I spent the second half of the past week with several other VOSD staffers and our colleagues from across the country at the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual conference in beautiful Phoenix, temperature 120.

Thus, I present to you, random thoughts I have at every journalism conference:

It is painfully, glaringly obvious which conference attendees work in TV and which don’t. The TV reporters are tanned, toned, dipped in gloss and inevitably wearing either an impeccably tailored suit or a jewel-toned sheath dress. Next to the rest of us normals, they float and glow.

When the TV reporters lead panels, however, they tend to offer valuable insights such as … try filing a public records request! I came all the way to Phoenix, aka the surface of the sun, for that.

There are two types of people in the world: Those who nod vigorously and yell out, “Yes! So true!” or “No! You can’t do that!” during panels, and those who don’t.

Me, internally, when I see a famous, well-respected journalist in the flesh: Be cool, don’t blurt out, “I love you.” Be cool, don’t blurt out, “I love you.”

Inevitably, there is at least one – often more – breakthrough moment in which you discover a database you never knew about, or unlock a story idea that would work perfectly in your newsroom, and feel excited and energized to go back home and get to work. Then, you begrudgingly understand the appeal and usefulness of conferences and feel a little bad making fun of them in your weekly newsletter. But only a little.

What VOSD Learned This Week

If you’ve skimmed VOSD at all this week, you probably know we dove in full force to a series on the hidden homelessness crisis in San Diego’s South Bay, a community sitting right on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Here are all the pieces of that effort in one place:

When San Diegans think of homelessness, most tend to think of the explosion of street homelessness that has manifested itself with tents and massive encampments that are in your face and visibly public, mostly in East Village and downtown.

In San Ysidro, homelessness among families is tucked away out of sight – families take refuge in shelters in junkyards, in shipping containers and packed multiple families into a single unit.

Schools have become a refuge for many of these families. While no family is entitled to housing, every child in the U.S. does have a right to a public education. As a result, schools in the South Bay help families with everything from accessing public benefits to providing clothing and food.

The border contributes in a big way to San Ysidro’s unique set of housing woes. Immigration status and housing can often work against each other, forcing families into Catch-22s with few answers.

Visibility plays a far bigger role in how the government tackles homelessness than you might realize. Because homelessness in the South Bay is hidden out of sight, there are far fewer resources available to the community than in places like downtown, where homelessness is in your face.

In a short web documentary, Gabriel Ellison-Scowcroft illuminates one family’s struggle. And on the VOSD podcast, Ellison-Scowcroft talks with the school providers who are lifting up homeless students and families.

Meanwhile, as San Diego leaders trying to tackle homelessness try to move forward with a plan to tackle homelessness on a regional level, the Regional Task Force on the Homeless has hired a new CEO who’s celebrated for his efforts in Utah.


The San Diego County Water Authority was dealt a major setback in court this week, and Ry Rivard broke down the looming implications.

What I’m Reading

She’s usually never at the front of the pack, but if you read this profile of Gabriele Grunewald and her dueling battles against cancer and to qualify for the Track and Field World Championship, you’ll be cheering for her too. (New York Times)

In these troubling times, you’ve gotta pack in all the joy you can: Like this sitdown with Mahershala Ali. (GQ)

An honors student at the University of Alabama reported her rape by a powerful businessman to police. The process that came next drove her to suicide. (Buzzfeed)

A few weeks back I told you I read everything Rebecca Traister writes, and this analysis of the Georgia congressional race and the role of newly passionate white suburban women in politics is characteristically great. (New York Magazine)

It’s long and a bit dense, but it’s essential reading for the next round of the health care debate: Atul Gawande and two other top doctors review 10 years of research on how health coverage affects actual health. (New England Journal of Medicine)

Line of the Week

“It wouldn’t be fair to accuse Mpungwe of racism. But the first time the 500-pound gorilla saw a white man, he did flee into the forest and succumb to an urgent bout of stress-induced diarrhea.” – An attention-grabbing lede to a Wall Street Journal story about a gorilla preserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sara Libby

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

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