I have a tiny confession to make.
We’re starting to work on several end-of-the-year roundup pieces, and it’s really heartening to look back at the year as a whole and marvel at what we accomplished. Our body of work from the past year is like a tiny inflammable island in the garbage fire that was the year 2016.
But when we start to roll out lists like Our 10 Most-Read Stories of the Year, I want you to think of them with a little asterisk next to the headline. That’s because week after week, year after year, there is a handful of older stories of ours that continue to land among our most-read pieces. When we include our “Top Stories of the Week” list in the Saturday Morning Report, we weed these perennials out, so that folks are just getting a refresher of our most recent stories. But they still pop up in our internal lists again and again.
These are three of the most enduring ones:
When Police Can — and Can’t — Pull You Over: Liam Dillon wrote this explainer as part of his investigation into police racial profiling in San Diego. It’s almost 3 years old, but its continued usefulness is obvious: As police shootings continue to make news across the country and police-community tensions remain in the news, this piece lays out the legitimate reasons for traffic stops, and situations in which police aren’t justified in pulling someone over.
5 Big Claims ‘Blackfish’ Makes About SeaWorld: When Lisa Halverstadt wrote this first entry in her long examination into “Blackfish” and its impact on SeaWorld, she was mostly just hoping to set the stage and explain the basics of the documentary. The post exploded, and two years later it has continued to serve as a primer for folks nationwide who are looking for more info on the film that kicked off a lot of soul-searching and shakeups for SeaWorld.
If You Hit Someone With a Car and Drive Away, You’re Probably Not Getting Punished: Mario Koran’s piece revealing how shockingly rare it is for hit-and-run drivers to ever be caught – let alone punished – is sadly still relevant, as San Diego continues to grapple with a high rate of hit-and-runs.
Many stories get lost to time, and aren’t set up to maintain relevance years after they’re published. And still others actually are relevant but remain trapped in the archives, just waiting for folks to find them. Still, it makes me happy to know that when someone in Atlanta or Maine or wherever goes searching for more info on his rights during a police stop, he might find that some people in San Diego have his back.
What VOSD Learned
The city fast-tracked certain building projects that weren’t eligible for fast-tracking, and – surprise! – a handful of well-connected people benefited, including some who donated to GOP politicians and causes. Then there’s the folks on the other end of the housing spectrum: More and more of San Diego’s homeless are senior citizens. Affordable housing – and Donald Trump – were front of mind as the state Legislature reconvened this week.
The showdown between Councilman David Alvarez and Councilwoman Myrtle Cole over who will be the next City Council president has opened a rift on the left – the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council supports Cole; the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents construction unions throughout the county, is backing Alvarez.
Scott Lewis and Andy Keatts also delve into the behind-the-scenes vote-wrangling in the latest episode of the VOSD podcast.
There’s a straightforward way to check if turf playing fields have hardened enough to make them unsafe for players – but virtually no San Diego schools are doing it.
That’s the latest from Ashly McGlone, who recently produced a four-part series investigating San Diego school districts’ experience with FieldTurf, a company that sold a defective product but still managed to keep a strangle hold on contracts across the region.
This week, NJ Advance Media in New Jersey debuted its own multi-part investigative series on FieldTurf and found many of the same problems.
It’s a hot Good Schools for All/The Learning Curve collab!
Our education podcast dropped this fantastic episode on the difficulty of turning around a school, focusing specifically on Lincoln High. Mario Koran, who’s long covered the school’s struggles, unpacks the history of efforts to rebrand and restructure Lincoln.
What I’m Reading
• In case after case across the state of Florida, black defendants receive harsher sentences for the same crimes as white defendents – even when they have the exact same backgrounds and committed their offenses under remarkably similar circumstances. (Herald-Tribune)
• Congrats, America, you played yourself. (New Yorker)
• The kids are all right, as evidenced by Tavi Gevinson’s fantastic, thoughtful editor’s letter in this month’s Rookie mag, and the work Teen Vogue has been producing lately, running circles around some traditional news outlets.
• In tragedy after tragedy, firefighters lose their lives in the same ways because departments don’t learn from others’ mistakes. (Kansas City Star)
• One of my favorite authors, who writes exquisitely about the lives of black Southerners, says in a new essay that 2016 was the year pop culture finally honored her home. (Buzzfeed)
• Kevin Sullivan offers a master class in courtroom reporting with this chilling dispatch from the trial of Dylann Roof. It is hard to read; it is impossible to ignore. (Washington Post)
• I got pretty weepy reading these letters from women journalists of color to the late Gwen Ifill, telling her what she meant to them. (PBS)
… and also reading this story of a bunch of Marine snipers who came to love “Gilmore Girls.” (CBS News)
Line of the Week
“‘Are you going out later?’ I ask, foolishly. Ford says no, then shakes his head no, then says no again, clearly perplexed. ‘This is a daytime suit.’” – From a GQ profile of Tom Ford, written by the best celeb profiler in the game.