Dear Valued Reader,
You might remember a couple months ago, I laid out some ideas of how I would answer the question of what Voice of San Diego's bias or agenda would be.
Journalists who say they're objective are absolutely not objective about many things like corruption, murder, open records and wasting water.
So what can we be open about? How can we be more transparent about what we stand for?
Today, we're making the following statement public. It will exist on our website as a living document listing what we, the board and staff at Voice of San Diego, stand for:
Journalism is best when pursued with purpose. It is easy to take stances against small problems but we want to tackle San Diego's big problems. When we do that, reporters and editors should be clear about what they’re trying to achieve.
Voice of San Diego’s staff and trustees adopted this list of shared values to help illuminate what we’re pursuing and give reporters the mandate to pursue them aggressively and irreverently.
We pressure leaders to solve widely accepted problems and local challenges. To evaluate what those are, we offer this template of our values and concerns.
As a nonprofit, we are obligated to pursue a mission, not deliver returns to investors, who might earn more if writers chased quarterback controversies or salacious criminal mysteries. Our mission and our values help us keep our focus on the issues and challenges that will define San Diego for decades.
- Government transparency, open meetings and accountability
- A well-informed, well-educated community ready to participate in civic affairs
- Government agencies that are just, efficient and excellent
- High quality education for all children
- Quality housing that is affordable to all residents
- World class infrastructure that supports free enterprise and job creation
- A robust and inclusive arts and culture scene
- A clean environment, healthy ecosystem
- Preparations for the long-term challenges of drought, energy supply and climate change
I would love to hear your thoughts.
I hear a lot that we are always focusing on negative things. And I often reply that is the result of a deep optimism.
In short, I believe this community is strong enough to face, boldly, its worst problems. Its worst schools, its worst scandals, its worst inefficiencies or waste.
Humans are perennially dissatisfied. No matter how many indicators we have that the world is more peaceful, safe and prosperous than ever before, we are not content.
That dissatisfaction can get out of hand and we need to provide context so people don't feel overly afraid or insecure.
However, I think being perennially dissatisfied is good. It is crucial for social progress and community improvement.
I was very sad to learn recently of the passing of Jack Ferguson, a longtime Voice of San Diego member and volunteer.
Jack came to many Member Coffees and helped us with countless events and office work. He was one of those guys whose love of his community made him care deeply about the stories, and that’s what, I think, drew him to VOSD.
I take great pride in running an organization people volunteer for. But it means you sometimes get awful news like this. RIP, Jack.
As you've no doubt heard, we are in the midst of our annual end-of-the-year fundraising frenzy. I know that it's probably obnoxious to get so many messages about how much money we need. But while we've been inundated with small donations, we need them because of fewer major grants this year.
That's part of the goal we've been obsessed with for years: diversifying our revenue. A big portion of our year-end goal has to come from new or increased donations. So perhaps you'd consider that!
One of the benefits of the donors who join at the Loud and Clear level is to make a small pitch for their cause.
Recently, Peter Lynch donated $1,001 and took advantage of it to plug his cause: The Diversity Interest Group of the San Diego County Bar Association.
Their mission: Bring SDCBA members together who are interested in disability rights issues, or who have disabilities, to foster collaboration, professionalism and creation of new relations and community.
Thank you, Peter. If you are already at that level and want a plug, let Christina Shih know at email@example.com.
And if you're not at that level, we could sure use it!
Tweet of the month: All of the tweets that added captions to the now famous photo of Mitt Romney dining with Donald Trump. Here's a good one that resonated with me, a kid from Utah.
Gloria Penner, a longtime host and analyst at KPBS, died four years ago.
Penner had her fans, and I know many who had their complaints about her. But she was my friend. She took an interest in me at the beginning of my career in San Diego. She promoted me and asked me to be on her show regularly.
She was so blunt, it was refreshing.
She was also elegant and graceful. One day, when I showed up in studio with a new beard, she said, "Scott, your beard is Mephistophelian." I laughed and thanked her. Hours later, I remembered to look up the word Mephistophelian.
This isn't about Penner.
I'm feeling very worried about San Diego journalism but not for the reasons you might have heard me talk about already.
Where are our stars? It feels like they're evaporating away.
One of the people to whom Penner introduced me was Bob Kittle, the bow-tied, quick-witted editor of the Union-Tribune's editorial page. He was the face of the U-T, and I disagreed with much of what he had to say. One time after a show and one of our arguments, he said I had been "petulant." I was tongue-tied in my response.
Hours later, after I looked up petulant, I thought of a great response.
Kittle's gone. Once a big voice in the city's public affairs, he has moved on.
From newsroom to newsroom, station to station, San Diego media is remarkably short on blunt and brash personalities unafraid of their analysis.
Former CityBeat editor Dave Rolland, also a regular with Penner, who got the same memory about her death in his Facebook feed, now serves state Sen. Toni Atkins. Roger Hedgecock is somewhere, not on the radio.
Neil Morgan, the co-founder of Voice of San Diego, was the narrator for San Diego throughout much of the 20th century. He was another mentor I didn't know I needed or would be so fortunate to have. It's already been two years since he died and many more since he wrote.
There are more, either gone from San Diego or their voice silenced by a more lucrative gig.
San Diego will always be a place that loses promising media stars. The gravity in our industry pulls them to New York and Washington D.C., places where they can bounce around like baseball free agents, trading employment contracts for better ones every couple years.
But some of us don't leave – can't leave. This only works if some stay for the long term to tell San Diego's story better and better.
I wouldn't be so worried if a new, more diverse generation was replacing them.
But it doesn’t appear to be happening.
I have never looked at San Diego media with such despair. Who knows what's going to happen to the Union-Tribune, but each of its last few owners seems to have figured out a new and different way to cripple its star-making abilities.
The solution is not that complicated or expensive. We simply have to rally to invest in what we like. Each newsroom needs to identify its stars and find a way to persuade San Diego to support them.
In Voice of San Diego's case, we now have 2,317 people who donate to us every year.
Our formula is a bit more straightforward than others: We ask donors and members to donate what they can.
I harp on our reporters to develop into stars because whether they wield it here or elsewhere, their influence is all that will keep them employable in this uncertain industry. It is another deep recession away from annihilating local journalism in anything close to the form it was just 10 years ago.
We're proving you can do a lot with a little. San Diego's leaders and its many problems and long-term challenges won't be addressed better with fewer interesting media personalities.
They might not even be talked about.
San Diego is further ahead than many other cities in addressing the future of its news ecosystem. Thank you so much for your support. Contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CEO/Editor in Chief
Voice of San Diego
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