Local media outlets prepare to film a press conference in downtown San Diego. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

The news business has shrunk over the past couple of decades, but there are still dozens of journalists whose job is to uncover hidden truths about San Diego.

Earlier this week we highlighted some of our best Voice of San Diego stories, but here’s a look at some of our favorite work about San Diego from other publications.

Justice System or Injustice System? You Make the Call

Outside of the San Diego State University police station in the College Area on September 12, 2022.
Outside of the San Diego State University police station in the College Area on September 12, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler
  • The Los Angeles Times broke one of the biggest and most disturbing stories of the year: San Diego State University failed to launch an internal investigation or alert students after a woman claimed she was raped by members of the college’s football team. The alleged victim later spoke to KPBS. In December 2022, prosecutors declined to press charges in the case, noting that they’d reviewed video footage of the incident. Earlier, an accused player was cut by the Buffalo Bills.
  • CBS8 revealed how a 12-year-old Carmel Valley boy managed to get charged with a felony after he wrote a message on Snapchat that the district attorney’s office considered a serious threat. The message, which he wrote after being called to the principal’s office, was this: “Just dipped outta school ran out that bitch in the office dead tom.” It was followed by a vampire emoji. It took the DA’s office a year to charge the boy, and now his mother is suing the San Dieguito Union High School District. The same district’s board of trustees refused to expel him, CBS8 reported.
  • An investigation by Voice of San Diego alum Will Carless revealed that county prosecutors charged 11 Antifa activists after they battled with white supremacists and Proud Boys in Pacific Beach last year. But far-right activists haven’t been charged despite video footage of the incident.
  • inewsource revealed that federal immigration officials are now tracking more than 5,000 people facing deportation in San Diego and Imperial counties using under-the-radar smartphone technology. And the news outlet reported that local cities were refusing to follow state law that forbids them sharing drivers’ location data with out-of-state agencies.

Uncovering the Struggles of the Homeless, Addicted and Mentally Ill

Tara Stamos-Buesig from the Harm Reduction Coalition hands out Narcan Nasal Spray to people living in a homeless encampment in downtown on Nov. 11, 2022.
Tara Stamos-Buesig of the Harm Reduction Coalition of San Diego hands out Narcan Nasal Spray to people living in a homeless encampment in downtown on Nov. 11, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler
  • Independent investigative journalist Kelly Davis, a Voice contributor, tells the story of a local man named Angel who suffers from schizophrenia and addiction. He’s been arrested more than 160 times since 1994, yet he still bounces endlessly in and out of the justice system. As Davis reports for The Appeal, a criminal justice news site, his experience “suggests both a man unable to overcome his mental health struggles and a set of institutions that has singularly failed to help him do so” — even as his family tried desperately to get him help. “According to court records, there is no indication that Angel was ever sent to a state psychiatric hospital or, aside from being involuntarily medicated during a jail stay, that he has ever received any kind of inpatient treatment. Instead, he has repeatedly been sent to state prison.” A county report due early in 2023 is slated to explore why the system fails people like Angel.
  • A Washington Post series about the nation’s fentanyl epidemic highlighted our status on the front line of the crisis. The newspaper told San Diego’s story in part through the eyes of a locally based Homeland Security Investigations agent who has responded to nearly 500 overdoses. This chapter of the newspaper’s seven-part series also includes a mini-documentary featuring District Attorney Summer Stephan and a San Diego police lieutenant who describes fentanyl as the most dangerous drug he’s seen in his career. Local fentanyl deaths surged from 151 countywide fatalities in 2019 to 814 in 2021. As the Union-Tribune reported, “A surge in fatal drug overdoses coupled with staffing vacancies has created a backlog of hundreds of cases in the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office — delaying prosecutions of some homicides and leaving some family members without answers when loved ones die unexpectedly.”
  • San Diego Magazine published a photo essay by Peggy Peattie with text by Jackie Bryant, both Voice contributors, about homeless artists who call our streets home. They highlighted a jewelry maker, a ceramicist, painters, and others, plus various canine companions. “I hope these portraits remind readers of the importance of creativity and invites us all to stop and talk with the person living in a tent on the sidewalk we typically walk right past,” said Peattie, who also chronicles the lives of homeless people and “our shared humanity” at www.talesofthestreet.com.

Institutional Failures Mount – and Oversight Seems AWOL

  • The Avocado Post Acute nursing home in El Cajon has a horrific record of substantiated complaints, including a murder, sexual assaults, choking deaths and more. The state and the federal government have fined the facility, repeatedly, KPBS reported as part of its ongoing coverage of troubled local nursing homes, but it’s continued to stay in business. In fact, the nursing home’s profits jumped by 72 percent from 2017 to 2020.
  • Veterans Village of San Diego, “a renowned drug and alcohol treatment program, heralded as a national model for addressing veteran homelessness, is now confronted with widespread drug use and unsafe living conditions that are harming vulnerable residents who come to the campus seeking help with their addiction,” inewsource discovered.
  • The Union-Tribune released an in-depth investigative package looking into Gina Champion-Cain’s Ponzi scheme, which landed the former restaurateur behind bars. The package goes inside the scheme, talks to the people who got snookered by the $400 million fraud, and includes a three-minute explainer video on how the scheme worked.

Home, Sweet (Extremely Expensive) Home… or Not

Sophia Rodriguez gives her 10-month-old son a bottle while he holds her finger in Chula Vista on March 8, 2022.
Sophia Rodriguez gives her 10-month-old son a bottle while he holds her finger. / File photo by Ariana Drehsler for Voice of San Diego
  • San Diego’s housing crisis is causing hurt across the landscape. In a two-part series, KPBS chronicled how the child-care industry is struggling to get back on its feet after a pandemic wallop.
  • Renting a two-bedroom cottage in North Park for $2,300 a month was too much for insurance broker Gustavo Galvez to bear. As he told The New York Times, he and his family decamped in 2021 for Tijuana, where they pay $1,450 a month for a 1,500-square-foot home in a gated community. He says he’s isolated from the city’s crime, and “living here gives me a cushion to build my legacy.” Other transplants from San Diego shared their own stories about why they headed south. Make sure to check out the photos on this story. They’re by local photographer Ariana Drehsler, who’s now a Voice staff member.

Amid All the Fear and Despair, a Homeless Success Story

“San Diego has been unusually successful in getting emergency voucher recipients into homes,” the LA Times reports. “Despite San Diego’s tight housing market, 100% of its emergency housing vouchers issued since June 2021 have placed people into permanent housing.”

What’s the city’s secret? Less red tape and more flexibility, the newspaper finds. 

Local History Is Ready for Its Closeups

Marcos Arellano in his Impala convertible at Chicano Park in Barrio Logan on Oct. 16, 2022.
Marcos Arellano in his Impala convertible at Chicano Park in Barrio Logan on Oct. 16, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler
  • The New York Times explored the history of San Diego’s Chicano Park ahead of its 52nd anniversary.
  • Julian is so well-known for its apple pies, cider and snow that it’s easy to forget it was originally a mining town. And there’s even more to its past, as Smithsonian Magazine uncovered: The town was founded by Confederates who moved West but soon transformed into an opportunity for people of color. In fact, most of San Diego County’s African-Americans in the late 1800s lived in Julian, where they were more integrated into the community compared to other Western towns.

That’s So Money: Metallic Wear at the Salk, Manny at the Park

  • The Salk Institute played host to another modernist marvel: a Louis Vuitton runway fashion show featuring a “cruise collection.” The New York Times tried to capture the metallic moment: “if the royal court of a time-traveling post-apocalyptic society was trying to figure out what to wear to a rave in the desert, here was the answer.” Ah. Well, thanks for clearing that up. Anyway, “It was celebratory and ominous all at once — full of goddesses and gladiators born in a Marvel action figure moment.”
  • Speaking of money-spending and money-making, Padres third baseman Manny Machado — the $300 million man — celebrated his team’s success. “He ripped off his shirt and, bare-chested in the Padres’ clubhouse, swore joyfully during a national television interview,” the New York Times reported. “He poured champagne. He drank beer. He smoked a cigar.” He’s a happy guy, but we all know it’s better to give than to receive. Each year, Machado makes enough money to take every single San Diegan out for a couple California burritos. Are you reading this, Manny? Hint, hint!

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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