My project to restore local journalism: a journey that took me from California to Miami and back

First came the flash. Then a thunderclap, so loud and so close that it seemed to me that I could smell the ozone. Then the lights went out.

At that time, that early July afternoon, I was sitting at a small table in an AirBnB in a tough neighborhood just north of downtown Jacksonville, Florida. I was talking to Lookout CEO Ken Doctor about zooming in on the details that would take me from the Sunshine State to that of Gold. I heard the boom, I felt the house shake and I jumped.

“Are you OK?” Ken asked.

“Couldn’t you have heard that?” I replied, as the lights flickered and came back on.

He shook his head, I silently thanked the geniuses of Cupertino who designed my noise-canceling AirPods, and we continued our conversation. In less than 48 hours, I had agreed to quit my job as a journalism professor in Miami and become the editor of Lookout Santa Cruz.

This Jacksonville crackle occurred while I was traveling with my dad, who had flown from my hometown of San Diego. We try to take an annual trip together, and this time we were going to minor league baseball games all over the Southeast. Our first stop was Jacksonville, home to the Giant Shrimp and its “Crustacean Nation” fan club. Other stops included the Charleston RiverDogs – partly owned by actor Bill Murray – the famous Durham Bulls and the oddly named Asheville Tourists.

Greg and Dan Evans took the minor league route east and continued to drive.

(Dan Evans / Lookout Santa Cruz)

With the details and start date finalized, the reality of bringing my stuff and car back to my homeland began to set in. As he tends to do, my dad came up with a common sense solution.

“Well, your car has to go to California, and I have to go home,” he said. “Do you just want to continue west?” “

And so my drive to Santa Cruz began on North Carolina’s two-lane highways, moving to roaring freeways through St. Louis, Denver, Salt Lake City and Reno, ending at the terminus of the ‘highway 17.

But the metaphorical journey was much simpler: local journalism has always been my true love, and my return to Santa Cruz almost 30 years after he left feels like a spiritual comeback.

I attended UC Santa Cruz in the early 1990s before completing my undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley. Every journalism job I’ve had since then has been in California; before moving to Florida five years ago, I was community news editor for the Los Angeles Times.

A sign of Dan's future appeared somewhere at an intersection in South Carolina.

A sign of Dan’s future appeared somewhere at an intersection in South Carolina.

(Dan Evans / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As I wrap up the wrapping business and long goodbyes that are a non-negotiable feature of South Florida life, I want to talk about some of my newsroom plans, our coverage, and details on our CZU project, a year later. .

First of all, you may have noticed ourthe jobs page has a lot of opportunities that await the right people. We’re looking to expand our staff, key to our mission to both explain what’s going on in Santa Cruz County and make our region a better place to live.

The what and the when is in the news, but we know you want to know the why and the how. This type of coverage has long been uneven in cities across the country, but it has increasingly disappeared as vulture capitalists seek to squeeze every penny from once-proud dailies.

We are different.

As we train more staff, you’ll see in-depth corporate articles focused on the issues that concern our county – in our current focus on Affordability with Correspondent Grace Stetson and Business Resumption with Correspondent Neil. Strebig, and beyond. We are exclusively digital and mobile, focusing on interactive graphics, audio and video. Data increasingly governs our lives, so we will seek to present relevant statistics and information in visually compelling ways.

A preliminary rendering of the development at 831 Water Street in Santa Cruz.


Lookout provides you with coverage for the problem that affects everyone who lives in Santa Cruz County.

In addition, I ask the staff to strive to produce parts with a mindset that fits Lookout’s core mission: to provide solutions, not just point out problems. This philosophy, defended by the Solutions Journalism Network, and other pioneers, is simple in concept. After shedding more light on issues and problems, focus as much as possible on successful solutions, wherever they may be. Can any of the lessons learned in these other places be applied here? How? ‘Or’ What?

Research carried out by the group has shown that this approach does the following:

  • Increase empathy: Readers find themselves more in touch with the organizations or individuals featured in these articles.
  • A wider readership: Solutions journalism articles are more likely to be shared and, therefore, have a greater overall impact.
  • Improves public perception: News agencies that regularly publish articles focused on solutions journalism are considered more trustworthy, as are their individual journalists.

While this is not yet proven, the hope is that such an approach can also be a boost for local leaders to address these issues, especially if there is a potential solution elsewhere.

Finally, I hope you are looking at our CZU one year later series of coins, reflections, photos and graphics commemorating the CZU fire. Lookout hadn’t been launched when that fateful flash started the worst wildfire in the county’s history. In the process, however, our recovery and preperation the coverage excelled. Now we recognize the heroism, the loss and document the steps forward.


Lookout checks out how the recovery effort is going in Santa Cruz County

In a multi-part series, we speak to the people who were hit hardest by Nature’s Wrath last August – and those who are helping them rebuild, reassemble, recover.

We have also renewed our membership offer to the Retrospective Book 2020, with an introduction by Wallace Baine of Lookout and photographs by Kevin Painchaud of Lookout, found here. Becoming a member helps ensure that we can continue to provide the coverage and context that so many people have told us they want and need.

The fire itself burned for 37 days, and our plan is to focus a significant portion of our coverage on CZU in the coming weeks. It’s part of our commitment to the people of Santa Cruz County.

I look forward to meeting a number of you in person over the coming year as Lookout has many ways to meet our staff and so that we can hear your thoughts. I look forward to meeting the people who make our region the beautiful, strange and deeply special place it is.

Dan Evans
Executive editor
[email protected]

2020 Hindsight – co-produced by Shmuel Thaler and Wallace Baine and Kevin Painchaud of Lookout – marks the astonishing year that unfolded in Santa Cruz. If you click on the image below and purchase an annual subscription, you can get a copy signed by the authors of the souvenir book. Offer only applies to new memberships. Use promo code: 2020Hindsight

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