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Back 400 years ago, by which I mean early March, I read “She Said” by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, in which they chronicle how they broke the Harvey Weinstein story and its incredible aftermath.
That aftermath drove home a truism that journalists and their sources know well: Speaking out about injustices can have grave consequences for those involved, even when it’s the right thing to do.
Now, the coronavirus is driving it home once again.
In some of the hardest-hit regions of the country, including Seattle and New York, health care professionals who spoke out about equipment shortages and other concerns endangering frontline workers have been fired – even amid a desperate need for their services.
The commanding officer of the San Diego-based USS Theodore Roosevelt was likewise fired for passing along to the media a missive pleading with military officials to help his sick and overwhelmed crew.
And Amazon didn’t just fire a warehouse employee who led a walkout meant to spur better coronavirus protections for workers, its top executives discussed a strategy to smear him in the media.
Some of our own best and biggest stories have come only as a result of people being willing to speak out, no matter how painful or embarrassing or economically risky it was for them personally.
Our long-running investigation into how local schools have allowed predatory teachers to continue teaching only got off the ground because a handful of young women were willing to go on the record with their stories. Crime lab employees risked retaliation to raise the alarm about troubling practices that were depriving rape victims of a chance at justice. A counselor at Porter Elementary spoke up to draw attention to policies and conditions that would outrage parents in other parts of the city.
The list goes on and on.
The coronavirus pandemic has rightly made heroes out of all kinds of workers, from doctors and nurses to delivery drivers to grocery store workers. While you’re toasting those champs, raise your glass a little higher for the people who haven’t just put themselves at physical risk of contracting the virus but who also risked their livelihoods to speak out about injustice.
What VOSD Learned This Week
Beaches are a big part of many Californians’ way of life, and now they’ve become a battleground. There are wild inconsistencies in beach closures across the county, and one expert says there’s reason to believe people need even more than six feet of space near the ocean. Several San Diego lifeguards have been sickened with the virus, and it’s reignited an ongoing feud with the fire officials who oversee them.
Besides the immediate threat of the coronavirus, there’s another massive threat looming in the background: the devastating consequences of rising seas. A report the city quietly published on Christmas Eve paints a bleak picture of how it will impact San Diego.
Will Huntsberry wrote a wonderful profile chronicling the strange, scary new reality for one ICU nurse. Another health professional – a therapist – discussed strategies to help parents and children deal with pandemic anxiety. Telehealth appointments are surging in San Diego as residents are urged to stay home. That brings up all kinds of questions about who has access to high-speed internet – and who doesn’t.
Government agencies of all kinds are scrambling to respond to the coronavirus crisis: Lisa Halverstadt offered a great inside look at the county’s mad dash to amass motel rooms for patients and vulnerable residents – and its struggle to actually deploy them. San Diego Unified is rushing to create an online learning plan in real time. Attorneys are sounding the alarm that prosecutors and detention facilities are putting people at unnecessary risk. As they work on all this, many agencies have decided they simply can’t or won’t respond to public records requests as required by law. And it’s official: State lawmakers won’t be back to work on April 13 as planned.
What I’m Reading
- Republicans were aggressively, unapologetically opposed to President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. Now, miraculously, they’re in favor of a much bigger package when the president is a member of their own party. (The Atlantic)
- Pop culture has been inundating us with tales from the end times for decades – yet none of it prepared us for this moment. (Wired)
- In praise of Selena, La’Darius Marshall and Britney Spears. (Zora, The Cut, Vice)
- This is brilliant: How your favorite TV characters would have reacted to the coronavirus. (Vulture)
Line of the Week
“[Britney] Spears is an unexpected figure to lead us through quarantine, but a fitting one: She has been held under a conservatorship for 12 years, her movements and finances controlled by her father and overseen by the courts. When she posts about finding community in social captivity, she knows what she’s talking about.” – Yes, this is a different piece praising Britney Spears, I consume all of them, thank you very much.