If you’re generous, you might assume that all the stories we produce are the result of our reporters’ sheer force of ingenuity, of their ability to tease facts and insights from dark corners and bring them out into the light.

Sometimes it is.

But often, our stories originated from tips from readers.

Our big effort to unseal private video of a police shooting, for example, started when we heard from someone who’d seen the tape and believed the public should see it too.

In case you’re ever weighing whether to reach out to a reporter or editor about a potential story, and how you might do it, here are a few tips for how to get our attention.

Start at the beginning.

Often people are so enmeshed in the world they’re offering a tip on, they assume we know a lot about that world too. “That deal Pete did in November was illegal” is a juicy tip, for sure. But, uh, who’s Pete? What deal are you talking about?

Assume we’re starting from square one – any background or basics you can provide to make the story clear are helpful.

Details and docs are much appreciated.

Many times, people who offer tips on stories are trying to protect their own identities or the identities of other people involved, and therefore they have to be a bit vague or cryptic. I understand.

But anything you can do to point us in the right direction of a document, data source or other piece of concrete information to help us understand a story is a huge help. I’ve had many folks tell me “Look at X, and the story will be obvious” – except it isn’t always obvious. Whatever specificity you can offer to help us see what you see is a plus.

Err on the side of tipping.

Don’t let these tips give you the wrong idea – there’s no bad way to offer information to us. We have a small staff and we focus on a few core priorities, so there’s always a chance we might not have the bandwidth to take the story on, or it might not be a great fit for us. But we can’t evaluate ideas we don’t know about, so send them our way.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Andy Keatts found two families that waited on hold with 911 for several minutes each while intruders entered their homes. SDPD’s focus on average wait times obscures the problem: The outliers, like the two families that spoke with us, matter.

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The obscure County Board of Education Races are actually a pretty big deal this time around. Four of five seats are up, a decision on a new superintendent looms and the board will help chart the course for the future of charter schools in the district. What is the County Board of Education? We did an explainer with NBC 7 San Diego.

Over in San Diego Unified, a handful of principals are finding more success with a schedule that has fewer classes that last longer. The schedule is especially helpful for students struggling to learn English. English-learners are also the subject of this week’s Good Schools for All podcast, where one family has struggled to shed the “English-learner” designation.

And in Santee, a mother says the school district responded to her complaints of racial harassment by offering up a deal to pay her to send her kids away.

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The mayor hasn’t come out and said directly that he’s against the Chargers’ plan to build a new stadium downtown, but plenty of other prominent local conservatives are doing just that.

And on the VOSD podcast, Scott and Andy detail hoteliers’ opposition to the plan.

On the San Diego Decides podcast, we broke down the rise of PACs and talked to the head of a powerful local PAC.

Some folks are raising eyebrows at a political donation to one candidate in particular: City Council candidate Anthony Bernal, who’s running to represent the district that includes Hillcrest, the seat of gay political power in the city, reported a donation from Prop. 8 financier Doug Manchester.

In Sacramento, a deal to let contractors keep money from illegal deals with school districts is moving forward.

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The city’s increased focus on connecting the homeless with permanent housing has, counterintuitively, amplified the city’s need for short-term beds. Folks who walk in off the street sometimes have to wait weeks to be placed in a shelter.

What I’m Reading

Election Reads

• I don’t recommend reading this imaginary letter from Hillary to The Donald while drinking a beverage, lest you snort/spray/choke from intense laughing. (MTV News)

• Dahlia Lithwick eulogizes Ted Cruz’s campaign through her remembrances of facing him on the college debate circuit. (Slate)

Strong Women Under Men’s Control

•  Women coaches used to dominate women’s college sports. What happened? (Reveal)

• Someone finally wrote the definitive explanation of Britney Spears’ legal conservatorship that I have been waiting years for. (New York Times)

Border Notes

• This isn’t so much a thing I read as a thing I wrote myself: How crossing the border into Baja helped sell me on living in San Diego. (CityLab)

• These scenes from the one day a year in which they open the border wall at Friendship Park and allow families to hug for three minutes are heartbreaking. (Fusion)

Line of the Week

“Part of it is simply what looks right to the eye, sounds right to the ear. I am at home in the West. The hills of the coastal ranges look ‘right’ to me, the particular flat expanse of the Central Valley comforts my eye. The place names have the ring of real places to me. I can pronounce the names of the rivers, and recognize the common trees and snakes. I am easy here in a way that I am not easy in other places.” – From an essay by Joan Didion, who keeps finding new and interesting things to say about California.

Sara Libby

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

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