The reaction is usually swift and fierce when some clueless dad is caught complaining about having to “babysit” his children. You know, something otherwise known as parenting. It’s what you sign up for when you have a child!
That’s the same reaction I often have when I see a reporter complaining in a news story about how difficult it was to get an answer from an agency, or how long it took to track down a document. Yes, those things are frustrating (so frustrating they dissuaded me from becoming a reporter altogether!) but they’re also the job. Reporters do tough work. They find needles in haystacks. They pore through tedious documents. They confront powerful people. But all of that is precisely what they signed up for.
Even I’ll admit, though, that there’s a point at which the sausage-making itself becomes news. I can’t articulate what that moment is exactly, except to say it involves accountability.
This week, this snippet of a Buzzfeed story made the rounds all over Twitter:
When asked why the airline had the man forcibly removed, and whether that was standard procedure in cases of overbooked flights, United refused to comment.
Instead they told BuzzFeed News all further questions should be referred to Chicago Police. BuzzFeed News contacted Chicago Police and were told to contact the Chicago Department of Aviation. When BuzzFeed News contacted the Chicago Department of Aviation, the call was transferred to a TSA message bank. A TSA spokesperson later told BuzzFeed News they were not involved and to contact Chicago Police.
Reporters shared the passage like crazy, mostly commenting on how well it captured the chasing-your-tail nature of reporting: the information you need is always being dangled just out of reach, by someone you can never quite track down.
But if that were all the section captured, then as an editor, I’d cut it. It’s not, though, which is why it works so well in the story. It also captures the fact that no one could answer questions on, and thus be held accountable for, an incident that impacts the public.
It’s that accountability piece that takes the sausage-making inclusion from just do your job without complaint to oh, here you are doing it.
We recently devoted a whole post to sausage-making, and in that one too, accountability was the ex-factor.
It described how SANDAG improperly withheld damning emails about Measure A until after the November election was over. Information that voters should have had before making a decision was withheld from them.
Officials do sometimes drag their feet or withhold info purposely to sabotage stories. So believe me, I understand journalists’ desires to shame whoever is unhelpful in shedding light on an issue.
It’s only when accountability enters the picture, though, that the routine business of actually reporting the news crosses the line into becoming news itself.
What VOSD Learned This Week
If you thought the saga involving FieldTurf, the company that installed many pricey new fields at schools across San Diego that quickly fell apart, couldn’t get any crazier – welp, think again.
And from brand new fields to old school buildings: Mario Koran mapped the schools that face a greater risk of lead exposure.
San Diego Unified fired up its celebration machine this week over the news that its graduation rate for the class of 2016 was officially 91 percent. We’ve been investigating for months what took place in order for the grad rate to reach such astounding heights – here’s a rundown of how the district got here.
In the Sacramento Report, Andy Keatts details the ways in which this week’s big Prop. B ruling could reverberate throughout California. On the podcast this week, one of the main proponents of Prop. B said she expects to see other cities take a stab at pension reform now that a court validated the citizens’ initiative approach.
Also in Sacramento news, smaller cities are lining up to oppose Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletchers’s bill to reform the SANDAG board. Gonzalez Fletcher says she’s open to changes but that she won’t be bullied.
Councilman Chris Ward is pushing to have a greater share of the mayor’s hotel tax hike proposal go toward homelessness efforts.
The neighborhood perhaps most impacted by soaring homelessness has been East Village. There’s a huge building boom going on there, including many housing projects, but almost no office space included. That will make the “live, work, play” vision for the neighborhood hard to pull off.
Encinitas has always embraced its farming heritage, but pot is putting the city’s love of farming to the test.
It sounds like public art pieces in not-so-public places will stay inaccessible for the foreseeable future.
What I’m Reading
• Rogelio De La Vega on “Jane the Virgin” is one of my favorite characters on television. This interview with the actor who plays him, Jaime Camil, is delightful too. (NPR)
• U.S. authorities agreed a young Mexican reporter seeking asylum had a credible fear of returning home. He’s being held in prolonged detention anyway. (Texas Tribune)
• Dylan Matthews makes a very strong case: You should give a stranger your kidney. (Vox)
• Arkansas is hoping to carry out seven executions in 10 days. Officials say it won’t just be bad for those being executed, but for the corrections officers who have to carry out the grim task in such a short time. (Wall Street Journal)
• The story behind a letter to Coretta Scott King from the Memphis fire chief, following MLK’s death, clarifying that she would not actually have to pay the ambulance bill they sent her. (Lenny)
• I was out on vacation for the last two weeks, so I initially missed this stunning investigation into a Chicago cop who might have framed more than 50 people for murder. This week, one of the men at the center of the story walked out of prison a free man. (Buzzfeed)
Line of the Week
“Maybe we can commission a third statue of someone reassuring ‘Charging Bull’ that he’s still really great?” – A fake yet perfect reaction to the artist behind Wall Street’s Charging Bull sculpture, who wants the Fearless Girl sculpture near his piece taken down.