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Probably everyone in journalism related a little too closely with this piece from Vox this week reacting to Twitter complaints that the media covered the Paris bombings closely and ignored bombings in Beirut. One tweet expressing this point went viral – with an inaccurate photo included. Vox corrected the record:
The New York Times covered it. The Washington Post, in addition to running an Associated Press story on it, sent reporter Hugh Naylor to cover the blasts and then write a lengthy piece on their aftermath. The Economist had a thoughtful piece reflecting on the attack’s significance. CNN, which rightly or wrongly has a reputation for least-common-denominator news judgment, aired one segment after another on the Beirut bombings. Even the Daily Mail, a British tabloid most known for its gossipy royals coverage, was on the story. And on and on.
Yet these are stories that, like so many stories of previous bombings and mass acts of violence outside of the West, readers have largely ignored.
It is difficult watching this, as a journalist, not to see the irony in people scolding the media for not covering Beirut by sharing a tweet with so many factual inaccuracies — people would know that photo was wrong if only they’d read some of the media coverage they are angrily insisting doesn’t exist.
I can’t tell you how many times even our most ardent supporters have suggested we cover SeaWorld, or the Barrio Logan community plan, to our great horror. Those are stories we’ve obsessed over and covered extensively.
Every week we hear, “You guys should really look into [thing we’ve written about, produced results on, are proud of.]”
Yet I think that the Vox story, though it speaks to this deep frustration we often confront, is a little too defensive. We can’t expect anyone outside of our newsroom to read every story, to absorb every detail. We can’t expect them to remember which outlet wrote which story every time.
The solution isn’t one all journalists are comfortable with. But we simply have to promote our work in a way that allows people to experience stories they might have missed the first time around, to emphasize over and over and over the messages we’ve uncovered, to beat people over the head with these facts until they can’t escape them.
I’d so much rather hear a reader complain, “Enough with the SeaWorld stories already!” than “I can’t believe you’ve been ignoring this SeaWorld story.”
What VOSD Learned This Week
Think about how much things have changed since 1977. Professional opportunities for women. How we consume media. Pant widths. This week, Mario Koran delved into an issue he discovered hasn’t changed much at all.
That’s the year when a judge found 23 San Diego schools were so racially segregated, they violated kids’ civil rights – and ordered the district to integrate. Here we are, though: “Nearly 40 years later, with one possible exception, Latino and black students are isolated at every school left on the original list.”
Since so many San Diego neighborhoods are racially segregated, the district’s plan to emphasize neighborhood schools could actually exacerbate its segregation problem. Yet, school districts across the country keep trying versions of this same plan, an expert told Koran in a Q-and-A: “Everybody says they know how to do it. Everybody says they know how to make segregated schools equal. No school district in the country has ever done it, to the best of my knowledge.”
The district’s plowing ahead with its neighborhood schools plan at one campus in particular. It revealed it will spend upwards of $100 million rebuilding Memorial Prep and an adjoining high school, where the focus will be on career pathways. What are those, exactly? We got you covered.
Water rates are going up.
As the city’s water department worked to sell the rate hike to the public, it said definitively that the extra money would not be going toward administrative costs. Ry Rivard found that’s not exactly true.
So what are the hikes paying for? Infrastructure and recycled water projects, according to the city.
On top of hiking the rates people pay for drinking water, the city also voted to increase the cost of so-called Purple Pipe water – recycled water that’s mostly used for irrigation. South Bay officials insisted the rate hike disproportionately hurt their customers, but the increase went forward anyway.
What I’m Reading
• This gut-punch of a story is as good an advertisement for journalism as there will ever be: It’s beautifully written, forces you to confront an uncomfortable issue and gives dignity and dimension to people who toil quietly behind the scenes. (Chicago Tribune)
• Yes, things like this happen even in Santa Monica. (Washington Post)
• This cool interactive piece tells the story of a single block in Brooklyn, using testimonials, photos and data to track how it’s changed and evolved over the years. (New York Mag)
• A wonderful piece of satire calling out the hypocrisy of governors who say they won’t allow Syrian refugees in their states. (McSweeney’s)
Line of the Week
“As for the tamales, they met their demise. All 450 of them were destroyed. And for some households, hearts were broken.” – From a Los Angeles Times story describing the seizure of 450 pork tamales from Customs.