We started off the week smugly chuckling at another newsroom’s mistake in believing a fake story, and ended it hanging our heads as we realized that we, too, had gotten taken in by another story that turned out to be fake.

The lesson: NOTHING IS REAL. (Or, you know, some slightly less dramatic trope, don’t believe everything you see, etc. etc.)

Last week I mentioned that if an audience can’t figure out your mission as a news org, you’re probably doing something wrong. This also applies to satire – which is usually the label people cling to when they write a joke piece, which people interpret as real and report it as fact.

That’s what happened to the Boston Globe this week, in a story that included a tidbit from a fake San Diego Reader story that said Doug Manchester had purchased Playboy Enterprises. The Globe obviously missed the tiny “Almost Factual News” tag on the Reader’s story and had to write a correction.

The same thing happened to a conservative website this week when it tried to poke fun at California legislators. It ran a fake – sorry “satire” – story about how San Diego’s own Toni Atkins was leading the push for a bill to eliminate hierarchies within businesses, making all workers equal. People, many eager to believe the worst about those commie pinkos in the state Legislature, bought it:


The site, Townhall, had to add a note explicitly explaining the piece was a joke, and apologizing for that not being too clear to begin with.

Finally, I’m sad to admit that our newsroom too got suckered by an internet joke this week. I say sad not because I’m embarrassed – but because I so badly wanted this to be real.

Liam Dillon shared a photo that was purportedly an excerpt from a sworn statement by Tom Brady from his appeal of an NFL suspension. In it, he makes an unusual case:

Q: And you said hot dogs are sandwiches, correct?

A: Yeah, they’re sandwiches. Anything on bread is a sandwich. Taco? Sandwich. Burrito? Sandwich. Sushi roll? Burrito. Sandwich. Pizza? Open Faced.

We gleefully debated the merits of Brady’s Case for All Things as a Sandwich inside the office for several days until Liam informed us the whole thing was fake.

That, my friends, is the week in hoaxes.

What VOSD Learned This Week

With a new CEO taking over the Balboa Park Conservancy and a recent court ruling putting the Jacobs plan back on the table, there’s been renewed attention on the future of Balboa Park.

One piece of the park’s future that city officials have long wrestled with is parking – where to put it, whether to charge for it and if we need more of it at all. Tomas Herrera-Mishler, the Balboa Park Conservancy leader, told us during our Balboa Park-centric live podcast recently that parking issues force the San Diego Zoo ” to turn away people 100 days out of the year, and that’s a huge economic disadvantage to our community.”

Our intern Zoe Schaver tried to nail down the “100 days” claim and found there’s no real evidence to back it up.

The Jacobs Plan for the Plaza de Panama also dealt with parking by, among other things, envisioning a new parking garage south of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. An appellate court ruling put the plan back on the table, at least in theory, but as Caty Green noted this week, it doesn’t seem to have many champions hanging around.

Then there’s one building that’s become a kind of looming reminder of the park’s long maintenance backlog: The iconic California Tower is streaked with weird stains, and Randy Dotinga figured out what’s causing them and how much it might cost to wash em clean.


This week also provided plenty of reminders – not that we needed any – of how intensely business interests can dominate civic discourse.

Ashly McGlone found that the Port looks poised to side with Pasha, a big-and-growing-bigger car importer in National City. The town’s mayor wants more public access on the waterfront; the Port chairman and Pasha think the business and its growth should take priority.

• A group of city leaders and business bros went to Sacramento to lobby against efforts to rein in Civic San Diego, CityBeat reported this week; the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Partnership have poured a bunch of money into the effort.

• A lawsuit alleges business interests took priority over donor info for the CEO of the local chapter of the Red Cross.

• And then there’s San Diego’s well-known businessman, Doug Manchester, who’s no longer in the news business but still in the news thanks to several big ongoing real estate projects. Turns out he just bought David Copley’s old 8-acre La Jolla estate too.

• But what about the companies that aren’t hugely influential yet but are just on the cusp of making it big? We pinpointed the 5 hottest startups in San Diego.

What Else VOSD Learned

• Preschool can have some enormous perks – but in San Diego, it’s not available to everyone and even the families that are eligible can have a hard time getting in.

 Big companies, not homeowners, run the biggest chunk of short-term vacation rentals.

 The Chargers don’t care about the city of San Diego’s looming September deadline. The county doesn’t care about its own rule requiring a public vote before spending money on a stadium.

 The North County Report is now a thing that exists, and a thing you should read.

What I’m Reading

Chronicling the Cops

• The Guardian continues its excellent coverage of what’s essentially a black site on American soil, Chicago Police’s Homan Square facility, where citizens are held for long periods of time with no access to lawyers and without being documented in the system. The latest revelation: The vast majority of Chicagoans taken to the facility were black.

 The New Yorker profiles Darren Wilson, the Ferguson cop who shot and killed Michael Brown.


• I’m thrilled that the West Coast has finally started to own its superiority by engaging our eastern brethren in some world-class trolling. The latest installment is via Fusion. See previously: This gem.

• There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to Issa Rae’s new show, but for me the No. 1 draw is its depiction of being a non-rich, non-famous young woman in L.A. and not New York – finally. The New York Times Magazine tries to figure out what’s holding up the show’s rollout.

Dominant Women Who Are Dominating

 Ronda Rousey’s having a moment. (Vox)

• Katie Ledecky broke another world swimming record this week even though she was trying to “[take] it easy,” according to the Washington Post. Please go back and read this Grantland piece from last September – it is maybe the most enjoyable thing I’ve read in the last year – about Ledecky’s mind-boggling domination of the sport. (Sample line: “At the start of the race, she was an afterthought; at the end of it, the afterthought is everyone else in women’s freestyle swimming. That’s Katie Fucking Ledecky.”)

Line of the Week

“It’s not that I think I’m so great. I just don’t hate myself. I do idiotic things all the time and I say crazy stuff I regret, but I don’t let everything traumatize me. And the scary thing I have noticed is that some people really feel uncomfortable around women who don’t hate themselves. So that’s why you need to be a little bit brave,” – Mindy Kaling in a fabulous essay on confidence, excerpted from her upcoming book.

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

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