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Bill Macfadyen: Noozhawk Is Soaring in National New Media Spotlight

Best of Noozhawk 05.11.12 joins Westmont in mourning a popular professor, talks karma with a Buddhist nun, and closes the book on Thrasher Books

Since Noozhawk’s launch in 2007, we’ve been closely watched by journalism organizations interested in discovering the secret of hyperlocal news and, specifically, whether it’s sustainable. We’re proud to be a founder of Authentically Local, a now 115-member national group of local independent online news publishers that is proving it is.

As our professional news sites have grown in stature, many of us have been the subjects of investigative articles by publications like the Columbia Journalism Review, which last year featured Noozhawk in its News Frontier Database.

Another publication, NetNewsCheck, did a piece on Noozhawk (in which we were dubbed a “news pureplay”) and followed up this week with a comprehensive look at Santa Barbara’s media landscape.

I know many of our readers are quite interested in such matters and I think you’ll find the article by Lianna Patch to be compelling. She talked to all of the players — even one that’s not known for disclosure — and put together a fascinating analysis of a vibrant local marketplace for news. Noozhawk is honored to be the inspiration for it and excited that our influence is increasingly recognized, both locally and nationally. It’s also gratifying to know that our own traffic numbers have continued to explode in the two months since I was reinterviewed.

Thank you for helping make us a success.

» Digital DMA: Digital Wide Open After Santa Barbara Newspaper’s Civil War

» News Pureplay Aims High in Santa Barbara

» Noozhawk: Reporting (and Financing) the News in Santa Barbara, Calif.

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. Westmont College Mourns Death of Professor Alex Moore

Just days after Westmont College celebrated the Class of 2012’s commencement, the school’s excitement was punctured by news of the death of Alex Moore, an assistant kinesiology professor and the husband of Westmont women’s basketball coach Kirsten Moore. He was 31.

Alex Moore
Alex Moore

The school said Moore died May 9 from complications following surgery for Crohn’s disease, a gastrointestinal malady. He and his wife are expecting their first child in July.

A graduate of Wheaton College, Moore joined the Westmont faculty only last fall after an earlier stint as an adjunct professor. He taught physiology, biomechanics and a research course, and his own research specialized in microcirculation, which focuses on hair-sized arteries and the regulation of blood flow to tissue

“The Westmont community has been devastated by the news, and we lift our thoughts and prayers for Alex, Kirsten and their families,” Westmont President Gayle Beebe said.

Glenn Town, chairman of the Kinesiology Department, said Moore loved to teach.

“He had a gift for making complicated concepts understandable,” Town told Noozhawk. “Alex had a passion for bringing students into his line of research. He welcomed that responsibility and couldn’t wait to get started.”

A memorial service is planned for 4 p.m. Tuesday at Santa Barbara Community Church, 1002 Cieneguitas Road in Santa Barbara. A reception at the church will follow the service.

In lieu of flowers, Westmont asks that donations be made to a benefit fund established for the family. Checks may be mailed to Kirsten Moore Benefit, Attn: Brennan de Raad, 2927 De la Vina St., Santa Barbara 93105.

Click here to share memories of Moore on a Facebook tribute page.

2. ‘Badly Decomposed’ Body Found Off Bike Path Near UCSB Dormitory

A UCSB maintenance worker stumbled on a “badly decomposed” body May 10, not far from Santa Catalina Hall, the high-rise freshman dorm on El Colegio Road. The body was discovered in thick brush about 100 yards off a bike path east of the complex.

UCSB police Sgt. Rob Romero told Noozhawk there were no signs of foul play and that authorities are working to identify the body and determine the cause of death.

3. Santa Barbara Hit-and-Run Victim Embraces Future, Not Anger

Maria August was just visiting Santa Barbara for a few days to catch up with friends from her days at UCSB. The 41-year-old Buddhist nun was walking in the crosswalk across Upper State Street in San Roque on April 17 when she was struck by a pickup truck, whose driver then fled the scene.

The collision snapped August’s neck and broke her leg in four places. A gash on her head required staples to close. Despite the seriousness of her injuries, her rebound has been remarkable. Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper caught up with her at Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital not long before she was discharged to an apartment, where she will continue her recovery.

“It was a nightmare,” she told Cooper. “I really did think that I could be dying.

“It was very scary and very painful, but I just kept thinking about my teachers saying ‘love and accept everything,’” she recalled.

August says the incident has strengthened her.

“I don’t feel inside like my spirit has been crushed,” she said. “I believe in karma, and this happened to me, so it is my karma. And the best way to purify karma is to concentrate on wholesome thoughts and actions.”

Authorities have a different kind of karma in mind for the suspect. Salvador Gomez, 70, of Santa Barbara, was arrested on suspicion of felony hit and run, failure to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and injuring a pedestrian after failing to yield.

4. After 15-Year Tale, Thrasher Books of Santa Barbara Nearing the End

The next chapter in Karen Thrasher’s business will, unfortunately, be the last. For 15 years, Thrasher has operated Thrasher Books at 827 Santa Barbara St. near the Santa Barbara Presidio. The endeavor has been a true labor of love as the used bookstore has not turned a profit, although it is sustainable.

Thrasher recently received an eviction notice from the landlord, who will be allowing C’est Cheese next door to expand into her space. She told Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik that she thought about moving but has decided instead to close up shop. As disappointing as that is for fans of independent booksellers, Kacik reports that there are a perhaps surprising number of alternative choices on the South Coast. If e-readers aren’t for you, click here for the list.

5. Feds Targeting Property, Assets in Fight Against Marijuana Dispensaries

The on-again/off-again War on Drugs appears to be back on, with asset-forfeiture laws as the new tool of choice for federal investigators and prosecutors. After several raids of medical marijuana-related operations in and around Santa Barbara last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed legal complaints for forfeiture against the property owners of two South Coast medical marijuana storefront dispensaries and one indoor farm. The feds allege the owners should have known the buildings were being used to grow and/or sell marijuana, which the federal government considers illegal under both federal and state law. You knew it was coming, but the next battleground will be the courts.

                                                                  •        •        •

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