I go through a little routine when a reporter tells me about something nefarious he or she has uncovered — they found out a public official was lying, or that someone is getting taken advantage of.
“That’s great!” I’ll say. Then, immediately, “I mean, that’s terrible. You know what I mean.”
That’s the paradox journalists must work within: Often we do our best work in the face of really negative stuff.
Nowhere is that more clear than in this week’s work by the Los Angeles Times. A paper that’s been in the news for months because of layoffs, cuts and publisher drama showed what a bright spot journalism can be amid tragedy. It has examined the policy issues surrounding gun control in California, gone to great lengths to tell the stories and collect memories of the victims and probed the circumstances that might have led a young couple to go on such a rampage. This story and photo alone — in which a man who’s waited all day and all night for news of his partner’s fate finds out he’s gone — is just an absolute kick in the gut. That’s precisely what journalists must do in these situations: In the face of indescribable tragedy, they describe it.
Of course, there’s no perfect news coverage in the midst of chaotic situations like this one. Mass shootings have become so routine that a few things items get passed around the internet each time, including this guide to covering and consuming news about active shooter situations, which has warnings like: “Don’t trust stories that cite another news outlet as the source of the information” and “There’s almost never a second shooter” (San Bernardino, of course, turned out to be an exception to this rule).
But the Times and others stumbled in their coverage when they initially attributed a comically false name to the second shooter and were mocked around the world for doing so.
And for all the amazing coverage the Times and others ended up contributing to the shooting, another story from a fake news outlet is also among those items that get passed around the internet, and it only becomes more poignant each time. It’s The Onion’s story from 2014: “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Happens Regularly.”
What VOSD Learned This Week
Grumbling from developers about the costs and time it takes to get projects done is a constant in San Diego. A few of them are testing the waters on a way to get things done quicker and cheaper: They’re building in Tijuana. Tijuana is emerging as a desirable market, and has fewer regulations, Maya Srikrishnan reported this week. It does have its own drawbacks, of course, but some see the trend as a potential solution to San Diego’s affordable housing crisis.
One thing that’d make living in Tijuana and working in San Diego (or vice-versa) much easier for some is a cross-border bike lane. (Yes, you can currently walk a bike in the pedestrian lane. No, that’s not very convenient.) A Tijuana designer is working to make it a reality.
As the developers venturing into TJ highlights, getting stuff built is hard. Nowhere is that more clear than the endless Chargers stadium saga. The NFL made it clear this week that it’s not cool with San Diego’s plan to hold a public vote on a new stadium, something Mayor Kevin Faulconer says is non-negotiable. Andy Keatts and Scott Lewis talked about this and the NFL’s moxie on this week’s podcast.
And while the city’s been accused in the past of being too accommodating to developers who want to build stuff downtown, even some of those projects are not slam-dunks. Keatts reported this week that Council Dems are side-eyeing a big project at 7th and Market because two of the businesses that would set up shop there are unfriendly to unions.
Then there’s the problem of maintaining the stuff we’ve already built, like our streets and sidewalks. Councilman Mark Kersey finally unveiled his big plan this week to tackle our infrastructure backlog, but Liam Dillon found some big holes.
San Diego courts quietly ended their pretrial services program at the end of September when they couldn’t strike a deal with the county to fund the program. That means judges are making decisions about who can be safely released into the community before trial with very limited information. It also means that certain people might be kept in jail simply because they can’t afford to pay bail.
San Diego police, meanwhile, talked up their renewed commitment to a strategy called “community-oriented policing” this week to the Union-Tribune. The problem with that? Back in 2011, VOSD called SDPD out for backsliding on community policing, and the department was outraged. We did no such thing, wrote Shelley Zimmerman, who was then head of the program. You can imagine our surprise then when Zimmerman proudly reported the recent return of community policing efforts, which had been cut back.
What I’m Reading
I love fancy jeans, I love L.A.’s fashion district and I love this piece on the humble workers who make fancy jeans in L.A.’s fashion district. (NPR)
Remember that CEO who decided to raise all his workers’ salaries to $70K? Bloomberg Businessweek reveals that all might not have been as it seemed. (You’re gonna want to read to the end on this one.)
Two fascinating looks at poverty in the South, and how it’s influenced by foreign entities: Buzzfeed does a deep investigation into the ways in which U.S. companies thwart rules requiring them to make jobs available to Americans first; the Washington Post reveals Chinese companies that set up shop in the South offer “Jobs [that] come at great cost but offer only a slightly better version of a hard life.”
Do you know that feeling when you read a piece, and every single line is so precise and perfect and hits a certain nerve that you find yourself saying, “Man, I wish I had written that line, and that one, and that one … ”? That’s how I feel when I read most pieces by Rebecca Traister, but especially this one on the humanity we afford to white men above everyone else. (New York Mag)
Line of the Week
“The lesson for any senator who aspires to higher office is clear, and depressing: it’s safer to do nothing at all than it is to try to solve a big problem.” – From a very smart Ryan Lizza piece in the New Yorker on how Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are using their biggest accomplishments against each other.
“The losses I’ve endured have taught me that I am more powerful than the limitations of failed efforts. So, my advice to you: if you fail, fail big! Fail with flair! Fail trying to do something real, something hard.” – Former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, in a Lenny essay on losing the 2014 gubernatorial race.