What We Learned This Week - Voice of San Diego

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What We Learned This Week

Ry Rivard / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

When another journalist recommended his friend, Ry Rivard, for a reporter opening at VOSD back in 2015, he said something along the lines of, “He’s just the kind of policy nerd who’d be perfect at Voice of San Diego.”

When Scott Lewis and I met with him in a coffee shop for the first time, we walked away saying, “He’s just the kind of policy nerd who’d be perfect at Voice of San Diego.”

But I think calling Ry a nerd does an injustice to what was so great about Ry’s tenure at VOSD, which has come to an end so that he can join his partner and take on a new job on the East Coast.

That’s because nerdiness implies a certain insularity, someone who loses himself or herself in a world that outsiders can’t understand.

But Ry’s approach to journalism did just the opposite: It brought people into complex, insular worlds. It opened the door. It told them they, too, could be part of whatever he was writing about – whether it was water, recycling or power.

I still think about a specific line from one of the first pieces Ry wrote for us, in which he examined perpetual claims from regional leaders that San Diego is always on the verge of running out of landfill space (emphasis mine):

I was out by Gregory Mountain recently with Shasta Gaughen, the Pala Band’s environmental director. She pointed a decent way up the mountainside to show how high trash would be piled. As a journalist, apocalyptic scenarios come quickly to mind, but it was not entirely easy to imagine the grassy valley pummeled by bulldozers and the mountain wearing a bed skirt of trash.

It’s kind of amazing, really, in a piece about actual garbage, to suddenly be envisioning an elegant, natural mountain modeling a trash skirt.

More recently, he wrote a piece about a city audit – perhaps the most mundane kind of story a journalist could undertake – and managed to make it a legitimately rollicking, fun read.

As someone who edits words for a living, let me tell you: The ability to write clearly and compellingly is a rare gift. To do it on subjects that are often boring or mystifying to the public is even rarer.

So, I’m changing my assessment of Ry from that initial impression. He’s not so much a journalism nerd as a journalism jock – someone at the top of his game who makes it look easy.

I’ll miss him dearly.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Sometimes (oftentimes?) politicians go out of their way to not say anything explosive, or interesting. That was … not the case when we interviewed Summer Stephan for the podcast this week. She blasted SDPD’s handling of rape kits, which we revealed in an investigation last week. SDPD soon after announced a major policy change going forward. Stephan also made it clear that she might not be a member of the Republican Party much longer.

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For seemingly forever, the plan to tackle San Diego’s homelessness crisis has been to … create a plan to tackle San Diego’s homelessness crisis. Well, that plan is actually set to drop soon.

Meanwhile, Council President Georgette Gómez has a big decision to make about her proposal to overhaul the city’s inclusionary housing policy. That policy is aimed at boosting the amount of affordable housing. (Not sure how government-subsidized, affordable housing even works in San Diego? We’ve got you covered.)

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SANDAG is still on the losing end of a risky financial deal it made in 2005.

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Our Good Schools for All podcast is back, and the latest episode zooms in on the problems plaguing Porter Elementary and what’s in store for the school in the future.

And when it comes to school abuse investigations, San Diego Unified police sometimes take the lead on investigating cases even though state law makes it clear that’s SDPD’s job.

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Scott Lewis was sheepishly slinking around the office for a full day, and it was because he knew he was about to fall off the wagon and write about the Chargers.

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The New Children’s Museum could become the first museum group in San Diego to unionize.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“The Lorax speaks for the trees and the trees say fuck you.” – I still can’t get over how good the signs from the climate march were. PLEASE SAVE US, YOUNGS.

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