The Morning Report
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Another week, another media storm ignited over a person in media having an opinion.
This week, it was ESPN’s Jemele Hill, who called the president a white supremacist. The White House, the most powerful institution in the world, responded that Hill should lose her job.
But it’s not the only example. Editors from Politico, my former employer, talked about how they scour job applicants’ Twitter feeds to ensure they’ve never expressed an opinion — even if it’s one as benign as “racism is bad.”
Ironically, part of the reason I landed on Politico’s radar back in 2010 was for having opinions: This column I wrote about newspapers hiring a new wave of young, white, male bloggers caught the attention of a managing editor there, who advocated for my hiring. Once there, though, I was expected to leave any semblance of my personality at the door. Once I got a severe finger-wagging for tweeting the phrase “headdesk” to indicate my frustration with a politician who expressed a desire to re-instate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Not wanting to go backward on gay rights was too spicy an opinion.
At VOSD, we created a statement of our institutional values and biases, and they’re opinions that are just as tame as “racism is bad” or “taking away people’s rights is bad.” They include, for example: Schools could be better, and governments should be transparent. Even stating those seemingly uncontroversial values is pretty radical. Those are the only institutional opinions we have. Our writers are on their own beyond them.
VOSD has gotten less credit for something that I, as an employee who’s worked under much different circumstances, really treasure. We get to be people. We get to be fired up about everything from the president to breakfast burritos. It sure bothers some people! But I think it is part of the organization’s appeal as well. Media personalities are called personalities, after all, not human information transmitters.
Someone mentioned to one of my colleagues recently that they loved VOSD and its work, just not on Sundays. Meaning, they hate that day of the week that Sara Has Opinions. And yet I keep showing up to the office, my job and my opinions still in tact. Cheers to that.
What VOSD Learned This Week
Lots of news from City Hall this week.
Nine months after Mayor Kevin Faulconer pledged swift action on homelessness in his State of the City address – and at least 15 hepatitis A deaths later – he announced something was happening: three new shelter sites will go up in the downtown and Midway areas. Councilman Chris Ward talked about the decision, and what types of housing goals the city should set, on the VOSD Podcast this week.
And Scott Lewis has details on a big change to the pension system, including a break that pension trustees gave the city, perhaps aimed at helping boost police pay. The police staffing shortage is still very real, and the department says one way it’s responding is by trying to stop any new liquor license from getting a green light.
One decision the city hasn’t made yet is whether to move forward with setting up a public power agency. Ry Rivard laid out some potential hurdles that could trip up the effort.
FieldTurf, the company that makes artificial turf fields that schools in San Diego have gone crazy for – and that has seen many of its fields fall apart – is still causing problems. New records show more fields in San Diego Unified are being replaced, or having gallons of glue dumped on them to fix issues.
Most of those fields are paid for with bond money. Over in San Marcos, the school district is using bond money, partnerships with the city and all kinds of methods to keep up with a rare problem: surging enrollment.
The intense, bitter feud between the Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority has now claimed the job of an ethics officer – a position that was supposed to relieve tensions between the two agencies.
About 25 years ago the city considered creating a prominent AIDS memorial in a prominent spot, Balboa Park. It never happened. Now a small, tucked away memorial is on the table, and some folks aren’t happy about that.
What I’m Reading
• This is an unflinching look at seven days inside Cincinnati’s heroin epidemic – and a good reminder about the essential work of local journalists. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
• I can’t describe this extraordinary piece better than its author did: “I wrote a profile of Colin Kaepernick. I wrote an essay about America.” (Bleacher Report)
• I’ve been reporting for a couple years now on the many problems with California’s gang database and people mistakenly or inappropriately labeled as gang members. Now, police in Portland are getting rid of gang designations altogether. (The Oregonian)
• Ladies be tuckin’. (The Hairpin)
• Sometimes, the people behind an increasingly influential legal tool “are the puppets of financial interests, and judges can’t always see who’s pulling the strings.” (Bloomberg)
• This does a good job helping people wrap their minds around the catastrophic devastation Hurricane Irma unleashed on the U.S. Virgin Islands. (NPR)
Line of the Week
“Part of the bargain you’re going to get here is people will be screaming at your avatar on television. You’re not even a human being to them. It can be frustrating at times. But as much as I get it, I’m still a man. Discussing sports is a level of privilege afforded to me. People may not like my perspective, but they still think I’m entitled to have it and express it on this platform by virtue of this penis I have.” — Bomani Jones on the difference in how male and female sports analysts are treated.