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I realize that when it comes to extolling the virtues of local sources of journalism, I’m preaching to the choir by writing about it here, in a newsletter published by a local journalism outlet.
But, bear with me, because I have to come up with something new to write about every week and also because this is important.
When people donate to Voice of San Diego, they often include very touching notes about how much they value having a way to stay informed on local issues. I suspect that if VOSD – or KPBS, or the U-T, or inewsource, for that matter – were to disappear, this would be what people would lament they were losing: a way to stay informed.
And while that would be true, it would be ignoring the other vital ways robust local news coverage can impact a community.
A study published this month in the journal Urban Affairs Review found that when local newsrooms are decimated, fewer candidates bother to run for mayor. Evidence also suggested fewer people turned out to vote as well.
Governing magazine this week laid out more ways that declines in local media coverage can reverberate through communities – things like municipal borrowing costs and the amount of pollution tend to go up when no one is watching. (This is what made City Attorney Mara Elliott and Sen. Ben Hueso’s effort to gut the Public Records Act so infuriating – they were arguing that PRA lawsuits cost governments money, yet robust journalism based on public records roots out corruption, fraud and waste, saving millions.)
Though members of the public might not realize it, the struggles of local newsrooms could make an impact in the upcoming presidential race.
As Politico chronicled in a fantastic dispatch this week, a handful of local newspapers like the Des Moines Register shape the presidential primary process in profound ways:
“There are fewer and fewer political gatekeepers like the Register these days: influential publications staffed by reporters who live among the voters they cover, understanding their lifestyles and livelihoods in ways that can’t be mimicked by their peers parachuting in from Washington or New York or Los Angeles.”
What VOSD Learned This Week
The federal government investigated San Diego Unified over its response to an incident in which an Iraqi Muslim student was called a terrorist. The incident illuminates the type of situations the district might have been trying to prevent when it crafted an anti-Islamophobia policy, which parent groups sued over.
Meanwhile, two 17-year-old say they too are being mistreated because of their national origin. Advocates and lawyers say two Bangladeshi migrants being held by ICE are teenagers but are being kept in adult detention at Otay Mesa. Their struggle is emblematic of issues faced by many South Asian detainees.
The city wants to redevelop a piece of Balboa Park known as Inspiration Point. Predictably, park advocates are not inspired.
Well, that was awkward. Kevin Beiser returned to the school board for the first time this week since four men accused him of sexual assault and harassment. (Speaking of politicians who are back, throw former Councilman Jim Madaffer on the list.)
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber plans to pursue a bill that would force San Diego Unified to adopt subdistrict-only elections, unless the San Diego City Council moves forward on the change itself.
A bill written by Assemblyman Todd Gloria could make it easier for MTS to pass new taxes to fund transit. County Supervisor Jim Desmond came on the podcast this week to make clear he’s not a big fan of funding more transit. That freeway vs. transit tension was thick at a big SANDAG meeting this week.
What I’m Reading
- This is a fascinating – and frustrating – article about how the Parkland shooting has surfaced a conservative theory that the real danger to school isn’t guns, it’s Obama-era discipline policies. (Highline)
- As an antidote, here’s a lovely column from a journalist with grown children who suddenly found herself caring for a very young one. (Los Angeles Times)
- This does such an excellent job of laying bare the dynamics of modern workplaces that screw working women. (The Upshot)
- Inside the final days of the Los Angeles Clippers with Donald Sterling as owner. (The Undefeated)
- The teacher churn rate in Philadelphia schools looms over some of the city’s most at-risk children. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Line of the Week
“Keanu Reeves loves Wong so much that, after she reached out to his people with a long-shot ask—would the very busy movie star appear in the aforementioned rom-com (and not, by the way, as the male lead)?—he not only agreed but requested an audience with her, in which he quoted some of her stand-up and launched into an impromptu martial-arts interpretation of her specials.” – My new mission in life is to see a Keanu Reeves martial arts interpretation of Ali Wong’s comedy with my own eyes.