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The moment that really drove it home for me that I could never be a reporter came as I was finishing up my final project for an investigative reporting class in college.
My project was on the student health center’s frequent misdiagnoses of students who had mono, and who sometimes presented very classic mono symptoms, only to be told they were fine — or in many female students’ cases, that they were probably pregnant. USC has a special directory of its professors, so members of the media can find experts on various topics. Through the directory, I found a doctor with an expertise in mono. I told her I was working on a class project and my story wouldn’t be published anywhere, just read by my professor. I wanted her to talk to me about basic symptoms of mono — the subject on which she was listed as an expert in a directory that serves as an invitation to be contacted by journalists. She immediately panicked. She refused to speak on the record — again, the story wasn’t being published anywhere — was incredulous that I would ask questions in order to better understand the subject I was covering, and eventually hung up on me.
Reporters have it rough, man.
And while there are a great deal of legitimate reasons that people sometimes don’t want to talk to the press, including fears for their job or safety. Still, there are a few excuses folks give for not speaking with reporters that really get me. One, in particular, is a pre-emptive accusation of bias.
It is quite a feat of logic when reporters reach out to people precisely to get their perspective and voice into a story and those folks decline, citing our bias. The result is often a story devoid of those perspectives, which we actively sought out, that allows those same accusations of bias to persist. And around and around we go, because time is a flat circle and some things never change.
This is a challenge we’re running into with Politifest, as we try to fill out panels and debates about a host of issues on which there are a host of various perspectives and opinions.
I think journalists should bend over backward to hear from folks who have a stake in a story we’re covering, whether it’s a powerful person or someone vulnerable or unpopular. Many times, we’ve delayed stories extensively just to try and get those perspectives in.
I just don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who decline to voice their side of an issue then cry bias from the sidelines when that very side isn’t represented in a story or on a panel. Ultimately, all we can do is extend an invitation and promise to hear people out if they decide to speak up.
What VOSD Learned This Week
Thanks to the arrival of Petco Park in 2004, East Village is now a neighborhood with 100 percent more baseball stadiums but fewer artists and the abandoned spaces they were transforming.
The prospect of another new stadium worries people still in East Village and in nearby neighborhoods like Barrio Logan and Sherman Heights. The Chargers are trying to acknowledge and soothe fears about gentrification and higher property prices in their quest to build a downtown stadium, and have created a nonbinding community benefits agreement in which they commit to helping keep housing costs low and providing jobs for those who live nearby.
Many community activists in Barrio Logan, which has become an artistic hotbed in its own right, aren’t buying it. Neither is this guy, who treats the Chargers’ proposal with the wariness only a former newspaper reporter can muster.
The Chargers letter acknowledges a fundamental tension in the stadium debate: whether to spend money on football, or on neighborhoods.
Rep. Scott Peters wrote in this week with another perspective: Great cities don’t make those choices – they do both.
Meanwhile, the opportunity’s ripe for someone to create haskevinfaulconertakenasideonthechargersmeasureyet dot tumblr dot com. Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts launched the Faulconer Watch on their podcast this week.
There are two subjects on which we receive an endless stream of op-eds: the Chargers stadium, and desalination. The Chargers stadium is still up in the air, so it makes sense to debate the outcome. But the desal plant is decided, and already built. Why are people still arguing over it? Ry Rivard explained this week. And then, like clockwork, we got in another op-ed about desal.
State lawmakers ended their session this week with a billsplosion. Highlights from local lawmakers include overtime pay for farmworkers, a statewide accountability system for local schools, letting victims track the progress of their rape kits and more.
The end of the legislative session means it’s early September, and elections are heating up. Locally, though, it’s a ballot measure to reshape local elections – not a race between candidates – that’s drawing attention and money from the left.
Urban designer Howard Blackson has a plan to build a lot more homes in San Diego.
Architect and developer Jonathan Segal is already building some. And he also stopped by the podcast to explain why his latest project in Little Italy doesn’t have any parking.
New state rules say schools must give more comprehensive, scientifically accurate sex ed instruction. But there’s nothing in place to make sure it actually happens.
Since access for the disabled has become a central point in the debate over the Plaza de Panama plan, Lisa Halverstadt took stock of the state of disabled parking at Balboa Park today and the challenges it presents.
What I’m Reading
• As usual, Rebecca Traister on Anthony Weiner is the only thing you need to read on the subject. It also hits at something that’s driven me crazy about this campaign – the incessant use of false equivalence. (New York)
• You might’ve read about the case of two married Orange County lawyers who planted drugs in the car of a beloved school volunteer at some point over the last few years. But the L.A. Times’ six-part serialized version of what happened breathes new life into the crazy story.
• Athleisure is not for you. (Jezebel)
• The ultimate mic drop to that persistent “What about black on black crime?” deflection. (Maybe someone could forward to Councilwoman Myrtle Cole?)
• Despicable. Un-American. Court records show North Carolina GOP leaders “launched a meticulous and coordinated effort to deter black voters.” (Washington Post)
Line of the Week
“And if someone struggles to see the merit in standing for the black and brown people who have been continually mistreated in this country, perhaps it is that person’s patriotism that should be questioned, not the man willing to stand before his country and take whatever comes next.” – Bomani Jones on Colin Kaepernick is fire.