In one journalism class in college, we had to shoot and produce broadcast packages, so one morning I lugged my tripod and video camera out to the Venice Beach Boardwalk. I was doing a story on some proposed regulations that would make it harder for folks to set up stands to peddle jewelry, incense and all the other strange things you can find at the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
As I was getting shots of people strolling down the boardwalk, a man walked up to me and stuck his finger in my face.
“You don’t have my permission to put my face on camera,” he seethed. “If you keep shooting me I’ll sue the shit out of you.”
I started to panic. I was pretty sure what I was doing — filming in a public space — was OK, but he’d spit out the line about a lawsuit so confidently, I started to doubt myself — something young journalists do about 100 times per story.
The law can do that to you — make you panic — when you don’t know what your rights are in a given situation.
But when you do know the law, and the rights it affords you, the law can do the opposite too. It can fill you with an incredible confidence against the bullies who stick a finger in your face and tell you the First Amendment doesn’t apply to you, for some reason. It’s a suit of armor.
That was put on incredible display this week in a letter sent by the New York Times’ lawyer in response to a legal threat from Donald Trump. Trump’s lawyer had sent the Times a letter threatening a lawsuit over the paper’s story in which two women say on the record that Trump touched them inappropriately.
The letter oozes with that confidence that only the law, and knowing it’s on your side, can give. If you know anything about journalism, you know we try very hard to avoid lawsuits at all cost. Even if you ultimately win in the end, the fight can drain you of money and your reputation. But the Times, in its letter, actually sounds downright gleeful about the possibility of meeting Trump in a courtroom:
We did what the law allows: We published newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern. If Mr. Trump disagrees, if he believes that American citizens had no right to hear what these women had to say and that the law of this country forces us and those who would dare to criticize him to stand silent or be punished, we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.
What VOSD Learned This Week
There’s a big gulf between a study led by the Chargers about the economic benefits of a stadium, and one led by the tourism industry. Lisa Halverstadt dug into why the two groups wound up with such different numbers.
Things got a little heated in the world of convadium opinions this week. One of the study authors wrote in later to trash the Chargers’ numbers.
Lincoln High is on the ropes. But it didn’t get this way overnight. Mario Koran traced the school’s complicated history way back to a 1970s desegregation order. And he talked with one former leader of the school who has some good advice for whoever leads it next.
In some ways, San Diego is well-equipped to handle an influx of marijuana growing if Prop. 64 passes in November: We’ve got land, enough water and farmers who are looking for new crops. But there are plenty of local uncertainties facing would-be San Diego growers, too.
Homes in San Diego are expensive. No, I’m talking reaaaaaaaaaaaally expensive.
The housing crisis isn’t getting any better in other parts of the county, either. Two lawyers are threatening to sue Del Mar and Encinitas over their housing plans.
You can tell a lot about some of the measures facing voters in November based on who’s donating money to boost or defeat them, which Scott and Andy discussed on the podcast. And speaking of campaign cash, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein has more of it than all but one other state legislator.
What I’m Reading
• There are shaping up to be two co-MVPs of this election when it comes to journalism. The first is the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who has written about Donald Trump’s charity dealings, and who broke the story of the “grab them by the pussy” tape. The second is Rebecca Traister, who has covered the Clinton campaign but more recently wrote about how the Trump campaign exposed deep misogyny within the GOP. Traister’s TV appearance following the presidential debate was also hot fire. (New York, MSNBC)
• Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of my favorite authors. In a long Facebook post dedicated to her friend, who just gave birth to a daughter, she offers her thoughts on how to raise a feminist.
• I am so, so, so, so, so unspeakably sad to hear Sutter Brown, California’s First dog, is quite sick. This wonderful editorial celebrating him and the joy of having dogs in our life made me weep. (Sacramento Bee)
• And to continue the terrible theme of sick friends, here’s a lovely essay about friendship and cancer. (New Yorker)
• We still have a lot to learn about sexual harassment, writes Anita Hill, someone who knows plenty about it. (Boston Globe)
Line of the Week
“Today I had to write about Ken Bone
It’s not the greatest shame I’ve ever known
(Nothing tops my having to assess
Who had the smartest take about The Dress)
But still, I feel a deep urge to atone”
— A lament from a journalist forced to write a hot take about Ken Bone, the regular guy who became famous after asking a question during last weekend’s presidential debate.