North Coast Journal

PUBLISHER - Feb. 1996

A failure to protect

by Judy Hodgson
Editor and Publisher, North Coast Journal

District Attorney Terry Farmer held a news conference last month to announce that his office was filing its own charges against the Rev. Gary Timmons. (The arraignment was scheduled for Jan. 30.) Farmer took the opportunity to commend the local media for their "restraint" in reporting on the local case -- cases, really -- and to chastise overzealous reporters from Santa Rosa and the Bay Area.

Actually, our fellow reporters to the south deserve a lot of praise and respect for their work on this difficult story. This is not just a case of a suspected child molestation. It is a story about the apparent failure of our system to protect children -- many children -- for a period of more than 20 years. That system includes some parents, church and school officials, and law enforcement -- the very people whose job it is to protect children.

There are some brave children in this story, some of whom are now adults. And there are some brave parents who did speak up, and who apparently tried to take action even when it meant speaking out against their own church.

The Press Democrat broke the story in 1994 after some of the alleged victims had gone to the church and to the police, and after they had reached the conclusion that those institutions would not or could not take action.

It was because of that story, and the ongoing coverage by other media that followed, that other alleged victims began to come forward. In fact, the current local case, which involves a boy who is still a minor, would never have surfaced had it not been for media attention.

In researching this month's cover story, we found that in addition to the fair and aggressive reporting by the staff of the Press Democrat, praise also should go to Dan Noyes, reporter for KGO-TV in San Francisco. His special reports aired locally on KAEF-TV's Channel 7.

We were fortunate last month to attend the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco. (Yes, we're MacHeads in this office.) From the vendors at the show, we learned about all the new and better gadgets to do things, like publish a magazine. We also spent much of the two days in seminars about everything from fonts to Photoshop.

I was sitting in a class on the Internet when it came to me that there is yet another advantage to being "on line" with the Journal -- the ability to correct errors.

While some of you may keep your copy of the Journal around for a month or so, most magazines eventually find their way to the recycling bin. The Internet copy of the Journal, however, can float around in cyberspace forever. (You'll notice that our web page -- -- has not only the current edition but all back issues since we first went on line in 1994.)

What that means is that 20 or 30 years from now it is certainly possible that someone doing research may want to access a back issue. If an error is published, we are now able go back and correct it. For instance, we will be correcting the spelling of Jon Martin's name in last month's cover story on Yakima.

And we will be correcting several items in the October story on the Carson Mansion restoration work ("Carson Mansion -- the inside story" by Wally Graves). Some errors are minor. (Wallpaper is "silk screened," not painted. The second floor bedroom that became a bar is, in fact, still in use.)

Others errors are more serious in nature because they reflect on the authenticity of the current restoration work in progress. We have since learned that while the background color of the parlor ceiling was returned to cream, the gold-leaf work -- faithful to the 1885 original design -- was retained. We also learned that the colors used on the ceiling's cornices were derived from actual wall samples sent to a laboratory for analysis (the colors just happened to match a pair of statuettes that were temporarily in storage). We apologize for the errors.

While we are on the subjects of history and technology, we would also like to throw our support behind an event next month that combines the two: Humboldt County History Day.

The countywide competition, began locally in 1981 by Humboldt State University Professor William Tanner, challenges K-12 students to research and creatively document local history. In the past, students wrote reports, acted out plays or created displays that interpreted historical events.

This year, Northcoast Internet is teaming up with the Humboldt County Office of Education and others to expand the media options available to students to include the opportunity to create web pages on the Internet. The result will be on-line mini-magazines on local history that can be called up virtually anyplace in the world.

It is a fast-changing world!


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