If there’s a knock that journalists hear most – aside from outright dismissals like “the biased media” or “fake news” – it might just be this: You never report good news.

First of all, that’s not true.

We’re constantly accused, for example, of hating public schools and wanting them to fail because we do substantive investigative reporting on education. Yet this week alone, we ran a piece detailing the ways in which educators at one school have stepped up to respond to a surge in homeless students, and on the benefits that schools and educators in Chula Vista have reaped from having an open, productive relationship with charters.

“Good news” or positive stories can be a wonderful way to examine programs and approaches that are working – particularly when those programs could be replicated elsewhere.

But that’s not what most people are seeking when they demand good news. They mostly want positivity for positivity’s sake – and it tends to come from a belief that there’s an equal amount of “good” news and “bad” news that a news agency could be reporting on at any given time, and that journalists simply choose to focus on negativity for misguided or malicious reasons. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: Journalists write about things that are going wrong so that the public can get to work making things right. Uncovering “bad” news is actually a deeply optimistic acknowledgment that things can get better.

Look, I get it. I tweet baby tiger photos. I consume frightening amounts of TV and junk food. It’s wonderful and even necessary to seek out things that bring you joy in what can be a scary, sad world.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Yet insisting that journalists – particularly investigative journalists whose job is to root out waste, incompetence and corruption – should be crafting some faux positive-negative balance in the work they produce is kind of like walking into a pizza joint and demanding to know why they don’t have more Indian dishes on the menu.

Finally, demands for good news often fundamentally misunderstand the second half of that phrase – the “news” part.

Any journalist would readily concede that every day, lots of flights take off and land safely, plenty of water mains don’t break and sometimes politicians even get something done. People or programs simply working the way they’re supposed to might be good, but it’s not news.

What VOSD Learned This Week

We got another big injection of city politics this week, including new proposals, infighting among various groups and places where the city could be doing much better.

Ashly McGlone dug into the origins of the long-standing tensions between the San Diego lifeguards and Fire Department, which recently erupted into a fight that politicized Hurricane Harvey.

Speaking of long-standing tensions: the Barrio Logan community plan saga is back and still saga-y, city police continue to have beef with data showing officers pulled over minorities disproportionately and the hepatitis A crisis has shone a harsh spotlight on the city’s years-long failure to provide adequate public restroom facilities.

But not everyone’s fighting: A big group of city power brokers came together to hash out a new plan to increase taxes in order to fund a Convention Center expansion and homelessness and housing solutions.

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We relaunched the Border Report this week with Mario Koran at the helm. Mario also spoke with an expert on how people are smuggled across the border, who broke down the pricing structures, routes and more fascinating details.

Ry Rivard also looked into the charge that sewage from Mexico is fueling San Diego’s hepatitis A outbreak. It’s not.

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A Barrio Logan school that serves elementary and middle school students has seen its homeless student population surge. Maya Srikrishnan laid out the ways the school is adapting.

Over in Chula Vista, one of the school districts there has a unique view of local charter schools: It doesn’t see them as competition.

What I’m Reading

 Here’s a cool visualization of how Americans’ taste in foods have changed. (Bloomberg)

 The biggest threat to journalists in Mexico isn’t cartels – it’s the government. (Columbia Journalism Review)

 The case of a police officer with a Nazi tattoo and how free speech is being put to the test in departments across the country. (Buzzfeed)

 Mary Katherine Ham and Jake Brewer were a bipartisan D.C. power couple. On the second anniversary of her husband’s tragic death, Ham has written a beautiful piece about grief and hope. (The Federalist)

 An ode to domestic goddesses past and present. (New York Magazine)

 A useful and hilarious guide to Twitter etiquette. (CBC)

Line of the Week

“Lt. Howard Black said that in his 35 years with the Colorado Springs Police Department, he has never seen anything quite like the mad pooper.” This doesn’t need much explanation, it’s pretty much exactly like it sounds.

    This article relates to: News, What We Learned This Week

    Written by Sara Libby

    Sara Libby is VOSD’s managing editor. She oversees VOSD’s newsroom and its content. You can reach her at sara.libby@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0526.

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