As I embark on this Giant Sequoia News project, I am also considering how I want to approach my related journalism.
As an editor of community newspapers some years back, I occasionally shared my opinions with readers. I did this because I thought it was important to be open with readers. I assumed that my views would shape my work, from what was reported to how it was reported. At the same time, I wanted to be fair and honest.
This website is in its fledgling state, and I’m taking this opportunity to explain how I plan to organize material and provide other information that might be important to readers.
The website has three sections: Back Story, Perspective and News. Each may include any topics listed at the top of the website.
I plan to organize articles as follows:
• Back Story includes articles representing everything I can find online or write myself to provide readers with background about giant sequoias.
• Perspective articles will share my perspective on topics related to giant sequoias (including this article).
• News will be just that, articles about giant sequoias “in the news.” Sometimes these will be press releases accompanied by a note describing their origin. Sometimes I may write a news article about giant sequoias or related events and activities. But more often, I suspect, I will use this section to curate news that I find published elsewhere.
I considered, but decided against, using an app that would scan the internet for stories about giant sequoias and populate the website with links. As much as giant sequoias are in the news right now, this would quickly fill my website.
However, most of these articles originate from reporters working for newspapers. And having been a newspaper publisher myself, I don’t think it’s fair for others on the internet to take advantage of the work of reporters and editors by duplicating it or rewriting it without attribution (or checking sources).
On the other hand, I don’t have a budget for reporters and don’t have the stamina it would take to write all of the stories I would like about giant sequoias.
Instead, I will rely on searches and Google alerts to let me know when articles are published, review them and let readers know about the articles and where to read them.
In most cases, the articles will be on newspaper websites in communities that cover the Sierra Nevada of California. And in every case, I will purchase a digital subscription to that newspaper. If the article is behind a pay wall, I will tell readers when I think it’s worth their investment to help support the original journalism by buying a digital subscription.
As I reflect on the time I was editor and publisher of a small newspaper serving the foothill and mountain communities of southeast Tulare County — where John Muir himself said some of the finest giant sequoias could be found — I believe that I leaned politically a little to the right.
Having started that newspaper (the now defunct Southern Sierra Messenger) after the creation of Giant Sequoia National Monument in 2000, I believed that many people in the communities in and around the monument were not served well by the process that created it.
The politics seemed unfair to me, and I’m sure that impacted my reporting and other choices I made for the newspaper.
My belief about journalism has been that one cannot also be an activist. I may be wrong about that (and many things). But, although I have shied away from activism, the one thing I have consistently advocated for is the public’s right to know and be involved in its government.
That’s why the creation of Giant Sequoia National Monument seemed unfair to me. It was a fait accompli because the politics were right.
The pendulum swings, though. And 20-some years later, people are more divided than ever. But I’m not publishing a community newspaper. Instead, I’m advocating — yes, advocating — for the public to learn about giant sequoias.
There are many problems in this world, and a person can only do so much. I’ve chosen to work on this giant sequoia problem because it’s connected to so much in the place that I live — California. And if we, as in “we the people,” can figure out the best way to manage the public lands where giant sequoias grow, well — I think we could change the world.
In other words, I’m trying to say I don’t have an agenda here. I’m not advocating for one side or the other. I wish there were no sides. But I am skeptical, by nature or training, and that may sometimes come across.
I do not have answers. I’m not a scientist, attorney, or even an outdoorsy person. But I’m willing to learn and share what others have learned.
And I thank you for reading!