Beyond clips of Aly and Simone nailing those tumbling passes, the video making the rounds this week was John Oliver’s take on the state of journalism.

YouTube video

I don’t agree with everything in here, nor do I think Oliver credits the journalists whose work he draws from nearly enough, despite patting himself on the back for doing so throughout this segment. But in playing an exchange between Sam Zell, former owner of Tribune, and a reporter challenging him on what type of stories they should be covering, Oliver really nails a central tension that faces all journalists to some degree (that section starts around the 8:15 mark).

“You need to, in effect, help me by being a journalist that focuses on what our readers want, and therefore generates more revenue,” Zell tells a group of journalists from the Orlando Sentintel.

“But what readers want are puppy dogs, and I mean, we also need to inform the community,” one reporter interjects.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I can’t — you know, you’re giving me the classic, what I would call journalistic arrogance of deciding that puppies don’t count,” Zell replies.

The problem with this approach to journalism, of course, is that readers don’t know what they don’t know. They can’t possibly know they want a story about the city lying about its motivations for putting rocks along an underpass to deter the homeless, for example, because they have no way of knowing that the city was lying unless journalists reveal that information. They have no way of knowing that they crave stories on how expensive desal water is being dumped in a reservoir, or on MTS officers severely beating a fellow employee for no good reason or on a school board member wielding her influence to help her own son because it takes good journalism to bring those things to light.

Which brings me to this week.

This ability to shine a light on unknown or undercovered issues is one of journalism’s greatest services. It’s precisely what motivated journalists from a host of different outlets in the Bay Area to band together to aggressively cover homelessness issues, to force both readers and officials to confront the problem.

Now, it’s San Diego’s turn. VOSD and several other news agencies throughout San Diego will be publishing stories about homelessness on Aug. 17. In fact, we’ll have stories pegged to homelessness throughout the week, but Wednesday will mark the big push.

Though homelessness is at a crisis point in San Diego and elsewhere, it’s also an issue that can be easy to push out of mind. Our hope is that it’ll be much harder to ignore it this week.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Sometimes state government can seem, how do I say this … Boring? Wonky? Removed from folks’ actual experiences?

This week, however, really drove home the ways in which decisions at the state level can sometimes be literally life-and-death.

Kelly Davis wrote this lovely essay about her sister’s decision to end her life using California’s new aid-in-dying law, which just went into effect in June. The story has been shared far and wide – from People magazine to CBS News and beyond.

Davis writes that her sister was grateful to have a way to end her life safely and legally.

But other decisions made by the state can impact folks’ lives in profoundly negative ways. That was made clear by a jaw-dropping audit of the state’s secretive gang database – which found people could wind up in the database without sufficient proof they were in a gang, and kept there long after their names should have been purged. San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber has fought for years to add more oversight to the system.

Another way the state impacts the lives of anyone with kids in a major way: preschool. It’s absurdly hard to qualify for free preschool programs, but a state bill in the work might make things easier.

And, since the state still deals with plenty of those wonky issues that feel removed from peoples’ lives, Ry and I broke down that ginormous state voter guide.


In: Podcasts.

Out: Donald Trump. Sad!

Speaking of podcasts and Republicans, on the VOSD podcast this week, Scott and Andy previewed the DA’s upcoming appearance in court as part of the trial of José Susumo Azano Matsura.


The great Balboa Park parking debate is still going strong.

Many folks bristle at the idea of paying to park at Balboa Park, but experts seem to think that’s the best way to address the parking problem.

One of those experts is talking about hamburgers to make his point. (Finally, a parking expert who speaks my language.)


Common Core presents a new opportunity, and a new challenge, for students who aren’t fluent in English. On top of Common Core, schools are dealing with the challenge of hanging on to superintendents – and students.

What I’m Reading

Political Things

All the stars have aligned to make the Green Party a real force this election cycle. But it’s not. And this piece does a wonderful job detailing why. (Huffington Post)

 Remember this moment when the inevitable Trump comeback narrative roars to life. (The Ringer)

On Ghazala Khan and why “women’s grief has been a long-standing and influential agent in American politics.” (L.A. Review of Books)

 Donald Trump gave an extraordinary deposition in a 2007 lawsuit in which he was caught lying, under oath, at least 30 times. (Washington Post)

Olympics Things

 Golf is boring. But the animals on Rio’s Olympic golf course are not. (Vice)

 Women’s gymnastics deserves better TV coverage. (New Yorker)

 A brand of feminism shaped by gymnastics. (New York Times)

 Why Simone Manuel’s swimming gold means so much to black Americans. (Fusion)

• Part of the joy that is the Olympics is getting to hear stories about inspiring athletes from around the world, like this gold medalist who’s young, gay, black and from one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Rio. (PRI)

Line of the Week

“The original sin is a homogenous leadership. This is part of what exacerbated the abuse problem for sure — because they were often tone-deaf to the concern of users in the outside world, meaning women and people of color.” – A former senior Twitter employee, on why the platform has failed so badly at protecting its users from harassment.

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

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