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California Newspaper Publishers Association Columns, Weekly ( 4,301–11,000) First Place

Writing, Weekly (11,001 – 25,000) Second Place

Elk Grove Citizen, Columns by Jamie Gonzales

North Coast Journal, Arcata

Saving Sam

“The Shock of My Life” By Jamie Gonzales – May 13, 2008 – Elk Grove Citizen “Jamie, I’m sorry,” the doctor silently said. “But you have cancer.” My uncles, who were standing on both sides of my hospital gurney, immediately held my hands and just stared at me. At once, our minds flashbacked to when my grandmother and their mother died of cancer two years ago. My uncles leaned over, held me and cried even more. For 10 minutes, we stayed this way, while the nurses in the laboratory let us deal with this shocking news. Even looking at the pictures from the colonoscopy, it still didn’t sink in. It all felt very surreal. Life was going great and then all of a sudden, this huge wrench just got thrown in front of my path. My life was going on the right track – I just began a new reporting position, I graduated from college and my boyfriend and I were starting to look for a house for ourselves. Alone in my hospital room, I realized that this was real, although I still didn’t, or couldn’t, grasp the entirety of the disease. My grandmother died of rectal cancer, but she was 70. I’m 24 years old, so I should come out of this ordeal fine. By the end of the summer, I should be normal again and ready to dive into the swimming pool before autumn arrives. However, due to complications with the initial surgery, my expected recovery will take a couple of extra months. In an ongoing column series, I will share my experiences and struggles with rectal cancer. I will also explore different aspects of the disease and any progress from the medical field of either preventing or eradicating this cancer. The Elk Grove Citizen will also have a special place in its online forum section for readers’ own survival stories. To submit a story, visit www.egcitizen.com. So look in the next issue for my next column where the news goes from bad to slightly worse.

By Heidi Walters The early winter sun shone in a glittery slant onto the bright green grass of the field, on the edge of Arcata, where you had to cross muddy braids of earth and streamlets to get to higher ground. There were cows in a distant corner of the field, noses down. The highway and a busy side road were near, and you could hear cars swishing by, but out here in the deep green field the car noise converted to an odd, soothing windscape -- which you accepted because it was expected in this semi-urban wedge of nature. Shovels scraped and clanged, hitting rock. Crunched into packed earth, ripping grass. Clumps of people, rubber boots halfway up their legs, stomped on the shovels, or bent over freshly dug holes to carefully insert spindly young trees -roots finally freed of their hardpacked pots. A couple dozen people came to the field that afternoon of Nov. 16, right after the memorial. Many had never met before. Others had done multiple tree plantings and restoration projects together. Just about all of them had been among the 80-plus people inside the Arcata D Street Neighborhood Center that morning, celebrating a mutual friend. There, they had talked about Sam: kind, gentle, funny, sensitive, exceedingly reserved, excruciatingly smart, empathetic to a fault -- and a volunteer who put just about all other volunteers to shame. Really. She was a phenomenon, they said. The 28-year-old wildlife biologist, who’d moved to Humboldt in late 2006, would bike miles, rain or shine, to

yank out invasive English ivy in the forest or to pull up nonnative grass in the dunes or to lead a guided walk. “One time,” Natalie Arroyo had recalled, “Sam came to a restoration day out at Lanphere Dunes [north of Arcata], and she rode her bike there from Eureka. And I remember she was 10 minutes late, and she said, ‘I’m so sorry I’m late.’” Other times, she’d scrape up cash, which she had very little of, to rent a car to get to a volunteer event. And she’d do all that on the weekend, after a full work week knee-deep in a stream or at the lab or office. And all that’s not even half of it.

Presenting the 2009 Winners

In the field, Sam’s friends, coworkers and fellow volunteers dug holes together. Some sat in a circle around their small planted tree, placing pretty rocks around it and talking. Others kept digging new holes, with vigor. The tree planting, though it would have been done anyway, was now done in Sam’s honor. Some of them had met Sam through the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project (WSP), where she’d done watershed see Saving Sam pg. 3

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


2 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Daily Winners by category 1. Public Service Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – The Orange County Register, Santa Ana Second – San Jose Mercury News Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Sun, San Bernardino Second – The Desert Sun, Palm Springs Daily (D & E) - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Visalia Times-Delta Second – Santa Cruz Sentinel 2. Editorial Pages Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – San Jose Mercury News Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – Daily News-LA, Woodland Hills Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Marin Independent Journal, Novato Second – The Modesto Bee Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Santa Cruz Sentinel Second – Glendale News-Press Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – Auburn Journal 3. Editorial Comment Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Fresno Bee Second – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Monterey County Herald Second – The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Appeal-Democrat, Marysville Second – Lodi News-Sentinel Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – Lake County Record-Bee, Lakeport Second – Auburn Journal 4. Writing Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – Los Angeles Times Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Fresno Bee Second – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Ventura County Star Second – Press-Telegram, Long Beach

Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Lodi News-Sentinel Second – Times-Standard, Eureka Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – Santa Barbara Daily Sound 5. Local Breaking News Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – The Sacramento Bee Second – Los Angeles Times Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – Daily News-LA, Woodland Hills Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Desert Sun, Palm Springs Second – The Record, Stockton Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Santa Cruz Sentinel Second – Santa Cruz Sentinel Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – Auburn Journal Second – The Daily Triplicate, Crescent City 6. Local News Coverage Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Jose Mercury News Second – San Francisco Chronicle Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – The Fresno Bee Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Second – Oakland Tribune Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Napa Valley Register Second – Appeal-Democrat, Marysville Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – Lompoc Record Second – The Davis Enterprise 7. Feature Story Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – Los Angeles Times Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Fresno Bee Second – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Ventura County Star Second – The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Merced Sun-Star Second – Visalia Times-Delta Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – The Signal, Santa Clarita

8. Columns Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – San Francisco Chronicle Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Second – The Fresno Bee Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Bakersfield Californian Second – The Record, Stockton Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Times-Standard, Eureka Second – Santa Cruz Sentinel Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – Santa Barbara Daily Sound Second – The Davis Enterprise 9. Arts & Entertainment Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – The Fresno Bee Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Second – Monterey County Herald Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Santa Cruz Sentinel Second – Visalia Times-Delta Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – The Signal, Santa Clarita 10. Sports Coverage Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – San Jose Mercury News Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Desert Sun, Palm Springs Second – The Tribune, San Luis Obispo Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Antelope Valley Press, Palmdale Second – Santa Maria Times Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – Auburn Journal 11. Sports Story Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Jose Mercury News Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


3 CONTEST EDITION 2009

from pg. 1

Saving Sam research work for the past two years, first with the U.S. Forest Service’s Redwood Sciences Lab in Arcata and later with the state Fish and Game office out of Eureka. Some only knew her through the Friends of the Dunes, a nonprofit group that works to restore native coastal dune habitats and educate people about them. Yet others met her in the Audubon Society, for whom she was the treasurer over the past year and a half. And a few knew her from the Emma Center, a place for abused women to gather for support and to partake in healing arts. Everyone, upon first meeting her, had seen the obvious: that she “had dimples and freckles, bright blue eyes and an infectious smile,” as it said in the obituary her family wrote for the newspapers here and in her Kansas hometown. She was also very, very shy. “But once you got past the part where she’d sort of look down and bow out, Sam was the sweetest, most darling soul,” said Arroyo at the memorial. One time, Arroyo said, Sam even got up during one of their karaoke outings and sang Weird Al. Others had perceived that she suffered somehow. A rare few knew that it was severe depression. And there’s the true marvel of Sarah Jane “Sam” Price: that, although staggering under the weight of such depression, she engaged full-on as a volunteer in whatever community she lived in, from the day she arrived in it. Often an indifferent community, at that, said Arroyo, a former AmeriCorps volunteer herself and now a planning specialist with the Redwood Community Action Agency’s Natural Resources Services Division.

Beach. Stuffed animals -- “many of them bats,” said Thor. A fish poster. And a poster about surviving abuse, as well as a lot of books on the same subject, many with underlined passages. At some point, she turned on her computer and logged onto a Web site for women who’d experienced violence. There, she had a blog. And she began to write. Deputy Coroner Charlie Van Buskirk, who investigated Sam’s death the next day, said later that as he was walking around her apartment collecting evidence, he moved the computer and it lit up. It had been in sleep mode. The blog entry was still up on the screen -- she hadn’t hit the “Send” button. “She had titled it, ‘I’m in the process of trying to commit suicide,’” Van Buskirk said. Only there were no spaces between the words. She wrote: “Apparentlythebottomrowofmy keyboarddoesn’twork, butI’mtakingallof mypillsandI’mhopingthat willbeenough.” When the toxicology report came back, it indicated she died from polypharmacy intoxication. There were seven different prescription medications in her system. “Depression seems to be the common theme with them,” Van Buskirk said. They’d been prescribed to her at one time or another, and some were old, but it’s typical for people to not throw out old meds, he said. The rest of her suicide note said she hoped she was not hurting anyone. It said she was sorry she wasn’t strong enough but that she was never going to get better.

“One of the things I’ve noticed about this community is the perspective of many Humboldt County residents regarding ‘outsiders’: students, new residents, young people who have moved here, that they assume are just tagging along with the weed scene or whatever,” Arroyo said in an e-mail to the Journal days before the memorial for Sam.

Van Buskirk said he contacted the Web site owners, who wouldn’t allow him full access to the site -- to protect the privacy of its users -- and they searched Sam’s blog and found an earlier entry from another day, which they shared with Van Buskirk, that he said indicated her intent to commit suicide.

Dozens of young people like Sam come to town each year, idealistic volunteers living on a marginal stipend and food stamps, enlisted to repair damage done to the landscape. It would be nice if more people acknowledged them, Arroyo said.

“I also found in her apartment a journal note from some months back,” said Van Buskirk, who photographed it. “It’s dated 29 April and says, ‘Two positive things a day: 1) I did not kill myself last night. 2) I’m not biting my nails (as much!).’”

But such attention would have just baffled Sam.

“I spoke to her family, and they were aware that she’d been fighting depression for a long time,” he said.

“Sam thought she was a loser -- I’m not joking about this,” said Thor Holmes, days after the memorial. He and his wife, Elaine, had befriended Sam back in Kansas when she was in college -- well, they’d practically adopted her, he said. “She thought she was a loser and that no one liked her and that no one even noticed her. ... But, there was this roomful of people that were profoundly sorry that they were not going to play with her anymore.”

Thor and Elaine Holmes found Sam the next day. “She was supposed to work Saturday morning and then we were going to pick her up on Saturday afternoon,” recalled Thor, about a week after the memorial, as he sat inside the vertebrate museum’s small prep lab on the HSU campus. He’s the collection manager.

Sam had told friends she was going to a party on Halloween night; it was her favorite holiday. After work on Halloween day, she pedaled from the Fish and Game office in downtown Eureka to the west side of town where she lived in a little apartment.

The 60-year-old looked tired. Sitting next to him at the long black table in the center of the room, a student, Elizabeth, had arranged in front of her a row of toothless pine marten skulls and jaws, like a macabre audience. She sorted through containers of loose teeth, placed them in pairs of tiny marching parallel lines on the table and then inserted them into their proper sockets.

There wasn’t much in it. A small flatscreen TV she’d recently acquired. A computer. Some animal bones, including a bat skeleton that Thor Holmes gave her. Lots of bat fetishes -she loved bats. Stones. A large fossil scallop from Centerville

“Actually,” said Thor, “Sam was supposed to start volunteering at the hospital that day, because she was thinking maybe she could be an occupational therapist.” He laughed, amazed. “You know, I have never seen anyone try

so hard.” Sam had a degree in biology, and a powerful resume -- 3.9 GPA in a revered program at the University of Kansas; fieldwork in Costa Rica, on an Alaskan island and in the prairies of Kansas; volunteering since she was a child; and more. But she apparently recently had given up on getting a good job in her profession -- that is, one that would keep her here in Humboldt, which was feeling like home. Her AmeriCorps service would be up in early December. She needed a job with health insurance -- she’d been seeing a counselor, as well as a neuropsychiatrist who was working with her to find the right combination of medication. Lately, she had hung her hat on a front-office secretarial position with the AmeriCorps office in Fortuna. She was among the top contenders. Thor received an e-mail from Sam that Friday, Halloween day, that said: “i didn’t get the job, i guess that shows what a mistake it is to share your problems with others. i guess that’s all there is to say. i love you, thor.’ She also called the Holmes -- but she often called, multiple times a day, Thor said. And he and Elaine would be seeing her the very next day. And it was Halloween. “I thought she was just partying away,” he said. On Saturday, they went to her apartment to pick her up to take her to Willow Creek, where they live. “And I knocked on the door and it just opened,” said Thor. He said he and Elaine could tell she’d been deliberate. “Sam didn’t ‘accidentally’ do anything,” he said. “She was very methodical, very very thoughtful. She asked a whole lot of questions on the front end to make sure she did the mission correctly when I’d give her a job. “ While he was talking and Elizabeth was sorting teeth, another student had come into the lab. They were there for moral support, Thor said. Sarah sat on a stool opposite the pine marten puzzle and took out her knitting: a set of fingered mittens, halfway done. She, like Elizabeth, would finish her project over the next couple of hours. Order, patience, examination, completion. On a side table in the lab lay a lineup of chipmunks and squirrels, stretched long, fur still on and eyes stuffed with white cotton; several small, amber-translucent skinned carcasses hung in an open cabinet; a giant green sea turtle skeleton was perched farther down the black table; on a shelf posed half a preserved gray fox, cut lengthwise and its skeleton re-inserted for display; and here was a pine marten, some bighorn sheep horns, a Risso’s dolphin skeleton. The room smelled funky, like wet dog fur. You think that’s bad, said Elizabeth. “If you walk out that way” -- she pointed toward the outside -- “to where we keep the beetles that feed off the flesh before we get to them -- that smell, if you get within 10 feet of that room you smell it the rest of the day.” Thor explained that the Dermestids -- carpet beetles -- are known for their assiduous attention to detail. “These things are really really cool because they eat dead muscle tissue preferentially,” he said. “You can actually put a carcass into the colony and the beetles will eat the muscle tissue, eat eat eat, until they hit ligaments or tendons or see Saving Sam pg. 4

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


4 CONTEST EDITION 2009 from pg. 3

Saving Sam “And then she turned around and came back the same day,” said Jessie. “And so, it was the middle of the night, and she was driving back, and she came up to a mountain lion in the road. And so she immediately pulled over and backtracked. And I remember she said she was pretty scared, approaching that mountain lion, but when she determined that it was dead she threw it in the trunk of the rental car.” She was still about an hour from Eureka, and it was past midnight when she got there. “And she couldn’t just unload it in her backyard and she couldn’t let it sit bleeding in the rental car, so she continued to drive up to Willow Creek to Thor and Elaine’s, and unloaded it there. Because she didn’t want it to have died for nothing. She wanted to get it to Thor and somehow get it into the HSU collection.” The lion’s skull, however, was too crushed to make a good specimen. Sam’s parents live on 11 acres in the country in Abilene, Kansas. It’s the same home Sam lived in from seventh grade through high school, accumulating a posse of pets, many of which are still there: several goats named after Star Trek characters, a wood rat named Sappho, two cats named Pumpkin and Killer (the sweeter of the two), and a silver fox Sam begged her family to buy at an animal sale after a fur farm went out of business. It’s named Mulder, after the guy in the X-Files. Before Abilene, the family moved around a bit -- her father was in the Army. They even lived on Fort Riley, a 100,000acre military post, for a few years, where both of her parents worked. In fact, while Sam and her three brothers were little, the whole family volunteered as Civil War re-enactors on the post, said her mom, Fiona, by telephone one day in late November. Fiona still works on Fort Riley, in the museum. An anthropologist, she curates the finds that other scientists bring in from the 800-some archaeological sites on the post. Sam’s father was a policeman and military policeman, and is now retired for medical reasons. Fiona did not feel comfortable talking about his relationship with his daughter. She said that Sam struggled with severe depression starting in adolescence. They got her counseling. And she said she and her daughter were close until recently. “If I emailed her, she’d e-mail me back,” said Fiona. “But the emails are not very descriptive, they don’t encourage me to ask more questions or delve much more into her life. And I think she was trying to keep me away so I wouldn’t worry. And she was incredibly sensitive and that made life a lot harder on her.” Fiona said there were many times when Sam seemed happy and normal. But it could be hard to tell. “She came home for Christmas last year and I thought it went fairly well ... and afterwards got an e-mail from her saying it was a disaster for her, it brought too much stuff back. We probably shouldn’t have asked her to come home, we should have probably let her stay away. And she didn’t want to hurt anybody, and so she came, and that hurt her instead.” Fiona said her daughter worked hard to improve herself. But

she often resisted help. She did let her mom drive with her to Eureka, in 2006, to help her get set up in her new home. But later, when Sam’s car broke down, she rebuffed her mom’s offers to help her get a new car, said Fiona. She did accept friends’ offers of bikes, however. “She was very stressed about getting a job,” said Fiona. “We said, we can help you out financially until you find a job, and she said, no, no, she wanted to stand on her own two feet.” On Halloween, Fiona sent her daughter an e-mail card. “She wrote back to me and said thanks, that she missed me and she missed her cats. And then I never heard from her again.” On Halloween day, Sam had gone out into the field to collect some thermographs, which measure water temperature, from Martin Slough. She’d placed them there earlier in the season. It was just one of the jobs she’d done with Fish and Game through AmeriCorps this past year: fish surveys, redlegged frog surveys, fishermen surveys on the Smith River, organizing a watershed symposium, mapping, cataloguing her mentor Michelle Gilroy’s documents library. She brought the thermographs back to the office. After a while, Gilroy said she noticed that Sam seemed really upset. “I let her know I was there if she needed help,” Gilroy said. “I went in there a little bit later, and she was still a little upset. Something had happened.” Gilroy, who knew about Sam’s battle, said she and Sam had an agreement that if Sam was having a hard day she could leave work early. “I told her she comes first,” said Gilroy. “And she did take personal time and that was fine -- although I had to reasure her it was fine.” Sam stayed around a little while, that Halloween day. “Bless her heart, she was trying to download the data off the thermographs,” said Gilroy. And then she asked if she could leave early. Gilroy said yes -- and then ran after her to ask if she could drive her home. Sam said, no, she’d ride her bike. Gilroy wonders if she could have done something different that day. “You go back through things, and torture yourself that way,” she said. Others are wondering too if, or how, they could have stopped Sam from killing herself. “If I thought something was going on, at all, I would have been out there with her for however long it took,” said her mom, Fiona. “Should I have gone and picked her up?” Thor wondered. “I think I could have talked her out of it. I would have said, ‘Come up and watch the Daily Show. I have chocolate up here.’ What move did we miss that could have kept this off?” Thor and Jessie say Sam had talked recently of trying to find some sort of residential facility where she could live while she got her illness under control. She’d talked to her good friend Chrisse Harnos about it. Chrisse and Sam met in an art therapy class at the Emma Center. Chrisse was a client, like Sam; she later became the center’s director, but said she and Sam were mainly friends. “She was very hurt as a child and, as an adult, that can really wreak havoc on your life,” said Chrisse. “Normal stresses become huge stresses. And I know she was working really hard to find her way through that so she could be happy and free.”

name to the Friends of the Dunes. But some, like the local Audubon Society, have decided to donate money to the Emma Center. And Chrisse and Jessie have talked about a scholarship in Sam’s name. “If she was able to get a car and to have that little bit of a cushion ... a scholarship could lighten somebody’s load.” Sam’s neuropsychiatrist, Dr. Jerryl Rubin, who couldn’t talk about Sam’s case specifically for confidentiality reasons, said that a part of the bigger picture is affordable, accessible health care. For example, she related how Sam’s therapist had to fight for a long time with the AmeriCorps insurance company to get it to allow Sam to also see her, Dr. Rubin. Eventually, the company approved some visits. In general, Rubin added, there are always lessons from a suicide. “It’s a big decision when someone ends their life,” she said. “But what they find is, if you can keep them safe during the interval that they are considering it, for some people -- they see a summer day.” And she said, you must listen when somebody says they’re suffering. “A kind word can keep somebody alive.” Thor said he is determined to keep an even sharper eye on the young people around him -- kids, really, who can have such a skewed vision of themselves, and the world. “There are quiet, gentle, retiring treasures out there,” he said. “And one hopes that we will be more alert to them, more receptive to them.” Jessie said that after Sam killed herself, at first she comforted herself by believing it was inevitable. But it wasn’t, she decided. “Sam was lonely,” said Jessie, crying over the phone. “She was desperately lonely. She was a loner, and her depression kept her alone and that compounded things. She desperately needed attention and affection and love and support and she looked for it and she asked for it. And no one person could have given that to her. But, collectively, I think that we’re all culpable. She did so much for everybody else and I don’t know if there’s anybody who can say they did as much as they could have. I know I could have done so much more. We all could have. And I think we failed her. I think the whole goddamned world failed her. I don’t think she had to die.” Out in the field, where the sun slanted in and traffic whirred nearby and cows chewed in the distance, the planters paused above their freshly dug holes, grabbed the little trees and tugged them from their pots, then remembered: In the container, a young tree’s roots become compacted. You had to break up the mass before you planted it in the earth. That way, the roots could wriggle into the new ground and grab hold. But gently, gently. When they finished, 60 Sitka spruce and alders were in the ground. Maybe most would grow strong and outcompete the hardy cowfood, the grass. Perhaps, one day, salmon would return to little Campbell Creek. The restorationists had done what they could: removed the tide gates, taken the cows off part of the land, and planted the trees.

Sam’s family has asked that donations be made in Sam’s

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


5 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Daily Winners by category (cont.) Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Monterey County Herald Second – Marin Independent Journal, Novato Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Santa Cruz Sentinel Second – Appeal-Democrat, Marysville Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Signal, Santa Clarita Second – The Signal, Santa Clarita 12. Lifestyle Coverage Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Second – The Fresno Bee Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Second – Monterey County Herald Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Daily Republic, Fairfield Second – Sierra Sun, Truckee Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – Auburn Journal Second – The Davis Enterprise 13. Business/Financial Story Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Jose Mercury News Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Fresno Bee Second – The Fresno Bee Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Tribune, San Luis Obispo Second – The Modesto Bee Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Napa Valley Register Second – Visalia Times-Delta Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – The Davis Enterprise 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Fresno Bee Second – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Oakland Tribune Second – The Tribune, San Luis Obispo Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Merced Sun-Star Second – The Sentinel, Hanford

Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Daily Triplicate, Crescent City Second – The Recorder, San Francisco 15. Environmental/Ag Resource Reporting Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – The San Diego Union-Tribune Second – The Sacramento Bee Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Fresno Bee Second – The Fresno Bee Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Tribune, San Luis Obispo Second – The Tribune, San Luis Obispo Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Antelope Valley Press, Palmdale Second – Napa Valley Register Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – The Davis Enterprise 16. Front Page Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – San Jose Mercury News Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – Daily Breeze, Torrance Second – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Modesto Bee Second – Ventura County Star Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Daily Republic, Fairfield Second – Merced Sun-Star Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – Lompoc Record 17. Page Layout & Design Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Fresno Bee Second – Daily News-LA, Woodland Hills Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Oakland Tribune Second – The Record, Stockton Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Merced Sun-Star Second – Santa Cruz Sentinel Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Daily Triplicate, Crescent City Second – The Porterville Recorder 18. Breaking News Photo Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – The San Diego Union-Tribune Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Record, Stockton Second – Ventura County Star Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Lodi News-Sentinel Second – Santa Cruz Sentinel Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – Ukiah Daily Journal Second – Ukiah Daily Journal 19. General News Photo Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – The San Diego Union-Tribune Second – San Jose Mercury News Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – Daily News-LA, Woodland Hills Second – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Ventura County Star Second – Press-Telegram, Long Beach Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Appeal-Democrat, Marysville Second – Napa Valley Register Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – Lompoc Record Second – The Recorder, San Francisco 20. Feature Photo Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – The San Diego Union-Tribune Second – San Jose Mercury News Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Fresno Bee Second – Daily News-LA, Woodland Hills Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Second – Ventura County Star Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Santa Maria Times Second – Daily Republic, Fairfield Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – The Davis Enterprise 21. Sports Photo Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – San Jose Mercury News Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Second – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Second – Marin Independent Journal, Novato

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


6 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Daily Winners by category (cont.)

Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Santa Cruz Sentinel Second – Santa Maria Times Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – Auburn Journal Second – The Davis Enterprise 22. Photo Essay Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Jose Mercury News Second – San Francisco Chronicle Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Second – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Record, Stockton Second – Record Searchlight, Redding Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Santa Cruz Sentinel Second – Daily Republic, Fairfield Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – The Davis Enterprise 23. Special Issue Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – The Sacramento Bee Second – San Jose Mercury News Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – The Fresno Bee Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – The Record, Stockton Second – The Modesto Bee Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Lodi News-Sentinel Second – Merced Sun-Star Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Signal, Santa Clarita Second – The Daily Triplicate, Crescent City 24. Illustration/Info Graphic Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – The Sacramento Bee Second – San Francisco Chronicle Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Second – The Fresno Bee Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Record Searchlight, Redding Second – The Record, Stockton Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Appeal-Democrat, Marysville Second – Napa Valley Register

Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – Auburn Journal Second – Ukiah Daily Journal 25. Editorial Cartoon Daily A & B - Combined Circulation Divisions First – The San Diego Union-Tribune Second – The San Diego Union-Tribune Daily C, D & E - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Marin Independent Journal, Novato Second – Auburn Journal 26. Best Website Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – The Sacramento Bee Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Fresno Bee Second – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Ventura County Star Second – The Desert Sun, Palm Springs Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Appeal-Democrat, Marysville Second – Napa Valley Register Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Signal, Santa Clarita Second – The Daily Transcript, San Diego 27. Freedom of Information Daily A & B - Combined Circulation Divisions First – San Jose Mercury News Second – San Francisco Chronicle Daily C, D & E - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Marin Independent Journal, Novato Second – Merced Sun-Star 28. General Excellence Daily (A) 200,001 & above First – San Francisco Chronicle Second – San Jose Mercury News Daily (B) 75,001 - 200,000 First – The Press-Enterprise, Riverside Second – Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek Daily (C) 25,001 - 75,000 First – Marin Independent Journal, Novato Second – The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Daily (D) 10,001 - 25,000 First – Daily Republic, Fairfield Second – Merced Sun-Star Daily (E) 10,000 & under First – The Davis Enterprise Second – Auburn Journal

Editorial Comment, Daily (10,000 & Under) First Place Lake County Record Bee, Lakeport

Editorial by Gary Dickson October 18, 2008 Not too many people, other than scientists and history buffs, are probably aware of the story of the life of Giordano Bruno. In 1600 he was burned at the stake. His accusers provided a list of his transgressions. All of them were related to his failure to agree with the doctrine of the Church. Some were what, today, we would call religious in nature, while one of the beliefs that sealed his fate was that he claimed “the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity.” He died because he dared to profess something other than the prevailing thought of the time. No one would be executed if the Lake County Supervisors vote to implement a ban against genetic engineering (GE) for agricultural purposes within Lake County, but the ordinance does include a six-month jail term for anyone who would be caught planting genetically engineered seeds. Like with anything new and different, there have been concerns and some problems with the usage of genetic engineering and modification in the agricultural industry, but over the past few years it has been greeted with much greater acceptance on a worldwide basis. Last year 282.3 million acres of farmland around the world were planted with soybeans, corn, cotton and other crops genetically altered to resist pests and herbicides, an increase of about 12 percent over 2006. Recently, right here in California, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara, The Nature Conservancy, and Santa Clara University conducted research into the use of genetic engineering in dealing with pests in agriculture. “In an analysis of 42 field experiments, scientists found that this particular modification, which causes the plant to produce an insecticide internally, can have an environmental benefit because large-scale insecticide spraying can be avoided. Organisms such as ladybird beetles, earthworms, and bees in locales with “Bt crops” fared better in field trials than those within locales treated with chemical insecticides.” Lake County Farm Bureau Executive Director Chuck March said that his organization has been opposed to a countywide ban against GE crops going all the way back to 2004. He commented that GE crops have a 20-year track record with no ill effects. The use of genetic engineering to benefit agriculture is accepted around the world, its use is growing rapidly, especially in developing countries where the U.S. once exported larger amounts of food and research facilities in our own state have proven GE’s safety. We look upon a Lake County ban of genetic engineering for agriculture as a closed minded approach to the future, similar to how the Church viewed Giordano Bruno way back in 1600. Let’s embrace scientific progress, not ban it.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


7 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Weekly Winners by category 1. Public Service Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Sacramento News & Review Second – Los Angeles Downtown News Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Pleasanton Weekly Second – Mountain View Voice Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First– Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal Second – The Merced County Times Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – The Mountain Enterprise, Frazier Park Second – St. Helena Star 2. Editorial Pages Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Chico News & Review Second – Grunion Gazette, Long Beach Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – San Francisco Business Times Second – Los Gatos Weekly-Times Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Petaluma Argus-Courier Second – The Gilroy Dispatch Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – St. Helena Star Second –Times-Press-Recorder, Arroyo Grande 3. Editorial Comment Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Palo Alto Weekly Second – Sacramento News & Review Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – San Francisco Business Times Second – Mountain Democrat, Placerville Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Morgan Hill Times Second – The Business Journal, Fresno Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Point Reyes Light, Point Reyes Station Second – The Weekly Calistogan, Calistoga 4. Writing Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – SF Weekly, San Francisco Second – Sacramento News & Review Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – North Coast Journal, Arcata Second – North Coast Journal, Arcata Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Sonoma Index-Tribune Second – The Gilroy Dispatch Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – St. Helena Star Second – Idyllwild Town Crier 5. Local Breaking News Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Pasadena Weekly Second – The Press Tribune, Roseville

Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Tracy Press Second – Berkeley Daily Planet Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Turlock Journal Second – The Trinity Journal, Weaverville Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – The Intermountain News, Burney Second – The Ferndale Enterprise 6. Local News Coverage Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Palo Alto Weekly Second – Sacramento News & Review Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – North Coast Journal, Arcata Second – Brentwood News Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Petaluma Argus-Courier Second – Sonoma Index-Tribune 6. Local News Coverage Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – The Ferndale Enterprise Second – Santa Ynez Valley News, Solvang 7. Feature Story Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Los Angeles Downtown News Second – Sacramento News & Review Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Pacific Sun, San Rafael Second – Campbell Reporter Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Half Moon Bay Review Second – Claremont Courier Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Calistoga Tribune Second – Point Reyes Light 8. Columns Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Sacramento News & Review Second – SF Weekly, San Francisco Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Mountain Democrat, Placerville Second – North Coast Journal, Arcata Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Elk Grove Citizen Second – Calaveras Enterprise, San Andreas Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Winters Express Second – Sanger Herald 9. Arts & Entertainment First – Metro, San Jose Second – SF Weekly, San Francisco 10. Sports Coverage Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Palo Alto Weekly Second – The Star-News, Chula Vista

Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Burbank Leader Second – Coastline Pilot, Laguna Beach Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Morgan Hill Times Second – Half Moon Bay Review Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Hollister Free Lance Second – St. Helena Star 11. Sports Story Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Sacramento News & Review Second – SF Weekly, San Francisco Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Los Gatos Weekly-Times Second – Huntington Beach Independent Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Grapevine Independent, Rancho Cordova Second – Calaveras Enterprise, San Andreas Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Santa Ynez Valley News, Solvang Second – Hollister Free Lance 12. Lifestyle Coverage Weekly (A) & (B) - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Pacific Sun, San Rafael Second – Burbank Leader Weekly (C) & (D) - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Half Moon Bay Review Second – Petaluma Argus-Courier 13. Business/Financial Story Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Good Times, Santa Cruz Second – SF Weekly, San Francisco Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – North Coast Journal, Arcata Second – San Francisco Business Times Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Sonoma Index-Tribune Second – The Business Journal, Fresno Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – The Mendocino Beacon Second – Calistoga Tribune 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – SF Weekly, San Francisco Second – Los Angeles Downtown News Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – San Francisco Business Times Second – Weekend Pinnacle, Hollister Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – The Gilroy Dispatch Second – Amador Ledger Dispatch, Jackson Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Point Reyes Light, Point Reyes Station Second – The Cambrian, Cambria

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


8 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Weekly Winners by category (cont.) 15. Environmental/Ag Resource Reporting Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – SF Weekly, San Francisco Second – Vida en el Valle, Fresno Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – North Coast Journal, Arcata Second – Santa Maria Sun Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Morgan Hill Times Second – Half Moon Bay Review Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Mount Shasta Herald Second –Times-Press-Recorder, Arroyo Grande 16. Front Page - Broadsheet Weekly (A) & (B) - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Burbank Leader Second – Vida en el Valle, Fresno 16. Front Page - Tab & Broadsheet Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Half Moon Bay Review Second – Petaluma Argus-Courier Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Times-Press-Recorder, Arroyo Grande Second – Santa Ynez Valley News, Solvang 16. Front Page - Tabloid Weekly (A) & (B) - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Sacramento News & Review Second – San Francisco Business Times 17. Page Layout & Design - Broadsheet Weekly (A) & (B) - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Vida en el Valle, Fresno Second – Burbank Leader Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Petaluma Argus-Courier Second – Half Moon Bay Review Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Times-Press-Recorder, Arroyo Grande Second – Los Banos Enterprise 17. Page Layout & Design - Tabloid Weekly A & B - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Palo Alto Weekly Second – San Francisco Business Times Weekly C & D - Combined Circulation Divisions First – Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal Second – Calaveras Enterprise, San Andreas 18. Breaking News Photo Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Camarillo Acorn Second – Chino Champion Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Mountain Democrat, Placerville Second – Moorpark Acorn Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Sonoma Index-Tribune Second – The Trinity Journal, Weaverville

Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Town Crier, Idyllwild Second – Town Crier, Idyllwild 19. General News Photo Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Vida en el Valle, Fresno Second – Camarillo Acorn Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Tracy Press Second – Tracy Press Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Sonoma Index-Tribune Second – Sonoma Index-Tribune Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Hollister Free Lance Second – Santa Ynez Valley News, Solvang 20. Feature Photo Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Palo Alto Weekly Second – Los Angeles Downtown News Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – The Almanac, Menlo Park Second – San Francisco Business Times 20. Feature Photo Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Morgan Hill Times Second – Calaveras Enterprise, San Andreas Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Feather River Bulletin, Quincy Second–Sonoma West Times & News, Sebastopol 21. Sports Photo Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Camarillo Acorn Second – Vida en el Valle, Fresno Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Poway News Chieftain Second – Coastline Pilot, Laguna Beach Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – The Merced County Times Second – Claremont Courier Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Mammoth Times, Mammoth Lakes Second – Hollister Free Lance 22. Photo Essay Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Good Times, Santa Cruz Second – Sacramento News & Review Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Weekend Pinnacle, Hollister Second – Cupertino Courier Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Claremont Courier Second – Claremont Courier Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Calistoga Tribune Second – Calistoga Tribune

23. Special Issue Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Chico News & Review Second – San Francisco Bay Guardian Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Los Gatos Weekly-Times Second – The Signal Tribune, Signal Hill 23. Special Issue Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Sonoma Index-Tribune Second – Silicon Valley/San Jose Bus. Journal Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – The Healdsburg Tribune Second – The Healdsburg Tribune 24. Illustration/Info Graphic First – San Francisco Business Times Second – Half Moon Bay Review 25. Editorial Cartoon Weekly (A) & (B) –Combined Circulation Divisions First – Los Angeles Downtown News Second – Berkeley Daily Planet Weekly (C) & (D) –Combined Circulation Divisions First – The Weekly Calistogan, Calistoga Second – Petaluma Argus-Courier 26. Best Website Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Palo Alto Weekly Second – The Santa Barbara Independent Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – Pleasanton Weekly Second – Los Altos Town Crier Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – The Trinity Journal, Weaverville Second – Petaluma Argus-Courier Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – The Mountain Enterprise, Frazier Park Second – Town Crier, Idylwild 27 Freedom of Information Weekly (A) & (B) –Combined Circulation Divisions First – Sacramento News & Review Second c The Star-News, Chula Vista Weekly (C) & (D) –Combined Circulation Divisions First – Town Crier, Idyllwild Second – The Ferndale Enterprise 28. General Excellence Weekly (A) 25,001 & above First – Palo Alto Weekly Second – The Acorn, Agoura Hills Weekly (B) 11,001 - 25,000 First – San Francisco Business Times Second – The Almanac, Menlo Park Weekly (C) 4,301 - 11,000 First – Petaluma Argus-Courier Second – Half Moon Bay Review Weekly (D) 4,300 & under First – Los Banos Enterprise Second – Santa Ynez Valley News, Solvang

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


and so you just start talking to each other,” Thor said. “And so I just started asking, you know, so what’s broken here?”

from pg. 3

Saving Sam cartilage or bone, and then they will stop eating and go find muscle someplace else.” In the controlled environment of that room around the corner, they can put a dead animal in there and, over time, out comes a beautiful new specimen for the collection -bones, still held together by ligaments, perfectly articulated. Thor met Sam in 2003 at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. A botany professor told him about an impressive student of hers who loved “bats and cats,” and said maybe Thor could give her a job in the university’s Museum of Natural History mammal collection, which he managed -- the fifth biggest of its kind in the world. The Holmes had Sam and the professor over for dinner. Sam seemed shy and retiring. She wandered around their house, looking at things. “And so, I asked her, ‘How is it you became interested in bats?,’” Thor recalled. “And she said, ‘Oh I was in Costa Rica doing some food studies with bats.’ I said, ‘Really? So, what was it you were doing?’ And she said, ‘Oh, they were doing a fecal analysis. But mostly what I did was just work the nets and capture these bats and put ‘em into groups and identify ‘em.’ And I go, ‘So you were identifying Costa Rican bats?’ She said, ‘Yeah.’ So I said, ‘Well, what kind of bats were you getting?’ And she said, ‘Well, we got a lot of Uroderma.’ And I’m standing in my front room in Kansas, looking at this tiny little woman -- because, I can’t tell you how small a number of people have ever said the word ‘Uroderma’ to me...” He grilled her further. “’So what other stuff were you gettin’?’ And she goes, ‘Oh, you know, several species of Artibeus were coming up’ -- and I said, ‘That makes sense’ -- ‘and a lot of Carollia.’ Carollia is, man, an incredibly annoying group of bats because they’re hard to tell apart. And so I can remember standing there in my front room and going, ‘Carollia? You were catching Carollia?’ And she goes, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘So how do you know what Carollia you were catching?’ And this child stood there and said, ‘Well you know if you look at the hair on their forearms, you can actually tell those species apart pretty easily.’” “And so, my response was, ‘Yeah, I’ll see you in the museum tomorrow.’” Her first morning at work, Thor showed her a case of 800 fishers skulls. Each one needed a catalog number written on the cranium and in two places on the lower jaw, as well as a male or female symbol or question mark. Throughout the day, Thor checked on her. Things looked fine, the handwriting was neat. He went home, had dinner, and later that night came back to finish some work. “And Sam was still sittin’ there numbering those goddamned fishers skulls,” he said. “And I remember walking in the door and going ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph! This is supposed to be, like, a semester’s worth of work!’ And she had worked halfway through the case.” He began noticing she’d come into work some days looking distraught. Once, she was convinced she’d bombed a mammalogy test, so Thor asked the professor how she did and it turned out she’d aced it. And whenever his bosses came into the museum -- “three big, loud guys,” he said -she would visibly quake. “And, you know, you sit there skinnin’ shrews all day long,

She had trouble sleeping, she said. Nightmares. He probed further -- but that’s when she told him she couldn’t tell him everything because he wouldn’t be able to handle it. “And I said, ‘Really? So you have secrets that are so bad that your friends don’t play with you anymore?’ And she goes, ‘Yeah. There’s no way that if you start talking to people about these things that they will continue to be your friend for 30 days.’ And I said, ‘I’ll take that bet.’ He won -- jokingly rubbing it in as the days passed: “Day 17, and I’m still your friend! Day 29!” She told him that, when she was a kid, her father had repeatedly said she “was ugly, that she was stupid, that she was worthless, that he wished that she was a boy -- or, or, that he wished that she were dead,” said Thor. She also told him she’d had an abusive boyfriend. And if Thor tried to explore those people’s motives, she got angry. “She was quick-tempered,” he said. “She didn’t like to be judged.” Thor said he figures she was born very sensitive. “And I think that maybe that’s why she got so injured by her youth,” he said. But she nurtured others. One time in the prep lab, said Thor, she heard him pissing and moaning about not being able to thread a needle. “And the next morning I came up into the museum and there were little needle threaders all over the prep lab,” he said. “Sam saw the little needs in the world and took care of them.” In Sam’s senior year at K.U., things almost unraveled: She’d gone on a university-sponsored trip to another town and had been molested there by a local. Thor said Sam and her mom reported it to the university. Afterward, she dropped out of school for a semester. Then she signed back up, and because it was the final semester of her senior year she loaded up on the rest of the units she needed to graduate. Too many units, said the university, and it dropped her financial aid. She appealed, and Thor stormed into the financial aid office in her defense. The botany professor, Thor said, paid for Sam to see a mental health counselor -- but the counselor was male, which didn’t go over well. Thor and Elaine also paid for Sam to get some counseling. “I just wanted for this big brain to not get lost,” he said. “Because she wanted to be a bag lady. Or be a dishwasher -she thought dishwasher would be a low-pressure job. I mean, she thought the whole world was stressful.” Sam became a regular dinner guest at the Holmes’. Sometimes, said Thor, when you talked to her she’d curl into a fetal position, visibly hurting. He’d tell her, try scream therapy. She’d say, that would disturb the neighbors. So one time he held up a couch cushion and said, here, beat the hell out of this. She knocked it and him over the back of the couch and came around, fists swinging. So he and Elaine bought her a punching bag. Sam graduated and in July 2006 moved to Humboldt County. She planned to join AmeriCorps’ watershed program in Fortuna. The Holmes, meanwhile, who’d lived in Humboldt in the 1970s, were planning to move back to family property in Willow Creek that September. Thor said, “Sam called every night between July and September -- ‘So when are you guys coming?’ -- and I’d go, ‘We’re coming Sam -- all our stuff’s in boxes. We are coming. We’re not trying to trick you, man, we are coming.’”

9 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Jessie Brownlee met Sam two and a half years ago at a Friends of the Dunes volunteer coastal naturalist training program. They were both new to Humboldt. They buddied up and led guided walks together -- which was scary, said Jessie, because they both were quiet people. “And everything Sam did she felt an obligation to do the best job possible,” said Jessie. “And so for our first walk we spent hours reading our manual and going out there and staging where we were going to stop and talk and what we were going to talk about.” This summer, they and another friend also had gotten a Fish and Game contract to do restoration work at Ma-l’el Dunes. “We started out by removing English ivy in the forested part of the dunes,” said Jessie. “So we put on propane tanks and carried flame throwers and we walked around and burned non-native grasses. And that was a lot of fun. I remember one day Sam brought her boombox out there and we worked on grasses. That was our best day.” She said Sam was harder than hell to get to know -- she was so very quiet. “She took four months before I even found out she had a family,” she said. “She hated her father. We didn’t talk about it too much.” They talked about science. “When we were out hiking and I was in the lead, I would call out ‘BS,’ and that was a banana slug on the ground, so she would know to look down and avoid stepping on it,” said Jessie. “One time we were just talking about banana slugs and why some are yellow and some are spotted and some are really dark, and what their natural defense mechanisms are and why doesn’t everything eat banana slugs because they’re bright yellow and they’re just there?” That night, late, Sam did some research and e-mailed a report to Jessie: Apparently the slugs’ slime is offputting and makes animals throw them up. But some clever animals have learned to roll the slugs up in dirt, first, before eating them. Jessie noticed that Sam seemed drained, working two jobs and volunteering everywhere. Plus, Sam told her she wasn’t sleeping well, and the new medications she was trying merely made her throw them back up. Jessie figures one big reason Sam worked so hard, even when she was sick, was practicality. “In a community like this where jobs are scarce, you’ve gotta get your name and face out there,” Jessie said. “You get jobs through networking and knowing people, and we believed it’s through volunteering that we would be able to land a job. And, I’m a long way from landing a job seeing as I’m still in school, but that was a really big concern for her. She was really worried about work and whether or not she was going to be able to make it in this community.” But, despite worrying about money, Sam had started giving microloans to women in Third World countries. “I think she was sending $25 at a time, but I remember one week she’d sent 75 bucks,” said Jessie. “And this was a person who didn’t have money for herself. And she loved it, she was so excited. She saw it as an investment and she would get the money back, and even if she didn’t that it was the right thing to do.” But Jessie’s favorite story, in that vein, is the one about Sam taking off work one day, renting a car, and driving a woman she’d met at the Emma Center to the airport in San Francisco.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


10 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Editorial Comment, Weekly (4.300 & Under) Second Place The Weekly Calistogan, Calistoga

City’s plan for bonuses unjustified Thursday, December 25, 2008

Last week’s front-page headline, “Faltering economy felt Upvalley,” encapsulated the economic gloom that has engulfed the nation, the state and – finally – Napa Valley. The litany of economic woes seems almost endless: rising unemployment including the layoffs of 80 workers at Calistoga Beverage Co., struggling businesses, staggering stock market losses, falling home values and mounting foreclosures, a state budget with a $10 billion shortfall and billions more on the horizon, declining receipts from the City of Calistoga’s main revenue source, the Transient Occupancy Tax. So why, in the face of the worst economic period since the Great Depression, have performance bonuses suddenly become the norm for the City of Calistoga’s top managerial employees? The city council has some explaining to do. The trend seems to have started with City Manager Jim McCann, who asked the council for a performance bonus after his annual evaluation last May. And it now seems to have spread through the ranks of management, with the city’s five department heads — and perhaps others below them — also expected to receive bonuses around the end of the year. The council awarded McCann a bonus of 2.5 percent of his annual salary in a 4-1 vote last week, with Council Member Gary Kraus casting the dissenting vote. The department heads — police chief, fire chief, planning director, finance director and public works director — are in line for bonuses of up to 5 percent of their annual salaries, as determined by McCann. Several other lower-level managers are also Editorial Comment, Daily (25,001 - 75,000) First Place The Monterey County Herald Editorial by Royal Calkins

Monterey’s cross decision unconstitutional “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity in exclusion of all other religions may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christians in exclusion of all other sects?”--James Madison It has been weeks now since vandals toppled the cross that stood on a taxpayer-owned section of the Monterey shore. Much of the debate has come down to people saying the cross didn’t bother them and therefore shouldn’t bother anyone else. For a large segment of the population, that seems to be reason enough to return the icon to the beach. The problem with that, of course, is that it disregards the non-Christians who feel marginalized or excluded when they see a government-sanctioned display embracing one form of worship, and it ignores the likelihood that some may not be expressing their discomfort simply because they are seriously outnumbered. It should no longer surprise anyone that majorities sometimes forget to protect the rights of minorities.

eligible for bonuses. The city council two years ago formalized a process to allow bonuses of up to 5 percent of the salaries of management employees. Under that process, the council decides each year whether McCann gets a bonus, and McCann decides whether the other managers get bonuses. The program is a practical and fair way for the city to reward employees for exemplary performance. But the city council seems to have lost sight of the program’s basic premise. A bonus should not be awarded just because of longevity or satisfactory performance. A common-sense interpretation of the word means that a bonus should be awarded only for (1) extraordinary accomplishments that rise above the normal expectations of the job; or (2) the undertaking of responsibilities greater than those outlined in the job that the employee holds.

Editorial Cartoon, Weekly (11,000 and under) Second Place,

We’re not aware that either of those two conditions exists with respect to McCann or the department heads. That’s not to say that anyone has done a less-thansatisfactory job; they haven’t, in our view. It is simply to say that the work they have done over the last year, while recognized and appreciated, does not warrant compensation beyond the salaries they are receiving. Moreover, bonuses for public employees cannot be justified in a time of great economic hardship for the people who are paying the bills — the taxpayers. With the dawning of a new year, most people who work in the private sector are grateful that they still have jobs, and many business owners are anxiously waiting to see whether they’ll turn a profit at the end of the holiday shopping season. The City of Calistoga’s top administrators are generously

What does come as a surprise is just how many generally tolerant people seem to think that a debate of this type should end with a simple show of hands. It is surprising as well how few practitioners of Christianity are expressing the view that Monterey officials, by planning to restore the cross to its former position, are undermining the constitutional protection of religious liberty. The City Council the other night voted 5-0 to take the politically safe path and install another cross at the approximate spot on Del Monte Beach where Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola and Father Juan Crespi landed in Monterey 240 years ago. Vandals last month toppled a redwood cross that had been planted there in 1969 during a ceremony combining religious and historic elements. Acknowledging that the ACLU had raised concerns before the vandalism and is likely to pursue them in court if the cross is resurrected, the council said the decision is contingent on receipt of at least $50,000 in private donations to help cover the cost of litigation. Some will argue that to oppose such a plan is to be anti-Christian. The centuries that have passed since the framing of the Constitution apparently have softened the public’s understanding of some of its key provisions, particularly the section that calls for the government not to do anything to countenance a state religion. True, it doesn’t use the words “separation of church and state,” but that was the clear intent to erect a wall tall enough to

Petaluma Argus-Courier compensated, with McCann earning $150,504 annually and the department heads each earning about $100,000, or slightly more. They receive annual pay raises through the COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) program to offset inflation. Many citizens will be asked, or forced, to sacrifice as California moves into 2009 facing a deepening recession. Calistoga’s city council, city manager and the city’s staff must make this same sacrifice, while we all work toward the day of a brighter economy. The time will again come when a limited number of bonuses can be justified by meritorious employee performance and the city’s wherewithal to pay for them. Maybe next year.

prevent any governmental attempts to meddle in religious matters, one way or another. Accepting the existence of such a wall does not diminish religion. In fact, it does the opposite. There are those, again a large number, who seem to think it is proper for the city government to expend energy and solicit donations to defend this coming attempt to violate the Constitution. A key argument of theirs is that the city is standing up to the foolish few who would use a saw to make a point. There is substance to that view, but it attempts to place the prevention of vandalism on the same philosophical plain as freedom of religion. Another argument in support of the city’s plan is that the cross has historic significance. The obvious counter is that there are many other ways to physically commemorate the historic landing. Some choose to argue that this nation was founded on Christian principles, which ignores the great sacrifices the settlers made to escape religious tyranny in lessenlightened lands. No matter how strong the evidence, some people will never believe that the ACLU’s objective in challenging religious symbolism on government property is not to undermine religion but to protect it from government intrusion. By combating government efforts to sanction one faith or another, the ACLU advances our right to believe what we want and not what we are told. The city should switch sides in this debate and work toward a historically accurate and secular memorial, vandal-proof.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


11 CONTEST EDITION 2009

General Excellence Winners

Daily San Francisco Chronicle Daily (A) 201,000 and above

The Press-Enterprise Riverside Daily (B) 75,001-200,000

Marin Independent Journal Novato Daily (C) 25,001-75,000

Daily Republic Fairfield Daily (D) 10,001-25,000

The Davis Enterprise Daily (E) 10,000 and under

Weekly Palo Alto Weekly Weekly (A) 25,001 and above

San Francisco Business Times Petaluma Argus-Courier

Weekly (B) 11,001-25,000

Weekly (C) 4,301-11,000

Los Banos Enterprise Weekly (D) 4,300 and under Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


12 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Awards by newspaper DAILY (listed by newspaper, city) Auburn Journal (D)

Second – 2. Editorial Pages Second – 3. Editorial Comment First – 5. Local Breaking News Second – 10. Sports Coverage First – 12. Lifestyle Coverage First – 21. Sports Photo First – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic Second – 25. Editorial Cartoon Second – 28. General Excellence

The Bakersfield Californian (D)

Second – 12. Lifestyle Coverage First – 13. Business/Financial Story Second – 13. Business/Financial Story First – 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting First – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting Second – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting First – 17. Page Layout & Design First – 20. Feature Photo Second – 23. Special Issue Second – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic First – 26. Best Website

Glendale News-Press (D)

Second – 2. Editorial Pages

First – 8. Columns

The Sentinel, Hanford (D)

Second – 5. Local Breaking News First – 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting First – 17. Page Layout & Design Second – 23. Special Issue

Lake County Record-Bee, Lakeport (D)

The Daily Triplicate, Crescent City (D)

The Davis Enterprise (D)

First – 2. Editorial Pages First – 4. Writing Second – 6. Local News Coverage First – 7. Feature Story Second – 8. Columns First – 9. Arts & Entertainment First – 10. Sports Coverage Second – 12. Lifestyle Coverage First – 13. Business/Financial Story Second – 13. Business/Financial Story First – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting Second–14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting First – 16. Front Page First – 20. Feature Photo Second – 20. Feature Photo Second – 21. Sports Photo First – 22. Photo Essay Second – 22. Photo Essay First – 28. General Excellence

Times-Standard, Eureka (D) Second – 4. Writing First – 8. Columns

First – 3. Editorial Comment

Lodi News-Sentinel (D)

Second – 3. Editorial Comment First – 4. Writing First – 18. Breaking News Photo First – 23. Special Issue

Lompoc Record (D)

First – 6. Local News Coverage Second – 16. Front Page First – 19. General News Photo

Press-Telegram, Long Beach (D)

First – 12. Lifestyle Coverage First – 16. Front Page Second – 20. Feature Photo Second – 22. Photo Essay First – 28. General Excellence First – 3. Editorial Comment First – 4. Writing Second – 6. Local News Coverage First – 7. Feature Story Second – 8. Columns Second – 9. Arts & Entertainment

Napa Valley Register (D)

First – 6. Local News Coverage First – 13. Business/Financial Story Second – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting Second – 19. General News Photo Second – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic Second – 26. Best Website

Marin Independent Journal, Novato (D) First – 2. Editorial Pages Second – 11. Sports Story Second – 21. Sports Photo First – 25. Editorial Cartoon First – 27. Freedom of Information First – 28. General Excellence

Oakland Tribune (D)

Second – 6. Local News Coverage First – 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting First – 17. Page Layout & Design

The Desert Sun, Palm Springs (D) Second – 1. Public Service First – 5. Local Breaking News First – 10. Sports Coverage Second – 26. Best Website

Second – 4. Writing Second – 19. General News Photo

Antelope Valley Press, Palmdale (D)

First – 4. Writing Second – 5. Local Breaking News Second – 7. Feature Story

The Porterville Recorder (D)

Los Angeles Times (D)

Appeal-Democrat, Marysville (D)

First – 3. Editorial Comment Second – 6. Local News Coverage Second – 11. Sports Story First – 19. General News Photo First – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic First – 26. Best Website

Merced Sun-Star (D)

Daily Republic, Fairfield (D)

The Fresno Bee (D)

Second–14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting

First – 3. Editorial Comment Second – 9. Arts & Entertainment First – 11. Sports Story Second – 12. Lifestyle Coverage

First – 7. Feature Story First – 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting Second – 16. Front Page First – 17. Page Layout & Design Second – 23. Special Issue Second – 27. Freedom of Information Second – 28. General Excellence

The Modesto Bee (D)

Second – 2. Editorial Pages Second – 13. Business/Financial Story First – 16. Front Page Second – 23. Special Issue

Monterey County Herald (D)

First – 10. Sports Coverage First – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting Second – 17. Page Layout & Design

Record Searchlight, Redding (D)

Second – 22. Photo Essay First – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic

The Press-Enterprise, Riverside (D)

First – 1. Public Service First – 2. Editorial Pages Second – 3. Editorial Comment First – 5. Local Breaking News First – 6. Local News Coverage First – 9. Arts & Entertainment First – 10. Sports Coverage First – 11. Sports Story Second – 11. Sports Story Second–14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting First – 18. Breaking News Photo Second – 22. Photo Essay First – 23. Special Issue Second – 26. Best Website First – 28. General Excellence

The Sacramento Bee (D)

First – 5. Local Breaking News Second – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


13 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Awards by newspaper First – 23. Special Issue First – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic Second – 26. Best Website

The Sun, San Bernardino (D) First – 1. Public Service

The Daily Transcript, San Diego (D) Second – 26. Best Website

The San Diego Union-Tribune (D)

Second – 3. Editorial Comment Second – 4. Writing Second – 9. Arts & Entertainment Second – 11. Sports Story Second – 12. Lifestyle Coverage Second – 13. Business/Financial Story Second–14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting First – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting Second – 17. Page Layout & Design First – 18. Breaking News Photo Second – 18. Breaking News Photo First – 19. General News Photo First – 20. Feature Photo Second – 25. Editorial Cartoon

San Francisco Chronicle (D)

First – 2. Editorial Pages First – 3. Editorial Comment Second – 6. Local News Coverage First – 7. Feature Story First – 8. Columns Second – 8. Columns First – 9. Arts & Entertainment First – 10. Sports Coverage First – 12. Lifestyle Coverage First – 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting First – 16. Front Page First – 17. Page Layout & Design First – 21. Sports Photo Second – 22. Photo Essay Second – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic First – 26. Best Website Second – 27. Freedom of Information First – 28. General Excellence

The Recorder, San Francisco (D)

Second–14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting Second – 19. General News Photo

San Jose Mercury News (D)

Second – 1. Public Service Second – 2. Editorial Pages First – 6. Local News Coverage Second – 10. Sports Coverage First – 11. Sports Story First – 13. Business/Financial Story Second – 16. Front Page Second – 19. General News Photo Second – 20. Feature Photo

Second – 21. Sports Photo First – 22. Photo Essay Second – 23. Special Issue First – 27. Freedom of Information Second – 28. General Excellence

The Tribune, San Luis Obispo (D)

Second – 10. Sports Coverage First – 13. Business/Financial Story Second–14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting First – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting Second – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting

The Orange County Register, Santa Ana (D) First – 1. Public Service

Santa Barbara Daily Sound (D) Second – 4. Writing First – 8. Columns

The Signal, Santa Clarita (D)

Second – 7. Feature Story Second – 9. Arts & Entertainment First – 11. Sports Story Second – 11. Sports Story First – 23. Special Issue First – 26. Best Website

Santa Cruz Sentinel (D)

Second – 1. Public Service First – 2. Editorial Pages First – 5. Local Breaking News Second – 5. Local Breaking News Second – 8. Columns First – 9. Arts & Entertainment First – 11. Sports Story Second – 17. Page Layout & Design Second – 18. Breaking News Photo First – 21. Sports Photo First – 22. Photo Essay

Santa Maria Times (D)

Second – 10. Sports Coverage First – 20. Feature Photo Second – 21. Sports Photo

The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa (D) Second – 3. Editorial Comment First – 6. Local News Coverage Second – 7. Feature Story First – 9. Arts & Entertainment First – 12. Lifestyle Coverage First – 20. Feature Photo First – 21. Sports Photo Second – 28. General Excellence

First – 23. Special Issue Second – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic

Daily Breeze, Torrance (D) First – 16. Front Page

Sierra Sun, Truckee (D)

Second – 12. Lifestyle Coverage

Ukiah Daily Journal (D)

First – 18. Breaking News Photo Second – 18. Breaking News Photo Second – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic

Ventura County Star (D)

First – 4. Writing First – 7. Feature Story Second – 16. Front Page Second – 18. Breaking News Photo First – 19. General News Photo Second – 20. Feature Photo First – 26. Best Website

Visalia Times-Delta (D)

First – 1. Public Service Second – 7. Feature Story Second – 9. Arts & Entertainment Second – 13. Business/Financial Story

Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek (D) Second – 1. Public Service Second – 4. Writing Second – 7. Feature Story First – 8. Columns Second – 10. Sports Coverage First – 12. Lifestyle Coverage Second – 16. Front Page Second – 18. Breaking News Photo Second – 19. General News Photo First – 21. Sports Photo Second – 21. Sports Photo First – 22. Photo Essay First – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic Second – 28. General Excellence

Daily News-Los Angeles, Woodland Hills (D) Second – 2. Editorial Pages Second – 5. Local Breaking News Second – 17. Page Layout & Design First – 19. General News Photo Second – 20. Feature Photo

The Record, Stockton (D)

Second – 5. Local Breaking News Second – 8. Columns Second – 17. Page Layout & Design First – 18. Breaking News Photo First – 22. Photo Essay

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


14 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Awards by newspaper

Weekly (listed by newspaper, city) The Acorn, Agoura Hills (W)

Second – 28. General Excellence

North Coast Journal, Arcata (W)

First – 4. Writing Second – 4. Writing First – 6. Local News Coverage Second – 8. Columns First – 13. Business/Financial Story First – 15. Environ.Ag Resource Reporting

Berkeley Daily Planet (W)

The Mountain Enterprise, Frazier Park (W) First – 1. Public Service First – 26. Best Website

The Business Journal, Fresno (W)

Second – 3. Editorial Comment Second – 13. Business/Financial Story

Vida en el Valle, Fresno (W)

First – 7. Feature Story Second – 13. Business/Financial Story First – 22. Photo Essay Second – 22. Photo Essay

Camarillo Acorn (W)

First – 18. Breaking News Photo Second – 19. General News Photo First – 21. Sports Photo

The Cambrian, Cambria (W)

Second – 14. Invest./Enterprise Reporting

Chico News & Review (W) First – 2. Editorial Pages First – 23. Special Issue

Chino Champion (W)

Second – 18. Breaking News Photo

The Star-News, Chula Vista (W)

Second – 10. Sports Coverage Second – 27. Freedom of Information

Claremont Courier (W)

Second – 7. Feature Story Second – 21. Sports Photo First – 22. Photo Essay Second – 22. Photo Essay

Coastline Pilot, Laguna Beach (W) Second – 10. Sports Coverage Second – 21. Sports Photo

Elk Grove Citizen (W)

Second – 2. Editorial Pages Second – 4. Writing First–14. Invest./Enterprise Reporting

Burbank Leader (W)

First – 10. Sports Coverage Second – 12. Lifestyle Coverage First – 16. Front Page - Broadsheet Second –17. Page Layout & Design-Broadsheet

Half Moon Bay Review (W)

First – 7. Feature Story Second – 10. Sports Coverage First – 12. Lifestyle Coverage Second – 15. Environmental/Ag Resource Reporting First – 16. Front Page - Tab & Broadsheet Second – 17. Page Layout & Design Broadsheet Second – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic Second – 28. General Excellence

The Healdsburg Tribune (W) First – 23. Special Issue Second – 23. Special Issue

Hollister Free Lance (W)

First – 10. Sports Coverage Second – 11. Sports Story First – 19. General News Photo Second – 21. Sports Photo

Weekend Pinnacle, Hollister (W)

Second – 14. Invest./Enterprise Reporting First – 22. Photo Essay

Huntington Beach Independent (W) Second – 11. Sports Story

First – 8. Columns

The Ferndale Enterprise (W)

Second – 5. Local Breaking News First – 6. Local News Coverage Second – 27. Freedom of Information

The Mendocino Beacon (W)

First – 13. Business/Financial Story

Second – 1. Public Service

Los Banos Enterprise (W)

First – 5. Local Breaking News

Calistoga Tribune (W)

Second – 26. Best Website

Los Angeles Downtown News (W)

First – 11. Sports Story

The Gilroy Dispatch (W)

Second – 3. Editorial Comment First – 25. Editorial Cartoon

Los Altos Town Crier (W)

Los Angeles Downtown News (W)

Grapevine Independent, Rancho Cordova (W)

The Weekly Calistogan, Calistoga (W)

Second – 2. Editorial Pages

Second – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting Second – 16. Front Page - Broadsheet First – 17. Page Layout & Design - Broadsheet First – 19. General News Photo Second – 21. Sports Photo

Second – 5. Local Breaking News Second – 25. Editorial Cartoon

The Intermountain News, Burney (W)

Second – 14. Invest./Enterprise Reporting

Grunion Gazette, Long Beach (W)

Town Crier, Idyllwild (W)

Second – 4. Writing First – 18. Breaking News Photo Second – 18. Breaking News Photo Second – 26. Best Website First – 27. Freedom of Information

Amador Ledger Dispatch, Jackson (W)

First – 7. Feature Story Second – 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting Second – 20. Feature Photo First – 25. Editorial Cartoon Second– 17. Page Layout & Design-Broadsheet First – 28. General Excellence

Mammoth Times, Mammoth Lakes (W) First – 21. Sports Photo

The Almanac, Menlo Park (W)

First – 20. Feature Photo Second – 28. General Excellence

The Merced County Times (W) Second – 1. Public Service First – 21. Sports Photo

Moorpark Acorn (W)

Second – 18. Breaking News Photo

Morgan Hill Times (W)

First – 3. Editorial Comment First – 10. Sports Coverage First – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting First – 20. Feature Photo

Mount Shasta Herald (W)

First – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting

Mountain View Voice (W)

Second – 1. Public Service

Palo Alto Weekly (W)

First – 3. Editorial Comment First – 6. Local News Coverage First – 10. Sports Coverage First – 17. Page Layout & Design - Tabloid First – 20. Feature Photo First – 26. Best Website First – 28. General Excellence

Pasadena Weekly (W)

First – 5. Local Breaking News

Petaluma Argus-Courier (W)

First – 2. Editorial Pages First – 6. Local News Coverage Second – 12. Lifestyle Coverage Second – 16. Front Page - Tab & Broadsheet First – 17. Page Layout & Design - Broadsheet Second – 25. Editorial Cartoon Second – 26. Best Website First – 28. General Excellence

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


15 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Columns, Weekly ( 4,301–11,000) First Place Elk Grove Citizen, Columns by Jamie Gonzales

“Facing the Truth and the Light” By Jamie Gonzales – Oct. 8, 2008 – Elk Grove Citizen I lay on the bed crying as my oncologist bows his head and prays with me, holding my hand. That is when you know the news is bad. He had just told me that the chemotherapy drugs that I have been taking, and mind you, they are the strongest ones available, have not been helping at all. My liver has grown, along with the number of tumors growing inside. “Can any other drugs help?” I ask. He said there are some non-chemotherapy drugs that will work like one of them, but the chances of it actually helping me are less than 20 per cent. Also the side effects are acne and rashes ranging from my lower face down to my chest. “No thank you, it’s not worth it,” I said. Basically, I’ve been given a couple months. My oncologist was actually surprised to find that my liver has lasted this long, with no signs of jaundice: “(A) medical condition in which too much bilirubin - a compound produced by the breakdown of hemoglobin from red blood cells - is circulating in the blood. The excess bilirubin causes the skin, eyes, and the mucus membranes in the mouth to turn a yellowish color. If the cause is not treated, it can lead to liver failure,” according to WebMD. com. “So where do we go from here?” I ask. He will give me the necessary drugs to make sure my last few months are comfortable. He also laughed when I asked

Notebook from pg 43 exemplary. One of them, Ed O’Meara, said young scouts loved Davis. He was “a pied piper of little kids.” (Under cross exam of witnesses by the prosecution, it was revealed that Troop 27 leaders had never had training in child abuse until February of this year, just weeks prior to trial, even though there is a Guide to Safe Scouting, specifically dealing with the prevention of child abuse and a rule that adult leaders are forbidden from sharing a tent with their young charges.) Davis’ grandmother testified on March 16 about the tough life he had in Los Angeles until he moved to Eureka to be raised by her and her late husband. At least three jurors had tears in their eyes as we broke for coffee. March 17-18 We were almost done. Jury instructions came first. There were 43 pages. My mind began to blur, but then I remembered as an alternate I wasn’t going into that room to deliberate unless I was needed. The prosecutor summed up his case. The defendant had continual access to the victims. He gained their trust, exerted strong parental-like control over them. (In one taped phone call Davis told No. 2, “All I want is your love, buddy.”) Then with his “sick sense of perverted love,” he began molesting them, a crime that takes place in private. No witnesses. There is no “innocent interpretation” of the mountain of evidence, Klein said. You just have to find “lewd and lascivious conduct” three times over three months “and he’s cooked.” The defense attorney begged to differ. Every detail of the boys’ testimony “has changed over time,” especially No. 1 who couldn’t tell a story the same two times in a row. The boys had been exposed to pornography at their grandmother’s house, anyway, via cable TV. The physical

if I can drink again. He nodded and said yes. Just in case if you all were wondering, chemotherapy and alcohol does not mix well. Either I talk for hours and not realize it or I get sick as a dog. So it has been four months since my last drink, which was orange juice with a smidge of vodka. Thankfully, my fiancé loves Budweiser as a marinade for his steaks, so I am going to be one happy camper. The other good news is that my hair will come back now. For months, I have been shedding like a Newfoundland in the spring. In the last month, after I shower, I have pulled out clumps the size of my hand. Any woman will tell you, it is very hard emotionally to watch my naturally thick hair thin out to almost nothing. For this reason, I have not allowed any pictures of myself to be taken without a hat. But I do not have to worry about it now. My hair is already starting to shed less and hopefully in a few months, my hair will be back to its natural state. Normally hair returns two to three months after chemotherapy, and depending on the person, it comes back thicker and either wavier or curlier. In my case, I will still have my mother’s wavy, thick hair. So how is this going to change my future? Well, my wedding plans are definitely going to have to be pushed up, so I can actually have energy to get through the ceremony. While my fiancé is happy to just go to the local justice of the peace, I want to get married in Nevada. Sorry, this is where my politics come out. I am not and will not be a “Party B” according to my marriage license. Since homosexual marriages were approved this last June, to make the marriage licenses neutral for all wedded couples, the “Groom/Bride” portion has been

evidence was thin — he actually said “zero” — and the testimony presented merely gave “impressions” of guilt, not guilt. In other words, reasonable doubt. The verdict I kept my cell phone near in case I was needed. I was informed of the hours the jurors were working: until 2 p.m. this day, noon the next. I was surprised it was taking so long. Three days passed and they broke for the weekend. On Tuesday, March 25, I finally got the call that a verdict was in and I drove to the courthouse. There in the hallway were my fellow jurors waiting for court to reconvene, looking subdued and avoiding much eye contact with me or with each other. I approached a few of them and handed out my business cards, reminding them I am a reporter and would be writing a story. Most declined to talk. One said, “It was tough. I just hope nobody gets thrown under the bus.” In other words, we made a decision together and we should stick together. Although the headline in the Eureka Reporter the next day read, “Scout Leader Found Guilty,” that was only part of the story. He was found guilty of possessing child pornography. He was found guilty of lewd and lascivious conduct, a significantly lesser charge by iteself. He was found not guilty of the greater crime of repeated molestation over a period of three months with someone under the age of 14 (with an age difference of more than 10 years between the perpetrator and the victim). There was no beer celebration at the end of the trial. The attorneys like to talk with jurors immediately after a case to obtain feedback on how to improve. Only a few jurors could be cornered since most headed to the courthouse exits as quickly as possible. While defense attorney Brown

replaced with “Party A/Party B.” I would rather fly to Las Vegas and officially be a “Bride” than to stay in California and be a “Party B.” OK, that is the end of my rant. And I do have to check with a lawyer to speak about a will and other financial questions, to prepare for the end. I will still work as long as I can drive to the Citizen’s office. When I can no longer drive, I will work from home and just e-mail my stories to my editor. Am I scared of the end? No one really wants to die. I would rather give up my left arm or all of my hair to stay with my fiancé and grow old with him. I would even sacrifice my chances of having children if I can stay with him for 10 years or 50 years. I can live with just having puppies. But I remember my grandmother’s last week on this world. She was talking with someone (whom I could not see) and she introduced me to this person. I knew then that her mother came to comfort her and my grandmother would not be going to the next world alone. That gives me comfort. I know that my grandmother will be waiting for me on a very comfortable couch in front of a big screen Plasma TV with the NASCAR race on. And my dog Braveheart will be there, ready to jump up on me and give me puppy kisses. Also my fiancé’s grandmother will be waiting for me too, ready to give me a huge hug and kiss. I will miss the people that I leave behind, but I know I will live in their hearts forever. And with the thousands of pictures that my friends and I have taken in our years at the Sacramento State Hornet newspaper, they will remember me as full of life and health.

spoke with one juror, I followed Klein into a side room to debrief another who was resigned to the verdict but clearly not happy. The jury started out with three jurors — him included, he told us — who felt the defendant was guilty of the repeated molestation charge, two who wanted to acquit on all charges and everyone else in between. Seeds of doubt grew. “In the end, I felt half a loaf was better than a hung jury.” Afterword Matthew Davis’ sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 30. However, on April 9, Glenn Brown, Davis’ defense attorney and the chief of the Humboldt County Conflict Council’s Office, filed a motion for a new trial. In the motion, Brown alleges that Deputy District Attorney Arnie Klein introduced material at trial that had not previously been disclosed to the defense. During the trial, Davis’ neighbor — the one that had testified about seeing Davis and the victims at Swimmer’s Delight — related a story his young daughter had told him about seeing the defendant in the shed, handling a pair of boxer shorts. The neighbor said he believed the shorts belonged to one of the victims. In court documents, this is referred to as “The Boxer Shorts Incident.” The neighbor testified that after the incident the did not want his daughter to return to the shed. In his motion for a new trial, Brown writes that the first time the defense had heard of “The Boxer Shorts Incident” was at trial. Brown contends that bringing up the incident amounted to “prejudicial prosecutorial conduct.” If the Judge rules in favor, the case would have to be tried all over again.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


16 CONTEST EDITION 2009

executive editor. “But we’re not fully satisfied. We believe the county and other public entities need to be completely transparent with salary and other employee costs. The public has the right to know.”

Editorial Cartoon, Weekly (11,000 & Under) First Place The Weekly Calistogan, Calistoga, by Joan Martens

Wilson said the IJ will be requesting similar disclosures from other public agencies in Marin. The figures released by the county do not detail county contributions to workers’ health insurance and pensions, but Assistant County Counsel Jack Govi said those figures add up to an average of 40 to 47 percent on top of workers’ paychecks. Govi said disclosing specific information on workers’ health benefits may be a violation of federal laws regarding medical privacy rights. The county also did not disclose requested details regarding workers’ gender, age, length of service, hiring date and city of residence. The county’s annual obligation for health insurance and retirement pay for workers and retirees cost $66.5 million in 2007, about 15 percent of that year’s $430 million budget. Those benefits and $176 million in pay were the biggest piece - 55 percent - of the county operating budget in 2007. The county shelled out $7.4 million in overtime pay and $6.7 million in “other” compensation during 2007, a catchall category for more than 60 forms of extra pay such as car allowance, stand-by and on-call pay, shift differentials, bonuses for education and speaking more than one language and pay for not being on county health coverage. The IJ had requested a detailed breakdown of those costs, but it was not included in the county’s initial response.

Freedom of Information, Daily (75,000 & Under) First Place Marin Independent Journal, Novato

County payroll: One of every five workers earns more than $100,000 (Story included a link to a searchable database of county payroll on the IJ Web site.) By Brad Breithaupt, Marin Independent Journal

Nearly one of every five Marin County employees was paid more than $100,000 during 2007 and 55 boosted their paychecks by earning more than $25,000 in overtime pay. Three county workers - two firefighters and a technology analyst - earned more than $70,000 in overtime last year, according to 2007 payroll details for more than 2,200 county workers. The details were released by County Administrator Matthew Hymel at the Marin Independent Journal’s request. The more than 400 workers who got annual paychecks exceeding $100,000 included top executives and department heads, prosecutors and attorneys, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters, technology experts, physicians and nurses, engineers and public-safety dispatchers. Most of the overtime pay went to firefighters and sheriff’s deputies and dispatchers, where minimum staffing requirements open the door for overtime when there are vacancies or workers out sick or on vacation. The technology worker who received $71,635 in overtime put in the extra hours on the effort to straighten out the county’s new and troubled financial software, which already has cost the county more than $18 million.

Many firefighters earned overtime serving on statewide strike teams, responding to wildland fires up and down the state. The county is reimbursed by the state and federal governments for those expenses. Brian Meuser, a fire department training officer, was paid $73,169 in overtime pay - 1.5 times his hourly pay for every extra hour he worked - on top of his annual salary of $90,685. That overtime tab included 58 days of fighting wildland fires, from Santa Barbara County to Shasta County, as part of a state strike team, said Fire Chief Ken Massucco, whose $177,895 pay for 2007 was less than that of three of his firefighters, thanks to overtime. Meuser, who’s now retired, is one of three firefighters in the list of the top 20 highest-paid county workers. The top-paid worker during 2007 was Dr. Mark Jacobs, the head of the county’s obstetrician/gynecologist team. His annual salary was $201,128, but he was also paid $65,276 for being on-call and scheduling the division’s corps of doctors and its midwife. His pay even topped that of Hymel, the top county executive, who was paid $223,528, including his salary of $213,928 and the $800-per-month auto allowance paid to county managers and members of the county Board of Supervisors.

Hymel defended Marin’s pay levels and benefits, stressing they are at a level necessary to retain and recruit qualified workers. “How many private-sector employees earn over $100,000 in Marin County?” asked Hymel, noting that the county, Marin’s largest employer, shares businesses’ challenge of having to recruit workers to a community where the cost of living is so high. The county, he said, has strived to keep pay and benefits within an average of those paid by nearby and like-sized counties, he said. He noted that turnover is low and stressed that, by his calculations, the 19 percent of county of Marin employees earning at least $100,000 is less than in the counties of San Francisco (29 percent), Contra Costa (25 percent) and Alameda (21 percent). Compared with the private and public sectors in Marin, county workers’ average yearly pay is roughly 12 percent - or $7,200 - higher. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay in Marin at the end of 2006 was $59,696 per year. Figures released by the county show the average annual county pay was $66,909 during 2007. “We have been a very stable organization,” Hymel said. “I don’t think our numbers are out of line with neighboring counties. Our goal is to be fair and competitive. Most residents share that goal.”

Details about county salaries were released to the Independent Journal and county employees this week, after a political and legal fight that took more than two years to resolve.

He added that while some workers earn a lot of overtime pay, on average it accounts for 4.2 percent of the county payroll. “I think that’s a reasonable portion of our budget,” he said.

“We’re pleased that taxpayers are now able to see how their money is being spent,” said Matthew Wilson, the IJ’s

Hymel defended the overtime paid to straighten out its controversial software mess, where county workers’ See County payroll, pg 26

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


17 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Awards by newspaper Mountain Democrat, Placerville (W) Second – 3. Editorial Comment First – 8. Columns First – 18. Breaking News Photo

Pleasanton Weekly (W)

First – 1. Public Service First – 26. Best Website

Point Reyes Light, Point Reyes Station (W)

First – 3. Editorial Comment Second – 7. Feature Story First – 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting

Poway News Chieftain (W)

Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal (W) First – 1. Public Service First – 17. Page Layout & Design - Tabloid Second – 23. Special Issue

Los Gatos Weekly Times (W) Second – 2. Editorial Pages First – 11. Sports Story First – 23. Special Issue

Campbell Reporter (W)

Second – 7. Feature Story

Metro, San Jose (W)

First – 9. Arts & Entertainment

First – 21. Sports Photo

Cupertino Courier (W)

First – 20. Feature Photo

Pacific Sun, San Rafael (W)

Feather River Bulletin, Quincy (W) The Press Tribune, Roseville (W)

Second – 5. Local Breaking News

Sacramento News & Review (W)

First – 1. Public Service Second – 3. Editorial Comment Second – 4. Writing Second – 6. Local News Coverage Second – 7. Feature Story First – 8. Columns First – 11. Sports Story First – 16. Front Page - Tabloid Second – 22. Photo Essay First – 27. Freedom of Information

Calaveras Enterprise, San Andreas (W)

Second – 8. Columns Second – 11. Sports Story Second – 17. Page Layout & Design - Tabloid Second – 20. Feature Photo

San Francisco Business Times (W) First – 2. Editorial Pages First – 3. Editorial Comment

Second – 22. Photo Essay

First – 7. Feature Story First – 12. Lifestyle Coverage

Sanger Herald (W)

Second – 8. Columns

The Santa Barbara Independent (W) Second – 26. Best Website

Good Times, Santa Cruz (W)

First – 13. Business/Financial Story First – 22. Photo Essay

Times-Press-Recorder, Arroyo Grande (W)

Second – 2. Editorial Pages Second – 15. Environ./Ag Resource Reporting First – 16. Front Page - Tab & Broadsheet First – 17. Page Layout & Design - Broadsheet

Santa Maria Sun (W)

Second – 15. Environ.Ag Resource Reporting

Sonoma West Times & News, Sebastopol (W) Second – 20. Feature Photo

The Signal Tribune, Signal Hill (W) Second – 23. Special Issue

Santa Ynez Valley News, Solvang (W)

Second – 6. Local News Coverage First – 11. Sports Story Second – 16. Front Page - Tab & Broadsheet Second – 19. General News Photo Second – 28. General Excellence

Sonoma Index-Tribune (W)

First – 4. Writing Second – 6. Local News Coverage First – 13. Business/Financial Story First – 18. Breaking News Photo First – 19. General News Photo Second – 19. General News Photo First – 23. Special Issue

St. Helena Star (W)

Second – 1. Public Service First – 2. Editorial Pages First – 4. Writing Second – 10. Sports Coverage

Tracy Press (W)

First – 5. Local Breaking News First – 19. General News Photo Second – 19. General News Photo

Turlock Journal (W)

First – 5. Local Breaking News

Brentwood News (W)

Second – 6. Local News Coverage

The Trinity Journal, Weaverville (W) Second – 5. Local Breaking News Second – 18. Breaking News Photo First – 26. Best Website

Winters Express (W) First – 8. Columns

SF Weekly, San Francisco (W)

First – 4. Writing Second – 8. Columns Second – 9. Arts & Entertainment Second – 11. Sports Story Second – 13. Business/Financial Story First – 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting First – 15. Environmental/Ag Resource Reporting

San Francisco Business Times (W)

Second – 13. Business/Financial Story First – 14. Investigative/Enterprise Reporting Second – 16. Front Page - Tabloid Second – 17. Page Layout & Design - Tabloid Second – 20. Feature Photo First – 24. Illustration/Info Graphic First – 28. General Excellence

San Francisco Bay Guardian (W) Second – 23. Special Issue

Breaking News Photo, Weekly (4,301-11,000) First Place Sonoma Index-Tribune, Columns by Bill Hoban

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


18 CONTEST EDITION 2009

2009 Campus Newspaper Winners High School Division First Place Harvard-Westlake High School, North Hollywood The Chronicle Second Place Granite Bay High School The Gazette

2-Year College Division

4-Year College Division

First Place Los Angeles City College Los Angeles Collegian

First Place California State University, Chico The Orion

Second Place City College of San Francisco The Guardsman

Second Place Chapman University, Orange The Panther

General News Photo, Daily (10,000 & Under) First Place Lompoc Record, by Bryan Walton

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


19 CONTEST EDITION 2009 General News Photo, Weekly (11,001-25,000) First Place Tracy Press

Sports Photo, Weekly (25,001 and Above) First Place Camarillo Acorn

Breaking News Photo, Daily (25,001-75,000) First Place The Record, Stockton

Sports Photo, Weekly (11,001-25,000) First Place Poway News Chieftain

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


20 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Business/Financial Story, Weekly (10,001-25,000) First Place North Coast Journal, Arcata

When Weed is Legal Taxed, regulated marijuana sales might help save the state’s economy, but will it ruin ours? By Ryan Burns

Pardon the use of Bob Dylan’s chorus-cum-cliché, but it’s the truth: The times they are a-changin’. A year ago, if you’d told even the most sanguine of Redwood Park stoners that the state legislature would be considering a bill to legalize marijuana -- actually considering it -- and that op-eds in newspapers from the Sacramento Bee to the San Francisco Chronicle to the Times-Standard would be rooting for the thing, chances are they’d have coughed smoke through their noses: “What are you, high?”

pirate gardeners harvesting diesel dope in our State Parks, even the inept amateurs in their combustible grow houses. In short, it would be all good, brah. Or would it? Not everyone agrees with this blissedout vision, this notion that legalization will create an economical, Jeff Spicoli Valhalla. Some of the fiercest critics are right here in Humboldt County, a land synonymous with the dankest of chronic. While many Humboldters sport “Legalize It” bumper stickers on their French-fry-powered Volvos, many others, including medical marijuana advocates, economists and some of the stoniest of stoners, say legalization would be bad for us, putting them in unlikely alliance with drug war hardliners and “slippery slope” moralists. AB 390, which isn’t scheduled to be heard until early

Yet here we are. In the White House we have a man who, while pointedly not advocating full legalization, openly admits he inhaled and who said in 2004 that the war on drugs had been an “utter failure” and that pot should be decriminalized. In February, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries that follow state laws -- a sharp departure from the Bush administration’s zerotolerance policy. Just last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also called U.S. drug policies a failure, saying they’ve contributed to the escalation of violence in Mexico, which is now seeping into the U.S. Recent polls show, ahem, growing support for legalization, including a majority in favor in the western U.S. And with California more broke than a panhandling Plazoid, taxing the grass is starting to look a lot greener. It’s all coalesced into what the state office of NORML (the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws) somewhat callously calls “a perfect storm of recent events” boosting legalization efforts. Under San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s bill (AB 390, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act) cannabis would be legal ... but not 100 percent legal, to paraphrase Vincent Vega. As with alcohol, pot could be sold to anyone in California over the age of 21. But no smoking it in public; no growing it in public view; and keep it away from schools. Wholesalers would have to pony up $5,000 initially and $2,500 per year for distribution rights. Retail outlets would be charged a $50 fee per ounce of cannabis (which no doubt would be passed along to the consumer, translating to about a buck per joint) to fund statewide drug education programs. The bill would not alter California’s medical marijuana law, ushered in by the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215), which allows patients, caregivers and collectives to grow their medicine. For many AB 390 advocates, it’s all about the Benjamins. According to estimates from the state Board of Equalization, legalization could generate more than $1.3 billion per year from marijuana sales -- about $990 million from retailer fees and $349 million from sales taxes. A paper by Harvard economist Dr. Jeffrey Miron argues that legalized marijuana would generate between $10 and $14 billion in economic bennies to the state courtesy of increased business and payroll tax revenues and spin-off businesses like those in the wine industry. “Last but not least,” says California NORML on its Web site, “the bill would save the state $170 million [annually] in costs for arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of marijuana offenders.” Legal weed, the group claims, would put an end to black market dealers and smugglers,

Sitting deep in a cushy living-room couch, J.D. (not his real name) fires up a neatly rolled blunt while explaining how he came to be a marijuana grower and dealer. In a way, he says with more than a hint of amusement, his illicit lifestyle can be blamed on former President George W. Bush. See, after growing up in the Midwest, J.D. had lined up a job through Americorps teaching outdoor education at the Manila Community Center. “I was in the process of getting ready to move out here [when] I got a letter from the government that said G.W. had cut the funding for the program and I wouldn’t have a job,” J.D. says. Lacking a backup plan, he moved anyway, found a place to live in Arcata and a minimum-wage job. “Like a lot of other people who come out here, you just meet people,” he says, exhaling thick tendrils of smoke. “And eventually you meet people that grow weed.” He and his roommates were enlisted by one such person to raise cannabis plants through their vegetative stage and then sell them to another guy who had a flowering room. “That was kind of the foot in the door,” J.D. says. Eventually, he and a friend decided to pool their resources and start a grow of their own -- a little three-light operation in the attic. They bought some Organic Grow fertilizer at a local grow shop, studied Jorge Cervantes’ book Marijuana Horticulture (known by growers simply as “the Bible”) and nurtured their plants carefully. “Our first round -- it was like a new puppy,” J.D. recalls fondly. “I would go in there whether there was anything I could possibly do or not. I would just go sit in there and stare at my plants and hope I was gonna see ‘em grow or somethin’.” Grow they did. J.D. and his friend harvested about a pound of high-quality weed per thousand-watt light in their first run, “which we were pretty stoked about,” he says.

next year, faces an uphill battle. Assemblyman Ammiano, in an interview with Salon.com, characterized his fellow legislators’ response to the bill this way: “[A] lot of [my] colleagues...say: ‘Oh my God, I think this is great, but I don’t think I can vote for it.’” Last week, Obama reiterated his stance against legalization. The prevailing trend in public attitude, however, suggests that weed will be legalized, or at least decriminalized, in the not-too-distant future, which raises a variety of questions. How will it affect our local economy, safety and public health? Where will it leave medical dispensaries? What will it mean for the countless local residents who make money growing cannabis in their closets and backyards, or in the sunny fields near Willow Creek and Weaverville? ^^^^^ J.D. lives with his fiancée and their two dogs in a wellkept, nondescript tract home on a quiet, nondescript Eureka side street. Inside, the house looks typical of a young couple starting out in life: Evidence of a recently prepared meal sits on an island in the kitchen. Framed movie posters line the walls. A Nerf-style basketball hoop is mounted above the hallway that leads back to the bedrooms. The only hint of indulgence sits in the sunken, carpeted living room: a 62-inch television sprouting the tentacular cords of an X-Box 360 and flanked by a pair of sentinel-like home stereo speakers.

Fast-forward five years. He and his fiancée have been in their current house for about two-and-a-half years now. They built a grow room inside their garage -- a 10-by-10-foot climate-controlled plywood and timber structure, the floor of which is currently crammed with 175 plants in their young, vegetative state. These are the new recruits, having recently replaced a crop of mature, budding cannabis plants, and they’re still relatively small. The tallest -- of the famous O.G. Kush variety -- stand about two-and-a-half feet high. Other varieties in the room are called Master Kush, Athena and L.A. Confidential -- all designer hybrids carefully bred for quality, potency and flavor. J.D.’s fiancée apologizes for the plants’ immature appearance like a typical housewife might beg pardon for a messy guest room. But, legal and moral judgments aside, the space is beautiful. Beneath 9,000 watts of blinding grow-lights (made even brighter by reflective Mylar on the walls) the papery, finger-like cannabis leaves glow a vibrant Kelly green. Seven mounted wall fans circulate oxygen-rich, mineral-tinged air, filling the room with white noise and vibrating the canopy of spindly foliage, which reaches hungrily upward under a massive, insulated ceiling duct. J.D. nurtures the plants with essential nutrients, additives and blossom-builders, he explains, using Neem oil as a pesticide. He did all the wiring and construction himself and can’t quite fathom how so many growers manage to burn their houses down. “I spent, like, four hours on the Internet reading about electricity and insulation and that kind of thing, and did it myself,” he says. “It really is not that difficult. I think the problem is a lot of people try to splice into [an electrical] line to try to be covert.” J.D.’s landlord recently thanked him and his fiancée for being such steady tenants, always paying their rent on time, though his lofty opinion might change if he discovered J.D.’s garage modifications.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


Writing, Daily (10,001-25,000) First Place Lodi News-Sentinel

Capsized A Story of survival

By Richard Hanner, News-Sentinel Editor

Ron Tobeck spied the wave in the distance, rising and wicked. He yelled at his fishing buddy, Bill Alexander. “We’ve got a big one coming, Bill.” It had been a balmy day on the waters off Point Reyes. Three 20-pound halibut were on ice as Tobeck and Alexander finished their last drift. They’d stayed out later than usual. They wanted to make the most of the tide change, when halibut were more likely to emerge from their sandy resting spots and suck down the dangling bait of jack smelt. The ocean had been placid, but conditions were changing now. It was nearly 6 p.m. Soon, the light would fade. The mild temperatures would drop. At Tobeck’s warning, Bill Alexander looked west to the open ocean. It was, he would say later, the biggest wave he had ever seen. The men were a half-mile or more from shore. The waters were bone-chilling. There were no other fishing boats nearby. To be capsized here, to be capsized now, could be fatal. Alexander knew the danger. He also knew what to do. He would spin the boat and shoot directly at the wave, headon, try to slice up and over it. Tobeck looked up and issued a silent plea: Don’t break, wave. Please don’t break. Alexander rushed to the wheel, grabbed the key. The Honda 90 horsepower ignited. Old reliable. Alexander pulled the wheel hard, goosed the throttle. The boat swerved to face the great wave cresting above them. Then the motor stalled. ••• Their day began at 4:30, when Lodi was still drowsing and dark. It was Thursday, Aug. 28. Alexander, as usual, had everything ready. The Dodge diesel truck was fueled up, the Arima fishing boat, a 19-foot Ranger model, was meticulously packed with the rods and reels and cooler. Tobeck placed his Uniden VHF two-way emergency radio on the dashboard of the Dodge. When they were set to launch, as usual, he’d transfer the radio, snug in a floatation case, to the Ranger. The men headed west on Highway 12 across the cornfields and waterways of the Delta. They wanted to beat the traffic, get an early launch at Bodega Bay, and start fishing. The men had much in common. Each was devoted to faith and family. Each held a reverence for nature. And each had chosen law enforcement as a career. Alexander, 44, needed this day, needed to decompress. As a Lodi police sergeant and watch commander, his days were stressful. He directed officers to burglaries and bank robberies, untangled schedule conflicts, dealt with citizen complaints. His sanctuary was the home on Mills Avenue he shared with his wife, Michelle, and their children, Jessica, 17, and Blake, 12. Practical-minded and a quick study, Alexander rebuilt the ranch-style house himself, teaching himself carpentry, plumbing, wiring as he went along. The family had faced hardships recently. Michelle’s father had died of cancer only a week before. Michelle herself had

faced a cancer scare, though she had been cleared after a series of tests. She was also caring for her mother, suffering from dementia. Alexander drove to Fairfield, where Tobeck slipped behind the wheel. A retired Lodi police captain, Tobeck was reflective, softspoken. He’d been a mentor to the department’s younger officers, always taking time to listen, whether the issue was professional or personal. He was also known for his attention to detail; in retirement, he loved tending his Japanese garden, especially his delicate bonsai trees. Tobeck and his wife, Liz, a third-grade teacher, often kayaked and hiked on the seashore and in the Sierra. They kept a spotting scope in their home to view wildlife in the vineyard behind them. Their children, Meghann, 29, a behavioral therapist, and Bryan, 27, a construction superintendent, were out on their own now. With the nest largely empty, Tobeck had time to enjoy his life, cook up pasta with tomato and onion for dinner with Liz. And go fishing. As he always did before a trip to the coast, Tobeck had checked the weather and ocean conditions on the Internet before they left that morning: Highs in the 70s, winds of 5-10 miles per hour, swells of three to five feet. Ideal. The men traveled through Sonoma County, the sun trickling over the hills and across the vineyards. Tobeck had made this drive to Bodega Bay a hundred times. Most often, he fished for salmon. But salmon season had been canceled because of drastically low numbers. Today, he and Alexander would pursue halibut. They munched on Danish pastries; neither drank coffee or alcohol. They pulled into to the westside launch ramp area in Bodega Bay on schedule. As the barking of seals carried across the bay, the men launched the Ranger at 7 a.m. They knew precisely what they would do, where they would go. One thing they did not realize, though: The emergency radio still rested on the dashboard of the Dodge. ••• The fishermen moved south, surrounded by the grandeur of the bay. The coastline around Bodega is achingly beautiful. Towering cliffs of granite and sandstone rise above the Pacific. Sparkling-clean beaches extend for miles. The beauty of the coastline is matched only by its treachery. Undertows and rip currents lattice the waters. There are dozens of sand bars and rocky outcroppings. Surf that’s lullingly calm at noon can turn furious by twilight. Dozens perished in shipwrecks on this coast in the 1800s and early 1900s. Dozens more have perished since. Many have been claimed by so-called sneaker waves. These are not rogue waves, which occur in the open ocean. Unlike rogues, sneakers do strike and kill in shoreline waters. They can be as large as 30 feet or more. There has been little research on sneakers, but this much is known: They are common on the coastline of Marin and Sonoma counties. In 1986, a fishing charter, the 65-foot Merry Jane, was rocked by a large, unexpected wave near Bodega, sending 17 people overboard, nine of whom drowned. In 1998, a sneaker wave caught two Sacramento men in a fishing boat off Bodega, knocking them into the cold waters to their deaths.

21 CONTEST EDITION 2009 In 2001, a sneaker seized an 8-year-old girl walking on the beach at Point Reyes. She, too, drowned. Several times in recent years, sneakers have grabbed dogs frolicking on area beaches and pulled them deep into the surf, where their owners have drowned trying to rescue them. The Ranger cruised across the polished waters of Bodega Bay. Alexander was at the wheel, wearing a long-sleeve shirt, jeans and boots. He also wore an orange life preserver. Tobeck wore an orange plastic slicker, like bib overalls, over his shirt and light nylon pants. Favored by commercial fishermen, the slicker would keep off the salt spray, bait and fish blood. As was his habit while fishing, Tobeck did not wear a life preserver. They would try to make bait — that is, catch their own bait — as they continued south. Their destination: the shallow water off Kehoe Beach, part of the Great Beach of Point Reyes National Seashore. They used a Sabiki, a string of shiny hooks with bits of feather, to attract jack smelt, the halibut’s favorite meal. Just after 9 a.m., as they had hoped, Alexander and Tobeck were off Kehoe with lines in the water. They used a GPS device to find some of their best fishing spots. One of those spots was about a half-mile off the beach, opposite a white, sun-bleached log. Several months before, Tobeck had noticed the white log while hiking with Liz on one of their outings. They had also noticed a wire box nearby, like a cage. It was there to protect the eggs of the endangered Snowy Plover, a small, fluffy shorebird. The men knew the tide change would grant them two windows of time on this day, windows when the waters would be especially calm, when the elusive halibut would shake away their sandy shrouds and go on the feed. One window would last from mid-morning until noon. The other would be from late afternoon to around 6 p.m. They had never fished a tide change that late. But the forecast was so reassuring today, the sky so cloudless. ••• They fished methodically, with multiple lines in the water. Halibut like sandy bottoms in depths of 15 to 40 feet. And they like cold water. Tobeck checked the temperature when they reached Kehoe: 56 degrees. They were drift-fishing. They would start well out from the surf, turn off the motor, and drift toward shore, retreating when they approached the outer edge of the surf. Each drift would take perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. They noticed only a few other fishing boats on this expanse of water. The men nibbled on bagels, sipped Powerade. Their luck held. By 11 a.m., they had each reeled in a halibut. It was so warm Alexander took off his life preserver and stashed it in the cutty. After the morning tide change, they caught more jack smelt for bait. They munched on Cheetos, talked, basked in the sun. They began the afternoon fishing around 3 and again had luck. Alexander reeled in another halibut. Around 5:45 p.m. they realized the window for good fishing was closing. The tide was rising, the swells growing. One more drift, they agreed, and it would be time to head home. The few fishing boats they’d seen before were gone now. On the distant beach, they had seen no one all day. When the wave came, they were very much alone. With the engine dead, they could do nothing.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest

See Capsized, pg 22


22 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Capsized, from pg 21 ••• The huge wave arced over them. They heard the roar of water, thousands of gallons, collapsing upon them. Alexander recalls thinking only, This cannot be happening. The sneaker seized the Ranger and drew it deep into its trough. It spun the boat over like a toy. As the wave flipped the boat, the men were ejected down, down into the water. It all could have ended then. Some people thrown into cold seawater instinctively take a deep breath, instead gulping in saltwater that quickly shuts down their lungs. It’s called the gasp reflex. Alexander and Tobeck were alive, but their battle with the sea had only begun. The liquid cold was already sieging their bodies. It would steadily strip away warmth and energy. Because of its density, water extracts heat from the body 30 times faster than air. In 56-degree water, hypothermia could kill them in less than two hours. Alexander kicked up to the surface. Flotsam was scattered everywhere. Rods, line, lures, nets. The Ranger was still afloat, flipped hull-side up. Alexander swam to it, climbed on and kneeled. He saw Tobeck about 50 feet away, treading water, his heavy orange slicker still on. “How are you, partner?” he called. “Not great,” Tobeck replied. Alexander, strengthened by thrice-weekly workouts, was holding up. He could see Tobeck, the older man, and less fit, would need his help. He had to get something, anything, to help Tobeck stay afloat. Alexander slipped back into the water, dove under the Ranger. The life preservers were in the darkness of the cutty, he knew. Too far and too dangerous for him to retrieve. He ran his fingers desperately over the seats, on the floor, along the deck, below the rail. He touched something pliable. It was a fender, like a cushion, about two feet long, to prevent damage to the hull when the Ranger was docked or next to another boat. He tugged on it. The fender was wedged against a rail. Out of breath, he surfaced and swam along the edge of the boat. He reached under, found a cord attached to the fender, braced his legs against the Ranger and yanked the fender free. Towing it, Alexander climbed back onto the overturned Ranger. Stay with the boat, he chanted to himself. If there is trouble, stay with the boat. He stood, swung the fender by its cord, tossed it toward his friend. Tobeck was struggling, a current drawing him away from the boat. “I don’t know if I can get it,” Tobeck said. “You have to get it,” Alexander yelled back. Tobeck made it to the fender. He swam toward the boat but got mired in a nest of nylon fishing line. This could snare me, he thought. It could pull me under. He pushed gingerly through the line. Seeing Tobeck slowing, Alexander jumped back into the water, swam to him, helped him back to the boat. Then they remembered. The two-way Uniden, the radio that could have instantly alerted a Coast Guard rescue crew. It still sat in the Dodge. Alexander felt for the cell phone in his pocket, yanked it out, searched for a signal.

The phone was dead. He hurled it into the water. His denims and shirt soggy and cold, Alexander stripped down to his undershorts. He looked at Tobeck and his worry deepened: Perhaps 20 or 30 minutes had passed, and Tobeck already seemed spent, haggard. They were such resourceful men, men accustomed to being in charge. They were not in control now. They were encircled by cold, raging surf, the sun dropping, no one around. They were desperate now. Alexander thought of his wife, Michelle. She had endured so much in the last few months. A dark vision came to him: a man walked to the door of their sun-lit home on Mills. Michelle was making dinner. She went to the doorway. The man told her he was sorry, but her husband had died in a terrible accident at sea. Michelle began weeping. The dark vision flickered away, and Alexander made a vow: That will not happen. She cannot lose her father and me in the same month. With God’s help, this will not happen. A wave struck the Ranger, washing both men back into the water. They struggled back, Tobeck clutching the blue fender, and reclaimed their spot on the rocking hull of the Ranger. They huddled together, tried to conserve heat. “Ron, I think now would be a good time to pray,” Alexander said. The men prayed. Another wave came, and again, they were spilled into the surf. They managed to return to the Ranger, but Tobeck climbed back up slowly now, his movements heavy, clumsy. He pulled off the orange slicker, but kept his shirt and light pants on. Alexander would stay with the boat. Tobeck was not sure. He feared the Ranger might flip again, toss them in the surf, crush them. Or another wave might rock him off the hull into the sharp steel of the propeller shaft. He asked Alexander to tie the fender to him. Alexander grabbed the fender’s cord and knotted it, granny-style, behind Tobeck’s back. On their fragile perch above the water, the men were shivering uncontrollably now. An hour had passed. Their skin was growing pale, their blood pulling back to protect vital organs. Alexander looked again at the beach. A man and woman were there, like some mirage, sitting on a white log. ••• As they hiked along the Great Beach, Pamela Bouchard and her friend Steve Gimber noticed the swells rising, the surf turning angry. Bouchard, 54, a veterinarian, was a surfer and swimmer herself. Gimber, 67, a retired public defender, was a SCUBA diver. He carried a day pack with a set of binoculars. There was no cell phone reception at the remote beach, so they left their phones back in Gimber’s Toyota Highlander in the parking lot. They hiked for an hour or so. They covered a good two miles, alone, listening to the surf explode against the hard sand. They decided to rest for a moment. They sat on a long white log near a Snowy Plover exclosure. Bouchard looked toward the horizon and saw something: a blue object rising and falling. She sprang to her feet. “Steve, is that a boat sinking out there?”

Gimber grabbed his binoculars. He saw a fishing boat upside-down with two men huddled on it. They waved frantically at the boat. One of the men stood and waved back. As the hikers watched, the men on the boat disappeared, drawn down and hidden by the heaving surf. Then they popped into view again, thrown high, like the playthings of some cruel monster. The hikers knew to enter the surf themselves would be suicidal. They ran down Kehoe Beach. ••• Alexander had steadied himself on the Ranger’s slickened hull, stood, and waved his arms at the strangers. Now they were jogging away. Did they see? Did they understand? A breaker rocked the Ranger, and again the men were tossed into the cold. Alexander, shivering badly and cramping now, crawled back up on the Ranger. A rip current, though, had captured Tobeck. He was floating away from the Ranger. “I can’t make it back to the boat,” Tobeck yelled at Alexander. “I am going to try and make it in.” A wave bludgeoned Tobeck and pushed him down into the cold, salty water. He was tiring now, turning blue, growing weak. The sea remained so fierce, so unrelenting. He looked up and saw sunlight and, with the help of the fender, he rose to the surface again. Then he thought of the shark. A few years before, he had been fishing not far from Kehoe when the Great White had rocketed from the sea, only feet from Tobeck’s boat. It leaped nearly out of the water, perhaps eight or 10 feet long, exposing its massive body, its jagged teeth. Tobeck was stunned. The fish plunged back into the Pacific and vanished. Now he was swimming on his back, holding the fender close to his chest. To a hungry shark, he would look, he felt, like a plump seal. If I am going to die in this water today, let me drown, Tobeck thought. Please, God, do not let me be eaten by a shark. Alexander had been right. You stay with the boat. Alexander, out of the water, still had a chance to fight the cold, to survive. Experts on hypothermia point out that everyone who survived the Titanic disaster was out of the water. Everyone who died was in the water, though they had life jackets and the water temperature was actually warmer than the air temperature. Put plainly, cold water kills far faster than cold air. A layer of protective fat would have helped, but Tobeck was not overweight. Nor was he in his teens or twenties; a younger body adjusts better to cold. Tobeck’s arms and legs were growing leaden, numb. He had burned precious energy trying to fight through the churning surf. Soon, he would be too fatigued to fight. He would slip below and he would gulp the saltwater, and his cold, beleaguered body would shut down. His looked to the darkening sky and thought of Liz and their children. Nothing else mattered, he knew. Not the house backing up to the vineyard, not his beloved bonsai, not the fishing. If I can only be with them again, my family and my friends, he prayed. That is enough. That is everything. He was swept under by another wave, this one driving him to the depths. He simply could not fight anymore.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest

See Capsized, pg 45


23 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Sports Story, Daily (200.001 & Above) First Place

he should kill someone or let them live.

San Jose Mercury News

But nowhere in modern society does the coin flip loom larger than in sports -- specifically the NFL.

I’m out there for the coin toss.”

A coin toss determines which team gets the football first in overtime if the score is tied after regulation play. And heading into this season, the team winning the overtime toss had won 63.3 percent of the games -- and won the game 43.3 percent of the time on its first possession, preventing the other team from even touching the ball.

“And if it works for us, I’ll be the first one to support that study, “ he said.

By Jon Wilner and Mark Emmons

Everyone knows the flip of a coin is a 50-50 proposition. Only it’s not. You can beat the odds. So says a three-person team of Stanford and UC-Santa Cruz researchers. They produced a provocative study that turns conventional wisdom, well, on its head for anyone who has ever settled a minor dispute with a simple coin toss. It also could have profound implications in America’s favorite sport -- pro football -- because the coin flip plays an integral role in deciding games that go into overtime. But first, here’s what the researchers concluded: Using a high-speed camera that photographed people flipping coins, the three researchers determined that a coin is more likely to land facing the same side on which it started. If tails is facing up when the coin is perched on your thumb, it is more likely to land tails up. How much more likely? At least 51 percent of the time, the researchers claim, and possibly as much as 55 percent to 60 percent -- depending on the flipping motion of the individual. In other words, more than random luck is at work. The humble coin toss has been the subject of considerable study by researchers exploring concepts such as probability and statistics. There even was an unscientific look by a prisoner who once flipped a coin 10,000 times inside his cell. “But they’ve all been wrong because people write down whether it comes up heads or tails, but they don’t know how it started, “ said Susan Holmes, a Stanford University statistics professor who co-authored the study, which was published in 2007. “You have to know how it starts.”

The power of a coin flip Tossing a coin long has been a choice for deciding trivial matters -- like a dinner-table spat over the last piece of pizza. But coin flips also have played much more prominent roles. The Oregon city of Portland got its name after a best two-out-of-three penny toss by two settlers. (Boston was the losing name.) There was a fateful coin flip on Feb. 3, 1959, that allowed early rock ‘n’ roll star Ritchie Valens to get a seat on a small plane that was supposed to carry him, Buddy Holly and two others to their next concert site. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all four. The coin flip even is found in literature and cinema. Javier Bardem won an Oscar for his role in the 2007 film version of Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” in which the villain tosses a coin to decide whether

TRAVEL

SPORTS

in money-saving coupons in today’s Mercury News

mercurynews.com

VALLEY FINAL 103

Sunday, October 18, 2009

THE NEWSPAPER OF SILICON VALLEY

The

$1.00

INSIDER TRADING CASE

Papers indicate broader conspiracy

HEADS OR TAILS? HOW TO BEAT THE ODDS Stanford and UC-Santa Cruz researchers show the flip of a coin is no act of pure chance

The scheme federal authorities call the biggest hedge-fund insider case ever not only targeted some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent companies, but involved a network of conspirators that went far beyond the two South Bay men and four others charged criminally so far. Besides one person who turned government informant, five others not named in court documents allegedly participated in the scam, including executives at Sunnyvale chip-maker Advanced Micro Devices and Polycom, a Pleasanton company that sells videoconferencing equipment. Whether any of these people eventually might face prosecution or disciplinary action by their employers remains unclear. AMD spokesman Michael Silverman declined to comment except to say“we’relooking at the complaints” filed in the case. A statement issued by Polycom spokeswoman Caroline Japic was similarly vague. “Polycom has strict rules and policies against any employees divulging confidential insider information and we completely support government action against anyone who breaks these rules,” the statement said. “We will provide any and all assistance needed to the authorities to fully support this investigation.” Nonetheless, Robert Khuzami, director of the enforcement division

By Jon Wilner and Mark Emmons Mercury News

What are the odds? When a coin is flipped, it not only turns end over end . . . . . . but also spins horizontally like a Frisbee. The more it spins horizontally, Stanford and UC-Santa Cruz researchers say, the longer the side that starts face up remains that way — and the more likely it is to land that way. What are the chances that a coin flipped heads up will land heads up? At least 51 percent, and possibly as high as 60 percent.

See FLIP, Page 19

Charges likely in balloon case Sheriff pursuing criminal charges in Colorado drama. Story, Page A5.

Stanford and University of California-Santa Cruz researchers would suggest Collins missed a golden For young adults,that adequate coverage is a challenge opportunity to shade the odds in his favor. Heene

ANDRÉA MASCHIETTO — MERCURY NEWS

HEALTH CARE

By Linda Goldston

They met in college and knew instantly they were meant to be together. She planned to be a lawyer; he would get his MBA and work for a large firm. Nothing seemed beyond their reach when Robert Andrzejewski proposed to Jamie Young. But before they could say “I do,”

the young couple found themselves mired in a world where surviving with Robert Andrzejewski’s limited health insurance was more important than any plans for the future. His mysterious back pain was so bad, he needed a cane to hobble to the altar. As challenging as their lives became — Andrzejewski suddenly found himself bedridden with $16,000 in out-of-pocket expenses

one year— the young couple were two of the lucky ones even to have health insurance. Young adults aged 19 to 29 are less well-protected by health insurance than any other age group in America: Almost one in three have no insurance — and many more are underinsured. And as the country grapples over how to provide coverage to Americans, figuring out how

to cover young adults — from all income levels — has become a tricky and significant subtext in the reform debate. “We had to be on such a strict budget just to get by,” said Jamie Andrzejewski, 28, who is now a second-year law student at Santa Clara University. “I would walk

STANFORD AND UC-SANTA CRUZ RESEARCHERS SHOW THE FLIP OF A COIN IS NO ACT OF PURE Sampling Sharks top Baseball Google of Tony Islanders legends Wave put CHANCE Kushner in easy win take field to the test DAI SUGANO — MERCURY NEWS

Rob and Jamie Andrzejewski struggled to get proper treatment for Rob’s disc problems. LIFESTYLE » D1

SPORTS » C1

LOCAL » B1

See INSURE, Page 8

BUSINESS » E1

Although the study’s results would seem to potentially tilt the NFL’s playing field, the league office in New York doesn’t believe it has a problem. Officials were surprised that anyone had bothered to conduct a study examining coin-tossing odds. SUBSCRIBE » 1-800-870-NEWS (6397) or mercurynews.com/subscribe

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“There’s so much variance in how a coin is flipped, “ Nedney said. “How could you possibly know how many rotations the coin makes?” Researchers would say Nedney was not asking the right question. The determining factor is not how high a coin is flipped, according to the study. Nor is it any other variable such as wind speed, air temperature or phase of the moon. It’s not the size or the weight of the coin, either. (Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi was said to be a “heads” man because he mistakenly believed more metal on that side of the coin increased the odds of it landing up.)

Holmes co-authored the study with Persi Diaconis, her husband who is a magician-turned-Stanfordmathematician, and Richard Montgomery, a UC-Santa Cruz mathematics professor, in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the physics involved.

See INSIDER, Page 19

lgoldston@mercurynews.com

That, countered kicker Joe Nedney, is just plain ridiculous. He wasn’t buying the study one bit.

“The way we flip coins creates a bias, and that makes it stay more time in the position it starts in, “ said Holmes, the Stanford professor.

By Steve Johnson

sjohnson@mercurynews.com

Everyone knows the flip of a coin is a 50-50 proposition. Only it’s not. You can beat the odds. So says a three-person team of Stanford and UC-Santa Cruz researchers. They produced a provocative study that turns conventional wisdom, well, on its head for anyone who has ever settled a minor dispute with a simple coin toss. It also could have profound implications in America’s favorite sport — pro football — because the coin flip plays an integral role in deciding games that go into overtime. But first, here’s what the researchers concluded: Using a high-speed camera that photographed people flipping coins, the three researchers determined that a coin is more likely to land facing the same side on which it started. If tails is facing up when the coin is perched on your thumb, it is more likely to land tails up. How much more likely? At least 51 percent of the time, the researchers claim, and possibly as much as 55 percent to 60 percent — depending on the flipping motion of the individual. In other words, more than random luck is at work. The humble coin toss has been the subject of considerable study by researchers exploring concepts such as probability and statistics. There even was an unscientific look by a prisoner who once flipped a coin 10,000 times

A sly smile even emerged on the face of linebacker Takeo Spikes, another 49ers captain.

It’s all in the thumb.

5 others, including execs at AMD and Pleasanton firm, believed involved

103

And if you know that, the researchers believe, then you have a better chance of knowing how it will land.

Consider the very first game of the season, on Sept. 10, when Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins called the overtime coin toss and lost. Pittsburgh elected to receive the kickoff and marched down the field for the gamewinning field goal. But before the coin flip, referee Bill Wild day America’s Leavy, a formerbest San Jose policeman and firefighter, had in college sports towns football held the silver dollar out on his thumb. It would have been clearly visible to Collins if he had looked. $228

••••

HEADS OR TAILS? HOW TO BEAT THE ODDS Heads or tails? It depends on how you flip it

Star Report........... A4 Sunday Business .. E1 Television ............. D11

They studied what? At the 49ers training facility in Santa Clara, players had two initial reactions: 1) Don’t those eggheads have more important things to do? 2) You’re pulling my leg. But the more the 49er players listened, the more they became intrigued. They quickly saw how -- if the study were accurate -- they might be able to gain an advantage. Center Eric Heitmann, a Stanford graduate and 49ers captain, said: “I’ve never heard anything like that before, but I guarantee that I will be thinking about it each time

Using a camera from the Stanford engineering department that snapped 1,000 frames per second, they determined that the laws of basic mechanics play a large role. Coins flipped from a thumb don’t merely rotate around their axis, but they also spin like a Frisbee. The degree of that Frisbee spin depends on the motion of the thumb. The more Frisbee spin, the longer the side facing up stays facing up when the coin is in the air. And the longer the side facing up stays facing up, the better chance it will land that way. “Some people flip in a more biased way than others, “ Holmes said. “There’s always bias to the side that’s facing up, and the variance depends on the motion of the flipper.” A firm landing surface, like a wood table, changes the equation. But grass -- or the synthetic FieldTurf used in some NFL stadiums -- mirrors the landing conditions used in the study and does not materially change the outcome. If they had only known That’s why the results might have been of interest in the NFL -- if anyone had known about it. Titled “Dynamical Bias In The Coin Flip” when published in 2007 in the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Review, the paper drew a smattering of interest. But it flew almost entirely under the radar in the sports world -- where the impact could be the greatest.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


24 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Sports Photo, Daily (75,000-200,000) Second Place Contra Costa Times, photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo

HEADS OR TAILS from page 23

“We got a call from something called ‘ASPN, ‘” Holmes recalled. She meant ESPN. And no, she’s not much of a sports fan. Fans often grouse about what they see as the inherent unfairness of the NFL overtime system -- usually after their favorite team loses a coin flip, and then the game. Ray Anderson, a former Stanford player and the NFL’s executive vice president of operations, said the league is well aware of the statistical edge favoring the team that wins the overtime coin toss. Almost every offseason, the NFL competition committee discusses changing its overtime rules. But the players largely are opposed to change because they worry that extending the length of the game would increase the risk of injury. “So until there’s something more telling or seems to

really violate the integrity and spirit of fairness, it probably won’t change, “ Anderson said. “There hasn’t been anything dramatic enough to compel a change.” Not even research that claims the coin flip is not a 50-50 proposition? “I really can’t add anything on the study because I was a political science major at Stanford, “ Anderson joked. The 49ers kicker Nedney, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, suggested that there could be other ways of determining who gets the ball first in overtime. “We should start having it decided with Rock, Paper, Scissors, “ Nedney said. “Have the two captains out there battling the best two out of three. Or the referee should stand between the captains and say, ‘I’m thinking of a number between one and 10.’

”MEMORABLE MOMENTS IN SPORTS

COIN TOSS HISTORY

Detroit Lions star Alex Karras was suspended for the 1963 season after admitting he bet on NFL games. Once reinstated, he was sent out for a coin toss. When the referee asked him to make the call, Karras responded: “I’m sorry, sir. I’m not permitted to gamble.” In 1969, the Milwaukee Bucks won a coin flip with the Phoenix Suns for the rights to make a lanky UCLA center named Lew Alcindor the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick. Alcindor later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and became a six-time MVP. The Suns selected Neal Walk with the second pick. The biggest NFL coin-flip flap came on Thanksgiving 1998, when referee Phil Luckett thought he heard Pittsburgh’s Jerome Bettis say “heads” for the overtime toss. Bettis claimed he called tails, which is what came up. But Detroit got the ball, marched down the field and won the game with a field goal.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


25 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Feature Photo, Daily (10,001-25,000) First Place Santa Maria Times by Bryan Walton

Breaking News Photo, Weekly (4,300 & Under) First Place Town Crier, Idyllwild

Sports Photo, Daily (10,001-25,000) First Place Santa Cruz Sentinel by Shmuel Thaler

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


26 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Writing, Weekly (4.301 - 11,000) First Place Sonoma Index-Tribune

Marking time with Father Fr. Crews has been at Hanna for 25 years By David Bolling, Index-Tribune editor

There are numerous ways to mark the passage of 25 years on the campus of Hanna Boys Center, but the most revealing measure of all those seasons of grace and redemption might be the number of times the word “father” is spoken each day by the hundred or so boys for whom that is the only word to describe and address John Crews. “Mornin Father.” “S’up Father.” “Hey, Father.” “Yo, The Rev. John Crews, in the chapel with some of his Hanna kids. Padre” “S’happnen Father.” It is almost the anthem of Hanna, an invocation, a greeting, candidate must write. No kid comes here without a letter and a meeting with a rap that floats across the bucolic campus like the call of Fr. Crews, and while he freely admits there have been some strange, tamed bird. misses among the hits, his batting average in the game of A relationship, simple and real, flows through every redemption is high. greeting and if you could somehow track each move made And one reason for that is what he describes as, “no by Fr. Crews as he pretends to wander aimlessly but always surprises.” seems to know precisely where he wants to go, the number As in the Navy, every kid signs his name to an agreement of “Hellos” would be in the hundreds. At least. that spells out the program. “No boy,” said Fr. Crews, “can And unless the good Father has somehow managed to say I was tricked.” And while some don’t always honor choreograph every move of every kid, train and rehearse the terms of their tenure, dropping out, going back to the them to speak on cue while brilliantly acting as if they dysfunctional life they left, many come back to the serenity adored him, there is not a nanogram of pretense, obligation and security and the love of Fr. Crews because they need to or insincerity in any greeting. Itís all real. And so is Crews. and because, often, they can. You get the feeling that among In sagging khaki pants, a sport shirt and a field jacket, the many values modeled in the daily life of Fr. Crews, the Fr. Crews could be mistaken for the center’s handyman, a endless opportunity for personal redemption is front and gardener, an affable classroom teacher. center. But there is clever deception in his casual guise. At any Ask him what he brings, personally, to his Hanna mission one time, there are up to 119 kids on the Hanna campus and and he reflects for a moment before answering. Fr. Crews clearly knows each one. In the course of an hourís “Religious values,” he said. “I can model religious values. amble from building-to-building, from classroom to garden In the evening after homework, they have the evening prayer. to basketball court, he knows every kid and every kidís First, there are 10 minutes of quiet, then they go around a story, and every kid knows him. Put yourself in his position circle. If you don’t have something positive to say, you donít and imagine the level of interest, compassion and care that speak. And you see it show up in their lives.” goes into those relationships and you quickly understand the It’s the little words, Crews said, that reveal the changes extraordinary level of commitment that flows out of the man taking place inside boys, almost all of whom come from called Father. broken homes, shattered families, the periphery, at least, of Part of his singular magic is that, without ever appearing gang life. to patronize, with no attempt at condescension, Fr. Crews “Those little words,” he explains, “sir, miss, ma’am, communicates with his kids. please, thank you, you’re welcome. They use sir. To me that He wanders into an impromptu music lesson at the edge sets a boundary. A proper balance. Youíre not adults yet. You of the centerís lush garden and stands with a rapt smile as don’t know how to give orders until you can take orders.”But two kids and a teacher sit on tree stumps picking, drumming with all that, there is no heavy-handed dogma, the religion is and singing their way through Bob Dylanís “Knockiní on as much lived as taught, and the boys gravitate to the order Heavenís Door.” and direction of Hanna life like chicks to a warm lamp. Standing there you can see he connects with them and the The Crews years have been marked by countless connection flows both ways. The smile on his face comes achievements, including dramatic growth into the from inside, lives comfortably on his face and gathers them community, participation in local events, expansion of the in. curriculum so that now Hanna is a real high school. The In December, Hanna Boys Center will have been in litany of his objective achievements would fill pages of operation for 60 years. Fr. Crews has been in charge for 25 praise. of those years and if virtually everyone on campus has their But it is the spirit of the man that radiates through the way, heíll be there at least 25 more. Hanna campus, and it is that spirit that will be celebrated Heís the son of an Army pilot, raised Presbyterian, a on April 25, during the annual ìEvening with the All-Stars.î skilled classical pianist and a chaplain, and captain, in That night a broad slice of the Valley community will the Naval Reserve. Despite his modest demeanor, he has gather at Hanna to honor Fr. Crews and bask in that smile. a doctorate in educational psychology and a mind that is A few tickets are still available. Call (877) 994-2662 for comfortable crossing from subject to subject in extended information. conversation. Ultimately, said Fr. Crews, Hanna works to restore the lives He’s wise enough to leave administrative details to others of young boys, “because the boys allow it. We have the while he applies the wisdom and insight of those 25 years authority because the boys allow us to. That’s the mystery to reviewing the personal applications that every Hanna of it.”

County payroll from pg 16 Hymel defended the overtime paid to straighten out its controversial software mess, where county workers’ paychecks were in error, retirees got erroneous year-end tax reports and the county has been unable to close its books for a year-end audit since the 2005-06 fiscal year. Hymel said overtime pay rose when the county decided to dump its contract with a private consulting firm that was costing as much as $500,000 per month and turned the job over to a team of county technology services workers. The overtime cost not only reduced the county’s expense, but gave it more control over getting the software working, Hymel said. One worker, William Yeager, a senior system analyst, made $71,635 in overtime pay during 2007 on top of his annual salary of $90,685. His gross pay of $172,001 put him in the top-25 of highest-paid county workers during 2007. Hymel said Yeager worked 950 hours of overtime - or 23, 40-hour weeks’ worth of extra-hours work - during that year. Hymel said Yeager’s overtime pay was a one-time investment and that his extra-hours pay for 2008 is $2,000. It also shows the county is making headway in fixing problems with the software system, he said. “We went into overdrive,” said Yeager’s boss, Dave Hill, director of the county Office of Information Services and Technology. “If you think of this as a fiscal emergency, we were putting out a fire.” Supervisor Charles McGlashan said he’s pleased that the county released the figures. He has repeatedly said that county workers earn less than they would holding similar jobs in the private sector. The 2007 details released by the county didn’t change his mind. But, he added, supervisors need to take a look at the county’s overtime policy and departments’ approval of overtime pay. At some point it’s cheaper to add a full-time position, he said, noting the quandary where the county is facing a budget crunch and is in the process of eliminating county jobs. Overtime that the county may not be able to cut is that paid to local firefighters sent to help fight wildland fires around the state. Meuser’s overtime bill was for working on fires in Santa Barbara County, in Lake Tahoe’s Angora fire, the Secret fire in Sisikyou County and the Power fire in Shasta County. That length of out-of-county time was unusual, said Fire Chief Ken Massucco. “He was away from his family, working out of county,” the chief said. “It’s a sacrifice for these guys.” The amount of 2007 overtime pay in his department - nearly $1.9 million - mostly reflects the difficult wildland fire season that faced California last year. Sheriff Robert Doyle also had a lot of overtime in his department, particularly among dispatchers and in the jail, where there are state-required levels of staffing. The combination of workers on medical leave and recruitment problems fueled overtime in the county’s around-the-clock communications center, where overtime for 38 employees cost the county $534,123 - roughly $14,005 per worker. Three dispatchers worked their way to annual paychecks of more than $100,000. See County payroll, pg 27

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


County payroll from pg 26

27 CONTEST EDITION 2009

“They weren’t working when they weren’t needed,” Doyle said of his deputies and dispatchers. “That’s the cost of business when you are in public safety.” “What you are seeing are people who don’t mind giving up their free time and working overtime,” Doyle said. “They are earning it and it’s legitimate.” Doyle said he will be reminding department managers that workers are not supposed to work more than 60 hours of overtime during a bi-monthly pay period. Deputies also earn overtime working patrol at the county fair or providing security at the weekly county Board of Supervisors’ meetings. Posting a deputy at board meetings is costing the county $16,000 to $18,000 per year. The county refused to disclose the names of deputies working on the Marin Major Crimes Task Force, the county drug-fighting squad, because those officers often work undercover, Doyle said. Their titles, salaries, overtime and extra pay are listed. The county also did not disclose requested details regarding workers’ gender, age, length of service, hiring date and city of residence. Dennis Brown of San Rafael, president of the Marin United Taxpayers Association, said he was glad to see the county’s ledger. “It’s all for the common good to be open and transparent,” he said. “It was hidden and it was excessive.” He said he doesn’t buy Hymel’s contention that county salaries and benefits are at a level needed to recruit and retain qualified workers. “That’s their talk. That’s not totally true,” he said, noting that those higher pay levels translate into more costly county worker pension costs for taxpayers.

Release of county payroll ends two-year saga By Brad Breithaupt Marin Independent Journal Disclosure of the Marin County payroll ends a two-year scrape with county politicians, top brass and unions. In 2005, when the Independent Journal asked for payroll details, county officials refused, saying that only pay for elected and appointed department heads and county supervisors was public. The county had posted pay for county jobs on its Web site, but the figures were listed by job title, not by individual jobholders. In addition, overtime and extra pay were not listed. In refusing to release specifics, county officials cited a county policy and two legal rulings, one of which had concluded that salary information of employees earning $100,000 or more is public record. Stories in the IJ and protests from the Marin Republican Party led a reluctant Board of Supervisors to order release of the information. But that release was stopped when a county union, Marin County Management Employees Association, an agency representing 320 county managers, filed a lawsuit.

A 2007 state Supreme Court ruling on a similar case led to the IJ prevailing in its lawsuit. In March, the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with the IJ, deciding the county payroll is public record and must be available to the public, ending a two-year legal fight between the IJ and the county employees union. In the high court decision, Chief Justice Ronald George sent a clear message: “Counterbalancing any cognizable interest that public employees may have in avoiding disclosure of their salaries is the strong public interest in knowing how the government spends its money.” The county’s disclosure of some of its payroll is “a first good step,” said Mark Hill, a former chairman of the Marin Republican Party. “I’m proud that our efforts have brought about some disclosure, but we need a lot more.” Government’s books should be “transparent” for taxpayers. The public deserves to know the exact cost of workers’ salaries, overtime and the rising cost of pension and health insurance benefits, Hill said, “Why is that information so hard to get?” he asked.

The county board did not join either side of the lawsuit. The lawsuit asked the court to block release of the data, arguing that it violated employees’ privacy.

He said the city of Vallejo’s bankruptcy declaration is a prime example of why public disclosure of how much public workers get paid - and cost taxpayers - is so critical.

Marin Superior Court Judge Michael Dufficy ruled that the union’s case could proceed to trial. The IJ appealed the ruling.

“There’s a fire in the theater and none of the supervisors wants to grab a fire extinguisher,” he said.

Breaking News Photo, Daily (75,001 - 200,000) First Place The Press-Enterprise, Riverside

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


28 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Editorial Cartoon, Daily (75,000 & Under) First Place Marin Independent Journal, Novato

For starters, the fire district’s generous vacation policy provides up to 10 weeks off per year for employees with more than 30 years’ experience. In Nowicki’s case, he was earning 8.4 weeks a year when he retired. Not surprisingly, he had a hard time getting his job done and taking all that vacation. Next, management employees in the district can sell back some of their unused vacation each calendar year. And, if they sell it back during their final 12 months of employment, they can count it as income for purposes of calculating their pensions. Notice that if the final 12 months of employment straddle two calendar years, the employee can sell back vacation twice and count all the income toward the pension calculation. That’s exactly what Nowicki did. He sold vacation in 2008 and again in January 2009, just weeks before his retirement. But, even after selling back vacation time, he still had more left. So when he retired the district paid him for that time as well as for unused personal holidays. And, under the district’s policies, those payments were also counted as income when computing his pension payments. The combined effect of the vacation sell back and the further cash out of unused vacation and personal days added about $76,000 a year to Nowicki’s pension for the rest of his life. And, yes, the pension payments increase with inflation.

Columns, Daily (75,000-200,000) First Place Contra Costa Times

‘Spiking’ of public pensions is costing taxpayers By Daniel Borenstein Staff columnist

PETER NOWICKI, the chief of the Moraga Orinda Fire District, knows how to play the retirement system. That’s why he was able to convert a $185,000 annual salary into a $241,000 yearly pension. The losers are taxpayers and employees of the fire district who are left to help finance the outrageous payments. They should insist that elected officials put a stop to similar deals. And other public agencies, including Contra Costa County, should take note. Pension spiking is widespread and should be ended. To be sure, the case of Nowicki, a 26-year fire department veteran, is extreme. Pension experts who looked at the numbers in his case were amazed. Residents of Orinda and Moraga should be appalled. How did he do it? Primarily by taking maximum advantage of rules that enabled him to sell back unused vacation and holidays. As a result, he increased his starting annual pension payment 46 percent, from $165,000 a year to the $241,000 yearly total.

Nowicki’s only 50 years old. Assuming he lives to 80, those moves alone will add $2.3 million in today’s dollars to his pension. Ironically, after taking retirement Nowicki turned around and went back to work for the district on a fivemonth contract at an annual rate of $176,000, which he collects on top of his pension payments. Moreover, it’s Nowicki who is in charge of overseeing the district’s finances. By his own admission, the district needs to trim back its pension program if it hopes to maintain services. “There are changes that need to be made to the retirement system,” he told me, “and we are actively pursuing different options and working with labor to see what kind of changes we can make.” Lots of luck convincing the rank and file to recognize the financial realities while you’re personally sucking money out of the system at a staggering rate. Indeed, Nowicki’s retirement payments are a perfect example of what’s wrong with public pension systems. The chief, like most police and firefighters in the state for the past decade, has been granted a pension that allows him to retire as early as age 50 and collect 3 percent of his final salary for every year of service. One of the key tricks of the system is boosting that final salary. Here’s how Nowicki did that.

So what can be done to stop such abuses in the future? Lots, if elected officials can muster the political backbone to make needed changes and employees, especially younger ones, realize they’re getting shafted when their older colleagues spike their pensions on the way out the door. Public agencies should cap vacation accrual at reasonable levels. Just like in the private sector, if the employees don’t take vacation they shouldn’t accrue more. Unused vacation can become a huge financial liability that becomes exponential when used as part of pension calculations. Next, elected officials should eliminate vacation sell-back programs for public employees while they’re still working. The state Supreme Court required many public agencies to count the income from those sellbacks toward pension calculations. But the court hasn’t required the public agencies to provide such sell-back programs. So stop offering them and then you don’t have to count them later. (Those public agencies that insist on preserving sell-back programs should certainly at least prohibit “straddling.” Employees should not be allowed to sell back more than once in a 12-month period, even if that period overlaps two calendar years.) Finally, public agencies should stop counting payments for unused vacation and personal days upon termination toward retirement calculations. The state Court of Appeal has been clear that termination payments need not count toward pension calculations. Public agencies should stop giving away that money. Any changes will be too late to affect Nowicki’s pension. He’s set for life. Too bad he didn’t push for change before his retirement.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


29 CONTEST EDITION 2009 General News Photo, Daily (25,001-75,000) First Place Ventura County Star by James Glover II

General News Photo, Weekly (25,000 & above) First Place Vida en el Valle, Fresno

Breaking News Photo (11,001 - 25,000) First Place Mountain Democrat, Placerville Sports Photo (4,301-11,000) First Place The Merced County Times, photo by Jonathan Whitaker

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


30 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Feature Story, Daily (10,001-25,000) First Place Merced Sun-Star

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER Courtnie, 19, gets her chance to shine at her senior prom

Photos and article by DANIELLE E. GAINES It was a dizzying Merced High School prom week for Courtnie Frade: Hair extensions at 3 p.m. Wednesday. A facial at 1:15 the next day, followed by a 4 p.m. spray-on tan. Manicure on Friday at 4:30 p.m. Up-do on Saturday at 11 a.m. All the pomp leads up to this night’s circumstance -- these moments before Courtnie slips on that perfect sparkling dress. Sitting on a computer chair in her parents’ master bathroom, Courtnie starts uncontrollably giggling as her mother applies the silver eye shadow that exactly matches the design on her dress. Her dog, Hula, playfully jumps at Courtnie’s knees. “Her little baby,” her mother, Jodie, explains. Courtnie got Hula as a gift last summer at a luau-themed birthday party. More than 150 people showed up. “Courtnie has never met a stranger,” her mom says. Brian, her dad, squints through a crack in the door and whistles. “Hey there, pretty lady!” And then, when Courtnie holds up a chic golden wristlet purse: “You’ve got a new everything, dontcha?” The night boasted all the trappings of any other prom night in any other town in America -- except for one difference. “When she was born,” I never thought we’d be doing this,” says her mom, Jodie, as she picked through a makeup case. Courtnie was born with Shprintzen-Goldberg Syndrome, a rare disorder of the connective tissue. She is hard of hearing, has unusually soft muscular skeletal tissue and has had her spine fused into position. This summer, she will undergo a revision surgery to correct her forward-leaning posture. But this night, none of that matters. THE JOURNEY More than any other time in her life, now Jodie remembers Courtnie’s harrowing past. Courtnie was still in the womb when Jodie learned there was a problem with her brain and skull.

Jodie was put on bed rest at three months, and at five months the family learned of the possible medical issues. Courtnie was born a “floppy baby” -- not expected to live. Shortly after birth, doctors removed a 1.5-inch strip of her skull. Jodie kept vigil at her daughter’s bedside. She and her husband, Brian, switched keeping watch when he would knock on the hospital room window with Courtnie’s two brothers in tow. Courtnie’s spine extended into her skull by three vertebrae. If she were to be jarred in the wrong way and her spine injured, she could have died. At 7 years old, she was diagnosed with Shprintzen-Goldberg. It wasn’t until 12 or 13 years old that “the syndrome really started to rear its ugly head,” Jodie said. Somewhere around that time at a doctor’s visit, Courtnie was photographed. Those images are now used in “Smith’s Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformation,” a book to help physicians identify health conditions. In July 2007, the Frades traveled to Iowa, where Courtnie underwent several surgical procedures to correct two conditions that affected her brain: Basilar Invagination and Chiari Type-1 Malformation. The visit was filled with worry. “Her system shut down. Her intestines shut down. She could not breathe on her own. She was in intensive care. She coded on a us a few times,” Jodie recalled. Surgery has been a routine part of Courtnie’s life. There are two metal rods in her spine, metal in her feet and head, she can’t rotate her neck or torso after a spinal fusion procedure. Even so, “Nothing holds this girl down,” Jodie says with a slight smile. Courtnie had to get the hair extensions for prom because the whole back half of her head was shaved for those surgeries. She doesn’t often talk now -- her tracheotomy tube makes it hard -- but her face reveals every emotion. As her mom continues applying makeup Saturday evening, Courtnie groans and signs: “M-O-R-G-A-N” then holds up the number five, the time he is expected to arrive. Courtnie says she isn’t anxious, but reminds her mom that “M-O-R-G-A-N” is on his way several more times before the makeover is complete. THE PERFECT DRESS It’s Saturday evening at 4:45, Courtnie has just slipped into her gown. Female family members flood her bedroom. They gush as Jodie ties the ribbon to the crème-colored cocktail dress with silver and gold glitter. Courtnie insisted her prom dress be covered in bling. Courtnie’s dad is outside the large bedroom window laying down a “red carpet” picnic table runner that stretches from the front door to the waiting limousine. “We are pulling all the stops for this prom,” Jodie observes. A short while later, Courtnie’s date, Merced High sophomore Morgan Boyles, arrives at the house. He tells Courtnie she looks pretty. Courtnie says he is handsome. They exchange a corsage and boutonniere before starting out toward the limousine. Courtnie’s family members, friends and neighbors line the red carpet and swarm like a personal paparazzi pack around the two as they approach the car. Among the crowd is Margie Stallings, Courtnie’s preschool teacher. “I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled for Courtnie and for her family,” Stallings says. “It’s their turn to experience normalcy and the excitement that any girl feels during those events in high school. I hope she has a Cinderella evening.”

A ROUGH ROAD Around 6 p.m., the limousine finally pulls away. Courtnie and Morgan sit in the far back seat, pointing at the color-changing starscape projected on the car’s interior roof. To Morgan’s other side is Maria Ramirez. Ramirez is Courtnie’s nurse; they never leave each other’s side during the school day. Today, Ramirez is pulling double duty. With each turn of the bend, she keeps Morgan from sliding down the black leather seats or falling into Courtnie’s slight frame. Morgan has cerebral palsy, a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. His parents are following behind the limo in their hulking white Chevy van; they are hauling Morgan’s wheelchair and will help unload him into it at each stop throughout the night: the photo studio at UC Merced, dinner, the dance and home. The first stop, though, is Courtnie’s grandparents’ house. Courtnie hops out of the car and snaps a few photos with her grandma and grandpa, Penni and Leonard Pauletti. Both take a turn addressing Morgan. “That’s my partner you’re taking out tonight,” Grandma Penni said. “Take care of her.” The limo pulls away. UC Merced -- and a perfect prom night -- is just a few miles up the road. “I can’t believe I am riding in a limo,” Morgan beams. That elation is short-lived. When the teens arrive at UC Merced for their photos, Morgan’s parents’ van is nowhere in sight. Without his chair, it is impossible to get him out of the car. After 30 minutes of searching, the limousine driver finds the Boyles, sweating and distraught, on the side of Lake Road. Their transmission has failed. Michelle Boyle, Morgan’s mother, piles into the back of the limousine; his father Dennis folds the wheelchair into the front with the driver. Finally, mobile at the impromptu photo studio at UC Merced, Morgan suddenly falls ill. No one is able to communicate the situation to Courtnie.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


31 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Business/Financial story, Daily (10,000 & under) Second Place The Davis Enterprise

An old-world skill in a throwaway age By Sharon Stello

Black high heels with pointy toes, biker boots, rock climbing shoes, strappy sandals, all waiting to be repaired, fill the shelves of the Davis Shoe Shop. In the back room, a machine whirs. Jay Peterson, a bespectacled middle-aged man with curly light brown hair, buffs a man’s black dress shoe to a nice shine. Next, he re-soles some well-worn work boots. He heats the glue, positions the new sole, hammers it on, then cuts off the excess with a hand-cranked trimmer. Jay is one of the few remaining shoe repairmen in a dwindling trade. In today’s throw-away society, with an influx of cheap shoes made in other countries, Davis Shoe: Jay Peterson, owner of the Davis Shoe Shop on C Street, buffs a man's dress shoe until it shines. Business has people often buy new ones rather than have picked up lately, he says, as the tight economy prompts people to repair their old shoes rather than buy new ones. (Greg Rihl/Enterprise photo) old pairs fixed. a lack of schools, those willing to teach and young people “There’s not many of us left,” said Jay, 49, who owns the wanting to learn. shop with his wife, Cherese, 50. Europeans who moved to the United States and set up the During the Great Depression, there were about 120,000 country’s first shoe repair stores often had large families and shoe repair shops in the United States. That number has would pass the business along to their sons. Shrinking family dropped to 7,000 or fewer today, said Jim McFarland, size has contributed to the disappearance of these shops, he national spokesman/historian for the Shoe Service Institute said. of America, a volunteer-run industry trade group. Jay stumbled into the business as a teenager in the 1970s. McFarland noted there are more shoe repair shops in His brother Barry was doing yard work for the owner of Germany — about half the size of the state of Texas — than Vacaville Shoe Shop, which led to cleaning the shop. Jay in the entire United States. was looking for work in the summer after high school and McFarland, a third-generation cobbler in Florida, said an asked if the owner needed any more help. increase in cheap shoes isn’t the only factor to blame for “We started doing the simple things like shines and worked a decline in repair shops. He said the craft is fading due to She stands off to the side, looking worried, while Morgan’s mother rushes him into a locker room. From the moment a black limousine -- instead of the white one Jodie ordered -- pulled in front of the house, everything that could go wrong has. Everyone assures Courtnie that the worse a night starts, the better it ends. Their luck finally starts to turn better at dinner. Morgan ordered grilled shrimp. Courtnie had a steak and fries. She eats some solid food each day, but very little since most of her sustenance comes from an IV. After they finish eating, Courtnie pushes Morgan out of the restaurant and directs the limo over to the wheelchair ramp several yards away. When Morgan’s chair hits the slope, Courtnie must run to keep up. “The night is just beginning,” Morgan squeals, pumping his arms in the air. BETTING BIG Courtnie and Morgan arrive at the prom, and the party is already under way; the night’s incidents mean they arrive quite late. Courtnie makes a bee-line for an open area near the back of the gymnasium. Michelle, Dennis and Maria pull up empty chairs to create a private seating space. Neither Courtnie nor Morgan wants to dance. Instead, they head to the just-for-fun casino tables set up in another room. Morgan hits the jackpot playing blackjack. He passes a few of the thousand-dollar tokens on to Courtnie.

She rests her arm on the back of his wheelchair as they continue to play for another hour or so. Together, they amass a small fortune. As the night is fading, Maria urges the two to hit the dance floor. Courtnie has already planned for this. She spins Morgan’s wheelchair in circles and he beams. After the thumping beats of two more hip-hop songs, the group heads back to the limousine, where Courtnie’s parents are waiting as a surprise. On the ride home, she signs with her mother and teaches her parents the cardplayer’s signals for “stay” and “hit me.” The back of the limousine is brimming with people -- and joy. THE FUTURE At the end of the night, the overstuffed limousine parks in front of the Frade house. Courtnie and Morgan share a short goodbye. She leans over to give him a hug then holds his hand for another minute or two. Jodie gives the driver instructions to the Boyle house, since they have no other transportation home. “I enjoyed these kids,” driver Woody Olds says before taking off. “They’re a blessing. You don’t always know how good you have it. Fantastic family, too.” Courtnie, Maria, Jodie and Brian head inside. The first thing Courtnie does is take off her golden slippers and slam them down on the floor mat.

up to everything else,” he said. About a year later, the owner decided to expand the store, but overhead costs were too high and he went out of business. The Peterson brothers bought his repair equipment and worked out of their garage, eventually opening a shop in Vacaville.They also handled the sole and heel repairs for Davis Shoe Shop, established in 1946 by Whitey and Betty Moore. The Moores lived in an apartment above the shop, which was initially on G Street and then moved to 135 F St. in the early 1970s. When the Moores retired in 1986, Jay and Cherese bought the store. At the time, there were three shoe repair shops in Vacaville and two in Davis. Five or six Davis shops have opened and closed in the past 20 years. The Petersons started with five employees, but downsized as business slowed. Now it’s just Jay and Cherese. He handles the repairs and she works the counter. In 2000, they moved to 223 C St., a small converted house. The shop sells leather wallets, purses, shoe inserts and polish, in addition to repairs. Shop dog Flower, a 7-year-old American foxhound, is a hit with customers. Jay works on 25 to 30 projects per day: fixing footwear, backpacks, luggage, belts and leather jackets. The school year is busiest, from late September to June, when UC Davis students are in town and winter weather takes a toll on shoes. Summer is slower. Cherese recalls a time when the shop resoled 60 to 65 shoes per week. One repairman worked only on women’s heels, fixing 35 pairs in a night. With the glut of cheap shoes on the market, business slowed to just 10 to 15 resoled pairs per week. Then, starting last November, the Petersons noticed a change. High oil prices have led to higher shoe prices, so See Shoes, pg 33 “My feet hurt,” she signs. Maria presents her with a small gift. “I thank God for letting me be your nurse,” Maria wrote in the card. “And I thank you for letting me be your friend.” Jodie said she will use the photos from prom in Courtnie’s graduation invitations. This “splash of normalcy,” Jodie declares, will continue until graduation. “She’s got all this medical stuff, but I want her to enjoy her senior year,” Jodie says. “Prom and graduation are all we are focused on right now.” Later in the summer, Courtnie will undergo more surgeries. The procedure in Iowa tilted her posture forward to the extent that Courtnie can no longer open her mouth more than a centimeter or so. Jodie is setting up appointments in Iowa and Phoenix. But for right now, everyone in Courtnie’s life wants to just live in this moment. When Jodie runs into the church’s youth pastors at Starbucks, she immediately shares the photos and videos of Courtnie’s special night with them. Next Sunday, at Gateway Community Church, the congregation will be able to share in the joy of Courtnie’s prom night. Jodie will speak. “I can’t do it without breaking down. I know I will,” Jodie said. “I’ve seen her near death and I’ve seen her at her best.” The worst of times or, like these, the best -- she’s never met a stranger.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


32 CONTEST EDITION 2009

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P A C I F I C A B E L M O N T

Sports Story, Weekly (4,300 & Under) First Place

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By Dan Watson, Assistant Sports Editor

Montara

Three for Solvang, for three wins in three years in the local time trial, and likely for a third consecutive Amgen Tour of California title. Santa Rosa’s star rider did it again, winning the all-important Stage 6 time trial and securing a comfortable lead over the rest of the field in the overall race. By the time the race ended Sunday in Escondido, north of San Diego, Leipheimer had indeed won his third straight Tour of California — just 36 total seconds ahead of David Zabriskie in their cumulative times over the entire eightstage race. Local favorite Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who is coming back this season from a three-year retirement, finished seventh overall, 1:46 back of Leipheimer, his teammate on the Astana team. But while Leipheimer won the local time trial for the third year in a row, it was no blowout. He beat out world-class time trial specialist Zabriskie by just eight seconds. “This one is the most special,” Leipheimer said, “because of how tight it was. Eight seconds is nothing. I consider Dave to be one of the best time trialists in the world. He’s one of the best in cycling, in the history of American cycling. For him to show up and be in great shape, and for it to be so tight with me, that makes it special.”

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Pain wearing on his face, Levi Leipheimer pedaled fiercely as he burst down Copenhagen Drive toward the finish line Friday afternoon. Across the line he flew, 30:40.52 flashing above, and with it he flashed three fingers into a sunny Solvang sky.

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Getting the trail through Montara will provide numerous challenges and it is unclear where the route would be. Some have discussed using the Caltrans easement east of Highway 1.

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Needs work. These segments have unresolved complications either with property owners or government agency conflicts.

Mirada West Construction of this section between Surfer’s Beach and Magellan Avenue is nearly underway. It is being paid for by County Parks, and should be finished by the end of July.

The Harbor to Surfer’s Beach

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This existing section runs from the parking area at the harbor past the Beach House Hotel and Sam’s Chowder House to the popular Sufer’s Beach area. It ends abruptly in a bumpy dirt path to the south.

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Another complicated piece of the puzzle involves negotiating the commercial and environmentally sensitive areas along Princeton Avenue and the Pillar Point Marsh.

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The existing paved pathway runs unbroken from Mirada Road in the north to a quarter mile past Poplar Road in the south. The paved path ends at Seymour Bridge.

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An informal network of dirt trails exists in this section. They zigzag around drainage ditches and are nearly impassable in winter due to mud. An assortment of private landowners will need to sell or donate land or allow easements for this section to be realized. POST now owns the Wavecrest tract.

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This summer, the Peninsula Open Space Trust plans to construct a segment of the Coastal Trail on the 123 acres it owns on Pillar Point Bluff. Officials say they expect to start on a packed-earth trail Aug. 1.

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A missing link This short distance from the golf course to Cowell Ranch State Beach is privately owned. A sale, donation or easement would be needed to connect the trail.

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Amgen Tour of California: Leipheimer electrifies crowd

The plan is in place for the existing roadbed to serve as the Coastal Trail after the tunnel and bridge project are complete in 2011. Parking areas will need to be built at both ends of the trail. There is a caveat, however. If — or when — the road fails after the tunnel is built, the trail would be abandoned and a new, as yet unfunded, route would be needed.

CALIFORNIA COASTLINE.ORG

Santa Ynez Valley News, Solvang

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Redondo Beach Road to the golf course The paved pathway continues past Redondo Beach Road and the Strawberry Ranch Conference Center. It then winds its way past the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, and along the golf course, doubling as the cart path.

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This three-mile stretch will extend from Cowell Ranch State Beach south to Purisima Farms. The breathtaking addition is scheduled to be completed this summer.

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COASTAL TRAIL HAS POTENTIAL TO CONNECT THE COASTSIDE

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By David F. Smydra Jr. { david@hmbreview.com ]

Len Erickson walks where he knows he shouldn’t. A few times in recent months, he has hoofed it along Capistrano Road in Pillar Point Harbor. He has woven his way through Princeton and then hiked on Pillar Point and reached, through surreptitious paths, the Pillar Point bluff tops. There, informal and well-trodden paths offer views of Mavericks and connections to the Seal Cove neighborhood. “I always felt that if you’re in the Princeton area and you want to get to Pillar Point, it should be a great walk. And it’s not. You shouldn’t have to risk life and limb to do that,” Erickson says. The El Granada resident and software consultant hopes that his current walking path will take on a more officious shape. Such as a possible portion of the California Coastal Trail. “It’s a pretty self-evident trail,” he says. “It’s one of those pieces that, when you graft it together, makes a really nice piece.” Erickson’s ambition is shared by many on the Coastside who are working toward connecting the missing links in the Coastal Trail. The trail, which was first envisioned and approved by voters by way of Proposition 20 in 1972, is intended to stretch from Oregon to Mexico. State laws in 2001 called for the trail’s completion, and some bonds passed around that time gave the California Coastal Conservancy some added financial heft to finish the job. “We have about half of the Coastal Trail in California constructed,” says Tim Duff, project manager at the Conservancy. “I think there’s been a lot of momentum in just the past eight years” for finishing some major sections. Indeed, many agencies have made big steps in the past year toward constructing some trail sections on the San Mateo County Coast. Perhaps the jewel in the Coastside’s crown of trail possibilities is Devil’s Slide. Local trail enthusiasts will be excited to learn, however, that much of the planning for running the Coastal Trail through this scenic stretch of treacherous terrain is already done. When Caltrans is done with the twin tunnels and bridges through Montara Mountain and over Shamrock Valley sometime in

2012, the existing Highway 1 will become the Coastal Trail. “What we’ve got to do is put the traffic through the tunnel,” said Project Manager Skip Sowko. “And after we put the traffic through the tunnel, we have to sever the old highway by putting cul-de-sacs in at both ends.” Those cul-de-sacs will be paired with parking areas and even a bus stop near the southern portal. A major benefit of the plan is that no new construction is needed to make the trail. “Basically that roadbed will provide the trail,” Sowko said. “The actual pavement in that location is in really good shape.” Some concerns still persist, however, says Supervisor Rich Gordon, who has been coordinating a bimonthly task force on the Devil’s Slide trail section. “We have some concern of whether there will be adequate parking at either end of the trail heads,” Gordon

Slide tunnels project and the existing state park,” says Duff, referring to McNee Ranch State Park near Montara. That connection will start with a crosswalk across Highway 1 near the tunnel’s southern portal. Caltrans, in fact, has the permits to install wiring for either a lighted crosswalk or a traffic light in the area, should officials ever want to take that step. In the meantime, that link between Devil’s Slide and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve will go unconnected for the foreseeable future. The trail resumes on the Fitzgerald bluffs, which is owned and operated by San Mateo County. Department of Parks Director Dave Holland said that the county has just issued a request for proposals to fix up the existing trail. Holland hopes those improvements can be finished this summer. But his enthusiasm for the idea of connecting the Coastal Trail on the San Mateo County coast is unbounded. “It is to me the tie that binds the coast together,” he says. “It’s pretty much the only thing we don’t have to fight about.” From Fitzgerald the trail stops around Moss Beach’s Seal Cove neighborhood. But Ocean Boulevard, which runs along the bluff top and has been closed by the county for more than a year and a half, is a possible candidate for conversion to pedestrian trail. The next connection, from Seal Cove to the Pillar Point area, will occur this summer when the Peninsula Open Space Trust constructs a segment of the Coastal Trail on the 123 acres it owns on Pillar Point Bluff. Chris Detwiller, a land manager for POST, says that the trust just received the final permits for construction and will begin working on a packed-dirt trail around Aug. 1. “The project is actually out to bid right now. We met onsite with potential bidders last week,” Detwiller says, referring to the week of April 7. The Coastal Conservancy is paying for the construction, but POST will oversee the work and manage the trail for the first year, all to the tune of $377,000 in grants from the state agency. “Then we’re hoping to transfer the entire property to County Parks,” Detwiller says. Then comes one of the trickiest areas through which the Coastal Trail will have to meander, at least on the Coastside: Pillar Point Harbor. Erickson, who sits on the board of Midcoast Park Lands, suggests that such a body might have to emerge to coordinate trail construction through Pillar Point Marsh and

‘it is to me the tie that binds the coast together.’ Department of Parks Director Dave Holland says. “The other issue that we’ve looked at in that area are what are the potential impacts of pedestrians and bicyclists on endangered species in the zone,” such as the peregrine falcon, which has a habitat on the nearby cliffs. One last element of the Devil’s Slide section is its precarious nature. While it is certainly less likely to take the immense pounding of automotive traffic and therefore unlikely to shift or fail as it has in recent years, then a new path for the Coastal Trail would have to be found. “If the whole thing blew out, and you’re looking at millions and millions of dollars to restore it, the county doesn’t have that kind of money,” Gordon says. “And we’re not accountable for that kind of repair.” For that reason, county and state parks departments are exploring alternative routes on Montara Mountain. Moving south from Devil’s Slide poses some immediate challenges for continuing the trail. “One of the key connections that we’re interested in completing is a critical missing link between the Devil’s

Princeton’s business district. MPL is the entity that manages Quarry Park in El Granada. “I would try to work in a line with the government and business community first, and then (have) a public meeting for those interested in participating,” Erickson says. Once past the harbor, the trail would meet up with existing stretches behind Sam’s Chowder House and the Beach House Hotel, and the sidewalk along Surfer’s Beach. A major connection is already slated this summer on Mirada Surf West, the area just south of Surfer’s Beach and north of Miramar. That section is being paid for by County Parks, and should be finished by the end of July. Next is Half Moon Bay, through which the city’s “Coastside Trail” already services much of the coast all the way down to Francis Beach. Then come some significant gaps between Seymour Street and Redondo Beach Road. One notable bundle of parcels in that stretch is a little property called Wavecrest. “As far as formalizing the Coastal Trail, that would be a ways down the road,” Detwiller says of Wavecrest, which POST bought last fall. Gordon said that the county owns many smaller parcels near Wavecrest, left over from a move in the 1970s to help the state acquire land for a state park. But other parcels in the area are still in private lands, and work needs to be done to convince those private owners to either sell the land or donate an easement for the trail. “If I was a developer, I certainly would not have visions of subdivisions” in that area, Gordon said. A likely and willing broker of easements and sales near Wavecrest is Coastside Land Trust. “It’s a doable project if folks came to the table and said let’s pull this together,” says Executive Director Jo Chamberlain. “But it takes people a long time to come to those realizations.” If private owners ever do reach those realizations, then the next section of the trail already exists from Redondo Road to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and alongside the Half Moon Bay Golf Links. And another three-mile stretch, beginning near the existing access point for North Cowell Beach, is slated for completion this summer as well, taking the Coastal Trail well on its way to the South Coast. “You get these bigger pieces, some of that creates excitement,” Holland says. Gordon agrees. “I’m absolutely convinced it will happen,” he says. “I think it could take us another decade or so, just because of the complexity of land ownership. But I believe that the people of this region and this state absolutely want a continuous Coastal Trail in California, and I believe we’ll have one.” r

GO TO: http://www.coastal.ca.gov/ access/ctrail-access.html for a complete set of coastal trail maps in pdf format.

Definition of the California Coastal Trail A continuous public right of way along the California coastline; a trail designed to foster appreciation and stewardship of the scenic and natural resources of the coast through hiking and other complementary modes of nonmotorized transportation. In 1972, Proposition 20 provided that “A hiking, bicycle, and equestrian trails system shall be established along or near the coast” and that “ideally the trails system should be continuous and located near the shoreline.” Approximately half of the 1200 miles, from Mexico to Oregon, are in place.

Interested in helping the project along? Contact Dave Holland, Department of Parks Director at dholland@co.sanmateo.ca.us.

MAP BY BILL MURRAY / REVIEW

PHOTOS BY LEIGH ANN MAZE /REVIEW EXCEPT WHERE NOTED

Illustration/Info Graphic, Weekly Second Place Half Moon Bay Review

Zabriskie facetiously answered questions post-race, humbled by the man sitting to his right.

However, Armstrong’s No. 1 objective, he said, is to make sure Leipheimer wins.

“It was an opportunity to win the race,” he said, before

It has been rumored that in return, Leipheimer has promised to help the legend when it comes time to gun for an eighth Tour de France victory.

Last year, Leipheimer showed up the whole field, winning by 29 seconds over David Millar. With that win, he all but locked up his second Amgen title, later making good on his proclamation that the time trial would be the deciding event in the overall race.

Leipheimer addressed the rumors:

This year the eight-stage race, the biggest cycling event in the country, began Saturday, Feb. 14, in Sacramento and finished Sunday, Feb. 22, in Escondido.

Armstrong did recover his time trial bike, which had been stolen in Sacramento. A picture of the bike on his Twitter page showed a sticker: “Lance — Ride this one like YOU stole it.”

Again this year, Leipheimer arrived in Solvang with the overall lead, and the Team Astana rider kept a 36-second lead on Zabriskie, of Team Garmin-Slipstream. Zabriskie finished in 30 minutes, 48 seconds. Michael Rogers — a three-time world time-trial champion — finished fourth to stay third overall. Zabriskie finished the day in second place.

And the scene was electric when Armstrong set off on the 15-mile loop, but it was Leipheimer who stole the cheers at the end.

Zabriskie’s Garmin-Slipstream team took the team title in last year’s Amgen, but Astana (stocked with Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong) took the overall victory this year after Sunday’s final stage. Team Astana also includes Christopher Horner, Janez Brajkovic, Jose Luis Rubiera Vigil, Yaroslav Popovych and others.

“Definitely, I hope so,” he said on having the chance to ride for Armstrong. “That means he’s riding extremely well and is back to the level he was. ... I would be proud to help him win an eighth Tour de France or first Giro de Italia.”

pausing. “Obviously, that didn’t happen. … Levi is a very good competitor. My hat is off to Levi. There you have it, that’s all I can say.” Armstrong did not have an especially strong time trial. He finished 14th, a minute and 16 seconds behind teammate Leipheimer, after entering the day just 30 seconds out of the lead.

“I think every year now, the most important stage has been the time trial,” he said. “The overall race this year has been tougher. Having one more day before the trial and the bad weather, the race is played up more. And, of course, two hard stages are to come. So far, the time trial has made the biggest difference.” Leipheimer said he felt the pressure of back-to-back titles bearing down on him. “I don’t know how the hell he (Armstrong) won seven times the Tour de France, in a row,” Leipheimer said. “The amount of pressure on your shoulders, each time it grows.”

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


33 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Editorial Comment, Daily (10,00 & under) First Place Appeal-Democrat, Marysville

Our View: Measure R not the right way Current system of government already provides adequate options Tuesday’s vote on Measure R is a referendum on Sutter County government. By voting for the formation of a charter commission, the people open the door for changing the form of government followed by the county since its inception in 1850. Is such a dramatic change needed? General law counties follow state statutes governing elected officials and the nature of their duties. Forty-four of California’s 58 counties are governed by general law. Charter counties follow general law as well, but allow some local flexibility on the structure and governance of the county. Voting yes on Measure R does not mean Sutter County will become a charter county and incorporate new laws for governance. It means voters are in favor of forming a commission that would have two years to write a charter that would go before the public for a vote in another election. If charter members fail to write a proposed charter by deadline, the commission is disbanded and no charter is proposed. In addition to voting yes or no on the charter commission, voters can decide Tuesday who should be on the 15-member commission; 32 candidates are seeking the seats. It’s important to note that any charter has to be signed only by a majority of the commission to be placed before the public for a vote. Measure R proponents contend the flexibility of charter county law will allow citizens a greater amount of selfgovernment than what is provided by state law. They see a charter county providing important fiscal safeguards and greater accountability; for example, voters could decide on supervisors’ raises, employee pension increases, and who should fill the vacancies in all elected positions in Sutter County. In addition, charter county law could define the duties of county departments, mandate financial and management audits, and require the county give preference to local

vendors. The operative word here is could. It would be the charter commission’s responsibility to decide what’s included in the charter that would be put on the ballot for a public vote. Some, none or all of the safeguards suggested by the Yes on Measure R side could be written into the charter.

Rather than a mere “tweaking” of the structure of government, as Southard has described it, the process of moving toward charter law is fraught with uncertainties and carries with it potential expenses and risks.

It’s clear looking at the slate of candidates that the potential commission might likely be comprised of two distinct sides with polar opposite agendas. It’s not difficult to envision highly contentious meetings and ultimately fruitless debates about what’s best for the future of Sutter County. Meanwhile, the public and private enterprise wait for results.

On one side there are those who are actively campaigning against Measure R who see the possible change in the status quo directly impacting their livelihoods.

Measure R opponents, including the Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce, have seized upon this uncertainty of what will be included in the charter in their campaign against the initiative. They claim businesses will shy away from Sutter County, not knowing what system of government might be in place in the near future and how economic development might be affected. The anti-R folks also point to the potential costs of special elections, legal challenges and the possibilities of additional layers of bureaucracy associated with adopting and following charter law; every amendment to a county charter must be voted on by the public, thereby requiring an election. In an Appeal-Democrat interview published last month, Measure R leader Ron Southard, a former county supervisor, acknowledged that he agrees with “about 90 percent” of the Sutter County Board of Supervisors’ actions — a rather high mark considering his work on behalf of the initiative. He stressed that his personal advocacy for the charter law initiative is mainly for fiscal safeguards rather than day-today operating changes. But Measure R’s most vocal supporters insist a huge overhaul is warranted. Southard and other Measure R supporters remain distressed at the supervisors’ approval in 2004 of a retroactive pension increase for county employees, as do we. It was a bad decision then that could come back and haunt the county in the future. But is that mistake reason enough to replace a form of government in place for 158 years?

We can’t help but also recognize the personal agendas at work here on both sides of the aisle.

On the other side are those Measure R supporters who are using the initiative — and the potential for a change in how Sutter County government operates — as a way of striking out at county supervisors and management. Perhaps somewhere in the middle are open-minded individuals who would work on the commission, if formed, to represent the best interests of all of Sutter County. We’d like to believe that. But we’re not convinced the competing agendas won’t get in the way of any true progress that would benefit county taxpayers. Elected officials are temporary stewards of our interests who can be voted in and out of office. The question here should be whether or not a fundamental change in the structure of government is needed, or a change in the stewards. We advocate that those who seek fundamental changes in the county’s direction find viable candidates to run for supervisor and work hard to get them elected. As one reader posted to the Appeal-Democrat Web site: “Charters won’t protect us. What will protect us is electing good supervisors.” Come Tuesday, it’s up to the voters to decide if they’re OK with the status quo or are dissatisfied and willing to pursue a new form of government. We hope there will be strong interest and turnout at the polls. Ultimately, we believe the Yes on Measure R supporters carry the burden to prove this change is necessary. At this point we don’t think they have made a compelling enough case in favor of this change and we recommend a “no” vote on Measure R.

Shoes, from pg 31 more people started bringing their shoes in for repair. They’re doing a little better and getting by. There’s enough business that the wait for repairs is about a week. Some customers like Jay’s work so much, they remain loyal even when they move away. “They mail us their shoes from all over,” Cherese said. “We have such wonderful customers. I think that’s part of why we stay. We’ve developed relationships with these people.” Jay also works on orthopedic shoes and repairs rock climbing shoes. One special project: He added a climbing shoe to a Tahoe climber’s prosthetic leg. The oddest job? He once put little leather jesses on a redtailed hawk. The leg bands are used to tether the bird in

falconry. He also fashioned “ruby red slippers” for UCD’s theatrical production of “The Wizard of Oz.” He recently made a leather skirt and Roman sandals for a man hired to dress in character at book-signings. And he made some novelty oversized baseball gloves for a Giants player and a pitcher for the Oakland A’s.

shop likely will disappear when the Petersons retire.

The Petersons lament the cheap materials used to make shoes these days. A man used to buy a pair of dress shoes that could be resoled four or five times and last 20 to 25 years. Now, instead of stacked leather, many heels are made of particle board that shreds when a cobbler starts sanding.

However, shoe repair doesn’t bring in enough income. It’s a livable salary, he said, but not enough for a new car or some of the expensive things a young man craves.

“Unless I can find someone that really wants to do it, we probably won’t be able to sell the business,” Jay said. The couple’s 31-year-old son, Jason, who fixed shoes at the shop for six years, wishes he could take over the business. “I would do this job just for the fun of it,” he said.

“It really is an old-world kind of business.”

“They’re practically unrepairable,” Jay said. With so many shoddy shoes and no apprentice to train, the

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


34 CONTEST EDITION 2009 The fast from pg 48

lot of time, energy and money trying to get things settled down. They wanted to build a legitimate sport and they did, but frankly, NASCAR is still more like boxing than tennis any day of the week. Or, as “The Intimidator,” Dale Earnhardt Sr., once said, “Rubbin’ is racin’.” You can expect to get bumped by drivers who have squeezed every possible advantage out of their cars and their own physical abilities. Manners might get you a date, but they won’t get you to the checkered flag first. Racing remains a family affair, and today’s future stars start early. Johnathan, just 18, has been racing for 11 years, starting with a quarter midget that he built with his dad and raced on a dirt track. He’s following in the tracks of his father, Lyn Hale; his grandfather, Lyndel Hale; all of his uncles; and his great-grandfather, Bill Stewart, who raced a ’34 Ford back in the day. “It’s in the blood, no doubt about it,” Lyn Hale said. “You’re almost born into it.” He’s got details on the pedigree Johnathan inherited, but he’s quick to point out that none of Johnathan’s forebears got quite this high in the racing hierarchy. “Johnathan is the first to go this far with it, though. It’s his natural talent, and we’ve been able to combine the family experience with that; plus, he’s gotten some great opportunities.” The more you move up, the more money matters. You can run the lower level Whelen All-American Series, where heavily modified Camaros and Firebirds are the weapons of choice, with a little know-how and a limited budget. In the Camping World Series West, Johnathan will race a car much more similar to the cars in the premier series, the Sprint Cup. NASCAR attempts to keep costs down by requiring teams to use standardized motors (with significantly less horsepower than a Sprint Cup car), but it still takes a lot more money than most of us have lying around. “We rely on our sponsors,” said Lyn Hale. “What’s making racing tight right now is that people aren’t spending money because of the economy, so thank God for our sponsors.” That gratitude is a really good reason to give the folks paying the bills a joy ride. On this particular afternoon, the first ride of the day went to Amanda Knieriem, who owns Trico Welding with her husband, Joe. They’ve been longtime supporters of Johnathan’s efforts, so he gave her a thrilling ride. In fact, he spun out—but that may have been because he was still getting used to the car. “It was awesome,” Knieriem said. The spinout? “Oh, I thought he did that on purpose.” Johnathan’s a smart cookie. He knows that with almost 10,000 drivers credentialed for NASCAR-sanctioned races and only 46 drivers in the Sprint Cup Series at the top of the heap, the odds are against him making it to the big leagues. But he wants to race. After all, it’s in his blood. “I love it,” he says. I recognize the expression on his oh-soyoung face while he’s talking about racing. Love doesn’t seem like strong enough word. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings The trick to climbing into a NASCAR vehicle starts with being willing to crawl through that tiny postage stamp of a window. After that, it’s mostly following directions. Lyn had me stand parallel to the car with my left hand on the roof and my right hand on the edge of the window. “First, lift your left leg into the car,” he said. With his assistance, somehow my leg made it high enough that my hip balanced on the window and my left foot dangled inside. “Now, bring the right leg up,” he said, holding me steady. For a wiry guy, he can handle a heavy load pretty well. I now had both legs inside the car and my good-sized butt hanging

in the wind. I may be fat, but I’m flexible. Thank the racing gods for small favors. Next came the tricky part. Under Lyn’s direction, I twisted, first right and then left, and slid down to get my shoulders and head through the window. This was made more difficult by the way the helmet, strapped tight to my head, threw me off balance. Still, that helmet saved me from a concussion when I pulled back too fast and whacked my head hard against the car’s window frame. “Careful,” Lyn soothed. I felt him checking the back of the helmet to see how badly I’d dinged it. “All in one piece, now.” Then came the seat belt, if the harness—which might have come from the sick nightmare of some bondage enthusiast or just the drawing board of a rightfully safety-conscious NASCAR designer—can be called by the simple name “seat belt.” Two straps come over the shoulders and two more come up between the legs, meeting at a buckle at a point slightly above the navel on a normal person. On me, the buckle hit about chest-level. Lyn pulled hard on the loose ends of the straps, and all the extra air left my body in a resounding whoosh! “Believe me, you wanna be strapped in,” Johnathan said. My driver had slipped in, gotten himself strapped down and attached the car’s steering wheel while I was wallowing on the passenger side. He leaned over to assist his father in getting me properly attached to the foam-covered plastic seat. “If you’re not strapped tight into the seat, your vertebrae could bump into each other and hurt your back.” Johnathan lacks the mindless belief in his own invulnerable immortality that makes most kids take risks. Of course, being a race-car driver is probably all the risk anybody ever needs. He might be mistaken for shy, but he’s a friendly guy and he genuinely likes people. All afternoon, people have been dropping by to chat with him. It’s just that they have to do most of the talking. The kid makes Gary Cooper look garrulous. He positioned a head and neck support device behind his neck and strapped it to his shoulders. The HANS device looks like a streamlined plastic horse collar. Made of hightech carbon fiber, it attaches to the helmet and the driver, forging his head and neck into a single unit. It’s designed to prevent spinal injuries of the type that killed racing icon Dale Earnhardt Sr. “There’s absolutely no way your spine can break off from your brain stem if you’re strapped into one of these,” Johnathan explained as he secured it. Good to know, especially when I’m stuffed into a race car where the temperature has already topped 110 degrees, and we haven’t even hit the track yet. Johnathan flips the ignition switch to start the car, and the roar from the engine reverberates inside the shell of the car’s body. As he puts the car in gear and heads out of the pits, I can feel the tires get traction, something that never happens in the smooth, muffled ride of a passenger car. Getting traction—or “getting rubber,” as my dad used to say—is all about the way the surface of the tire meets the surface of the road. Lyn Hale tried to explain it to me (as did my dad, a number of times), but because it involves physics and math, my eyes tend to glaze over. It’s about the angle of the track and the heat and friction on the tires plus the air pressure inside them, and … well, racing people seem to be able to do the necessary math in their heads. We pull up to the staging lane. Are you nervous?” Johnathan asks. He may have noticed the white knuckles on both hands, which are gripping a mounting rod for the passenger seat. “Butterflies,” I say. “I still get butterflies,” he says. “I get a little anxious, excited maybe, right before the race starts, but once I’m there, it’s

not so much—well, it’s gone. I’m ‘in the zone,’ like they say.” He hesitates a moment, as if he suspects his next statement will sound weird. “It’s like I’m part of the car.” You wouldn’t peg Johnathan for a Zen kind of guy, but it’s a good explanation for his calm exterior. We wait for the signal to head out on the track. “I think you’ll get about six laps,” he says. “It’ll be a good ride.” I remind myself that Roseville’s a short track—a one-thirdmile asphalt oval—so he won’t be able to ramp it up too fast. But when the light at the onramp turns green and the guy standing there waves us forward, I’m still unprepared for the huge rush of the takeoff. Yes, takeoff; it’s a lot more like lifting off in a plane than just moving forward in a car. The impact of acceleration against gravity pushes me back into my seat. We whip up onto the track before I have a chance to squeal, and the wall around the track seems to be rushing toward us. At what feels like the last possible minute, we turn and then speed up again. If I’m screaming, I can’t hear it. But I know that my eyes are as wide as they can possibly get, because they’re drying out, and I can’t seem to make myself blink. It feels like we’re coming impossibly close to the walls, and I’ve seen what cars look like after they get too close. After the first-lap jitters wore off, the ride felt more like a roller coaster than anything, with the rapid acceleration and deceleration; the G-force shoves me back against the seat with a heavy, invisible hand. When the pressure relaxes enough so I can draw a breath, Johnathan accelerates again and the air disappears. The car’s engine, a tenor hum, rises and falls, but almost seems to be emanating from my body instead of coming from under the hood. My liver, lungs, stomach, heart—all my lights—feel like they’re thrumming in time with the powerful V-8’s pumping pistons. I lose track of the number of laps. I’m too busy staring, with my mouth formed into an operatic “O,” trying to breathe and yell at the same time. It’s less like a scream and more like a song. There’s anxiety, but also joy. When we slow down and pull off the track, I can hear Johnathan asking, “Are you okay? Are you breathing?” I’m not sure, but I guess I must be. All I can say is “Oh my gawd,” over and over. Dad used to call it “riding on a rocket.” That’s as good a description as any. And that sense of singing? It’s an all-alive feeling. Like the way the engine’s hum would make the hairs on my arms stand up when I was a little girl, only amplified; the body and machine both charged with energy, both mystical and mechanical. Johnathan describes it as a “rush,” which draws fully the connection to addiction. Adrenaline high? Of course. There is, no doubt, a strictly physiological explanation for the powerful, altered state that accompanies speed. I’m still shaking after Lyn Hale pulls me out of the car. Johnathan, who must have ice in his veins, has stripped his fire suit to his waist to cool off while he signs a T-shirt and poses for photographs. It takes a few minutes before I can form a complete sentence, and that’s a mighty rare event. Now I get it. It’s the dream of flying, of landing on the moon, of doing a victory lap and a back flip off the car before popping the cork on a champagne bottle in the winners’ circle. It happens every time Johnathan drags his fingers across that toggle switch and starts the engine. It’s why my dad held on to racing as long as he could and mourned it so long after he quit. It’s why 10,000 drivers hope for less than 50 spots and keep racing even when they know those spots are filled. It’s why anybody ever tries to do anything that takes effort. Oh my gawd. Oh my freaking gawd.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


Sports Story, Weekly (4,301-11,000) First Place Grapevine Independent, Rancho Cordova

Editorial Cartoon, Weekly (11,001 & Above) Second Place

35 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Berkeley Daily Planet

CHS student-athlete adapts to competitors, motherhood Cordova junior carries on with baby in tow By BILL HICKS, Jr., Sports Editor & SHELLY LEMBKE, Staff Writer

Aspirations and dreams in sports die easily. A knee injury, a lack of scholarship offers, burnout, academic shortcomings, a family tragedy: the list of reasons athletes get derailed from their goals is seemingly unending. For female athletes, the list always includes one other factor that doesn’t immediately apply to their male counterparts—pregnancy. Jessica Paz, a junior at Cordova High School, faced that very situation a year ago. An member of both the Cordova basketball and soccer programs and an athlete of some promise, Paz became pregnant in her sophomore year, which threatened her

athletic and academic goals. “I was really out of shape,” Paz said. “I would go home from practice and work out on the treadmill to try to get my stamina back.” Paz, who is a better soccer player than basketball player, is one of Cordova’s more experienced basketball players and one of only two legitimate post players on the roster, but still struggles with stamina and endurance at times. “It’s a little frustrating,” Paz added. “I feel like I should be playing better than I am.” Despite her personal assessment, the fact that Paz is even on the court for the Lancers is somewhat of a major achievement. Cordova students that get off track with their education, for whatever reasons, often turn to Kinney High or Walnutwood High—as in Paz’s case—to try to get back on course. Some are able to return to Cordova, others finish up at the alternative campuses and some continue to struggle with academic work.

A rare, small handful of students that have been diverted to local alternative campuses have been able to resume their athletic careers. Paz was not only determined to return to the playing arena, but still holds out hope of using sports to help her further her education. “I’d still like to try to get a scholarship to college,” said Paz. That prospect might seem far removed at this point, but in the face of the challenges Paz faces each day as a young mother, that is the very least of her worries. The junior forward is intent on not allowing what most would see as a mistake, a poor choice or whatever other label is tied to teen pregnancy, slow her progress. “I’ve got a lot of family support,” Paz said of her ability to attend Cordova with a year-old baby to take care of. “I really wanted to come back (to Cordova) because I thought it would look better for my college resume that I graduated from here and didn’t just stay at Walnutwood.” Although her life changed when she became pregnant, Paz was determined not to remain sidelined. She had to face some tough issues, starting with school. It’s district policy for late-term pregnant students not to remain in school. “They asked me to leave,” Paz said. “I was really disappointed. I wanted to stay here.” Her experience at Walnutwood opened her eyes wide to what her life could easily become. Paz praised the teachers at the school, but was saddened by the lack of maturity in some of the other students. The other girls she became friends with have all elected to remain in alternative education. Paz felt her best chance for college and for scholarships would come by returning to Cordova High and the athletic program she loves participating in. Paz said adjusting to motherhood at age fifteen was a challenge and dealing with other people compounded it. “It was hard,” she said. “I go in public with the baby and

people look at me so different.” Paz realizes she’s fortunate to have a strong support system in her family and friends. They help her with childcare and have been supportive from the beginning, allowing for both the student and athlete aspects of her life. That support and a healthy amount of personal tenacity has helped her get back on the court and back on track academically. Paz plans on attending college after graduation and is intent on pursuing her medical degree to become a dermatologist. Her path is not one she personally advocates for other young women. It’s been a very tough road but Paz said she feels the choices she made were right for her, although she said she encourages others in similar situations to build a support system and keep an open mind about adoption. Even with all the hurdles, this Lancer continues to overcome on a daily basis. “My baby started my life…I want to grow up with my baby.” And she is.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest

(page 38)


36 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Writing, Weekly (4.300 & Under) First Place St. Helena Star

These days only the bees are abuzz at once-busy pre-Prohibition winery

gathered eggs in the afternoon. I helped my dad with the vineyard chores, those I could do. As a child we just assumed that’s the way life was. We didn’t know anything different or better.”

Prohibition tales Although Peter Molinari was 8 when Prohibition was repealed, there were still family stories floating around. He remembers his By Carolyn Younger uncles telling him about a run-in his other grandfather, Michael An old wooden barn on Mills Lane — its redwood siding buckling Heitz, had with revenuers. The Calistogan had a vineyard and made and sawdust insulation exposed to the elements while a hive of his own wine but one year apparently had more than his allotment. industrious bees flies in and out — still retains the aura of its former “The revenuers came in and made him knock the bung out of the life as bonded winery No. 955. barrel and have it run out on the ground,” Peter Molinari said. The barn is what remains of the family winery where Swiss During an interview four years ago Bruno Bartolucci, who grew immigrant David Molinari once made a vineyard blend from grapes up in Oakville, had a Prohibition tale to tell as well. In 1924 his grown on his 28-acre farm. The winery’s crusher and presses, for family owned a home, the old August Jeanmonod winery, a small all practical purposes, were silenced during the 13-plus years of restaurant they called Ysidro and a service station at the Oakville Prohibition (1920-1933). The nine 700-gallon storage tanks cellared Cross Road. The sheriff at the time was sure Bartolucci’s father, under the main house rest unused on redwood planks supported Andy, was selling wine and “jackass” brandy to patrons. His by cement blocks. No. 955 was a small, family winery whose mother, Guillama, however, was the only one there when the story was echoed, to one degree or another, by other Napa Valley sheriff and his deputies arrived with warrants, and eventually the wineries when Prohibition became the law of the land. case against them was dismissed. The Bartoluccis tore down the Prohibition had its start in 1893 with the founding of the AntiSaloon League by Howard Hyde Russell. Two years later it had become a national organization with a number of wealthy supporters and a proposal to ban the sale and manufacture of all alcoholic beverages. What the league hoped would become the 18th Amendment was stalled on several occasions but picked up steam during the first World War. President Woodrow Wilson’s 1917 war food control bill stipulated that all agricultural products were to be used for the war effort only and not for alcohol. California congressmen managed to win a twoyear reprieve for wine and beer and after the armistice was signed in 1918, vintners were confident they would be back in business. It wasn’t to be. The brief reprieve was to end in June 1919, but the 18th Amendment was ratified that year in January. The message to brewers and vintners was reinforced by the October passage of the Volstead Act, Prohibition’s enforcement arm, which defined “intoxicating liquor.” Everything was in place when the 18th Amendment went into effect in January 1920, ushering in what local historian Lin Weber would later call, “a Jekyll and Hyde world.” restaurant. A fire later destroyed their home, the service station and Prohibition was five years old when David Molinari’s grandson, winery. Peter Jr., was born. The youngster was nearly 5 when the stock Arrests, fines crash of 1929 sent the country into a Depression. The St. Helena Star recounted this and a number of run-ins, arrests At the start of Prohibition, his grandfather, like other local growers, and fines of Napa Valley residents. In 1922, Maurizio Mori of St. had tried shipping his grapes to the East Coast so families there, Helena’s Depot Saloon was arrested and fined $800. who were allowed 200 gallons of wine a year, could make their In 1923, 17 men were arrested and nine barrels of wine, a case of own wine. Grapes were shipped in small wooden crates and packed what was described as real Scotch whiskey, and dozens of bottles of in box cars cooled by blocks of ice, the closest thing to refrigerated liquor were confiscated. Among those arrested were Joe Nolasco, A. cars at the time. One year he was told he shouldn’t expect payment Nichelini, Joe Baldocchi, A. Negri and Maurizio Mori who shelled — his grapes had been temporarily “lost” and by the time they out a total of $6,600 in fines. reached their destination, were spoiled. There was no way to verify A year later 21 men and a women were arrested in connection with the truth of it and David Molinari eventually replaced a good a collection of six stills tucked in the underbrush by a stream along portion of his vines with prune and walnut trees, put in a vegetable Angwin’s Ink Grade. The final line-up included familiar names: garden and raised chickens, his grandson said. Theodore Arighi, Joe Bianchi, A. Nichelini, Charles Tucker and Joe The Swiss immigrant, who had come to St. Helena in the late 1800s Yudnich. because there was no way to make a living in his home country, In 1924 the proprietor of the Hotel St. Helena was arrested for turned his St. Helena property into a subsistence farm. Every selling liquor. Calistoga restaurants were raided, as well as a member of the family — and the occasional neighbor — pitched in. “resort,’ actually a speakeasy, on Diamond Mountain Road. “We worked as a family,” Peter Molinari said. “My sister, Marilyn, Sacramental wines and I had our chores. I kept the wood box full every night. We Others in the Valley at first took less confrontational approaches to

Prohibition. Beaulieu’s Georges de Latour was prepared to make sacramental wines and sell wine as an additive for curing tobacco. At Greystone, not only were labels made describing the California Wine Association’s wine as “sacramental,” the winery was gearing up as a grape juice business. John Wheeler also readied to enter the grape juice business but by 1923, convinced Prohibition was here to stay, he demolished his Zinfandel Lane winery. Theodore Gier turned to producing vinegar. The Beringers built a dehydrator and dried their grapes, using the raisins to make bricks that could be reconstituted — just add water, sugar and wait a week. (In 1928 Beringer manager Fred Abruzzini came up with a plan to pack prunes and apricots in extra sweet sherry and port. Other California wineries followed suit.) Some wineries made grape concentrate or syrup. In the early days of Prohibition, wineries were locked down and their stock of wine counted and measured. One family’s private collection was wrapped in chicken wire, but as the years passed wine continued to flow. With the “Roaring ‘20s” came an unexpected outcome: In 1917-1918 about 60 million gallons of wine were being produced. In 1925 Congressional investigators put the number at an estimated 156.6 million gallons of wine fermenting. And although the country had seen a proliferation of soda shops and coffee houses, there were now an even greater number of nightclubs, speakeasies and bootleggers — as well as a dramatic rise in alcohol-related deaths and the spreading influence of organized crime. The noble experiment was failing and an antiProhibition movement was gaining strength. 5-1 vote for Repeal Then in 1928, the price of grapes plunged. The following spring brought a heavy frost that wiped out most of the Valley’s prune and walnut crops. In October, the stock market crashed and borrowing and prices rose; by November 1932 there were breadlines in every town. Many saw Prohibition as the cause of the nation’s ills and the well-heeled supporters of the Anti-Saloon League began drifting away. By the time Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in 1933 the anti-Prohibition forces were gaining strength. In June, 1933 Napa County voted for Repeal 5-1. Statewide the numbers were 4-1. Repeal seemed inevitable. In the vineyards there was a flurry of activity as vintners and growers prepared for the 1933 harvest and the end of Prohibition. A far-sighted Louis Martini was just finishing his cellars in St. Helena. The Bisceglia brothers were restoring the cooperage at Greystone cellars and bringing in new tanks. And Louis Stralla leased the Krug winery and produced its first wine since 1922. There were 120 wineries in Napa County at the time of the 18th Amendment. Three years after Repeal there were only 40 in operation, but now, on the 75th anniversary of Repeal, there are an estimated 340 wineries. The Molinari family, which made wine until 1945, went on to sell their grapes to Krug and Martini, then joined the Sunny St. Helena Cooperative, where the grapes were bought by C. Mondavi and Sons. Now their grapes go to Frogs Leap. In his recent recollections Molinari wrote that the years of Prohibition “were indeed times of uncertainty and frustration for many Napa Valley grape growers and challenged their ability to survive as growers.” And many met that challenge.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


Sport Story, Daily (75,001 - 200,000) First Place The Press-Enterprise, Riverside

TALENT SEARCH

Pressure to win causes high school coaches to target middle-schoolers By Jeff Eisenberg, The Press-Enterprise

A football coach clad in school colors. A handful of elite prospects huddled around him. A sales pitch imploring them to come play for a school whose struggling team needs a massive talent overhaul. It’s a scene with all the makings of a typical recruiting proposition except Eric Rodriguez is the coach at Rialto High School and his can’tmiss prospects are years away from attending their first frat party or even getting a driver’s license.

to enroll for athletic reasons or offering perks unavailable to other kids. The rules are intended to ensure eighthgraders selecting a high school are able to make “a free and unpressured choice.” The most severe infractions can jeopardize a school’s standing in the CIF and the student’s ability to play high school sports for up to a year, but the organization doesn’t consistently enforce these rules. Lacking the resources to create an investigative arm, CIF-Southern Section Assistant Commissioner Rob Wigod said his office instead “asks member schools to do the policing and hopes for the best.” “It’s certainly an issue the section feels very strongly about,” Wigod said. “It used to be that where kids grew up is where

Rodriguez’s effort to lure top players to Rialto exemplifies how aspects of the collegiate recruiting process have trickled down to eighth-graders selecting a high school. Parents who once sent their kids to the nearest school now scour the area for the football program best able to showcase their wouldbe star. Meanwhile, high school coaches determined to win feel increased pressure to sell their team to kids they don’t want looking elsewhere. When ex-NFL tight end Dave Hill opted not to send his son, Austin, to Esperanza High because its offense was too run-oriented, he said Anaheim and Corona-area coaches clamored for the promising young receiver to move to their attendance area. And Corona Santiago, Riverside King and Temecula Chaparral are among the many area high schools that provided youth teams in their city free admission to football games this season, both to serve the community and hook kids on their programs at an early age. A CIF official said those tactics violate anti-recruiting rules prohibiting coaches from urging prospective student-athletes

Inland coaches run summer camps for youth players, hold clinics for youth coaches and open their stadiums for Pop Warner and Junior All American games and practices.

Eleven-year-old Khrystofer Walton, a member of the Temecula Valley Pop Warner team, has been coming to Chaparral High games with his parents for years because the school lets youth players in for free. He arrived early for Chaparral’s season opener against Corona Centennial with about two dozen teammates, each clad in green-and-gold Pop Warner jerseys and cheering wildly for the hometown Pumas.

Rialto kids have flocked in recent years to rival schools with a greater football pedigree, so Rodriguez has started talking up his program to middle schoolers who play youth football in the city, a practice California Interscholastic Federation officials say violates rules prohibiting recruiting.

“The players that we like, we visit with them, give them a quick word about Rialto and tell them we want to have them here. We’re telling them that we’re changing the program. The coach is not going to be here two years and take off. I’m staying put.”

For high school coaches eager to snatch up the best players in their area without violating CIF rules prohibiting recruiting, there is a loophole that allows them to circumvent the system. Instead of risking a violation by contacting a kid or parent directly, coaches attract players by developing strong relationships with their city’s Pop Warner and Junior All American programs, Southern California’s two primary youth football organizations.

Some schools also provide youth teams free tickets to games, a practice that hardly seems sinister yet violates CIF rules because the freebies aren’t available to available to all kids.

In a scholarship-obsessed era when parents routinely uproot their kids in search of schools with better coaching, competition and exposure, Rodriguez feels it is necessary to defend his turf.

“It’s a sales pitch,” said Rodriguez, who did not return voice messages asking if he was aware he had broken a rule.

37 CONTEST EDITION 2009

kids and parents have a choice, it makes it very similar to choosing a college.”

“To see them play right now and know that one day I might be playing for this team, I think it’s really cool,” he said. they went to school. Nowadays, with the proliferation of private schools, independent schools and new schools being built, parents have so many more options available. Schools probably feel they have to showcase what they’ve got so people are interested in coming.” SEARCH FOR `IDEAL SCHOOL’ If relocating to another city in search of better athletic opportunities seems excessive, consider how much is at stake for parents choosing a high school. Many parents go to great lengths to provide their kids the best chance to land a college football scholarship, even if it means moving to the attendance area of their school of choice or petitioning their school district for a transfer. Former Cal State Fullerton baseball player Matt Fitts’ two eldest sons starred at Cardinal-Newman High in Santa Rosa, so when the family moved to Riverside, he searched for a school with a similar academic and athletic pedigree for youngest son Kylie. The family visited campuses, toured facilities, contacted coaches and solicited opinions from friends, narrowing the promising eighth-grade defensive end’s options for next year to Riverside Poly, King, North and Redlands East Valley. “It’s almost like what I went through selecting a college,” Fitts said. “It used to be that where you lived, that’s where you went to. You never thought about choosing the ideal school that sets you up for what you want to do. With the realization that

Chaparral football coach Tom Leach learned midseason that letting Pop Warner players in for free violated CIF rules, so the school has since expanded the policy to include all middle-school students. “I just don’t understand why you’re not allowed to have a Pop Warner night,” Leach said. “We can let middle-school band members in for free and cheerleaders in for free. Why not football players?” BUILDING A PIPELINE No Inland youth football program has been at the center of a more contentious tug-of-war than Riverside’s Orangecrest Junior All American, which traditionally sends kids to King High even though some live in the attendance area for Perris Citrus Hill. When Doug Dubois came to Citrus Hill to launch the school’s football program three years ago, he tried to establish a pipeline from Orangecrest to his program by inviting the youth teams to play at his newly built stadium each week. Dubois later persuaded Orangecrest directors to have half their teams abandon King’s colors, jersey and mascot in favor of those of Citrus Hill. But neither donning a blue-andred Hawks uniform nor playing at the new field has enticed top players to go to the Perris school. “It hasn’t helped a bit,” Dubois said. “Our school is looked down upon educationally. It’s really frustrating, but I haven’t received any kids.”

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


38 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Editorial Cartoon, Daily (75,001 & Above) First Place

Columns, Weekly (4.300 & Under) First Place

The San Diego Union-Tribune

by Debra DeAngelo Winters Express

Look what they erected on the corner BREAKING NEWS! I have breaking news!” hollered one of our locals as he sprinted toward me across the Community Center front lawn faster than I’ve ever seen him move before. “It’s the next lead story for the Express!” he exclaimed. “No, no, no,” I protested, “Not now, it’ll have to wait. Call me Monday. I’ll be late for my next appointment,” and made a beeline for my car, hoping I could dive in, lock the doors and speed away before he could throw his body across the hood, pound on my windshield and demand I whip out my reporter’s notebook forthwith. Yes, he was that worked up. But it was one of those Saturdays, you see, on which everything in the universe was scheduled, and only with precise timing and stern discipline would I manage to stay on track. I had to take photos at the FFA Christmas tree sale, photos at the Winters Friends of the Library Holiday Festival and later on that day, yet more photos of the community Christmas tree lighting, photos of the St. Anthony Catholic Church live nativity scene and most crucial of all, photos of Santa officially arriving in Winters as he always does, on a firetruck. (Apparently the reindeer are a little skittish about getting too close to The Buckhorn.) Sandwiched in between all of this madness were appointments scheduled in my own (so-called) life. You know, there are 31 days in December. Maybe you, like me, are wondering why everything in this silly little town always seems to happen on the same day. Or maybe you’re wondering why the Express editor is running around taking photos instead of the photographers. Answer: It’s a very small paper. I am the photographers. And the front desk receptionist, complaint department, layout artist, occasional housekeeper and chief obituary writer. Others of you are wondering, “When’s she going to get on with this story!” I’m gettin’, I’m gettin’… The unusually nimble yet frantic man was undeterred by my objections and managed to intercept me before I made it to the car. As I reiterated that I really, honestly did not have two mere seconds to spare or my entire meticulously planned schedule would be flung into disarray, he again insisted that he had the biggest scoop ever in the history of Winters. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, everybody thinks their story is front page news, brip, brap, brup, must be going, busy, busy, busy, call me Monday…” But he blocked my path and looked me squarely in the eye, his voice trembling with determination: “There are penises all over downtown!” Oh. Kay. Sir, you have my undivided attention. “There,” he said, sweeping an arm toward our lovely newly reconstructed main intersection in beautiful downtown Winters, “They’re on every corner!” I peered, and I blinked, and I blinked again, and it was like staring at one of those magic 3-D drawings until an image emerges. Sure enough, he was right. Standing at attention on each of the four corners were three male appendages, just large enough to be respectable but not threatening. “Didn’t you notice them?” he said, “Everybody’s talking about them!” Sure, when I drove by that morning, I’d noticed the

concrete pillars, newly installed on the corners to keep all Feature Photo, Weekly (4.300 & Under) First Place the tractors and trucks loaded with walnut bins from wiping Feather River Bulletin, Quincy out those nifty new brick bulb-outs (not to mention the people standing on them). Funny, though, when I noticed the pillars the first time, they reminded me of chess pawns. But… not anymore. Or ever again. What can you do but stand there and snicker like a schoolgirl. Which we did for a moment or two. Finally, Mr. Breaking News noted that there was just too much testosterone downtown now, and we needed to install something to balance out all this male symbolism. I suggested a Georgia O’Keeffe wall mural spanning the front of the Winters Opera House. And yet more snickering ensued. Or, maybe we could raise money for the new library by inviting local women to purchase bronze plaques to be installed on the pillars to honor their men, I said, like the bricks honoring families at the gazebo. Come on, fair’s fair. The guys have their names on plaques over the heads, horns and various carcasses mounted on the walls at The Buckhorn. Shouldn’t the ladies be able to claim trophies of their own? OK, OK, OK, I suppose that’d be in bad taste. Let’s just take a deep breath here, and be adults, I told my snickering cohort. You know, the kids are gonna see these things every Lend me your ear. After receiving its fill of milk, an injured fawn lets firefighter Mitime they come downtown. We need to set a good example for our youth. Do the right thing chael Graham know that the feeding syringe wasn’t as comforting and whatnot. as a good ear lobe. Photos by Joshua Sebold “What? Take them out?” No, I said. Put condoms on them.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


39 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Environmen, Daily (75,001 & Above) First Place SF Weekly, San Francisco

Voodoo on the Vine The origins of the increasingly popular Biodynamic wine are steeped in the occult and bad science. Joe Eskenazi

In a remote corner of the Benziger Family Winery, you can just barely hear the tour guide’s voice from over the adjacent ridge. Sightseers will never be led to this spot, however, and not just for the obvious reason — a series of massive compost piles emitting a smell so powerful it brings tears to the eyes. In this part of the winery, there are things tour guides would rather not explain. One recent Friday, Colby Eierman, the vineyard’s chief gardener, slowly motored his pickup past the piles. Viscous red fluid was slathered over the truck’s back flap; with every bump in the road, a bovine nose protruded momentarily from the bed. The fluid was blood. Only hours earlier it had coursed through the veins of a 1,500-pound animal; now it congealed on the liner of Eierman’s truck. The bull’s eyes stared serenely skyward while its majestic horns barely fit within the truck bed. A calf’s head, shorn of its jaw muscles, bounced around alongside it. When asked just what was going on, Eierman shot a glance at Jessica LaBounty, Benziger’s marketing manager, who closed her eyes and gave a quick nod. The gardener proceeded to explain that the severed heads were a vital ingredient in Biodynamic Preparation No. 505: Finely ground oak bark will be placed into the cows’ fresh skulls and stored in a shallow, moist hole or rain bucket throughout autumn and winter. The resultant concoction is then applied, in nearly undetectable quantities, to the gargantuan compost piles; Benziger’s promotional literature claims it “stimulates the plant’s immune system and promotes healing.” Light-years from the surreal scenes at the Sonoma winery, glasses tinkled and forks hit plates of house-marinated olives in a dimly lit San Francisco storefront. Sharply dressed men and their attractive dates laughed over full pours of red and white at Yield Wine Bar in San Francisco’s up-and-coming Dogpatch neighborhood. Nearly half of the 50 wines served that night were grown Biodynamically — a fact prominently displayed on the bar’s menu. When asked what, exactly, this means, bar co-owner Chris Tavelli described Biodynamics as “the highest level of organics, you know, organic above organic.” Among those who earn a living selling wine to the general public, this was a typical answer. Those with a vested interest in moving Biodynamic wines almost invariably use the words “natural” and “holistic” — terms that are malleable and vague, but near and dear to every San Franciscan’s heart. Its producers and sellers describe the process as “organic to the nth degree,” “the Rolls-Royce of organic farming,” or, simply, “the new organic.”

It’s an explanation Tavelli and fellow wine merchants have to make — or, more accurately, not make — now more than ever. Winemakers recently began aggressively marketing their Biodynamic status as a selling point, claiming their product to be both the “greenest” and most distinctivetasting available. In San Francisco, Jeff Daniels of the Wine Club has added 10 new Biodynamic labels in the last year alone; Kirk Walker of K & L Wine Merchants says customer queries about Biodynamic wines have jumped in the past few years from roughly one a week to more than 30. Dozens of other San Francisco winesellers concur that they’ve augmented the number of Biodynamic wines they carry by four, five, or even 10 times of late. National chains report the same, and rank San Francisco as perhaps the nation’s top consumer of Biodynamic wine. Clearly, Biodynamic wines’ sign is ascending – even if no one involved in making or selling them wants to volunteer information about the severed cows’ heads or a bevy of other animal and vegetable preparations that read like a shopping list for Shakespeare’s three weird sisters. Also left unmentioned is a reliance upon provably bad science and an unabashed embrace of supernatural concepts such as astrology and even alchemy.

stimulates growth and stabilizes nitrogen. Whether you think this is nonsensical depends entirely upon what you make of the foundations of Biodynamic agriculture. The system was essentially delivered whole in 1924, like Athena out of the head of Zeus, out of the head of Rudolf Steiner – a self-professed clairvoyant and occult philosopher from Austria who conceived of Biodynamics during his telepathic visits to the realm of spirits he claimed existed “behind” our material world. Explanations like the one above do not appear in promotional literature promulgated by Biodynamic wineries and are decidedly not used by winesellers to push the product. Descriptions of Biodynamics employed by winemakers, in fact, are almost willfully obtuse. At a “selfguided Biodynamic tour” scheduled to open this week at the Benziger winery, Steiner is described as a “natural scientist” who advocated “the best of old-world farming practices combined with modern agricultural sense.” Literature from importer Organic Vintners notes that “Biodynamic farming embraces organic practices and adds an extra layer of care.” Among those layers is adherence to an “astronomical” calendar — many in the Biodynamic world adamantly object to the term “astrology.” “We do astronomy,” says Philippe Armenier, a French-born Biodynamic consultant now living in Santa Rosa. “It is quite complicated. We work with the planets and constellations. Astronomy is for plants. Astrology is for human beings.” Armenier and others are fighting a losing battle with the

“I do not discuss these things, even with my wife. It sounds kooky,” says Luc Ertoran of the SOMA wine bar Terroir, a strong advocate of Biodynamic fare who firmly believes the taste of a wine is affected by the zodiac sign of the day it is uncorked. Adds the Wine Club’s Daniels, “I try not to get into too much of the voodoo. It scares the customers away.” Luke Bass and his parents, Sue Porter and Dirck Bass, live on their family winery tucked into the clearing of a redwood forest with 20 acres of stunningly beautiful yellow- and redtinged vines swaying gently in the coastal breeze. Luke is a curly-haired giant with a linebacker’s build; he gestures about the Guerneville farm he grew up on with large hands stained black from crushing Zinfandel grapes (a bottle of the resultant wine sells for $64 at trendy XYZ restaurant in SOMA). There hasn’t been a drop of pesticide sprayed at the Porter-Bass vineyard since 1999, and much of the weeding is done by Duke the sheep and his pals. And yet it’s not just responsible, organic farming that the family credits for its renowned grapes. They believe the well-being of this winery is controlled by cosmic, supernatural powers that descend from the distant heavens and percolate up from the depths of the Earth. Luke and Sue sit beneath a tree, scooping up handfuls of ripe manure and packing it tightly into cows’ horns. Nearby sit four “sausages” of chamomile wrapped in cow intestines. Both will be buried around the fall equinox and unearthed on the spring equinox after having amassed “etheric and astral forces” – for which the horn serves as an amplifier. The concoctions will then be diluted to form Biodynamic Preparations numbers 500 and 503, respectively. Just half a pound of the manure is considered enough to treat 2.5 acres of land, where it supposedly aids root growth. The chamomile is applied to the compost pile, where it allegedly

dictionary — one definition of “astrology” is simply “a pseudoscience claiming divination by the positions of the planets and Sun and Moon” — but they appear to be winning the marketing war. Sellers are loath to explain questionable details about a product that has become lucrative as the desire for “green” fare has spilled into the wine world. Biodynamic vintners have proclaimed their wines — which are usually costlier than their organic counterparts — as the greenest money can buy, a claim many sellers are happy to repeat. Bill Hayes, the senior wine buyer for Beverages and More!, gushes about how Biodynamic wines have been a growing trend over the past three years. He says he’s stocking more and more labels — especially at his Bay Area stores. He has to, he says, if only to keep pace with Whole Foods. Yet when asked to explain the rationale behind Biodynamic agriculture — and whether he believes it — Hayes is at a loss for words. “You have, like, horns and the Moon and everything. ...

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


40 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Columns, Weekly (4.301- 11,000) Second Place Calaveras Enterprise, San Andreas

Law and justice in the Wild West

by Buzz Eggleston “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” – Sgt. Joe Friday, “Dragnet” Sheriff Dennis Downum has done all he can to make the guy one of his detectives riddled with bullets look like pond scum. And it’s not, to believe Downum, all that hard a job. But the Sheriff’s Department had a great deal of trouble telling a consistent story about what happened during an arrest where deadly force was used. And Downum’s attacks upon the character of the person who was shot, as well as anyone else who questions his department’s official version of what happened, is at the very least baffling. I don’t want anyone to think I’m defending Michael Thompson, the guy who was shot – I’m absolutely not – but if he’s the elusive desperado he’s been made out to be then I trust a judge will decide what to do with him and, perhaps, whether he had it coming to be shot as many as eight times. This community should always be concerned about the use of deadly force by law enforcement and we should do everything possible to discover and reveal the truth about it. It is particularly troubling when the truth is distorted by false, incomplete and inconsistent official reports from the Sheriff’s Department, then obscured by attacks upon the character of any one who provided additional information to this newspaper. Let’s set the record straight. Press releases the department issued in the first 24 hours after the May 27 shooting made false statements that implied there was a car chase when there wasn’t. Its initial release stated that “The incident began when detectives confirmed the vehicle they were following was confirmed stolen out of San Andreas. Detectives attempted to stop the stolen vehicle and a chase ensued.” Not quite. It appears now that sometime before the shooting detectives saw Thompson pass them on Mountain Ranch Road, turned to give chase, but quickly lost him. Not until later did they find him parked in a driveway on Rail Road Flat Road. There are even different accounts of when it was confirmed the car was stolen. One of the detectives, Rick DiBasilio, said in a court filing it was after shots were fired. Perhaps it was “confirmed” and re-confirmed several times.

The Notebook from pg 44 them camping, helping with their homework and getting them involved in scouting. Why? Because he, too, had a drug-addled mother, an absent father, and was raised by his grandmother. Feb. 21 Today we learned how easy it is to download highly specialized pornography. (PTHC means pre-teen hard core.) The first witness was a computer expert. His testimony was taken out of order because he’s in high demand and has to be elsewhere soon. Today we really got into the nuts and bolts of file-sharing, how you can erase files and even reinstall a computer’s operating system in its entirety, but guess what?

More importantly, the early press releases suggested that shots had been exchanged with the driver of the car. There’s not a shred of evidence to support that. A May 28 account, the day after the shooting, reported: “As detectives approached (Michael) Thompson and announced their presence Thompson ran from the front of the vehicle and into the driver’s compartment attempting to start the car. Detective (Rick) DiBasilio attempted to prevent Thompson from starting the car by reaching into the vehicle. As this occurred Thompson started the car, placed the vehicle in reverse, and drove backwards. Thompson turned the vehicle into Detective DiBasilio as he raced the engine in reverse while Detective DiBasilio hung onto the vehicle in order to maintain his balance and avoid being run over by the car.” Thinking his partner was in peril, Detective Wade Whitney opened fire. In earlier releases the department said: “During the stop shots were fired and one detective was shot in the shoulder. Detectives returned fire hitting the suspect multiple times.” Returned fire means that they were fired upon, and detectives means more than one. That’s pretty important stuff. And the sheriff now admits those statements were inaccurate. The initial press releases concluded that nothing else would be forthcoming until the next morning: “If possible please refrain from calling until I release the update.” So that’s what the Enterprise reported, but we went further. We listened to family members and a woman who was in the car with Thompson, the man who was shot, and they told a radically different story. The woman, Megan Oneal, who also suffered shrapnel wounds in the incident and whose life was also imperiled, was never mentioned in the early press releases, nor were other witnesses. Oneal and at least one other person were arrested in the aftermath of the shooting and that wasn’t mentioned. Oneal was originally held in connection with the stolen car, a charge she said has been dropped, and the other person was booked for allegedly interfering with law enforcement. When we presented sheriff’s officials with the contradictory version Oneal and Thompson’s family members gave us, they repeatedly declined to respond. We reported that. They offered no comment, period, nothing, not even in defense of the officers, not even to say that the complete truth will come out in court, nothing at all – for all of 12 days, that is. Then on June 8, emerging from hibernation, the Sheriff’s Department held a press conference and issued a new press release with old information and more disparagement of the man its officer had shot. The department still hadn’t produced any weapon to which the

detectives allegedly “returned fire.” Inexplicably the June 8 press release repeated what one of the earlier press releases said almost word for word, “Detectives seized the vehicle and are in the process of seeking a search warrant to search the vehicle’s interior. It is unknown at this time if Thompson was armed until the vehicle has been completely searched.” How long does it take to search a car? Twelve days should be enough. We reported June 5 that Oneal claimed she, and possibly Thompson, were shot with Tasers before the gunfire began. That, too, was not in the initial press releases nor in a release issued the day of Downum’s press conference. What his press release said instead was, “Meagan (sic) Oneal stated she has never been arrested. Oneal in fact has been arrested as a juvenile and is familiar to local law enforcement.” Again disparagement. Finally, when pinned down about Tasers, Downum admitted a Taser had been fired during the incident but he said it missed its target. District Attorney Jeff Tuttle has since confirmed that there is a video recording of the Taser use and Downum has said that Taser darts actually hit both Thompson and Oneal. Until reporters pressed him Downum didn’t answer a lot of other questions, such as why Thompson was held incognito and under guard at a Modesto hospital and not charged until his release many days later. Family complaints that they were denied information, denied access to Thompson, and for several days denied the ability to make medical choices on his behalf have been inadequately addressed, at least in the family’s opinion. The family claims inquiries to the Sheriff’s Department were met with silence; that inquiries to the hospital were dismissed, and worse, that the hospital gave them a list of morgues to call. What appears of import to Downum, and what he did at his press conference, was to continue to disparage the man his officer shot. “Thompson has been the topic of numerous patrol briefing items in the past. The most recent (4-7-09) details Thompson possibly in possession of a stolen Dodge pick up truck as well as an AK-47 assault rifle. In December of 2006 the Sheriff’s Office received information Thompson was in possession of a firearm and posed a ‘serious threat’ if he was contacted.” As for the detectives, all law enforcement officials face potentially life-threatening situations from time to time. That is why they are trained to identify which situations are in fact life threatening and how to address them with the least violence necessary. I’m fairly certain that a court can and will sort out whether Thompson’s actions or his unsavory character warranted shooting him eight times.

The files are still there! And what did the inspector find on some of the six different computers and two extra hard drives seized as evidence in this case? Pornography, including child pornography, all of which had been erased — or so the user may have thought. Oh, and the detective found user accounts for the defendant and the two 10-year-old alleged victims among others. Feb. 22 Watching the boys’ mother testify was painful for everyone in the courtroom, not just her. Most of us jurors have children, some of us grandchildren. That two boys should have such a rough start in life — father in prison, mother on drugs, boys in and out of foster care, finally placed with

their ill grandmother — would make a stone weep. But that broken woman did tell a compelling story — when she was possibly telling the truth — of her growing suspicion that the boys’ relationship with the defendant was too close. Unnatural. She said she and her own mother, the boys’ legal guardian, fought a lot, and were often estranged — something about a restraining order barring her from the trailer park. But for months prior to the defendant’s arrest, the mother kept trying to tell the grandmother she was worried about this overly friendly neighbor, one who was so close to the grandmother and the boys he had daily contact and often walked into their home without knocking. The boys’ mother had a nasty nickname for him. She called

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest

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Environ./Ag Resource Reporting, Daily (10,000 & Under) First Place-The Davis Enterprise

Milk bath Showers help dairy cows fight heat stress The Davis Enterprise, Aug. 8, 2008 By Cory Golden, Enterprise staff writer

Heifer No. 2165 hogged the shower. Standing in the sun, the temperature around her in the low 90s, she chewed cud, now and then giving a slow head shake or swishing her tail. Water from two shower heads sprayed down on her shoulders and hindquarters. All in all, life looked pretty good. It may appear that Cassandra Tucker, an assistant professor of animal science, is running a spa for dairy cattle in a UC Davis barn, but her research is serious business. Heat stress reduces a cow’s milk output by 3 to 10 percent because the animal is using more of its energy to keep cool. That costs dairy producers $900 million annually. To combat it, farmers turn to misters attached to feeding troughs. Tucker is working to better understand how and when cows prefer to make use of cooling water. Two months into her project, she’s found that “cows have very different personalities” when it comes to cooling off. “Some really love it,” she said. “They’ll spend seven hours a day in the shower. Others use it less, maybe an hour a day.” Her research, funded by a $20,000 grant from the Whole Foods Market Animal Compassion Foundation, is also timely: The public has taken a growing interest in farm animal comfort. Cartons of Clover Stornetta brand milk, for example, note that their cows are “free farmed” under standards set up by the American Humane Association. And this fall, Californians will vote on Prop. 2, which if passed would mandate that certain animals be able to turn around freely, stand up, lie down and extend their limbs. Needless to say, high-end, made-for-human-style shower heads wouldn’t be included. Tucker’s experiment makes use of four Holsteins at a time, two cows and two heifers. Each is assigned a stall measuring maybe 30 feet by 15 feet, about a third of it shaded, with bedding, food and water. Nice enough, but one cow and one heifer get a bonus: a

The Notebook from pg 40 him that “pedophile fairy backup caller” because he was so willing to watch the boys for the grandmother when she had a doctor’s appointment or wasn’t feeling well. We wrapped up the day with a CHP guy, the one who was heading a team investigating a rash of 911 prank calls. The team had descended upon a local school April 5, 2007, to interview the twins, who were suspects. But as soon as the lieutenant heard words about a possible molestation from one of the boys, he pulled the plug on the 911 investigation and called in the sheriff. Feb. 25 I heard a story on NPR recently reporting about the growing percentage of children today in the United States who are being raised by their grandparents. Today one of those grandmothers took the stand on the second floor of the county courthouse. She had been given custody of the boys

cube-shaped wooden structure, measuring about 8 feet by 8 feet rigged with two shower heads. They hover above a platform which, when 20 pounds or more of pressure per square inch is applied to it, turns the shower on. It can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day to teach the cows to trigger the showers. Once the bovines learn, they’re monitored closely for five days. Thirteen security cameras keep an eye on those with showers and the control cows without, tracking when showers are used and on what part of their bodies, when they eat or drink and how much, when they lie down, when they stand in the shade.

41 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Devices placed in their reproductive tract collect their core temperatures every five minutes. Their skin temperature is checked regularly, as is their breathing rate. So far, the showers have made a dramatic difference. On a day when the temperature broke 110 degrees, control cows were taking 100 breaths a minute; those in the showers, which are kept at a steady 79 degrees, took just 60 breaths per minute. Skin temperature has measured 95 degrees across the study. Control cows’ skin has reached 100 degrees, while those with access to showers have lowered theirs to 90 degrees. The cows definitely seem to enjoy the showers. So much so, in fact, that when the experiment began, Tucker had to change her plan to place two cows in each pen. That’s because one cow would begin guarding the shower from the other, like teenagers squabbling over the family bathroom. Tucker is not tracking the amount of milk from her subjects, who are not lactating. As Tucker talked, No. 1991 stepped onto her platform. The spray began. The cow put out her long tongue. Drinking that way hasn’t been common, so far, Tucker said. Of the six animals who’ve had access to shows for which the videotapes have been analyzed, three stood under the showers for more than two hours a day. Tucker, brushing away flies in the barn, looked toward heifer No. 2165. The black spot on her back glistened. Her ear tags dripped. She showed no sign of budging. Said Tucker, “She is clearly going into the high shower user category.”

CowShower: Ah, the comfort of a cool shower on a hot day. Heifer No. 2165 luxuriates in her stall Thursday at the UC Davis dairy barn. The university isn't operating a bovine spa; researchers are studying how to ease cows' heat stress, which affects milk production. (Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo)

in 2005. It had been a rough couple of years prior. Both her husband and her own mother, who were very close to the boys, died just a few months apart and she had been depressed. She had chronic health problems, diabetes and bad knees. That year she also suffered a toxic infection that caused her kidneys to nearly shut down. The boys were a handful, yes, and she was eternally grateful for this friendly neighbor, the defendant Matthew Christopher Davis, who would pick up the boys from school sometimes. He took them to scout meetings. He fixed her computer. He even helped the boys with math. “I used to know how to multiply fractions, but I forgot. It’s just gone,” she said almost in tears. (Several jurors nodded sympathetically.) Her relationship with her own daughter, the boys’ mother, was terrible — drugs. And there were periods of time the daughter was banned from the home. But not the night

Because the cows have varied so much in their shower use, Tucker speculates that some may prefer to cool down using misters at different times, for different lengths of time. Giving cows that choice is a logical next step in Tucker’s research, which she’s performing with research technicians David Ledgerwood and Amanda Grout and student assistant Geoff DeJanes. They’ve already discovered that the showers draw other animals. “We’re getting a lot of ducks coming to visit,” Tucker said. “Luckily, they’re not heavy enough to turn on the water themselves.” of April 4, 2007. That was the night when John Doe No. 2, one of the twins, went to scouts with Davis while his brother stayed behind. The mother testified earlier, and the grandmother confirmed, that the boys’ behavior had grown progressively worse since the previous summer. John Doe No. 2 had frequent and serious headaches that doctors could not diagnose nor treat. The twins were fighting more and more. It was that night of April 4, 2007, in his brother’s absence, that John Doe No. 1 told his mother his story for the first time. The mother told the grandmother and together they agreed to wait until the boys’ regularly scheduled counseling session after school the next day to report their fears of molestation to someone who could do something about it. Feb. 26 Detective Troy Garey, lead investigator, told the court about events leading up to the arrest of the defendant about 6 the

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42 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Writing, Daily (10,000 & Under) First Place The Davis Enterprise

On the line

She arrived needing help, now she gives it By Cory Golden, Enterprise staff writer

WOODLAND — In the gravel lot, the line shuffles forward. Those who wait wear work boots and sandals and sneakers, baseball hats and head scarves. There are blue jeans, capri pants and one or two pajama bottoms. There are flower print blouses and cardigans and T-shirts: “USA” and “I (heart) Jesus.” They began showing up around 6 a.m. Some have a job to get to this morning, others no job at all. Eighty one through ninety, a voice calls out. Volunteers hand them white onions, two handfuls of new potatoes, two cantaloupes. They move on, bags held open to receive peaches, a tub of salad mix and cherry tomatoes. In a bin, there’s yogurt, butter and sour cream to choose from. But first, everyone outside the Food Bank of Yolo County’s warehouse on Friday mornings passes by Naomi Chavez. “Good morning — how are you?” she asks. “I don’t have any croissants for you. Is that OK?” Naomi reminds everyone they can have two breads — “Dos y no más,” she says — and one pastry. All the while, she’s refilling three boxes filled with packaged rolls and buns and English muffins and, sometimes, muchcoveted loaves of sliced bread. What’s available is what grocery stores have donated from among their day-olds and leftovers. Sometimes there are five, six, seven cases of hot dog buns. There’s a bin with packages of cinnamon rolls and cookies. There’s a rectangular cake frosted red, white and blue and another topped with strawberries. One hundred twelve to one twenty. Nami’s hair is pulled back in a pony tail. Her sweatshirt is half zipped against the morning chill, more layers of black and gray tops and part of the scrawl of black tattoo showing from beneath. On her left hand, she wears a wedding ring. Like many of the food bank volunteers, Naomi also needs its help. ———— Things weren’t always so tough for her. She grew up in Woodland as one of three kids, with a dad who owns an electrical business and a mom who works in human resources for a school district. She worked for the district attorney’s office while attending Woodland High School. After graduating, she made money babysitting for family members. Naomi, who turned 24 Tuesday, married Beto five years ago. He had a good-paying job as a mechanic. Soon they moved into an apartment in a gated complex in Natomas. They bought nice furniture. Naomi gave birth to a son, Joshua, and got pregnant again. Then Beto got laid off. In line there are many shades of brown skin and white skin, some of it tough from the sun, some soft and thin. There are bifocals and mustaches, crows feet and smiles. They speak softly to one other in Spanish and in English. A man considers a bag of rolls. “You don’t have no bread?” he asks. “No, that’s what I have,” Naomi says. The food bank acts as a supplier to food closets and other charities around the county, but it’s taken to giving direct help too.

Just 10 people showed up in 2004 for the first of what organizers call the Friday Food Table. In two years, that number grew to an average of about 100. Then, as now, those who wanted food were asked only to put a dollar in a jar. If they don’t have one, says executive director José Martinez, well, that’s OK too. As the recession took hold, more people showed up. The faces in line began looking younger.

Foodline: Volunteer Naomi Chavez, 24, hands out bread and pastries to people in need Friday morning. She also receives help from the program, which saw demand grow steadily as the economy worsened. (Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo)

When Beto lost his job, he and Naomi were in the hole. Broke. They moved back to Woodland and into a bedroom in his mom’s house. Naomi went to the social services office, where she signed up for food stamps. A woman there told her about a food pantry at a church. “It took a while to put my pride aside and ask for help,” Naomi says. “Eventually I did, because I didn’t have any choice.” Soon she found her way into the Friday morning line. After coming once or twice, she noticed that the volunteers seemed short-handed. She asked if she could help. One twenty-one through one thirty. Women pick through the boxes. “C’mon, girls, you’ve got to hurry up,” Naomi says. In line, they carry boxes or roll wire carts. One man holds a laundry basket. A black woman pushes her oxygen tank in a baby stroller. Once she began volunteering, Naomi rearranged the bread boxes, so they would be easier for folks to hunt around in. When the number of pastries ran low, she learned to ask couples if they’d share. She made friends with the regulars and the other volunteers, who worried over her working too hard as her belly grew. “I’m fine,” she insisted. And she was. She felt better about herself. “Before it was like...” — and here she covers her face to show embarrassment. “But I see these people on the street. It’s no secret. The economy’s bad. People need help, and family can’t always help you. “It’s nice to meet people. And they need you. And you need them.” Naomi would set aside certain sweets for pregnant women in line. She’d point to their bellies, and they would giggle. She knew what it was like to have a craving you can’t afford to satisfy. Naomi loved volunteering so much, in fact, that she handed out bread one Friday; she gave birth to her second son, Jonathan, the following Tuesday; then she was back at the

food bank three days later. ———— “Sunday was my birthday, you should give me a cake,” teases a man in a camouflage cap and flannel shirt. He turned 72, he says. “Well, here, let’s get you a cake,” says Naomi, and she trades him one for the cookies in his hand. Naomi never knows what she’ll bring home from the food bank. One week, there’s rice; another, baby formula. At first, her son Joshua was no fan of fruits and vegetables. So she’d wrap them up and say, “Baby, I got you a present!” “Mommy! Cool!” he’d say. Eventually, Naomi and Beto found an apartment complex where the rents vary by income. She got to know her neighbors, some of whom are home-bound seniors, and began bringing them groceries from the food bank. She befriended a farm worker, a regular in the line who made a point of asking, “Hey, m’ija, how are you? How are your babies?” One day, she accepted an invitation to join him and his wife at their home for freshly made tamales. In the spring of last year, an average of 120 people stood in Friday lines. Now, with the county’s unemployment rate about twice as high, with more than 11 residents out of work for every 100, the lines have swelled to 220 to 260 people. Sometimes, 300. The volunteers get excited when so many show up, Naomi says. Not because they want to see more people hungry — but because they know people who need help are getting it. The food bank has added three more grocery pick-up times. In West Sacramento, about 150 people come on Wednesdays at noon. In Davis, it’s 50 to 75 on Friday afternoons. And in Woodland, a new Wednesday evening pickup, just threeweeks old, attracts 150 people. “Hey, Vince, how are you?” Naomi asks a man in a T-shirt with suspenders holding his jeans. “Let me get you some sourdough. Is that what you want? You want rolls, hon’?” Naomi’s known Vince since she was in sixth grade. She went to school with his daughter. A while back he was hurt in an accident, so he moves slower now. He hands her a mint, which she tucks into her pocket. “God bless you, Vince,” Naomi says. One sixty one through one seventy. ———— Losing what she’d thought was everything changed her, Naomi says. “I just wanted more and more and more. I never thought about other people in the community. I never volunteered. I never would have even thought to do that.” One ninety one through two hundred. On Aug. 29, Beto interviewed for a job as a lube tech at Sundance Car Wash and Express. For months, he’d been looking for work while his wife cared for their children. Finally, a break: On that same day, someone quit. The boss not only called Beto to hire him, but asked him to start that afternoon. “I never thought I would get back on my feet again,” Naomi says. Luckily, Beto begins his work days at 9 a.m. That means that he can watch the boys while she returns to the food bank, helping as the line passes. It’s 10 minutes to 8, which is when Friday’s Table will end. Just one or two latecomers move through the line. The sun is bright now, and Naomi’s forehead glistens with sweat. She turns to another volunteer, the one who has been calling out numbers. “Sharon, what number are we at?” Naomi asks. “209.”

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


Notebook from pg 41 next evening, April 5. A team of investigators, closing in on possibly some the 911 pranksters, went to the boys’ school in the early afternoon. The grandmother arrived to pick the boys up for counseling but when she encountered the police, she decided it was as good a time as any. She turned to grandson No. 1 and told him to tell the officer what he had told his mom the night before. And he did. An undercover cop was the next witness, leading us through two painful days of evidence seized at the defendant’s home. First was a music CD hand-labeled “(John Doe No. 2) and Matt’s Music to Get Horny By.” We not only had to listen to the entire CD of explicit rap songs, we were each provided with a printout of lyrics so we could read along. The prosecutor was clearly torturing us. Feb. 27 Things got decidedly worse. In his second day of testimony, Mr. Undercover guy, who I may have seen pushing a rusty shopping cart a time or two in Old Town, played downloaded pornographic clips off one of the defendant’s homemade DVDs. I can describe what we saw that day since trials are open to the public and anyone could have wandered in. But I can’t yet express an opinion since we’d been admonished not to form any before deliberation begins. What we saw was sex — oral sex, anal sex and lots of boys. And then there was one five-minute video clip of a girl, 8 or 9 years old, with an older man and an older woman. They molested the girl under bright lights while the camera rolled. Feb. 28 A friend of mine said he recently sat on a molestation jury. The alleged victim was 5 years old. When she took the stand, she fell apart, unable to testify, ending the trial. John Doe No. 1 is now 11. It’s been almost a year since the last incident allegedly took place. I had seen him in the hall, kind of playful and goofy, but that day on the stand he was solemn, nervously glancing around, sweaty, occasionally dropping his head. He told about getting taken away from his mother, coming to live with his grandmother, and meeting Matt at the trailer park when he was 9 or 10. He told us about camping with his twin brother and Matt, going to scouts with Matt, learning how to tie knots with Matt, placing prank pizza calls with Matt (order a pizza for your neighbor unawares then laugh when the guy tries to deliver and collect). He told us about spending time in the computer shed adjacent to Matt’s house almost daily, staying overnight sometimes, playing video games, listening to music, learning how to make prank 911 calls with Matt, watching pornography with Matt, masturbating with Matt and worse. (Davis was charged with sodomy.) On cross examination, No. 1 admitted to lying previously but he said he was now telling the truth. He said he was scared of getting in trouble so he lied about any knowledge of the 911 calls (yes, he made some), about when he denied he, too, had been molested (he had), and basically, he was easily confused about facts, dates, details, leading to ... contradictions. Make no mistake, the job of the defense attorney during cross exam is to stroll around the courtroom, reach into his pocket every once in a while and sprinkle seeds of doubt. He was very good at it, especially when his witness is an 11-year-old sometimes-liar. Feb. 29 The twins are not identical. No. 1 is big for his age, taller and heavier than his brother, slow in his answers. (His grandmother called him a “sweet, gentle” boy.) He can barely read. No. 2 appears to be like a younger brother, yet smarter, quicker and crisp and direct with his answers. The district attorney began slowly, asking him what happens

when you lie. “You get in trouble.” What happens when you tell the truth? “You don’t get in trouble but someone else gets in trouble.” He couldn’t stop himself from glancing nervously at the defendant. No. 2 loved Matt, he told the court. Matt loved him. Matt was his best friend. Then No. 2 testified about what happened when Davis took him and his brother camping at Swimmer’s Delight late in the summer of 2006. He said that he and Davis had a sexual encounter after his brother went to sleep. He went on to describe later encounters in the shed, where he said they played video games, watched pornography and listened to rap music. The prosecutor asked him about the pornographic movies they watched in the shed. He said that they watched them several times a week. One movie, he said, was about a little girl and her parents. To me, they were actors in that video, but to No. 2, they were a real family. I had mentally prepared myself to sit through the sordidness of this trial. Today was tough. March 3 Cross exam of No. 2 continued from the previous Friday. Attorney Brown sprinkled more seeds, but to me, it was like peeling an onion with more and more translucency emerging from the witness. Apparently the twins had been formally questioned at least a half a dozen times by someone of authority over a period of 12 months since that day all hell broke lose and Matthew Davis was arrested. Two videotaped CAST interviews (the multi-agency Children’s Assault Task Force) occurred that first week. They were interviewed six months later by the District Attorney’s office as the case proceeded toward trial, and several times more as the trial approached. During jury instructions, the judge said we may believe all of the testimony of a witness, some of it, or even none of it. I choose some. No. 2’s answers were linear in a way, revealing more in each interview, things he didn’t want to tell about his best friend, secrets he said Davis had told him never to tell. Finally No. 2 was excused. Next on the stand was a trailer park neighbor who added an odd piece of corroborating evidence. The neighbor took his wife-to-be and her three daughters camping at Swimmer’s Delight in the summer of 2006. When Davis and the twins unexpectedly showed up he offered to share his prime campsite with them near the water but Davis declined, choosing a more private location. That was the night, according to No. 2, he had his first sexual encounter with Davis in the tent. March 4-6 All was not seriousness in and out of the courtroom. One morning the jurors were chatting loudly and laughing as the judge gaveled the session to order. “I see the Stockholm Syndrome has set in,” he observed wryly. True enough. Many of us had made friends over the weeks we spent together. On one coffee break we agreed to get together after the verdict for a beer to celebrate the end of this god-awful trial. As the people’s case continued, we heard from a handwriting expert that yes, Davis was the one who labeled DVD discs “male porn” and the CD titled “Music to get Horny By,” burned about a month prior to his arrest. An evidence technician testified where certain items were found (the multiple cell phones, some used to call 911, in Davis’s couch where he slept). A nurse practitioner instructed us on the Tanner Scale of sexual maturity, how one could tell the approximate ages of the children on the pornographic videos as well as the sexual maturity of the accusers who had testified. She also examined both boys after the defendant’s arrest, finding a bruise and some swelling on the rectum of

43 CONTEST EDITION 2009 No. 2. Another witness, one for the defense, was taken out of order. She was a 911 dispatcher in Eureka during the time of a high volume of 911 prank calls. Then we listened to Julia (not her real name), a neighbor girl who testified that John Doe No. 2 made 911 calls in Davis’ presence while Davis laughed. March 7, 10-11 We actually heard from the defendant. He didn’t exactly take the stand, but he had voluntarily given two lengthy statements, which the prosecutor was happy to play for us, that resulted in hours of video and hundreds of pages of transcript. The first interview was the night of his arrest. He was nervous but not unconfident, and he outright fibbed about several things. (Q. What kind of pornography is on those DVDs? Girls, boys? A: “Oh, girls!” Q: Any knowledge of 911 calls? A: “No!”) He fully expected to get out of jail that night once he explained everything and his friend, an older scout leader, posted bail. Whatever the two boys were saying, well, it was his word against theirs but he wouldn’t call them liars since they were his friends. He said their mother was putting them up to making false accusations because she was jealous of his relationship with the boys and basically, she hated him. It was a very different Matt Davis on video the following Monday after spending four days in jail. He was tired, scared and the confidence gone. He said other inmates were ridiculing him for cooperating with the investigation. About that pornographic magazine found in the shed? He blamed one of the boys for bringing it over and leaving it, just like he tried to plant some drugs in the shed once in a baggie. His mother told him to do it to get Davis in trouble. Two parts of that second interview stayed with me. One was the defendant’s account of how child pornography relates to the scout oath, at least in his mind — why pornography might be ... healthy. (“It seems like ‘mentally awake’ could be somewhere in there, or perhaps pornography in general ... mentally awake, morally strong. It seems like that’s the closest thing to scouting that I could tie something like that into.”) The second was his intentions toward the boys. He wanted to guide them and seemed locked in a battle with the mother for their affection, especially John Doe No. 2. “As time went on I became attached to these kids ... and they became attached to me. They would say, uh, I love you, Matt.” He said the struggle with the mom over the boys grew and worsened “over the last three months ... and I lost.” March 11-14 The defense attorney was up to bat. He recalled several investigators to re-grill them about inconsistencies in the boys’ stories from one interview to the next. He also landed a few punches of his own: The prosecution had claimed victim No. 2 suffered from severe headaches that coincided with the onset of the alleged molestation, the summer of 2006. The only relief for his pain was hot showers, which he took several times a day. The headaches and the frequent showers apparently disappeared after the defendant’s arrest, according to the boy, his mother and grandmother. But medical records show that the headaches actually began in 2005. In addition, even though the boys said they saw Davis masturbate frequently in the shed and “clean up” with a towel and tissues, no forensic evidence of sperm was found. (I thought this point irrelevant anyway because the defendant himself on videotape admitted he regularly masturbated in the shed.) There was also a parade of character witnesses: Three fellow scouts saying they never saw inappropriate behavior and Davis was a good guy. Two father-figure scout leaders who guided Davis from the rank of Cub through Eagle Scout to assistant leader of Troop 27 said his character was

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest

See Notebook pg 15


44 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Feature Photo, Weekly (4,301-11,000) First Place

Writing, Weekly (11,001-25,000) First Place

Morgan Hill Times, by Lora Schraft

North Coast Journal, Arcata

The Notebook of Alternate Juror No. 4 What it’s like to sit in judgment of an alleged child molester By Judy Hodgson

I’ve been here a week and a half, sitting through jury selection, and I’ve learned a few new things about our justice system. For instance, I already knew the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence, but I didn’t know, as the judge patiently explained at least four or five times, that the two are equally valid. If someone comes into the courthouse dripping wet, stamping his feet and shaking his umbrella, and tells you it’s raining, it’s reasonable to accept that as fact. There was another judicial concept potential jurors were having trouble with: You have to be able to look at the defendant and presume him to be innocent until you hear all the evidence, go into the jury room and begin deliberation. Why was this so difficult? Because we were not looking at an alleged burglar or sobered-up drunk driver who recently found Jesus. The guy sitting there is charged with possession of child pornography (illegal) and — infinitely more offensive — molesting two 10-year-old boys who were expected to testify. The judge and both attorneys warned jurors the pornographic videos we would be viewing would be explicit and even disgusting, “But you can’t just turn your head and not watch.” You have to listen to all the testimony and view the evidence. There were more than a few — I lost count — potential jurors who said, “But he must have done something or he wouldn’t have been arrested.” “They didn’t just randomly snatch him off the street.” “If this were any other type of case, your honor ... I have kids.” The initial pool of more than 200 jurors dwindled at first due to the expected length of the trial, six to eight weeks, and again because of answers we had to provide on the lengthy questionnaire. One question read: Have you or anyone you know ever been involved in a sexual molestation incident? The number of people answering yes was a little startling. I had become friendly with one woman sitting next to me. We talked over several days of jury selection about her daughter, her husband, her work. When she got in the jury box, with hands folded in her lap, she quietly told the story of a girl, about 5 or 6, who was repeatedly molested by her two older brothers, until one day the boys inexplicably stopped. She said she was that girl. No, she never told her parents. She ended up on the final jury panel, but others who told their stories were excused. There was one man who kept clenching and unclenching his fists as he told about a male predator who had stalked his son, now grown, when his son was 10 and playing Little League. Another had a father, he kept insisting, who had been “falsely” accused of molestation but forced by his own family to plead guilty just to bring an end to the nightmare. Television shows could not compete with the drama in that courtroom those early days in February. This was real and it was gritty. As we finished the first week, the 12 in the jury box were deemed acceptable to attorneys for both sides. It was a good panel that included some pretty smart people: several teachers (one who spoke six languages), a retired chemistry professor from Humboldt State, a retired journalist who used to edit copy for the Journal a few years back. The 40 or so of us remaining in the leftover jury pool gave a little cheer at the prospect of being dismissed. Then the judge reminded us of the need for four alternates. Feb. 19 Back in court after a holiday weekend, the examination of

potential jurors began again. The judge repeatedly asked could you be fair and impartial? Two beefy law enforcement types were excused after they admitted they’d give extra weight to any testimony from their brothers in blue. After an hour or so, it looked like we had three acceptable alternates. Then my name was called. I sat in the chair of Alt Juror No. 4. Yes I had been a juror before, 30 years ago. Criminal case. On a scale of one to 10 (one being super-terrific), what do I think of the judicial system? I gave it a cynical “four.” Why? The system favors the wealthy. Plea bargains. And don’t get me started on what damage Bush has done to our legal system. Yes, I’m called almost every year for jury duty but I am always excused because I’m a reporter. Well, not because I’m a reporter, but because I know so many people involved. In this case: some of the cops, the district attorney (but not the deputy trying the case), Judge Watson, the school superintendent who may testify. I’ve written lots of stories and even opinion over the last 27 years involving molestation cases — the pedophile teacher, the priest who liked young boys he took camping, the foster father/molester of a girl who was eventually murdered but not by him. (Surely you don’t want me? I added silently.) “You know serving as an alternate juror can be pretty frustrating,” said the defense attorney, continuing his questioning of me. You have to sit through all the same testimony just like the other jurors, but you don’t get to go into the room to deliberate. You don’t get to decide the case. You just have to be ready in case someone gets sick or there’s an emergency. “Yes, I know,” I heard myself say. But what I was really thinking was I’m a reporter. I can write about it. Not during the trial, of course. I’ll keep a daily journal of notes at night. After all, it’s an important case on a topic I’ve covered many times during my career but never from the point of view of a juror. “Will you all stand and raise your right hand.” Feb. 20 Kindly Judge Bruce Watson, with his raspy, permanently

damaged vocal cords, made it sound like a job reasonable people could do. Presume defendant innocent. Hear evidence presented in court. Determine facts. Yes, don’t worry. It’s OK to take into consideration a witness’s background, training, motivation, believability — all of the above — in determining whether they are lying or telling the truth. Apply law to the facts and — presto! — render a verdict. Piece of cake. All that went out the window today. This was day one: opening statements. Opening statements are not evidence, we were reminded. They’re just a road map of what the evidence would show. Unfortunately, there was more than one road map. First up was the slightly rumpled, graying Deputy DA Arnie Klein, a recent transplant from Los Angeles, who kept peering at us over his bifocals. He told us of the victims, “Boys will be boys.” We would learn that apparently the two accusers, those young rascals, may have been involved in a series of 911 prank calls that tied the county’s emergency system in knots for weeks in early 2007, but they weren’t on trial for that. And they were being raised by their grandmother because the mother had some major drug issues and had lost custody of her sons a couple of times, once for sharing her marijuana with them on their eighth birthday. But the mother wasn’t on trial either. The defendant, we were told, is the one on trial for a number of alleged crimes, including possession of pornography involving children, and, after a long period of time befriending the boys, repeated molestation. Road map No. 2 was presented by the defense attorney, Glenn Brown. He told us his client, the defendant, age 23, was an Eagle Scout and assistant leader of his Boy Scout Troop who, yes, befriended many neighborhood boys — and girls — in the trailer park where they all lived, teaching them computer skills, handing out keys to his shed adjacent to the trailer he lived in so they could use his computer to play games when he wasn’t around. He was especially close to the two boys, twins. He was a father substitute even, taking

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest

See Notebook pg 40


Capsized, from pg 22 He looked up through the dark, swirling green to flecks of sunlight, so far away now. So far. It had been nearly two hours since the massive wave had seized and flipped the Ranger. He felt certain now. Resigned. The sea had won. This would be his last breath of life. ••• Lungs burning, they ran down the beach, back over the two miles, over shards of driftwood and past knots of kelp. They made it to the Highlander, rushed to a nearby farmhouse, and used a landline to call 9-1-1. A boat had capsized off Kehoe Beach, they reported. Two men were clinging to it. It had been about a half-hour since they had spotted the overturned Ranger and the fishermen. Bouchard and Kimber left the farmhouse. They drove back and parked on the side of Pierce Point Road near a large sign warning of undertows and sharks. They grabbed sweaters and towels and bottles of water. They ran through the dunes stubbled with anise and iceplant. Maybe the men had washed ashore. The muscles in their legs were screaming. Still, they ran toward Kehoe Beach. ••• A U.S. Coast Guard air search and rescue team was already in motion, speeding in their sleek orange-and-black Dolphin helicopter over San Pablo Bay. They’d received a mayday call earlier and were searching the San Pablo waters for a boat or survivor. They found nothing. It wasn’t unusual. Some mayday calls are pranks. Sometimes nearby boaters help out or local law enforcement responds before the Coast Guard arrives. In the Dolphin were Commander Sam Creech, pilot Kyle Young, flight mechanic Eric Lester and rescue swimmer Dan Strange. All were in dry suits. Strange, 27, was a football player and track athlete back in high school near San Antonio. His face splashed with freckles, hair close-cropped, he had a boyish look. Yet as a rescue swimmer, he was highly trained and in peak condition. Like all Coast Guard rescue swimmers, he was also an Emergency Medical Technician. As the men scanned San Pablo Bay, the Dolphin running in a pre-selected search pattern, a distress call came in from Point Reyes. A boat capsized, a single man aboard. The sighting had been reported by eyewitnesses. The crew knew this was no prank. In the Coast Guard, the term for going at full speed is “bustering.” Strange began pulling on his fins. It would soon be up to him. At 180 mph, it would take no more than 10 minutes to get to Kehoe. The men of the Dolphin bustered. ••• The blue fender lifted Tobeck to the surface. He opened his eyes. He was, somehow, still alive, still breathing. God is here, Tobeck thought. He looked at the beach. He was closer now. The surf pulsed him toward the sand. He clawed at it, tried to pull himself up and away from the water. He was nearly on the beach but he couldn’t touch bottom, couldn’t get traction. Another wave broke and began its backwards rush, and carried Tobeck with it.

Again and again, Tobeck dug his fingers into the sand only to be hauled back by the receding waves. Finally, a breaker washed Tobeck to higher ground, near the dunes and the white log. He dug in, and held. He crawled away from the water, still holding the fender. His heart was beating erratically, his lungs were rasping. His face was turning purple. On the chill sands of Kehoe Beach, Tobeck curled into the fetal position, a posture common for those dying from hypothermia. ••• Kneeling on the Ranger, Alexander had seen Tobeck survive the surf and curl up on the beach. Held in a rip current, the Ranger was still well away from the beach, still trapped in the slashing breakers. He had looked several times to the north, toward Bodega Bay, knowing there was a Coast Guard station there. But no Coast Guard cutter appeared. Somehow, the hikers had not understood. There would be no rescue. Still wet, in only his undershorts, Alexander was growing colder, more weary. He wondered now if his earlier decision was right. Maybe he should leave the Ranger and swim for his life. He was a decent swimmer, but he was so fatigued now, beaten down for two hours by the sea. He crawled to the bow of the Ranger. He would stand and dive into this monster surf. It would be his only chance. Then he heard a rumble in the sky. Alexander looked south, and saw the Dolphin approaching. ••• Swooping over the Bolinas Ridge, the team headed north along the Great Beach. They spotted the capsized boat and on it, a man wearing only shorts. The men flew over Alexander, assessed the best way to make the rescue. As the commander, Creech would make the decision. He turned to Strange and gave him the signal. The Dolphin hovered at about 30 feet, its engine screaming, its rotors blasting down at the surf. Strange had secured his mask, helmet, fins and snorkel. His harness held flares, lights, a knife. He looked down from the edge of the Dolphin. He could not simply jump into this surf. It was too high, too treacherous. If his timing wasn’t perfect, he could plummet deep into the trough of a wave instead of onto the crest and shatter a bone. Strange went down on a sling. Dangling a few feet from the water, Strange slipped from the sling into the surf. He swam to Alexander. “Is there anyone else?” Alexander pointed toward Tobeck, curled on the still-distant beach. Strange gave a hand signal to his crew. A rescue basket dropped from the Dolphin. Alexander was bluish, cool to the touch. “You OK?” Strange asked. “OK, but I’d like to get out of here,” Alexander said. The two splashed into the water, and Strange, his arm under Alexander’s shoulder, towed him to the basket. Another hand signal, and the basket, with Alexander inside, rose to the Dolphin. To steady the basket, to keep it from swinging back into the surf, Strange held onto it from below as it rose for the first 10 feet or so. Then he dropped back into the water and swam for the beach.

45 CONTEST EDITION 2009 It was, he would recall, the toughest swim of his life. The surf was 10 to 15 feet. The waves were concussive, pounding one on top of another. He duck-dived below some. Others struck him, rolled him. He’d describe it later as swimming through a washing machine. Strange made it to the beach. He threw off his fins and snorkel. He would need his mask, he knew, to see through the rotor wash. He sprinted to Tobeck, coiled tight in the last stages of hypothermia. He touched Tobeck’s hand. It was colder than the sea itself. He bent low and could hear the rasping of Tobeck’s breathing, see the purple spreading over his face. “You’ll be OK, you’ll be OK,” he told him. He looked up to the Dolphin, signaled once more, and the basket dropped. Tobeck looked out from his cocoon. He saw Strange, heard the shrieking of the Dolphin, saw the rotors’ hurricane-force winds strafing the sand around him. Then he peered toward the dunes at the metal wire of the exclosure. Oh, the poor Plovers, he thought. Bouchard and Gimber had rushed down the beach and then stopped when they heard the Dolphin’s approaching thunder. They watched as Strange and his team rescued the fishermen. Now the helicopter was speeding south, the thunder fading. The fishermen, they hoped, would be safe now. ••• Wisps of fog drifted over the beach as the hikers carried the water and blankets back to the Highlander. Inside the Dolphin, Strange pulled out his switchblade and sliced away Tobeck’s wet shirt and pants. He swaddled him in blankets. Started oxygen. He was worried about Tobeck’s erratic heartbeat. Other hospitals were closer, but Strange wanted to get Tobeck to Stanford Medical Center, with its trauma and shock unit. He called for heat, and Creech obliged, opening a vent that brought hot air off the engine directly into the cabin. Alexander was already wrapped in blankets. He leaned toward the vent, let the air swirl around him. He stopped shivering. The blankets and air began to warm Tobeck. The purple in his face steadily faded, replaced by pink. His heart was quieting. The Dolphin raced past the Golden Gate, over San Francisco, a million lights twinkling below. They flew down the Peninsula, veering over the glow of Stanford Stadium, where the first football game of the season was underway. Blood coursed back into Tobeck’s arms and legs. He looked up toward Alexander, sitting a couple of feet away. Tobeck stuck an unsteady hand out through his blankets. Alexander took it and, for a few moments, held it in his own. His friend, he knew, would be OK. At Stanford, Alexander was examined and released. Tobeck was admitted for cardiac tests. Ultimately, doctors found no damage to his heart and he was released the next day, Friday. The men say they will forever be indebted to Bouchard and Kimber, the hikers, and to the Coast Guard rescuers aboard the Dolphin. Ultimately, though, they believe they were graced that day at Kehoe Beach by divine intervention. They believe God answered their prayers by placing Bouchard and Kimber on the beach and by sending the Dolphin to save them. Since the capsizing, the men have shared their story with friends and church members.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest

See Capsized, pg 46


46 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Columns, Weekly (4.300 & Under) Second Place Sanger Herald

$anger’s $eemingly $evere $alary $ituation By Dick Sheppard I am enormously impressed by the folk who work at the Sanger Herald. All of them, I believe, deserve to be paid at least $100,000 a year in salary. They also deserve to have the best health benefits available - and a car allowance to compensate them for going to all the trouble of driving to and from work each day - and maybe a new iPhone so they can stay in touch in case they get caught up in all that Sanger traffic or lost in the nasty tule fog. They also deserve to be rewarded and compensated for going back to school to take classes that will help them be better Herald employees - and they should get a few bucks extra if they speak Spanish. And, of course, I deserve to make more than $200,000 in total salary, perks and benefits because I have to oversee all the complicated newspaper stuff that goes on here at the Herald. But, unfortunately, that imaginative fantasy is not really going to come true in a town of approximately 25,000 people where the average annual wage is $31,148 and the advertising revenue is limited because of the small retail base and the subscription base is limited because of the small number of people and the need for printing is limited because of the small retail base and the small number of people and - well, you get the idea. Even though we deserve all that money and all those perks, we are going to have to settle for what the Herald can afford to pay and still stay in business - or we’re going to have to go to a bigger paper in a larger town. We still deserve it. The Herald just can’t afford to pay it. Not in Sanger. That’s the reality of doing business in the private sector. •  •  • “Private sector” refers to businesses which produce goods and services for profit. Businesses like the Sanger Herald and Sanger’s restaurants, stores, repair shops, auto dealerships and its farms and nearby packinghouses are examples of businesses in the “private sector.” Most Sanger taxpayers work in the private sector. Their average annual salary, according to the Department of Labor, was $31,148 in the third quarter of 2007. Their taxes and fees pay the salaries of people who

work in city government - in the “public sector.” There’s a reason Sanger has the highest tax rate of any city in Fresno County. Sanger’s city manager’s public sector annual salary and perks of $157,005 is five times the average annual salary of folk in the Sanger private sector who pay the taxes and fees that feed the public sector salary machine. The city manager’s total compensation package including benefits - is more than $200,000. There are many other mid and top management city employees at city hall who make three and four times the average private sector salary. Many of them don’t live or shop in Sanger. See the story on the front page of the Sanger Herald. •  •  • Do they deserve those seemingly high salaries? Probably. Can the City of Sanger afford to keep paying those seemingly high salaries? Maybe so, if it cuts more services, lays off more lower paid employees and finds more ways to raise taxes and “fees.” •  •  • The previous mayor said those seemingly high salaries - I don’t think he called them that - were a good thing because they improved morale, reduced turnover and kept Sanger from being a training ground for larger cities like Fresno. I guess we could improve morale, reduce turnover and keep the Herald from being a training ground for larger newspapers if we gave our employees the same kind of wages, perks and benefits as the mid and upper level management people in the city. We could do that for a very little while. Then we would have to declare bankruptcy. That would probably not be great for morale. •  •  • The California Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling on August 27, 2007, concluding that salaries and benefits of government employees such as firefighters and police officers is public information. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Contra Costa Times, Inc. against the City of Oakland requesting salary information on employees that earned $100,000 or more annually. The court’s ruling appeared to hold that all public employee salary is public information. The court stated in its opinion that public employees do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over their salary information. •  •  • Many newspapers and some cities now put the

salaries of local government employees on their websites. The Sanger Herald is a small town newspaper with limited resources. We’re just now getting around to exploring what the people who control how our local tax dollars are spent are paid. Maybe, if we had been publishing city salary figures on a regular basis since that court ruling in 2007 the numbers we’re seeing today wouldn’t be such a surprise. Maybe there wouldn’t have been as many, “Wows” and “Holy cows” from Sanger business people who saw the numbers for the first time. Maybe, in fact, if we had earlier shined a light on the numbers and into the negotiations that created those numbers - maybe the numbers would have been different. We have a lot of catching up to do. We will be putting city salary figures on our website. We will be comparing Sanger salaries to those in other towns of comparable size. We will be watching and reporting on the audit the new mayor is asking for - and the financial advisory committee he is trying to form. •  •  • Maybe the first question the committee needs to ask is, “How can the city afford to keep paying those wages in this economy?” The City of Vallejo asked that question. Then declared bankruptcy. •  •  • Are the salaries really too high? The ones for city hall employees certainly appear, at first glance to be higher than in other cities of the same size. Police and fire salaries, at first glance, don’t seem to be that much different than in cities of comparable size. Stay tuned. •  •  • Seems like if the “pre-Christmas” sales can begin before Nov. 23, the “post-Christmas” sales could begin before Dec. 23. I’ve noticed from visiting a couple of post-Christmas sales that a good thing about Valentines Day is that it keeps the Easter Bunny from showing up in Sanger before most of the Christmas merchandise has been cleared out. •  •  • Please accept the best wishes of everyone at the Sanger Herald for a very happy and very prosperous new year. That’s a lot more than a random thought.

It was a Friday, clear and sunny. At about 11 a.m., a large wave struck their boat, knocking one of the men into the water. The Petaluma man was eventually pulled from the cold waters of Tomales Bay and taken to the Bodega Bay Coast Guard station. There, he was pronounced dead by local firefighters.

• John A. Dell’Osso, chief of interpretation, Point Reyes National Seashore. • Don Gross, president and co-founder, Arima boat company. • Paul Komar, professor emeritus of marine geology and geophysics, Oregon State University. • Kenneth Kamler, M.D., microsurgeon and author, whose expertise includes hypothermia. • Vonnie Mathews, director of research, The Santa Rosa PressDemocrat.

Capsized, from pg 45 Part of their message is about being mindful at sea. They should have remembered the two-way radio, they say. Each man should have stayed with the boat. They should have been wearing life preservers — or at least had them close by. They should not have lingered too late on the ocean. Yet the sea’s allure is ancient, enduring. So are its perils. Three weeks after Alexander and Tobeck’s ordeal, two other men went fishing south of Bodega.

Background sources Background for this story was provided by:

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


47 CONTEST EDITION 2009

Sports Photo, Daily200,001 & Above) First Place San Francisco Chronicle by Paul Chinn

Breaking News Photo, Daily (200,000 & Above)) First Place The San Diego Union-Tribune by John Gibbons

General News Photo, Weekly (4301-11,000) First Place Sonoma Index-Tribune

Feature Photo, Weekly (25,001 & Above) Second Place Los Angeles Downtown News by Gary Leonard

Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune Don’t try this at home, warns Barbie Hoffman, of Leaping Lizard Rescue, as she handles a young rattlesnake recently trapped at a Sonoma home.

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest


48 CONTEST EDITION 2009 Sports Story, Weekly (25,001 and Above) First Place Sacramento News & Review

The fast and the curious Our writer rides with up-and-coming Sacramento stock-car racer Johnathan Hale and lives to tell about it By Kel Munger Photos and Photo illustration by Dominick Porras and David Jayne

Three generations of racing Hale: Up-and-coming NASCAR driver Johnathan Hale, flanked by grandpa Lyndel and father Lyn, both racers in their own time. Johnathan Hale showed promise from the start, winning his very first race in a quarter midget at age 7. When Johnathan needs an extra push, grandpa Lyn and pitcrew member Amanda Morris lend a hand. Morris is just one of many women who participate in modern stock-car racing. Once wedged inside the passenger-side cockpit, the author had an exhilarating, not to mention accelerating, experience. “You’re going to fit me through that?” A racing fan since I was old enough to recognize the numbers on the cars, of course I knew that stock cars don’t have doors that open. The drivers swing in through the windows, which is why they all seem to look like the mythic gunfighters of the Old West: lean all over and narrow at the hip. But I’d hoped that the ride-along version of a NASCAR Grand National racing car came with an exception: a door that would open for a short, fat chick. Instead, I wondered if they’d have to squeeze me in with a crowbar, because there was no way I was going to miss out on a ride in a race car. “Oh, you can fit through there,” drawled Lyn Hale, a wiry guy about my age and the father of the car’s driver, 18-yearold Johnathan Hale. “We can fit my dad in there, and he’s bigger than you.” Son Johnathan is a young man on the move. He recently roared past two milestones: On June 2, he graduated from Rio Linda High School, and earlier this spring, he advanced from the local Whelen All-American Series, the lowest level of competition sanctioned by NASCAR, to the regional Camping World Series West, which has served as a springboard to the more prestigious Sprint Cup Series for name drivers such as Kevin Harvick. That makes Johnathan the racing equivalent of a baseball player who was recruited by the River Cats before he finished high school. To celebrate, Roger Morris, who owns a couple of specially rigged “ride-along” NASCAR cars, brought one out to All American Speedway in Roseville so Johnathan could take a few of his sponsors for a spin. His sponsors—and one extremely excited, if rather rotund, writer. Taking a thrill ride in a 700-horsepower Grand National stock car with a heartbreakingly young driver at the wheel as we whipped around corners at 100 mph hadn’t been on my agenda, but when the offer for a ride in a specially rigged two-seater came along, I didn’t even think twice. My daddy didn’t raise any fools. Giddy-up, 409 Like Johnathan, I spent my childhood around race cars. My dad was a drag racer. Family legend has it that my first complete sentence, thoroughly coached by my greasemonkey dad, was a plea to my mother to let us buy a Honduras Maroon 1963 Impala Super Sport 409. It worked. Dad, who’d been racing his 1960 Impala at the local drag strip on weekends, got seriously crazy about racing once he had the 409. More than just the title of an old Beach Boys song, those stump pullers had serious torque and horsepower. The deep bass rhythm of the 409’s engine—a HUMPH-bruh-

bruh HUMPH-bruh-bruh—made the hairs on your arms stand up. It was my lullaby. Once we had the 409—named Draggin’ Red—Dad concentrated on getting every last bit of power out of the engine. For the first several years, he raced in various “street stock” classes. That meant, as I understood it, that the cars could be street legal with just a few modifications, so sometimes, we got to take a ride in the race car. It was great fun to go racing up the hill just south of my hometown and hit 100 mph as we cruised past the little market near our house. Very illegal, but great fun. Dad’s racing habit, like all addictions, progressed. Eventually, most of the stock parts on the 409’s body, as well as big chunks of the engine, were replaced by professional racing parts. We didn’t take thrill rides to the A&W anymore; we had a “regular” car for that. Around 1965, Dad and his racing partner, Bob Freeman, pulled the 409 out of its original home in Draggin’ Red, took it to Portland to be rebuilt by a racing-engine pro and dropped it into Kool Whip, a white 1962 Chevy Biscayne wagon. For show and tell in the third grade, I took in two pieces of an axle that had snapped apart during a race. “My dad blew out his rear end this weekend,” I proudly told my 8-year-old colleagues, “and it broke the axle. So now he’s got to get his rear end rebuilt.” The kids burst into laughter. Miss Walker tried to explain that a “rear end” was part of a car, but she wasn’t very clear on the concept herself. Chaos ensued. Dad got his rear end rebuilt, and even though he did well on the Northwest racing circuit, even making it to the Summer Nationals a couple of times, growing up in a racing family was a mixed blessing. It took so much money. Other kids went to Disneyland on vacation; we got a trailer for the race car. Fewer new school clothes but new headers (Hookers, of course). And for a large chunk of my grade-school years, the kitchen table shared space with a set of racing slicks almost as big as I was. Dad quit racing in the early ’70s. At first, he was just “taking a break,” but slowly he began to sell off some of his stuff. Not all of it, of course, but by the time I left for college, all that was left of Kool Whip was the hood—hung on the garage wall like a big-game trophy—and the 409 engine, resting in an oily box beneath the workbench. Still, large slices of my childhood memories are greased with racing happiness. Listening to rock ’n’ roll and handing Dad

tools while he worked on the car. Waiting up for him to come home on Sunday nights from the track to ask breathlessly, “Did you win a trophy?” And later on, having my chores include dusting all of those damn trophies every Saturday. I’ve got one of those trophies on my mantle still. All in the family The All American Speedway in Roseville was hopping at noon on Saturday, even though the actual racing wouldn’t start for a good six hours. A line stretched from the shack where pit passes are issued and race registrations are processed. After picking up a pit pass, I headed to the first pit on the second lane, where the Hales had set up shop. The pits have changed a lot since my dad’s day, when they were simply drawn out in the dirt with white lines or traffic cones. At All American Speedway, the pits are concrete bays like small driveways, and the whole place has an RV-park atmosphere, with picnic tables and car trailers lined up. Awnings provide shade for the cars. Some of the bays are top of the line, with enclosed trailers for the cars, tool chests in neat racks and a crew wearing matching polo shirts. Others are just a couple of guys in grubby T-shirts with a toolbox— not even an awning to keep the sun off. The biggest difference, though, from the pits of my childhood, is the presence of women. Back then, the only girls in the pits were the big haired, too-much-makeup type that tended to get evil looks from my mother. But now girls are working the pits. They’re warming and pumping the oil so the car will be ready to start and checking tire pressure. A few of them are climbing into fire suits. “Sure, girls drive,” Johnathan said, a bit surprised at the question. “Some are good. Some are not so good. But that’s just the way it is with driving.” Track facilities and the attitude toward women participating in the sport may have changed with the times, but the pits smell the same as they always did: Odors from oil, gas and all the other fluids necessary to keep a car running, as well as the sour smell of burnt rubber and the dense stench of exhaust permeate the air. That smell has lingered at least since the days of Prohibition and the Great Depression, when Southern bootleggers began suping up their automobiles in order to outrun the law. That progressed to impromptu gettogethers on the long, flat, hard-packed beaches of Daytona, where drivers raced against each other or against the clock, attempting to break the land-speed record. Things were getting out of hand on the beach in the postWorld War II years, and a guy named Bill France looked to bring some order to it. In 1947, France founded the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, NASCAR, and his progeny remain closely tied to the organization today. In fact, family has been instrumental in building the sport, from Lee Petty in the 1950s to his son Richard Petty—“The King”—who dominated the sport in the 1960s and ’70s, to Dale Earnhardt in the 1980s and ’90s to his son, “Junior,” one of the top stars on the circuit today. NASCAR was a natural for television, with speed and excitement unrivaled by any other professional sport and built-in consumer appeal: In the early days, the cars were heavily modified versions of the Fords, Chevys, Dodges and Plymouths you could buy on the showroom floor. In the first flag-to-flag telecast of a NASCAR race, the Daytona 500 in 1979, a bit of strong-arm driving on the final lap led to a fistfight between Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers on national television. It didn’t hurt the sport at all, at least not with some of its enthusiasts. “Kick his stupid, cheating ass!” my father shouted at the television, jumping up from his recliner and coming close to spilling beer on the new carpet. In the intervening years, NASCAR officials have spent a See Fast, pg 34

Made in california- 2009 better newspapers contest

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