North Coast Journal



by Judy Hodgson
Editor and publisher

With a mixture of sadness and pride, we said goodbye last month to staff writer Marie Gravelle. She and her two children have moved to Salem, Ore. Her new assignment is as environmental reporter, specializing in agriculture and fisheries for the Oregon Statesman Journal.

Marie's work appeared in our very first issue of the Journal -- July 1990. It was a story about the environmental damage caused by early rains during construction of the Redwood National Park bypass. She continued as a free-lance writer until late that year when she went to work for the Times-Standard.

In July 1991 Marie rejoined the Journal as our first staff writer and had been with us ever since. Her work over the years is very much a reflection of the interests and direction of this monthly magazine.

Marie specialized in environmental issues -- from the health of the rivers to logging in Owl Creek, ecotourism and fisheries. But she also reported on health issues ("Why people die" and "Doctor shortage looming"), children and poverty ("Scorecard on children") and current events ("Split the state" and "Armed to the teeth"). And she showed her versatility in reporting on politics, crime, business and even fine arts.

During her tenure Marie broke several important stories that went on to gather national media attention. "Three-acre loophole" and "Death in the tidal zone" were reprinted in the L.A. Times and spawned numerous national news reports.

I will miss her as a colleague -- and traveling partner. Over the years we were on the road together to cover the timber bill hearings in Sacramento, a punk rock band in San Francisco and President Clinton's Forest Conference in Portland.

We also are very happy this issue to welcome Lisa Ladd-Wilson as our new staff writer. I first became aware of her work when she was still a student at Humboldt State University in 1987. I was editor of The Union newspaper and she was an intern at the paper. She joined The Union staff upon graduation.

Lisa did a few free-lance pieces for us in 1990, but was hired away by the Times-Standard for four years. Upon leaving the T-S, she once again became a regular contributor as a columnist and reporter. Some of her recent stories include "Age of innocence lost," a story about youth and violence, "Health care revolution," and "Coming of age in Blue Lake," the story of Dell'Arte.

On the theme of passages, we were deeply saddened to learn last month of the impending closure of The Union newspaper in Arcata and the Redwood Record in Garberville (see News Briefs).

I first worked for The Union as a columnist in 1976 when I was a student at HSU. Carolyn Fernandez, my partner and co-owner of the Journal, also began as a graphic artist at The Union that year. We worked together (although not continuously) until I left in 1988. At the time I was editor, and Carolyn was in charge of production.

In addition to the numerous awards won by the staff during those years, certainly one highlight was the production of a three-section history of The Union published on its centennial in 1986. That project forced us to look at 100 years of work by those who came before us, and in aggregate it was impressive. It was a story of the birth, growth and maturity of a community as well as its newspaper.

Because of our past association with The Union, we received many calls following the announcement. The two most-asked questions were "Why?" and "What can be done?"

As to the first question, the rising cost of newsprint is too simple an answer. The dramatic and sweeping changes in publishing and communication are better ones.

The Union, like so many community newspapers across the nation, depend heavily on advertising revenue (automobiles and grocery stores, especially), not subscriptions. That advertising base began seriously eroding 20 or more years ago. (Ad dollars were diverted to TV and radio, direct mail, penny savers with no editorial copy, larger big-city dailies, and, yes, even general interest regional publications such as ours.)

Weekly newspapers continued to make money from other printing work such as letterhead and business forms, and wedding announcements. But with the revolution in computers and instant-print shops, that income, too, has eroded.

To the second question, I have no answer.

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