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Get ready, because on Monday, we’re publishing our annual Voice of the Year list. It’s a fun project I look forward to every year, but it’s never without its own special brand of drama. First, there are always contentious discussions within the newsroom as we set the list, whittle it down and determine the main Voice of the Year pick. Then, once it’s published, there’s always a lot of, um, passion regarding who made it and who didn’t.

Passion is great. Passion is the goal, but I still think it’s worth going over the purpose of the list in order to set some expectations. So I prepared this Q&A with myself.

Is Voice of the Year an honor?

No, it’s not an honor. It’s a recognition of who over the last year provoked the biggest conversations about San Diego civic life, how things work, what its future should look like, what are priorities should be.

But haven’t people who’ve appeared on past lists proudly trumpeted their inclusion on campaign mailers and on their websites?

Yes, they have. That’s their prerogative. But Voice of the Year isn’t an honor. For example, previous lists have included Bob Filner, Mark Fabiani and Rep. Duncan Hunter. They provoked big conversations – some of which are still reverberating.

My friend John Smith is a great man. Why isn’t John Smith on the list?

Boy, John Smith does sound great. You’re lucky to know him. But if our staff of journalists who keep a close eye on San Diego civic affairs haven’t heard of John Smith, then perhaps he didn’t provoke a major discussion this year – which is the sole criteria for this list.

But John Smith walks uphill 15 miles each way to read to blind puppies. Why does your news organization hate blind puppies?

Wow, you got me there. I was hoping our secret bias against blind puppies would remain a newsroom secret, yet here we are, laid bare. If we ever come up with a list of San Diego’s Good Samaritans or San Diego’s Best Friend to Blind Puppers, John Smith will be front of mind.

(In all seriousness, though, it’s a valid criticism that perhaps we should be finding a way to honor and uplift people doing important work, or to amplify conversations that are important but are not making enough traction publicly. Those would certainly be admirable efforts. The purpose of this list, however, is to reflect on the world we have, not the one we wish we had.)

Is Voice of the Year an honor?

No, it’s not.

It’s so nice of you to honor people in this way.

It’s not an honor.

OK but … are you sure it’s not an honor?

Thanks for asking. No, it’s not.

What VOSD Learned This Week

It’s been nearly three years since a state law gave people the right to challenge inclusion in CalGang, the database used by law enforcement to document suspected gang members. But few people have requested removal and even fewer have been successful.


Prosecutions under Operation Streamline, the separate, streamlined court system set up to process migrants alleged to have crossed the border illegally, have dropped since their peak last year. But the system still exists – and two legal challenges seeking to dismantle it are moving forward.

Meanwhile, business groups have filed several lawsuits seeking to overturn a series of state laws aimed at making workplaces more equitable.


A San Ysidro school’s decision to kick out a homeless student over a paperwork issue didn’t just traumatize the student and her family – it might have violated federal law.


Jesse Marx had a pair of stories on bizarre political intrigue from both ends of the county this week. The story of a political smear that took down North County Assembly candidate Phil Graham took another strange turn. And he and Maya Srikrishnan examined the ways in which the South Bay candidates for the Board of Supervisors have been trying to game the Democratic Party’s club system to their advantage.


Thank God someone in this town is keeping an eye on San Diego Unified’s budget.

What I’m Reading

The gatekeeper for the man at the center of virtually every political firestorm in the country is an unknown 20-year-old who’s going to college online. (Politico)

I love eating, I love politics and I really love this story about the high stakes of campaign trail eating. (Eater)

The case against school districts. (Democracy Journal)

If you’re not interested in crying today, maybe don’t check out this incredible story of a prosecutor who was forced to come to terms with his own abuse while trying a horrific child murder case. (Los Angeles Times)

This post on how the baseball world turns a blind eye to domestic abuse is absolute fire. (Beyond the Box Score)

Line of the Week

“She’s able to radically reshape society, but moderately. She was raised on a farm in the middle of Central Park.” – Just a few of the attributes of the electable female candidate

Sara Libby

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

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