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Heralding the Panorama

Lila LaHood selling the Panorama.
Lila selling Panoramas like hotcakes in front of the San Francisco Chronicle. Photo by Christopher D. Cook/SF Public Press.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday to meet the San Francisco Panorama delivery truck at the McSweeney's office on Valencia Street. I had recruited half a dozen Public Press volunteers to sell copies of the singular single-edition broadsheet newspaper on street corners near our SoMa office. I might have lingered in bed, as the shipment from Paradise (near Chico Sacramento) was delayed a few hours, and then delayed again when the delivery truck got stuck in traffic on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; this inspired much giggling in the Public Press office, since our reporters had spent three months reporting the Panorama cover story all about the troubled span.

After filling my gas tank and killing time with gingerbread and coffee, I headed to McSweeney’s to wait for the delivery. About 20 staff members and interns perched around the room. They wore bright yellow Panorama T-shirts meant to identify them as “newsies” when they hit the streets to hawk papers. Every mumble about the location of the delivery truck reverberated around the room. 

When the truck finally arrived around 11 a.m., the driver parked in Valencia’s middle lane and the newsies in their sunny T-shirts spilled into the street like so many chicks scrambling for scratch.

Fellow Public Presser Chris Cook and I loaded boxes into my car and headed for Fifth and Mission streets. My brother, Mike LaHood, stopped by to get Panoramas to sell in front of City Hall.

And then the papers started flying. Any concerns that we might have trouble selling a $5 newspaper on the street in San Francisco quickly dissolved. Our easiest sales at Fifth and Mission went to San Francisco Chronicle reporters on lunch break (we were stationed 20 feet from their front door) and to McSweeney’s fans pedaling up on bikes breathlessly explaining that nearby newsies had sold out of their paper stock. 

By mid-afternoon our Panoramas were gone, too. We had to dip into the Public Press reserves to get copies to Chronicle editors and columnists who wanted to inspect the hefty newsprint newborn.

I was excited about the arrival of the Panorama — as an avid reader and McSweeney’s fan, journalist and dedicated public media reformer — and felt bolstered by the communal sense of enthusiasm about this beautiful, content-rich, ponderous (at more than 3 lbs.) tribute to the best of print media traditions and bold expression of journalistic aspiration.

Photos by Steve Rhodes. (Embedded slideshow created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.)

Media coverage of the San Francisco Panorama mentioning the Bay Bridge Report:

San Francisco Panorama — “Forum” with Michael Krasny, KQED Public Radio (12/8/09)

Dave Eggers, newspaper publisher? — David Ulin, Los Angeles Times (12/8/09)
San Francisco Panorama hits the streets — Steven T. Jones, San Francisco Bay Guardian (12/8/09)
Panorama!! — JD Beltran, (12/8/09)
McSweeney’s “Panorama” Newspaper Arrives -- With Special Probe of SF Bay Bridge Project — Editor & Publisher (12/8/09)
McSweeney’s Bay Bridge Investigative Report Released — Jay Barmann, (12/8/09)
Case Study in Collaboration: Spot.Us, Public Press and McSweeney’s — David Cohn, PBS MediaShift Idea Lab (12/8/09)
Dave Eggers’ One-Day-Only Newspaper — Stacey Delo, MarketWatch (12/8/09)
A heartbreaking work of newspaper genius -- at $16 a pop — Will Bunch, (12/8/09)
McSweeney’s San Francisco Panorama Sells Out Immediately — Rhonda Winter, Eco Localizer (12/8/09)
Too Big to Comprehend — Andy J. Wang, Curbed SF (12/8/09)
The Expense of Fixing the Bay Bridge — Michelle Quinn, New York Times Bay Area Blog (12/9/09)
The Birth of Panorama, a Drink and Then Sleep — Anna Bloom and Gerry Shih, New York Times Bay Area Blog (12/9/09)
McSweeney’s looks to save print; 320 page newspaper results — Betsey Reinsborough, (12/9/09)
Wednesday Foodie Edition — Armand Emamdjomeh, Mission Loc@l (12/9/09)
Getting Misty-Eyed Over Dave Eggers Newspaper Experiment — Elizabeth C., (12/09)
The SF Bay Bridge: Made in China and Costing a Fortune — Marian Wang, Mother Jones (12/10/09)
A newspaper to inspire you all over again — Alan Mutter, Reflections of a Newsosaur (12/10/09)
SF Panorama: Definitely Worth the $16 — Jess Hemerly, 7x7 (12/10/09)
McSweeney’s Proves Print Isn’t Dead — Claire Suddath, Time (12/11/09)
SF Panorama offers a 21st century model for newspapers — Zoe Corneli, “Crosscurrents” on KALW News (12/15/09)

Include interest when reporting projects' cost, Rosalind Gammon, (12/14/09)

Photos from the Public Press relaunch party

The Public Press celebrated the relaunch of its Web site this past Thursday at a.Muse gallery.  Here are some photos from the event.

The Bay Bridge project: keeping bias at bay in investigative journalism

Because investigative journalism isn't artifice. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. And that's not what I practice.

KALW Radio's Kernan wins top award from local SPJ

We make a policy of not to load up the blog with press releases, but this is one I feel a strong connection with, as it came from a journalism organization I work with. I was really pleased to see Holly Kernan of KALW Public Radio's "Crosscurrents" news program win the journalist-of-the-year award from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, where I sit on the board of directors.

I didn't nominate her, as I work with her on a regular basis, exchanging content and story ideas between KALW and the Public Press. Unprompted, my colleagues recognized what an accomplishment it is to create a high-quality daily local news radio program on a shoestring. KALW, owned and operated by the San Francisco Unified School District, has an annual budget an order of magnitude smaller than that of KQED, the dominant NPR affiliate in the Bay Area. But "Crosscurrents" started in the summer of 2008 and with a mix of professional staff, freelancers and interns they've put together a high-class operation that has broken stories including the expose by reporter Thea Chroman examining modern-day "Hoovervilles" -- shantytowns that have persisted for years but appear to be getting bigger as poverty levels rise.

The tagline of "Crosscurrents" is "context, culture and connection." This socially responsible ethic reflects the kind of serious and consequential reporting we need more of in the Bay Area.


Contact: Ricardo Sandoval, 916-321-1018 or 415-786-1258


San Francisco, September 21, 2009 – The Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists recognizes Holly Kernan, news director of KALW, as Journalist of the Year in its 2009 Excellence in Journalism Awards. Kernan's creativity and determination, prevailing in an undeniably challenging year, showed the potential for a strong future for journalism in Northern California.

Amid unprecedented layoffs of journalists throughout the region and continued shrinkage of many media outlets in Northern California, Kernan had the audacity and drive to expand KALW's ambitious weekly newsmagazine, Crosscurrents, to a daily format, winning national attention and a devoted audience. Under Kernan’s guidance, Crosscurrents has stepped in — expanding as others recede —to provide essential coverage of local news and culture for Bay Area communities. Operating on a shoestring budget, Kernan leads a team of reporters in putting together a quality news program with a focus on covering underserved communities. This year, she launched two paid summer reporting fellowships where she teaches at Mills College and UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

This year, the SPJ-NorCal Board of Directors also recognizes the humanitarian contributions of board member Lani Silver, who passed away on January 28, 2009, by establishing the Silver Heart Award. Through oral history, radio and freelance writing, Silver dedicated her 40-year career to telling the stories of the oppressed and forgotten people of the world, notably tens of thousands of victims of the Holocaust. In the future, this award will honor others whose careers reflect an extraordinary dedication to giving voice to the voiceless.

Since its inception 24 years ago, SPJ's Excellence in Journalism Awards competition has always sought to recognize those whose work reflects the organization’s ideals of integrity, initiative and achievement. The resilience of Bay Area journalism is also seen in the remarkable efforts of reporters, editors and news organizations in adapting to the changing media landscape. This year, to recognize the pioneers at the frontiers of journalism, SPJ-NorCal introduced two new awards -- Innovation/Entrepreneurship and Blogs. And, to focus attention on an issue to which journalists have a special obligation this year, SPJ created a third new award for outstanding coverage of the economy.

The Innovation/Entrepreneurship award goes to the Oakland Tribune’s for its interactive news packages, which feature multiple platforms to organize breaking stories and provide interactive components that allow readers to select story aspects in whatever order they wish. The Blog award recipient is John Myers of KQED-FM for Capital Notes, his engaging and sophisticated blog on complex and important issues related to California politics and policy.

For outstanding coverage of The Economy, judges selected Charles Piller of the Sacramento Bee. Piller's investigative series revealed who benefited the most from the federal bailout. In stories that involved months of analysis of thousands of public records, Piller uncovered critical and damning evidence to show how Warren Buffett, a champion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), emerged as one of its top beneficiaries, as well as how TARP propped up local community banks with risky practices.

Although this remains a tumultuous time for the media, there is much good work being done this year, as demonstrated by the 23 other winners of SPJ's Excellence in Journalism Awards. SPJ-NorCal again commends a group of media makers whose writing, images and enterprise, as well as investigative and innovative spirit, contributed to outstanding journalism in 2008-2009.

Winners of the 2009 SPJ Excellence in Journalism Awards covered topics ranging from climate change to bonded servitude in Nepal, from home foreclosure scams to San Francisco’s service animal laws. They came from a diverse mix of local and national media, including the San Jose Mercury News— which won four awards— the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, KQED, New America Media and MarketWatch.

Of exceptional note is the double award to Sean Webby of the San Jose Mercury News both in the Public Service and the Investigative Reporting (Print Daily) categories. Webby’s year-long series on public drunkenness arrests provided solid analysis of a sobering trend in San Jose policing—the apparently excessive numbers of arrests of Latinos. In a balanced and thorough report, Webby analyzed public records to draw comparisons with other major cities illustrating a pattern of subjective enforcement of a vague and easily abused statute. As a result, San Jose adopted measures to change police arrest practices.

Veteran Bay Area journalist, Susan Sward, is the winner of the Career Achievement Award. During her 30 years at the San Francisco Chronicle, Sward covered nearly every beat and is regarded as one of its most prolific members of the paper’s investigative team. This year, Sward’s work prompted federal investigations when she reported that a chemical plant leaked toxic chemicals into the communities surrounding Searles Lake, causing widespread illness. Sward has also lent her vision and energy to internal efforts to revamp the Chronicle’s coverage in the 1990s, and before her departure from the paper this year, she was heralded among the Chronicle staff for her dedication to promoting newsroom diversity and mentoring legions of young reporters.

Paul Kleyman, Ethnic Elders editor at New America Media, receives the Distinguished Service Award. Kleyman has dedicated much of his career to in-depth coverage of aging and the elderly. For more than 20 years, he served as the longtime editor of Aging Today, the newspaper of the American Society on Aging. He currently edits the Ethnic Elders beat for New America Media. A frequent speaker on the coverage of aging, Kleyman also founded and served as national coordinator for Journalists Exchange on Aging, an invaluable network of reporters covering aging and healthcare nationwide. The exchange, recently reorganized as the Journalists Network on Generations, delivers a weekly newsletter to 1,100 reporters nationwide.

The Unsung Hero Award goes to Geoff Link, publisher and editor of the Central City Extra, a monthly newspaper for the residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, Civic Center and Sixth Street Corridor neighborhoods. Through its community-oriented reporting and a dedication to providing nuanced coverage of a marginalized community, the paper publishes local news, human-interest profiles and obituaries with humanity, intimacy and candor. A full-time copy editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, Link also serves as executive director of the SF Study Center, which supports community groups through organizational development and publishing assistance.

The John Gothberg Award for meritorious service to SPJ-NorCal goes to Janet Mandelstam, a former board member and past co-chair of the Excellence in Journalism Awards. A highly respected freelance writer and former associate managing editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mandelstam made indelible contributions to the Excellence in Journalism Awards. She established a high standard for judges and judging, identified news themes in each year, and transformed the awards dinner into a dynamic event by incorporating honorary co-chairs and keynote speakers who addressed issues of timely journalistic interest. As layoffs began to quicken in frequency, Mandelstam was deeply committed to an SPJ project that sought to assess the impact of the loss of reporting and editing capacity in Northern California.

Winners will be honored at a 6 p.m. awards dinner on November 10, 2009 at Jillian’s restaurant in San Francisco.

Full List of Winners:

  • Journalist of the Year: Holly Kernan, KALW Public Radio
  • Career Achievement: Susan Sward, formerly of the San Francisco Chronicle
  • Distinguished Service to Journalism: Paul Kleyman, New America Media
  • Unsung Hero: Geoff Link, Central City Extra, San Francisco Study Center
  • John Gothberg Award for Meritorious Service to SPJ: Janet Mandelstam, freelance writer
  • The Economy: Charles Piller, Sacramento Bee
  • Public Service:  Sean Webby, San Jose Mercury News  

Breaking News

  • Print (daily): The Oakland Tribune for reflecting a complex community with insight and accuracy through its coverage of the Oscar Grant shooting.
  • Broadcast: Steven Short, KALW-FM for his balanced coverage of the heated emotions following the Supreme Court ruling over the Proposition 8.

Explanatory Journalism

  • Print (daily): Nanette Asimov and Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, for “Eyes on the Prize: A Special Report,” which tracked the 1995-1996 graduates of a kindergarten class from San Francisco’s Bayview District in order to illustrate how minority students deal with challenging socioeconomic circumstances.
  • Print (non-daily): Joe Eskenazi, SF Weekly, for “Service With a Snarl,” which  examines, with clarity and humor, the laws around the use of service animals in San Francisco.
  • Broadcast: Craig Miller and the Quest Production Staff, KQED Public Media, for “California at the Tipping Point,” which tells the story of California’s climate and water -- past, present and future.
  • Online: MarketWatch, for “The Spiral of Deflation,” a five-part, multimedia-enhanced series that uses easy-to-understand analogies and historical references to explain why people should be worried when prices go down.

Investigative Journalism

  • Print (daily): Sean Webby, San Jose Mercury News, on San Jose’s public drunkenness arrests (double-winner in Public Service category).
  • Print (non-daily): Kathleen Richards, East Bay Express, for “Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0,” a strong example of consumer-affairs reporting that resulted in the online review company’s pledge to change practices that had corrupted its independence.
  • Broadcast: Sarah Varney, KQED-FM, for “Chemicals at Home—Unknown Substitutes.” Varney’s report revealed that a new state ban on phthalates, used for soft plastic children’s toys in particular, does not address the safety of the chemical substitutes that take their place – and companies aren’t required to identify them. Judges praised the report for embracing the medium of radio along with a subject matter that affects people profoundly.

Feature Writing

  • Print (daily): Meredith May, San Francisco Chronicle, for “Saving Nepal’s Indentured Girls,” a story that uses an inspiring local angle to illuminate the international human rights issue of kalmari, the Nepalese practice of bonded servitude.
  • Print (non-daily): Stacey Palevsky, The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, for “Spiritual Caregivers: Volunteers Provide a Ray of Light to People Nearing the End,” which illustrates the moving relationship between a Jewish spiritual caregiver and an elderly patient facing the end of her life.
  • Broadcast: Doug Sovern, KCBS Radio, for three thought-provoking reports, “Back to the Bayou,” “20 Seconds” and “Bye, Bye to the Republican Guy,” which demonstrate original and clever broadcast writing and a unique approach to mixing soundbites, music and commentary.
  • Online: Sandip Roy of New America Media, for “Back to India,” a package that explored the challenges, discoveries and delights of Americans who have moved back to India.


  • Andrew Lam, New America Media, for “Letter from Athens: Greek Tragedies and News Media in the Age of Twitter,” “Our Man Obama: The Post-Imperial Presidency” and “How McCain Became MacBeth,” the opinion pieces reflected a  unique ability to portray contemporary events in a rich context by drawing on history, literature and philosophy.


  • Karen D’Souza, San Jose Mercury News, for “There Goes the ’hood: ‘Trailer Park’ is a Hoot,” “Mining Chekhov’s Regret,” and “The Rejection Connection,” three theater reviews that connect artists with audiences through creative storytelling and imaginative writing.


  • John Myers, KQED-FM, for Capital Notes Blog. From the state’s prison health care debacle to the budget crisis to fancy watches for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Myers keeps his readers and listeners well-informed. Among many impressive entries, Myers’ blog was a standout.


  • Oakland Tribune,, for employing the use of multiple platforms to organize on-going stories, along with truly interactive components that lets readers select which story aspects, and in what order, they wish to read, view or listen to. Judges found this series of increasingly improving interactive news packages organized around specific topics to be good examples of emerging media.


  • Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News, for his photo essay and multimedia project, “Left Behind in India’s Rise,” which documents lives of people who seldom appear in reports about India’s economic boom.

Outstanding Emerging Journalist

  • Zoe Corneli, KALW Crosscurrents, for “Foreclosure Scams,” “Foreclosure Scams Follow-Up,” “Profile of Judge Larry Goodman” and “Alameda County Sheriff Ride-Along.”  This smart, aggressive series of stories on foreclosure scams that led to an investigation by the state Department of Real Estate.

Student Special Project

  • Humboldt State University’s Investigative Reporting Class, The North Coast Journal, for “Meltdown,” which used public records and dozens of interviews to document the environmental hazards that led to the sudden closure of an ice plant vital to the local fishing industry.



10th Annual Expo for Independent Arts and new Symposium for Artists

I'd like to promote two great events hosted by Independednt Arts & Media, The Public Press' fabulous fiscal sponsor. Here's a note from Clare Morales Roberts, Indy Arts' executive director:

Public Presser breaks news on excessive overtime pay to city firefighters

On July 15, Kevin Stark of The Public Press, as part of the community-funded City Budget Watchdog series, reported exclusively that the San Francisco Fire Department was the only major city divisio

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