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Nuz: Is the ‘Sentinel’ Messing with Us?

Also, we think it’s time to be happy that we’re not building a desal plant

COLUMN OUT

The Santa Cruz Sentinel’s website has a feature that has left some readers—Nuz included—scratching their heads.

Most pages on the Sentinel’s site display a column featuring the eight stories that are supposedly the “Most Popular” at that time. The list usually contains at least one headline that seems out of place, like BREAKING NEWS: Man found dead at Santa Cruz Harbor.”

What’s so weird about that headline, you ask? Well, if you clicked on that link when it was among the site’s most popular stories a couple months back, it would have directed you to a four-paragraph article from 11 years ago about a man being found dead in a coastal parking lot. This begs the question: How does an 111-word staff report get to be the most read story on the Sentinel, as it supposedly was one day in September? Certainly not because of the depth of its reporting. And it wouldn’t make sense for the ranking to have come from any boost in search engine results or social media, either. It that were the case, the story would have stayed in the queue for longer or rotated back in again at some point. And it’s odd to think that so many readers would suddenly get interested in what’s essentially a police press release from 2009—and all of them at the same time.

This happens with very old Sentinel stories pretty much every day. Some of the “most popular” stories are seemingly random dispatches, often with salacious headlines about murders and other frightening events from long ago. It’s anyone’s guess why this carousel of crazy-old stories keeps moving, although Nuz is happy to bat around theories. Is the Sentinel—which is run by an uber-capitalist, profit-hoarding hedge fund—manipulating its back-end algorithms or cherry-picking old stories to get more clicks? In the interest of cutting costs, did the paper hire a 3-year-old to run its website?

Nuz acknowledges that this isn’t the most pressing matter facing the Sentinel these days. The bigger story, of course, is that the already thinly staffed paper saw four writers and editors leave this year, and hasn’t replaced any of them… and that the entire operation at this point is held together by a mixture of spit and twine and by the experience of its longest-tenured reporters Nicholas Ibarra and Jessica Yorkaaaannndd that the paper isn’t running editorials anymore. Pretty much the only positive cut they’ve made is axing their crazy, vitriol-driven comments section online, although we do kinda miss watching activist Steve Trujillo graciously try to shout down right-wing trolls like a birthday kid pounding away at an arcade Whack-a-Mole game.

WELL OK, THEN

Nuz is officially pretty sure it’s a good thing that Santa Cruz is not building a desal plant, an idea city leaders tabled in the face of environmental opposition six years ago.

Not only do new regulations place tighter rules on the seawater intakes, but also the California Coastal Commission has spent the last couple months throwing sand in the approval processes of the of the Monterey desal plant. And meanwhile, a water facility in Morro Bay that does have Coastal Commission approval has run into problems with U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

But it’s worth noting that, in Santa Cruz County, many desal opponents did also oppose a Soquel Creek Water District project to pump highly treated recycled water into the aquifer in order to rest the area’s wells.

That project is happening, and it was recently awarded a $50 million grant. So local plans for indirect potable reuse are looking better than ever.

SNOOZE, YA LOSE

The recent petition asking Santa Cruz city councilmembers to sleep outside before taking a vote on homelessness was almost funny. Almost…

This sarcasm masquerading as politics is beyond pointless—it’s unhelpful. It is the local equivalent of the satirical presidential campaign signs from three years ago that read, “Giant Meteor 2016.” Cuz, haha, we would all rather see the world end than compromise on any of our political beliefs, get it? Ugh. (With the benefit of hindsight, most rational voters would agree that the lapsed hypothetical of a Hillary Clinton presidency doesn’t really sound all that bad.) The point is that it’s easy for us all to troll and make cynical jokes about government all day. The danger in that is that, if we’re not careful, we’ll lose sight of solving our problems. And by the way, some of the really big problems shouldn’t even be all that difficult to actually make some progress on.

In any case, the local petition did get some attention, and Councilmember Drew Glover announced that he did, in fact, take the bait opportunity to spend a night on the streets. And then he took to social media—telling both Facebook followers and the Twitterverse about his experience. He tagged two reporters, three news organizations (including GT), the ACLU and Congressmember Alexandria Ocossio-Cortez.

“Nice that you did this, but then tag the press??” one follower responded. “Not being a humble servant, but a politician indeed!”

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bruce Holloway

    December 4, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    You really cut loose in an extended riff, or rant, about such an easy, lame target as the Sentinel. You ought to initial it (SP) like your movie reviews. The stories from 25 years ago were worthwhile, plus the DeCinzo cartoons. Say, why don’t you print some DeCinzo cartoons? Why not publish a book of them for the holidays?

    I surfed over thinking you’d be covering stuff folks want to know, like is John Leopold running for port commissioner, is Cabrillo doing a bond measure, and are there any contests for supervisor or judge?

    Anyway, the real reason for this comment is to point out that when you refer to SqCWD’s “project to pump highly treated recycled water into the aquifer in order to rest the area’s wells”, you’re conflating two very different ideas. Conjunctive use, which means delivering surface water in the winter and well water in the summer, is the way “to rest the area’s wells” (also known as in-lieu recharge) for as many months as surface water may be available each year. Pumping recycled water into an aquifer is really “toilet-to-tap” with an aquifer in the middle.

  2. you suck

    December 4, 2019 at 3:04 am

    santa cruz has no news media. none.

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