It’s a funny thing, asking your colleagues what work they’re most proud of for 2019. An innocent enough question, or so I thought, until I actually started asking it.
Here’s me asking Managing Editor Dave Faries: “Hey, Dave-o, what piece of work did you do in 2019 that you’re most proud of?” And here’s Dave’s reaction: “Why? Why do you want to know?”
So forget the input from my colleagues. Here’s my list of what I thought my fellow editorial staffers did well this year.
New guy Asaf Shalev hit the ground running when he joined the paper in March and started covering parks, water, higher ed and the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (he covers a couple of cities too, including Seaside, Monterey and Sand City). He’s especially adept at breaking news, and for that take a look at his July 4 cover story on the U.S. Forest Service privatizing public lands by turning over concessions such as parkland maintenance and trash hauling to private enterprise. Who’s profiting when you visit public lands in Big Sur?
Staff Writer Pam Marino covers the lunacy of Carmel, Pacific Grove and Del Rey Oaks city councils, plus health care, housing and homelessness. I’m not entirely sure, but she may be the only reporter at any outlet in the county covering health care as a regular beat. She did a series of deep dives into the county’s ambulance service contract, culminating in a cover story in May. “Whether people realize it or not,” she tells me, “emergency medical services in this county impact everyone at one time or another and it’s important to think about the future of what those services should look like.”
Just across the aisle from my desk, Staff Writer Marielle Argueza edits the calendar section, covers K-12 education, immigration and culture and also runs herd on our so-called intern mafia. The calendar alone is a beast of a job; it’s the most-read section in the paper and people rely on it to inform how they’re going to spend their time and money. She still managed to carve out enough time to deeply report and write a Nov. 21 cover story about student homelessness, and how school districts struggle to meet the needs of a growing population of students who either lack shelter or live in unstable, overcrowded conditions.
Back to Faries: One of my favorite pieces this year is the Sept. 5 cover story about young winemakers. Although now he’s feeling all chatty, and says the cover he wrote about the California 8 Hours race at Laguna Seca is “the best thing” he’s ever written. Check the May 2 issue for that and decide.
My favorite thing Weekly arts writer Walter Ryce produces happens every week – his “Artifacts” column which are quick hits, well curated, about arts happenings in the county. His writing is clever and adroit and worth seeking out, always.
Over in the corner, Weekly Editor Sara Rubin runs herd on us all, deals with the emotional needs of Weekly Founder/CEO Bradley Zeve and Publisher Erik Cushman – and yells a lot less than I did when I had the job. My favorite piece she did this year was a column she wrote in July about Salinas City Councilman Steve McShane changing party affiliation and becoming a Democrat just as he was beginning a run for county supervisor. Why switch parties now, she asks. The answers are, well… check it out for yourself.
As for me, On Feb. 28, the Weekly published a cover story I started reporting on Jan. 1 about SB 1421, the so-called police transparency law that opened up previously closed records related to officer use of force, on-the-job sexual assault or instances of dishonesty in the course of doing the job to scrutiny from the public. It’s notable what agencies cooperated with the California Public Records Act requests I sent out – the city of Salinas, for example, had prepared for SB 1421 requests and turned over hundreds of documents related to shootings and police misconduct. And then there’s the county of Monterey, which dug in and continues to dig in and, almost one year later, has produced precisely nothing on the premise they have no records from the Sheriff’s Office that fall under my request.
Some of these stories will remain ongoing, from ambulance contracts to a baseball team, politics to public records requests, well into 2020.