“At Albert Park, they would bring in All-Star teams from the major leagues,” says Mike Shapiro, co-owner and general manager of the San Rafael Pacifics independent baseball team. “We found an old program... for the Indianapolis Clowns, featuring their pitcher Satchel Paige.”
A conversation with Penngrove’s Naomi Starkman, who runs Civil Eats with Editor-at-Large Paula Crossfield, about digital media, winning a James Beard award, sustainable agriculture, and living in Sonoma County.
What does the James Beard Foundation award mean to you?
I do think it’s a big deal that the James Beard Foundation recognized us, for a number of reasons. We’re a blog and we were named “publication of the year” amongst many different formats. Traditionally, they might name a magazine or some other kind of print edition, and I think it’s quite a statement on their behalf that they are supporting sustainable agriculture, because they are really known as a foodie organization that normally recognizes chefs, restaurants, books and food writing, and I think they are trying to elevate [sustainable agriculture] and are doing it at a time when they as an organization are also taking so steps to identify more with sustainability.
This is something that we’ve been doing for five years, and we know that we’ve been ahead of the curve. But I think we’ve reached a critical mass, and their recognition brings us to the front of the pack and allows people to say, in fact, critical, more content-driven reporting on food systems issues is really important.
What do you think this means for digital media?
I think we are unique. I like to call Civil Eats a community supported blog, kind of like community supported agriculture. We started because we found there was a lack of reporting in issue areas, and at the same time there was this burgeoning food movement. We tried to create a platform and a space for dialogue on important food-movement issues. It’s totally unique in that way. It’s not just a food blog; it’s actually a beloved space for people in the food movement, and for a long time we’ve worked with people who are not traditional writers—chef, farmers, advocates—people who are new to writing but who have something to say and didn’t have a place to say it. That’s different than a regular glossy publication and it is kind of scrappy, but I think there is a reason why Michael Pollan has called us the best online food and politics magazine. We know we’ve started a trend that’s leaking into larger [mainstream] reporting.
You’ve been volunteer-based but recently completed a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign. What’s the business model going forward?
With Kickstarter, we raised the most money ever for any news site of any subject, and that was really based on the community and the feeling that they had a piece of the pie. There was this great sense that if we didn’t fund it, it wasn’t going to happen and in order to do that, we needed people to step up. Going forward, Kickstarter is just that—it’s a project to help kickstart long-term funding of the site. In order to cultivate new writers and new voices and reach a wider audience, we need to hire and bring on other reporters. We’ve been able to hire and pay our managing editor, Twilight Greenway, and my goal for this year is to be able to hire a reporter based in Washington, D.C., to be on the ground and on the front lines. We’re not a nonprofit. I’d suggest we’re a “no-profit.” We’re not doing anything that has a profit model except for paying for reporting. But we have foundation support and individual support, and hopefully down the road we’ll have a membership-support model as well.
Where would you like to be in five to 10 years?
That’s what I’m in the process of figuring out. For so long I’ve had to serve as editor and now I can serve more as a publisher, and so my job is really to think about where does Civil Eats grow and go. I’ve always joked way before the Huffington Post had a vertical for food that we were like the Huffington Post for food. I would like for us to have that breadth and depth and multimedia component and video and really be like a news channel for food-systems issues.
Why do you live in Penngrove?
I love Sonoma County. I grew up in the Bay Area, and Sonoma County represents to me the best of why we love in the Bay Area. It still has a relative amount of ag land and Petaluma is my downtown, and it still has that old, cool vibe and it’s authentic and has local stores. I live in Penngrove because I live in a beautiful, bucolic place that’s not that far from the freeway, not that far from San Francisco, and it entitles me to incredible natural beauty and peace and quietude.
First place, Editorial Comment - How We Represent by Gabe Meline
In this 2012 article, Gabe passionately and rationally argues for Measure Q, which would have allowed for district elections in Santa Rosa City Council elections. The measure ultimately failed, but perhaps in a bit of foreshadowing, Gabe points out that Roseland, an island of County jurisdiction in the middle Santa Rosa, doesn’t get to vote in any Santa Rosa city elections. Maybe measure Q will come back in another form, and pass, when Roseland is officially part of Santa Rosa.
Second place, Investigative Reporting - Wrung Dry by Rachel Dovey
This 2013 article brought Rachel to the outskirts of Marin County, where residents were paying over $600 per month for water in a time when the average home in the county was paying less than 20 percent of that. Residents were capturing shower runoff in jars to water plants. A private water utility company was running the show in their area, and residents were at their wits end with how to pay for life’s most basic need.
Blue Ribbon Finalist - Special Section (Best Of issue)
This groundbreaking issue took the idea that all newspapers will be forced to online-only formats, crumpled it up and threw it in the face of pundits who predict the death of print media. Our Magic and Illusion theme featured creative print-only ideas, like a Mad Magazine—style fold-in, an article printed backwards that had to be held up to a mirror to read, one printed as a swirling vortex, one printed in a way to force the reader to flip the paper over to experience the sensation the article was talking about, and other cool, print-only tricks.
Congratulations are in order to everyone who worked on these issues and stories. Alternative weeklies like us don't win many CNPA awards, since the organization includes all papers in the state, including big players like the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. We even have our own national group, Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) www.altweeklies.com that also does annual awards. CNPA says the plaques are being shipped to us soon, and though Gabe and Rachel are no longer with the paper, they’ve been informed of their achievements and are stoked. Totally stoked, to be exact.
The Bohemian won two CNPA awards last year as well: first place for Special Section and second place for Best Feature Story.
While on the subject of honors, Bohemian news editor Tom Gogola’s story on fracking is one of AAN’s top stories of the week this week. With hundreds of newspapers and thousands of stories each week to choose from, AAN picked ours. It’s a good indicator that we’re doing something right.
Here’s to continued success!
Efren Carrillo won’t be leaving his post as Sonoma County Supervisor anytime soon, unless public pressure mounts to a tipping point, says political analyst and Sonoma State University political science professor David McCuan.
His analysis comes despite incredible outrage from the public, his fellow board members and other politicians at Carrillo’s first meeting back on the board after being found not guilty of attempted peeking by a jury last month. At the meeting last week, Supervisors Mike McGuire, Shirlee Zane and Susan Gorin called for Carrillo to step down, and chairman David Rabbit stopped just short of joining them. “We can ask you to resign, but ultimately it’s up to you,” he said.
Even if it were unanimous, the board has no legal recourse here, says McCuan. Rabbit can rearrange Carrillo's schedule, maybe reshuffle his committee appointments, but “he’s clearly not going to do anything like that,” says McCuan.
What could jeopardize Carrillo’s next two-and-a-half years on the board, says the political analyst, is if his victim in the peeking case, currently known only as Jane Doe, reveals her identity. The victim “giving a personal face to the fear and absolute horror she felt” could raise public ire to the point a recall might be successful. Without that, McCuan speculates, the supervisor may even have a good chance of garnering reelection.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors nearly unanimously called for fellow Supervisor Efren Carrillo’s resignation at today’s public meeting, followed by over 40 comments from the public, about 75 percent of which called for the supervisor's resignation, while Carrillo sat silent in the meeting room.
Board chair David Rabbit was the only member who stopped just short of directly calling for Carrillo’s resignation. “We can ask you to resign, but it is ultimately up to you,” he said. “You were very honest on the [witness] stand, you said some things that made me scratch my head and made me shiver.”
Supervisor Shirlee Zane had already called for Carrillo’s resignation, and Supervisors Susan Gorin and Mike McGuire echoed those sentiments this morning. Then came the public’s opinion.
Richard Sorensen Romero, a former Healdsburg city planner, told Carrillo, “The Chicano community, you embarrass us.”
Former Santa Rosa City Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre said, “I’m afraid of you,” adding “I don’t accept your apologies at all.”
Evelyn Cheatham, director of the nonprofit Worth Our Weight, said, “Efren, I love you. I do. But I am so disappointed… I had hoped you would do the honorable thing in the beginning and resign.” She says he has worked with teens in the program and questioned, “Can I expose the kids to you?”
Some voiced support for Carrillo. Marco Suarez said, “I’m not saying that he’s the victim, but I know that he’s been able to come forward and confront what he did and be honest.” He took issue with the term “sexual assault” in conjunction with Carrillo. “He was never convicted of being a rapist,” he said. “I know that he will do right by the county of Sonoma.”
Some who voiced support were recovering alcoholics. After the incident, Carrillo admitted he has a problem with alcohol and checked himself into rehab for 30 days before returning to his duties on the board.
State Senator Noreen Evans has called for Carrillo’s resignation, and State Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro joined the chorus at the meeting. “He supports the supervisors today that have called for Supervisor Carrillo’s resignation,” a spokeswoman told the board.
Chris Castillo, executive director of the Verity Rape Crisis and Trauma Center, spoke on a personal level to Carrillo. “Remember,” she said, “she will hold this in her heart. She will remember this always, and she will never feel safe.”
Rob Mondavi makes some damn good wine—but you already knew that. The news might be that he’s equally as adept at talking about the process.
At the first in the new “Eat. Drink. Learn.” series last night at the Rudd Center at the CIA’s St. Helena campus, we learned the winemaker and son of Michael Mondavi (yes, of the famous Napa wine family) did not rest on his laurels after the family winery was sold in 2004, instead he set out to make wines under a new label that represented his family. There’s Isabel, the line crafted with to mother’s tastes; M, the classic, bold cabernet made with his father in mind; and Emblem, a line for he and his sister’s modern, more adventurous spirits.
Part winemaker, part Tony Stark doppelganger, Mondavi detailed the process of each of the six wines we tasted, from soil to maturity. The hour-long session never dragged, thanks in part to Mondavi’s energized presentation, passion and lack of PowerPoint slides. He answered questions and offered the personality behind the wines rather than force feed predetermined tasting notes, allowing, for the most part, the wines to speak for themselves.
The standout for me was the last wine, the Emblem Oso Passito NV 2012. It’s a dessert wine, in the way that it’s sweet, rich and is sold in small bottles. But this wine is more than just a nice finish to a great meal, it’s contemplative and deep, great for any time of day, and it does not have to be chilled. Its grapes are dried on the vine, and it’s quite labor intensive, but the result is well worth the work.
After the lecture was a meal prepared by Russell Scott, CIA education dean and one of only 66 Certified Master Chefs in the country.