Let’s talk about pet peeves. We all have em. I started thinking about them when a big one of mine got resurrected this week.

Monday is Memorial Day, so many journalists this week were searching for heartwarming stories celebrating the troops. There are plenty of those stories out there, which is why it’s so strange that this lame gimmick keeps happening over and over: the military wife makeover.

The reasoning is well-meaning but dumb. Military spouses, the thinking goes, are just so busy running their households and sewing American flag throw pillows in their spare time and having feelings about the homeland, they just can’t be expected to look in the mirror. The result, these segments would have you believe: Our soldiers are coming home to a bunch of slovenly saints. (Full disclosure: My husband’s in the Army reserves.)

This is problematic, of course, for many reasons. One is that some military spouses happen to be men. Another is the creepy judgment and paternalism built into the assumption that these women don’t look awesome to begin with and need help. Presumably we single out military wives because of the enormous sacrifices they make — yet we assume they don’t know how to put an outfit together.

I know some of my colleagues have their own journalism pet peeves, so I asked a few of them to share:

The pet peeve: “Teachers haven’t gotten raises for ___.”

Why it’s annoying: Teachers regularly get raises — planned increases because of their experience or education. They maybe haven’t gotten across-the-board increases. Another one is that the president only gets paid $400,000. That one often comes up in discussions about how much people make/don’t make in the public sector. POTUS gets a lifetime pension of $200K+, lifetime health care, lifetime staff, lifetime bodyguards and a fricken library.

Although maybe it’s changing.

— Scott Lewis


The pet peeve: Journalists who write about how gross recycled sewage is.

Why it’s annoying: For years, it’s the same story over and over again. Recycled sewage is gross because turning pee into drinking water is gross and people might have to get over this grossness because the drought’s a-comin’. The thing is, recycled sewage is cleaner than the water we drink now. Polls in San Diego show that people are over it. So why aren’t journalists?

A sampling of New York Times headlines over the past eight years: 2007: From Sewage, Added Water for Drinking; 2008: A Tall, Cool Drink of … Sewage?; 2012: As ‘Yuck Factor’ Subsides, Treated Wastewater Flows From Taps; 2015: Water Flowing From Toilet to Tap May Be Hard to Swallow

— Liam Dillon


The pet peeve: Repeating the idea that women aren’t funny.

Why it’s annoying: It’s possible to write about women in comedy without resurrecting – and therefore reinforcing – the idea that women just can’t be funny. What if someone who reviewed restaurants said in every column, “Just get it out of your head, the idea that food can’t be delicious, because it can!” Of course it can – why would we think otherwise?

Here’s how to write about a hilarious women.

And here’s how not to do it.

— Caty Green

What VOSD Learned This Week

It’s become a given that San Diego is going to grow, and keep growing. That idea has been at the heart of many big plans for the region, including the ones that map out where to expand roads and public transit, how to shape development, where to put new schools.

The numbers those plans all rely on are calculated by SANDAG, the region’s planning agency. So it matters that the numbers are, you know, right. Andrew Keatts examined their projections and discovered they’ve been far off the mark when it comes to pinpointing just how much San Diego would grow since 1990.

Still, officials believe we’ll at least have enough water to accommodate all the new San Diegans moving here in coming years. One hitch, though, droughts are starting to last longer than everyone thought.

Regardless of how many new people San Diego gets, we’ll still have to grapple with these sticking points that have long defined our battles over growth.

• Officials now think a wildly popular water-saving program isn’t worth the cost.

What Else VOSD Learned

• The Chargers stadium proposal unveiled this week could end up costing taxpayers $1 billion. And there are some big unanswered questions in the plan – like when and whether voters might weigh in, and whether a land sale built into the deal could trip things up.

• Palomar College’s top leaders are set to cash in on an early retirement deal they created.

• Some of the bond money voters approved to repair aging classrooms is flowing to off-campus sites. That’s the latest revelation in Ashly McGlone and Mario Koran’s examination of how funds from Props. S and Z are being spent. Caty Green made this stellar roundup of the other big findings they’ve uncovered so far.

 County Supervisor Dave Roberts would get a lifetime pension if he stepped down now, even with just two years on the board under his belt. His years as a part-time City Councilman for Solana Beach making $8,500 a year helped him qualify for a much larger annual pension. He didn’t do anything wrong to get it. It just offered another opportunity to explain how reciprocity between retirement system works for public employees.

What I’m Reading

It was a Family Ties kind of week – no, Alex P. Keaton didn’t announce he’s joining the 2016 GOP field, though it wouldn’t be surprising at this point –because most of the best stories revolved around families:

• It’s hard out here for a dad, part I: The Washington Post followed one struggling, 19-year-old single father taking fatherhood courses sponsored by the Obama administration, and trying his damndest to put them to use.

• It’s hard out here for a dad, part II: Vox’s Matt Yglesias recounts some of the lessons he’s learned while on paternity leave. He’s rightly frustrated by the low expectations people seem to have for dads – he gets compliments suggesting he’s some kind of hero for hanging out with his baby and keeping him alive.

• Among the people who flock to Silicon Valley with big tech dreams are a bunch of teenagers, living away from their families. (California Sunday)

• Families asking the Supreme Court to expand their rights – whether it’s making birth control legal, or allowing same-sex couples to marry – have traditionally used privacy as their main argument. This exhaustive Jill Lepore piece suggests it’s time for a change. (New Yorker)

Line of the Week

“You cannot breathe fresh air or protect your children from a changing climate no matter what you make. If your brother can’t marry the man he loves, then you are lessened. If your best friend has to worry about being racially profiled, then you live in a circumstance not worthy of us.” – Vice President Joe Biden, in a Medium essay laying out his advice to new college graduates.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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