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The Poet Editor of West Marin, for The Columbia Journalism Review

My profile of Tess Elliott, for the magazine’s Spring 2017 issue, devoted to local news:

Wednesday is production day at the Point Reyes Light, a weekly newspaper based in the town of Inverness, just over an hour north of San Francisco along the bucolic, switchbacked coastal roads of West Marin County. In the middle of the Light’s skylit newsroom, lined with heavy wooden desks and filing cabinets containing years of old issues, five staffers are in various stages of completing the week’s stories and layout.Near the front of the office, the paper’s editor in chief, Tess Elliott, a slight, fine-boned woman with a tangle of auburn hair, frowns as she proofreads the Sheriff’s Calls page.

The police blotter is a fixture in many local newspapers, but it’s safe to say that most haven’t gotten quite as much attention as the Sheriff’s Calls. Compiled and written by Elliott, who has been running the paper for a decade, the column has inspired two short-story collections by a local writer and, more recently, national coverage by Slate (“The Best Police Blotter in America”). A New York literary agent has called Elliott about doing a book; the Oakland Museum of California has asked her to give a talk; one Bay Area writer wanted to collaborate with Elliott on a coffee table book. She hasn’t pursued any of these—largely because she doesn’t have the time, but also because she doesn’t want readers thinking that she is taking advantage of their misfortunes.

Keep reading here

Hong Kong’s Skyline Farmers, in The New Yorker

My first piece for The New Yorker, on Hong Kong’s new tribe of urban farmers:

It was a breezy afternoon in Hong Kong’s central business district, and the view from the roof of the Bank of America Tower, thirty-nine floors up, was especially fine—a panorama of Victoria Harbour, still misty from the previous day’s rain, bookended on either side by dizzying skyline. Andrew Tsui nodded at the billion-dollar vista—“no railings,” he said—but he was thinking of the harvest. Specifically, he was examining a bumper crop of bok choy, butter lettuce, and mustard leaf, all grown here, at one of the most prestigious business addresses in the city. Spade in hand, Tsui scraped at the electric-green moss that had begun to sprout on the sides of the black plastic grow boxes—a result, he said, of the damp sea air off the harbor. “I really like this work,” he told me, still scraping. “It’s soothing, like popping bubble wrap.” A faint breeze ruffled the lettuces.

Keep reading here

Profiling an Animal Assassin for How We Get to Next

The eradication would begin on Floreana Island in October. If all went well, the rodents would be dead by Thanksgiving, the feral cats, by Easter.

Read more about Karl Campbell, the animal removal specialist working on the front lines of extinction, here

James Doty’s Helper’s High

From the May 2014 “Symmetry” issue of Nautilus

James Doty is not a subject under study at the altruism research center that he founded at Stanford in 2008, but he could be. In 2000, after building a fortune as a neurosurgeon and biotech entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, he lost it all in the dotcom crash: $75 million gone in six weeks. Goodbye villa in Tuscany, private island in New Zealand, penthouse in San Francisco. His final asset was stock in a medical-device company he’d once run called Accuray. But it was stock he’d committed to a trust that would benefit the universities he’d attended and programs for AIDS, family, and global health. Doty was $3 million in the hole. Everyone told him to keep the stock for himself. He gave it away — all $30 million of it. “Giving it away has had to be the most personally fulfilling experience I’ve had in my life,” Doty, 58, said on a recent sunny afternoon at Stanford. In 2007, Accuray went public at a valuation of $1.3 billion. That generated hundreds of millions for Doty’s donees and zero for him. “I have no regrets,” he said.

Read more here.