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Hello, Humboldt County 

Hello, Humboldt County. By now you may have heard that Judy Hodgson, publisher of the North Coast Journal, has appointed me editor, and asked me to work with Hank Sims and the rest of the editorial team that has made the Journal such a great read these last 20 years.

Our goal is to build what Judy has dubbed a hybrid channel for delivering news and information that builds on the success of the print Journal, the solid foundation of its web site and some alliances with broadcast media, to create novel ways to create the public forum that is the traditional hallmark of good journalism.

I will be pleased to get more specific as soon as we figure out what we mean by "hybrid journalism" and, more importantly, once we begin using all the media at our disposal - the paper Journal, computers, and/or smart phones - to entertain, inform and otherwise make ourselves useful; in return for which, we hope you will make us an even more vital part of your life, and notice our advertisers who support this information flow for reasons of their own.

Perhaps you've also heard that I co-founded the Journal in December 1990, but produced just six issues before selling the paper to Judy and her partners in the summer of 1990. My alternate plan back then was to return to my native New York so that I could attend the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and become a daily newspaper reporter. That worked pretty well.  Since 1992, I've been a business reporter and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, covering science, technology, economics and regional development in the San Francisco Bay area, with a special emphasis on its crown jewel, Silicon Valley.

Everything I have told you thus far is accurate and yet, knowing that truth is oft trapped between the lines, the discerning reader might wonder what has been left out of this narrative, and whether those omissions conceal embarrassments:  problems at the Journal, or perhaps some problem with Tom beyond the readily observable disintegration of the mass media that might well make a working scribe look for greener pastures.

There may be some grain of truth in these suspicions. But I hope that because I am not afraid to confront these possibilities you will give us the benefit of the doubt that what you see on the surface is what you are about to get: a restless writer who has seized on the chance to work for one of the shrewdest businesswomen he has ever known.

For my part I can say with all honesty that I feel blessed with rarest of all gifts, a second chance, in this case to become what I have long wanted to be but have lacked the courage or character to make myself - the editor in a community which I love and where my work, as a moderator of the public forum, is a force for good.

Years ago, I wrote a four-part blog entry about how I came to Humboldt County in 1980. The essential foolishness of my first arrival is captured in the title of part one: "The time I bought half interest in a newspaper from a man with wooden teeth." In retrospect, those blog entries were written at a time when I sinking into a depression brought on by the collapse of my marriage and profession. These words are now frankly painful for me to read, drenched as they are in the angst that then held me in its suffocating grip. But since the story is true and it's floating around in cyberspace anyway, I asked Judy to link to these entries from Journal web site so anyone so inclined can see how the new Journal editor thinks when he's sitting around in his pajamas feeling sorry for himself.

So believe me when I say that returning to the Journal is a dream come true, and not in the escapist sense of some burnt-out hack retreating behind the Redwood curtain, but with the sublime sense of purpose that comes from believing that all of this was all meant to be - that a dreamer with a bird's eye view of Silicon Valley would fly back to Humboldt County to work for the doer who had created a flourishing media property, and had the ambition to see it grow for another 20 years.

Enter Tom, who still owns a homestead off Old Arcata Road; who has spent the last two decades studying how and why businesses and technologies grow or die; who has been a professional communicator ever since he joined the U.S. Navy in 1974 to become a broadcast journalist aboard a ship the Pacific Fleet (I was like the Robin Williams character in "Good Morning, Vietnam," only less funny and at sea).

My old ship had motto that seems apropos. It was a cargo vessel that transferred munitions, fuel and other supplies to the Navy's fighting ships, and had a pragmatic moniker: the Latin was "Judicimur Agendo," in English, "By our actions, let us be judged."

So please join us in the weeks and months ahead as we figure out how "hybrid journalism" can make you smile, shake your fist or find a great deal.  We have charted an ambitious course. Help us stay on track. Let us know what you love and what you hate, to make sure that we don't throw the good old values overboard while we embark on this quest to discover what the new technologies will let us do.

As promised,
here are the links to the four-part blog post living out there in cyberspace:

Part 1:  The time I bought half interest in a newspaper from a man with wooden teeth

Part 2:  The teeth bite me

Part 3:  My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Part 4:  Medicine taken, lessons learned

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Tom Abate

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