Fortuna, freeing up the large industrial plant on South Fortuna Boulevard for another tenant. O'Dell is reportedly in negotiations to sell the Beacon to the Times-Standard. If that transpires, the Beacon will become part of the gigantic MediaNews chain owned by Dean Singleton and headquartered in Denver, Colo.

The Times-Standard last year also launched the Redwood Times, a weekly, to compete head-to-head with the Independent in Garberville/SoHum.

Then there is the Eureka Reporter, owned by Rob and Cherie Arkley's Security National Corp. The well-funded Reporter -- printed on very impressive ultrabright paper -- began as an on-line newspaper almost two years ago, launched the weekly printed version last year and, according to Arkley, will eventually have McKinleyville and Arcata editions. If you haven't been paying attention, the Reporter is now printing three days a week -- Wednesday, Friday and Sunday -- and has made no secret about challenging the Times-Standard. The Reporter will likely go daily this fall once its new press is up and running in Eureka. The launch of the new daily and its bold challenge to the 150-year-old chain-owned Times-Standard will likely become one of the top local stories of the year 2005.

So where does the Journal fit in all this? The North Coast Journal was founded in 1990 as a regional news, arts and entertainment monthly. We converted to weekly publication in 1998 and our circulation has grown steadily ever since. Today it stands at 21,000, roughly even with the daily Times-Standard.

We have always known there is considerably readership overlap with the daily. According to a demographics study we had done in 2003, there is a little over 80 percent overlap: households that read both the Journal and the T-S, just as there is overlap with the Journal and the Press in McKinleyville, and the Journal and the Independent in SoHum.

How that landscape will change with news consumers turning more and more to the Internet and with the looming clash between two local dailies is anybody's guess.

One thing our staff has been doing internally is re-examining how we serve the community. As we do periodically, we are looking at how we use our editorial space each week, which topics to tackle with the longer cover stories, how we structure our news section, and which new features and columns we should add.

On the top of our list was inviting Scott Stoddard, a very talented political cartoonist, to contribute to these pages weekly. Scott had cartoons published regularly in the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., when he lived there. He has been a resident of Eureka for the last four years. We are also in the process of replacing our arts columnist. (I promise, we're working on it!)

As always, I appreciate your feedback. If you have ideas for a column or feature you'd like to see, have a hot tip on a story, or if you are a free-lancer with a great idea,



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