A funny thing happened in recent years: Local media turned its attention away from City Hall.
It may not seem that way. The Chargers stadium saga has dominated local news for a year. Major Council votes and mayoral announcements still get their share of coverage.
But the number of eyes affixed full time on the mayor and Council has tumbled. Just a few years ago, when I started covering the city, there were at least six reporters covering City Hall for various outlets. There are now two, by my count.
I’m going to join them.
I won’t file daily stories on each City Council vote or collect quotes at every press conference. There are already people doing that, and I’m grateful for them.
Instead, I’ll try to bring Voice’s general approach back to City Hall. I’ll investigate the things that aren’t getting the attention they deserve, and try my best to explain more deeply the things that are.
Three years ago, Liam Dillon was our City Hall reporter and decided that instead of spending his time talking to the same insiders every day, he’d rather talk to local people about the problems they were having, and investigate where the city had failed them. It led to some of the best reporting we’ve ever done, on issues like racial profiling, unequal emergency response times and the city’s dysfunctional sidewalk policy.
I’ll embrace the heart of his approach: The things on the Council and mayoral agenda aren’t the only things that deserve to be on the agenda.
I won’t be abandoning land use. Many of the city’s biggest decisions will be land-use decisions. I’ll scrutinize the city’s efforts to deliver on its promise to halve its greenhouse emissions. I’ll interrogate whether planning decisions on the future of North Park, Uptown, Bay Park and the Encanto area are consistent with previous decisions on responsibly accommodating citywide growth.
And other reporters will continue to cover topics that directly relate to the city, like Lisa Halverstadt’s investigations into what’s gone wrong in Balboa Park and where we fall short on homeless services, and Ry Rivard’s examinations into the future of our water supply.
Then, there are all the things we need to look into that we don’t yet know we need to look into. The thinking goes that there are more of these in times – like now – when there are fewer full-time reporters on the beat.
We’ll start right away, and the timing couldn’t be better. Voters have two chances this year to make significant decisions on the city’s future.
We’ve divided up among our reporters the races and ballot measures we’ll cover.
Along with changing my focus to City Hall, I’ll also take on a role as an assistant editor, alleviating some of Sara Libby’s responsibilities.
As election season ramps up, I’ll coordinate our coverage so we hit the most crucial aspects of each race. We’ll vet candidates and their proposals so voters can be comfortable making decisions at the ballot. We’ll try to understand the coalitions forming behind each candidate and what that might mean for them in office. We’ll explain the issues candidates propose and determine which of their ideas are viable. We’ll listen to the things you wish we would look into and explain.
I’m looking forward to it.