[MetroActive Features]

[ Features Index | Metro Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

5 Years of Metro Santa Cruz

[whitespace] cover Ground Zero: Issue No. 1 of Metro Santa Cruz featured an in-depth profile of Santa Cruz power broker Henry Mello.

HARD TO IMAGINE that the paper you now hold was but a gleam in the eye of newspapermen Dan Pulcrano and David Cohen more than five years ago. Pulcrano, who had kicked around the Santa Cruz journalism scene in the late '70s and early '80s, had been egged on by longtime weekly newspaper veteran Buz Bezore, who was convinced that Santa Cruz was ripe for a new weekly.

For Metro, it was a homecoming. Though the independent, owner-operated company has grown and now has weeklies as far away as San Francisco and Santa Rosa, its roots are in Santa Cruz, where its senior editors and writers first practiced their craft, and where a number of founding shareholders still live.

When the first issue of Metro Santa Cruz rolled off the presses on April 16, 1994, the game plan was simple: write great stories, investigate the suspicious and serve up the best in arts and entertainment coverage.

It's been a busy half-decade around the ivy-covered offices of the county's intelligent alternative press. Seems like it was only yesterday that we were complaining about too much to cover and not enough staff writers and licking our wounds over injurious letters to the editor. Oh. Right. That was yesterday.

Add to that list this town's never-ending supply of juicy, fun, important and just plain weird stories. And people. Loyal readers are what have kept the newspaper in business all these years--along with agitated activists, spin-happy politicians and stuffed-shirt public officials who just couldn't seem to behave themselves.

A look back over the five years reveals that some problems have more staying power than Dracula--or Richard Nixon, for that matter. The very first issue of Metro Santa Cruz featured an article on independent merchants versus chain stores. And the second issue? A look at the downtown panhandlers. Also in 1994, we tackled the high cost of living in Santa Cruz, the still-nascent plans for South of Laurel and the slow simmer beneath Terrace Point.

Deciding that Santa Cruz diners deserved intelligent and honest restaurant reviews, Metro Santa Cruz signed on Christina Waters to write about the good, the bad and the tasteless in the edible world. Waters' writing was outstanding enough to grab nominations two different years for the James Beard awards.

Metro Santa Cruz was also proud to unveil another weapon of mass destruction aimed at the buffoons, swindlers, self-righteous and political know-nothings in our midst. Cartoonist Steven DeCinzo: we've laughed, we've cried, we've run for cover.

By 1995, the editorial initiative had moved to the front lines of environmental reporting, starting with the first of several extensive stories about this county's issues with logging. In February of that year, MSC reported on Watsonville's decision to log Grizzly Flats. In future years, we looked at embattled Gamecock Canyon and the problems with logging roads and how the California Department of Forestry is rigged in favor of timber-harvesting interests. We also waded into the health of the San Lorenzo River, dove headfirst into marine sanctuary problems, kicked open the doors of toxic manufacturing plants and cast a bright, shiny light on the half-hearted attempts of government officials to regulate them.

But nothing got us quite as excited as catching foxy developers in the henhouse bed with clucking, squawking city council members. Most recently, we turned a close eye on the titillating tango between the Capitola City Council and Redtree Properties. Three long articles and a fistful of Nu-z items later, Redtree was last seen leaving Capitola with a rejected Borders Books blueprint in hand.


5 Paths for the Palate
5 Years Ago in Santa Cruz
5 Artists to Watch
5 Stories That Will Matter in Five Years


Keeping track of troubling issues also proved good for the ego. In only five years, Metro Santa Cruz has won 10 awards from the California Press Club and five each from the Peninsula Press Club and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. This included a first place national award for the best arts writing in the alternative press, an award for the best lifestyle coverage among the state's weeklies, and a first place state award for investigative journalism.

Uh oh. We're starting to sound like The Paper of Conscience. The Crusading Journalists. Smarty-Pants Infatuated with Capital Letters. We also managed to cool our self-righteous heels long enough to have fun. Lots of fun. Especially at others' expense. Remember 1997's "Top 10 Grumps of Santa Cruz"? The feng shui for Fifi the poodle and the Akima prank, in which the April Fool's Day issue was ostensibly impregnated with a mind-altering drug? And one could not count the number of Nu-z tidbits that managed to ruffle feathers while squeezing out a good-natured chuckle. To be fair, however, we didn't limit ourselves to having fun at others' expense.

Remember all the times that Metro Santa Cruz editors bravely sat back and sent their trusted writers to experience dangerous and foolhardy events so the readers wouldn't have to? Traci Hukill was sent several hundred feet underwater to chronicle the terrors of scuba diving. Michael Mechanic was kicked out of an extremely high airplane to check out parachuting. Kelly Luker was thrown in the ring with Roller Derby queen Anne Calvello.

Perhaps that last scenario is most metaphoric of Metro Santa Cruz's first five years. No, not arthritic, middle-aged broads duking it out in spandex. But the quixotic battle for Truth. For Justice. For a good guffaw. And, most of all, for an appreciative audience. Thanks, gang.

To celebrate five years of deadline madness, we have assembled some High Fives: Five local talents set to make their mark; five tasty trends on the culinary front; five news stories that will dominate the headlines for years to come; and a look back at the way we were five years ago.

This anniversary section was prepared by the experts: Kelly Luker, Karen Reardanz, Mary Spicuzza, Christina Waters and John Yewell.

[ Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

From the May 5-12, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.