The Public Press Blog

Public Press Reporting on School Segregation Inspires Broad Media Coverage

Editor’s note: Over the past several months, we have been gathering reporting that follows up on our coverage of segregation in San Francisco’s public schools. The latest pickup was a three-part series in the San Francisco Chronicle starting Sunday. Read more about it here.

San Francisco Public Press’ reporting package on school re-segregation has sparked conversation about race and education.

A March 27 article in the Washington Post’s Wonkblog draws heavily from the Public Press to discuss the national implications of school choice. “In San Francisco, it looks as though giving parents some measure of choice in where their children go to school…in the long term can only result in gross educational inequities,” writes the Post’s Max Ehrenfreund.

Data-crunching firm Priceonomics crafted an impressive set of visualizations based on Public Press reporter Jeremy Adam Smith’s “eye-opening” data.

San Francisco youth demographics chart from

The San Francisco Chronicle’s own data dive into school diversity cites the Public Press’ demographic analysis. It follows Smith’s March 17 op-ed in the Chronicle calling out the city’s “profound identity crisis” in light of growing racial and income inequities. This month, the Chronicle published this report. The Society Pages and Education News also link to the Public Press’ investigation.

In other local media, San Francisco Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez wrote that the package revealed “a shameful truth about our city.” The Bold Italic had high praise for the “devastating” report: “If you’re thinking of sending your kids to SFUSD (or even if you’re considering having kids at all, really), it’s worth a thorough read.” KALW Radio’s “Your Call” devoted an hourlong program to discussing school segregation with Smith and other guests, and KALW’s “Crosscurrents"  interviewed Smith for a segment on the investigation.

eremy Adam Smith prepares for an interview at KALW's studios in 2014. // Public Press - See more at:
Jeremy Adam Smith prepares for an interview at KALW's studios in 2014. // Public Press

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group that advocates for school integration, tweeted the story to its 45,000 followers. SF Dads, Education Cities and The New York Times Magazine’s race reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones also shared the story on Twitter.

The Institute for Nonprofit News’ Senior Director of Product and Technology Adam Schweigert tweeted that the reporting left him “genuinely much more informed about that issue.”

“That’s huge,” Schweigert wrote. “And sadly, rare.”

In April the Public Press received two awards for its investigation into the enormous disparity in parent fundraising across city elementary schools: The Society of Professional Journalists’ 2014 Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting and the California Teachers Association’s 2014 John Swett Award for Media Excellence.

Sea Level Rise Shapes Future of Bay Area Waterfront Development

Sea level rise threatens tens of billions of dollars worth of new waterfront development in the Bay Area — but there may be time to adapt.

That was the message at Tuesday’s panel on sea level rise hosted by the San Francisco Public Press at the Impact Hub, a co-working space. Panelists included UC Berkeley professor Kristina Hill, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Climate Program Director David Behar and Public Press reporter Kevin Stark.

Stark is one of two lead reporters of the Public Press’ new edition on sea level rise, due to hit newsstands later this month. The front-page investigation, a six-month collaboration of 10 journalists, scientists and cartographers, has so far uncovered dozens of commercial and residential projects planned for areas below 8 feet in elevation. Eight feet represents an unlikely but possible sea level rise scenario for the year 2100, combining maximum sea level rise predictions with a major storm swell.

What does an 8-foot increase look like? Someone standing at the edge of a pier near the Ferry Building would be waist-high in waves, Stark said.

Some of those upcoming projects include new developments in Mission Bay and residential towers planned for Treasure Island.

It is a daunting figure for a region bounded by water. “Are you going to convince me to sell my home in Alameda tonight?” one audience member teased.

But Behar cautioned that an 8-foot rise would be extreme. He was tasked by the city with interpreting competing sea level rise data in 2013, and said most studies expected only 3 feet of rise by 2100.

By and large, state and local governments do not have explicit sea level rise regulations on the books. Environmentalists and the building industry have tussled over whether sea level rise needs to be included in the state’s environmental review process. But Behar said the days of murky rules will soon be over: “We know regulation is coming.”

Will it come fast enough? Hill, a professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley, said long-range planning needs to happen soon. She reminded the audience that sea level rise is exponential: The levels will climb slowly, then all at once.

“We are living in the last two stable decades of sea level rise," Hill said. "Around 2045, 2050, or 2060, it’s going to get faster.”

In the meantime, Stark said, many developers are forging ahead with little heed for the advancing water line. One developer, he said, “told me ‘The barbarians aren’t at the gate yet.’ There’s a compartmentalization of understanding of sea level rise and climate change. The knowledge that it’s happening on one hand, and the need for space and houses on the other.”

The two are not necessarily in competition, Hill said. She gave the example of a housing development in Hamburg, Germany with “floodable architecture.” Its plaza welcomes the water in instead of holding it back.

Another plan from Dutch engineers widened a beach to expand the buffer between city and sea. Hill said a similar approach could work in the Bay Area, joking that some are calling the method “shallowing” to avoid its more controversial name: bayfill.

“In 1965, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission was founded to stop the filling of the bay,” Behar added. “Today they’re studying how filling the bay could be a really good idea.”

For more on the data and thinkers behind Bay Area sea rise, look for the Public Press’ new edition on newsstands at the end of May.

5/5 Event on Long-Range Sea Level Rise Planning for Bay Area Waterfront Development

What: Rising Tides: Climate Challenges and Solutions for the Bay Area Waterfront
When: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Impact Hub, 925 Mission St., San Francisco
RSVP: Reserve tickets via eventbrite

Join us for a discussion about long-range planning and waterfront development around the Bay Area, and preview of our cover story for the next issue of the San Francisco Public Press.

By the end of this century, scientists project the San Francisco Bay will rise by at least three feet - and possibly as much as eight in a bad storm. Rising bay water will threaten businesses along the Embarcadero, UCSF Hospital, AT&T ballpark and the thousands of homes currently being built in Mission Bay, Treasure Island and Hunters Point. City planners are currently discussing what can be done and at what cost, likely in the billions of dollars. Learn from an expert panel the anticipated effects on our natural ecosystem, existing and new development, and public utilities such as transportation and sewage. This solutions-focused discussion will help us all responsibly plan for the future of the Bay Area.


  • Michael Stoll, executive director, San Francisco Public Press (moderator)
  • Kristina Hill, associate professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning, UC Berkeley
  • David Behar, climate program director, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
  • Kevin Stark, reporter, San Francisco Public Press

Note — No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Send an email to rsvp {at] sfpublic press [dot] org if you need a discount ticket.

This event is hosted by Impact Hub San Francisco, a coworking and events space for a membership community of entrepreneurs, activists, creatives and professionals taking action to drive positive social and environmental change.

San Francisco Public Press Wins Sigma Delta Chi Award for Investigative Reporting

The Society of Professional Journalists has honored the San Francisco Public Press with a 2014 Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting.




SPJ recognized “Public Schools, Private Money” by lead writer and project editor Jeremy Adam Smith and the staff of the San Francisco Public Press as the winning entry for investigative reporting by a non-daily publication in the newspapers/wire service category.

SPJ selected 85 national award winners from more than 1,600 submissions.

For the winter 2014 print edition cover story, our reporters examined tax records from parent-teacher associations and compiled 10 years of budget and academic data from the city’s school district. The research focused only on elementary schools to make easy comparisons. Our research shows that while a small number of schools were able to avoid the worst effects of recent budget cuts, belts continued to tighten at schools with more economically disadvantaged students. Read the series:

Congratulations to the whole project team!

  • Jeremy Adam Smith — Lead writer and project editor
  • Michael Stoll and Lila LaHood — editors
  • Tearsa Joy Hammock and Luke Thomas — Photographers
  • Jeffrey Thorsby, Jason Winshell, Adriel Taquechel and Shinwha Whang — Data team
  • Justin Slaughter and Emilie Raguso — Sidebar writers
  • Thomas Guffey — Designer

Public Press Report Leads to Discussions on Segregation

Journalist Jeremy Adam Smith is making the rounds, speaking publicly about diversity and segregation in San Francisco, a topic he recently covered regarding local public schools for the San Francisco Public Press.

In an op-ed published March 18 in the San Francisco Chronicle, Smith said that the city previously known for its “diversity, innovation and fairness” now is “facing a profound identity crisis” marked by racial and income inequities.

On Monday, March 23, Smith will discuss these issues and the Public Press report on KALW’s “Your Call” at 10 a.m. with host Rose Aguilar and other guests.

For the op-ed, Smith drew evidence from a variety of sources, including the San Francisco Police officers currently under investigation for racist text messages, and noted the disproportionately high percentage of African Americans killed by the city’s police department. He also cited increasing racial segregation in the city’s public schools — the topic of our winter 2015 special report, for which he was the lead reporter.

“6 in 10 schools now have majorities of one racial group. But it gets worse,” Smith wrote in his op-ed. “Though San Francisco is now one of the most affluent cities in the United States, most of its public school students are poor — and almost all those poor children are Asian, Latino or black.”

Jeremy Adam Smith prepares for an interview at KALW's studios in 2014.

Jeremy Adam Smith prepares for an interview at KALW's studios in 2014. // Public Press

Bay Guardian Raises Hell One Last Time

Inside the newly released Winter 2015 edition of the Public Press, you will find a publication that commemorates the storied 48-year history of one of America’s earliest and most important alternative weekly newspapers: The San Francisco Bay Guardian.

The day the San Francisco Media Co. killed the Bay Guardian in mid-October, we offered to print whatever the laid-off editorial staff wanted to give us to reflect on their situation as an eight-page insert in our fall edition — if they could get it to us in a week. Instead, they chose to take three months and put together a thoughtful retrospective that makes an eloquent and impassioned case for preserving a diversity of voices in local media.

The Guardian’s closure shocked the local journalism community as much as it did the progressive political constituency with whom the paper sided on so many efforts over 48 years. When the Chronicle was timid, the Guardian was fearless. When the Examiner was superficial, the Guardian dived into public records. And when SF Weekly was cynical, the Guardian oozed idealism. No publication in the city came closer to the journalist’s creed: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

While the Public Press was not founded on the same business model and shies away from political advocacy, we share the aim of holding the powerful accountable. We hope the Guardian-in-Exile staff will find new and innovative ways to continue independent muckraking in San Francisco, a city that sure needs it.

You can pick up your own copy of the commemorative edition inside the print edition of the San Francisco Public Press at these retail locations, or online through the digital delivery service Gumroad.

Public School Inequality Report Wins SPJ Award

A child buys tickets at the Halloween-Día de los Muertos fundraiser for Junipero Serra Elementary in Bernal Heights. The event netted $3,000 for the PTA. Photo by Tearsa Joy Hammock / San Francisco Public Press

The San Francisco Public Press is pleased to accept a 2014 Excellence in Journalism award for “Public Schools, Private Money,” an in-depth look at inequality in fundraising among schools in the San Francisco Unified School District.

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter recognized the special reporting project in the Winter 2014 edition for the best explanatory journalism in the small print publication category.

Lead writer Jeremy Adam Smith and colleagues scoured hundreds of pages of tax and school district records. They found that after years of deep local and state education budget cuts, a few were weathering the storm with the help of private donations to parent-teacher associations. Just 10 out of 71 elementary schools earned half the total dollars raised, all at schools where the wealthiest families in the district were concentrated.

The reporters interviewed education leaders about several solutions, including new state funding, local equity dollars and pooled parent-teacher association funds to benefit disadvantaged students.

The reporting team included researchers Jeffrey Thorsby, Jason Winshell, Adriel Taquechel and Shinwha Whang; reporters Emilie Raguso and Justin Slaughter; graphic designer Tom Guffey; and photographers Tearsa Joy Hammock and Luke Thomas.

The Excellence in Journalism Awards dinner takes place on Nov. 12. For more information visit

The report can be read here:

JOB: Bicycle delivery team for Pedal-Powered News pilot program

Seeking bicycle delivery crewmembers to distribute the San Francisco Public Press, a quarterly newspaper, to homes, offices, stores and community centers throughout San Francisco.

We have an immediate need for bicycle delivery crewmembers to work one or more days from Tuesday, July 29, through Friday, Aug. 1.

Ideal availability: four to eight hours per day. Delivery assignments must be completed within two days. Timing of deliveries is generally flexible, though some must be completed during business hours.

The San Francisco Public Press is a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization that publishes local public-interest news online at and in a quarterly print newspaper. Funding for this pilot bicycle delivery program was raised through our Pedal-Powered News campaign on Kickstarter.


You must:

  • supply your own bike.
  • have experience riding a bike on the streets of San Francisco.
  • be able to ride — with some combination of panniers, baskets and/or cargo trailer — at least three miles carrying 40 lbs. of newspapers.
  • be committed to safe cycling and obeying traffic laws.
  • document deliveries and communicate professionally with store managers about their needs related to selling the newspaper.
  • be a friendly, knowledgeable ambassador for the San Francisco Public Press.


  • strong knowledge of the San Francisco street map, landmarks and topography
  • previous experience as a bike messenger
  • interest in and knowledge of local news
  • previous customer service or sales experience
  • experience working or volunteering for a nonprofit organization

Pay is $15 per hour.

We will hire for additional delivery assignments throughout August. Delivery for the fall issue will take place in October.

Ongoing opportunities are available for individuals interested in working with the Public Press in sales, billing and retail account management as we expand our distribution network throughout San Francisco.

TO APPLY: Call 415-495-7377 or send an email to If applying by email, please include the following:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Your availability for delivery work Tuesday, July 29, through Friday, Aug. 1
  • Tell us why we should hire you for our Pedal-Powered News pilot program.
  • Do you own a cargo bike, or is your bike equipped with baskets, panniers or a cargo trailer?

How We Rocked Our $30,000 Journalism Kickstarter Campaign (and You Can, Too)

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign for journalism that brought in three times the amount we were asking for. Here’s how we did it.

The San Francisco Public Press has a plan to increase visibility for the organization and double its San Francisco distribution network in just six months. We’re going to do it by launching a program to deliver our quarterly newspapers by bike instead of car to members, retailers and other distribution locations around the city. Of course, that will take money, so we turned to our community of readers for support.

Our Pedal-Powered News campaign asked for $10,000 to buy bike trailers, hire “newsies” to deliver the papers and print more copies of the newspaper. As an added incentive, the Investigative News Network connected us with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which offered a matching grant of $10,000 if we were able to get 1,000 backers.

Thanks to the support of our network of avid readers and fans of independent journalism, we raised $21,328 from 1,016 backers, thus unlocking the $10,000 matching grant — which means the Pedal-Powered News campaign raised more than $31,000 in all.

Why bikes?

Publisher Lila LaHood told a group of news managers at an Investigative News Network forum that bicycle delivery had been part of the organization’s long-term vision since it began in 2010.

“Michael Stoll, our executive director, rides his bike everywhere,” LaHood said. “From the very beginning when he came up with the idea of the Public Press, he always had it in his head: Wouldn’t it be fun to deliver this newspaper by bicycle?”

The project capitalized on San Francisco’s love of cycling and allowed the spirit of the Public Press to shine through, LaHood said: “The journalism that we do is very serious, but the personality of our organization is actually charming and quirky. This idea fits in with that.”

“We are delivering serious journalism,” she added, “but I think there’s a way to have a bit of fun with it, and this campaign has some of that spark and charm.”

Kickstarter tips for journalism projects

Executive director Michael Stoll said the campaign was the most successful seasonal pledge drive in the Public Press’ five-year history.

“Kickstarter is a great platform for motivating first-time and returning donors, as well as latent supporters. Especially so since it started promoting its Journalism category the week we launched, spotlighting Pedal-Powered News in its weekly newsletter.

He said the tactic of asking for many small “even $1” donations was disarming, technically easy and motivated donors to pledge more than asked.

“Nearly half our 1,016 donors gave $10 or more. 185 people became new or renewing official members of the organization at or above the $35 level — growing our membership by at least 50 percent in just one month!” he said.

“This was great publicity, attracting interest from a one-million-plus Twitter user, a prominent crowdfunding blog and the local CBS TV news crew, which aired a segment about the campaign on Sunday morning in the Bay Area.”

At INN, LaHood had some advice for journalists who wanted to launch crowdfunding projects: The campaign video took a long time to produce, and not everyone asked to participate in the campaign understood how Kickstarter worked.

She said the personal approach was the most effective and warned that “blasting email lists” did not get results.

“You have to ask again, again and again. People want personal contacts, and somehow Facebook is yielding better responses than email,” LaHood said during the campaign’s final week. “Surprisingly, we were able to raise that basic goal fairly quickly. Getting the additional $1 donations has been challenging.”

The organization spent about $1,650 on art and video production, $150 on technology and $300 on promotional postcards. A big social media push was key to the campaign’s success.

The Public Press has the following advice for crowdfunding beginners:

  • Making the video will take longer than you think.
  • Train everyone in your organization to be part of the campaign.
  • Identify and delegate the work.
  • It takes a while to get set up with Kickstarter and can take many days to get your campaign approved.
  • Figure out in advance what you’re posting when and where.
  • Plan your campaign updates ahead of time.
  • The personal approach works best.

“It takes a while to get set up on Kickstarter,” LaHood said. “Don't think you can put up your video, put up your text and be ready to go ... I would start a couple of weeks ahead of when you actually want to launch it.”

LaHood said more direct training of staff would have been beneficial.

“I thought we had done a good job explaining to everyone in the organization how we needed their help promoting this campaign, but we did not do enough,” she said. “I would do a lot more direct training and explaining to people what they need to do to help.”

A road map for Pedal-Powered News

The success of the campaign gives the Public Press an ambitious goal of doubling its San Francisco distribution in six months. The first step is to source the bicycle trailers and hire “newsies” to deliver the summer issue to members and existing distribution locations in late July; then the distribution team will focus on securing additional retail locations for the fall and winter publication cycles.

The campaign itself was an invaluable opportunity to reach more readers and build the organization’s reputation.

Stoll said that even a week on, support was still flowing through the web donation page.

“We have already shown that our donor ‘funnel’ has grown, and we can go back to those same people for more support during our next pledge drive,” he said.

LaHood said: “In terms of a membership campaign, this has been amazing.”

“The campaign itself was great for outreach, and just being able to rally people around the specific event with a time limit really did wonders for us.”

You can still back Pedal-Powered News by becoming a member today.

Thanks to our 1,016 favorite people, we got our $10K match!

Dear friends and supporters,

We did it! And it all happened thanks to you. Throughout this campaign, we were amazed by your generosity in backing Pedal-Powered News and by your contagious enthusiasm for supporting local public-interest journalism.

With your help, we raised $21,328 — more than double our Kickstarter fundraising goal — and recruited 1,016 backers, which unlocked an additional $10,000 in matching funds from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

If you followed the last few hours of the campaign, you know that we were showered with support on social media. The campaign went viral and reached 1,000 backers at 10:46 p.m. — just in the nick of time.

We love that 16 of you joined us even after we reached our participation target! If you wanted to back Pedal-Powered News and ran out of time, you can always support this effort by becoming a member on our website.

From all of us at the San Francisco Public Press, we can’t thank you enough for supporting this nonprofit, noncommercial news organization and our efforts to produce in-depth, data-driven, consequential investigations on under-reported topics.

We look forward to launching our team of newsies-on-wheels to deliver our summer issue later this month! Watch for a follow-up survey to verify the spelling of your name for publication on thank-you pages online and in our summer print edition, which is set to arrive at the end of July.

Special thanks to Knight Foundation and to the Investigative News Network for taking a chance with our offbeat idea for engaging the community and getting the Public Press into the hands of more local readers.

With sincerest thanks and great appreciation,

Lila LaHood, Michael Stoll and everyone at the San Francisco Public Press

Pedal-Powered News is Fully Funded on Kickstarter!

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