The Public Press Blog

Help us Zoom in on Important Local Stories

We hope you are having a wonderful holiday season. With less than a week left in 2011, we are in the final stretch of our end-of-year fundraising drive.

Please help the San Francisco Public Press flourish as an independent news source. Every dollar you donate up to $3,000 will be matched by our board of directors through Dec. 31.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far during this campaign. We need just $830 to reach our goal, so please donate today!

Jason Winshell, Photo editor

For twice the buzz, use the Public Press to make an origami dragonfly.

Which story have you enjoyed working on the most?

I have a strong interest in human rights, so a story I enjoyed working on concerned the San Francisco Police Department's use of human trafficking grant money to do street sweeps of prostitutes in the Polk Gulch neighborhood. The story took months to research and served as my initiation into investigative journalism. I plan to continue reporting on the topic.

Why should people support public media like the Public Press?

Public media is beholden to no one. It covers stories that go neglected and promotes accountability and justice. An informed public is essential to formulating rational public policy, coming up with sensible solutions to problems and shaping a government that works for everyone.

Monica Jensen, Multimedia editor and reporter

Capture attention with an origami camera.

When did you join the Public Press?

I got involved back in 2009, when it was an online-only news outlet. I started off by taking photos, but quickly got more involved with other reporting projects as it evolved.

What's one memorable project you've worked on?

The City Budget Watchdog series was one of Public Press' first big projects. The overall impact of the series and the discussions the stories inspired gave me a lot of faith in this profession and organization. Plus, it was my first, and you never forget your first.

Why should people support the Public Press?

The organization has accomplished a lot in a short period of time and with limited resources. Additional and ongoing support will yield more in-depth coverage of issues in San Francisco that impact lives.

Consider making a year-end donation today and help the Public Press deliver quality local journalism in San Francisco.

Donate to Illuminate Local Public Media

We've had a great response to our fundraising drive so far, but we still need your help to reach our $6,000 goal. Our board of directors will match donations up to $3,000 til the end of the year. One more week!

Please support independent public media in San Francisco by becoming a member today.

Our first intern, Ambika Kandasamy, shares her perspective on working in a nonprofit newsroom

How did you get involved with the Public Press?

I joined the organization in February 2009 as an editorial intern. At the time, I was a student at Boston University, working on my master’s degree in journalism. I moved to the Bay Area to finish up my final projects and was looking for opportunities to gain reporting experience and internship credit.

How have you grown within the organization?

I returned to the Public Press less than a year after my internship ended, and I've been writing for the website and print editions since then. I worked on the San Francisco Bay Area Journalist Census project as a researcher. Most recently, I’ve been working as a partnerships editor — curating stories from our news partners like Mission Local, KQED News, California Watch, El Tecolote and other news and civic groups.

How is the Public Press helpful for young reporters?

It’s a great place for young reporters to grow intellectually. The editors offer much support to all reporters, but especially to those who are just starting out in the field.

Most Public Press stories are tied to larger policy issues and require a significant amount of research and reporting. There’s also a strong emphasis on original reporting — we publish stories that aren't getting much attention in mainstream news outlets. That kind of reporting builds a solid foundation in journalism.

What do you enjoy most about working here?

The staff is wonderful. I also love working on the print editions. I graduated at a time when traditional print journalism was sort of disintegrating, and being able to work on our quarterly newspaper has been an exciting opportunity to learn about the print medium. Our ad-free model gives us space to experiment with the design, layout and graphics of the print editions, which is quite fun.

Why should people support the Public Press?

At our news meetings, we find that we always have a surplus of great story ideas, and though we’re able to tackle many of them, there are some stories that we have to push aside simply because we don’t have the funding to pay journalists to pursue them.

Also, we would love to supplement more of our stories with multimedia. Additional funding through memberships, donations and grants would help us buy cameras, editing software, computers and other technological tools.

Your donation will help the Public Press build a more robust newsroom to cover under-reported stories in San Francisco and beyond. Consider making a year-end donation today.

Donate to Help us Fish for Public-Interest News

We hope you are enjoying hearing from some of the key people involved with the San Francisco Public Press. Today our series continues with two intrepid beat reporters who lead our coverage on housing & homelessness and transportation.

Please become a member, so we can continue reporting stories that matter to the community. Our board of directors will match donations up to $3,000 until Dec. 31!

Make a boat like Jerold Chinn's (right) or a fish like T.J. Johnston's (left).

T.J. Johnston, Housing & Homelessness beat reporter

How did you become interested in this topic?

In 2000, I took an intro to journalism class at Media Alliance. We did an investigative piece on nonprofits that serve homeless and impoverished people through city contracts. Only, these nonprofits paid their executives six-figure salaries. The story ran in a zine published by the Raising Our Voices program at Media Alliance, Street Sheet and Street Spirit. I started focusing on housing and poverty issues after that.

What have you learned from covering your beat?

I've become more aware of the civil and human rights components inherent in homelessness. Any coverage on homelessness benefits from information that is truthful and accurate, as well as inclusive of the homeless community. Media that provide such coverage, like the Public Press, deserve support.

Jerold Chinn, Transportation beat reporter

Why do you enjoy writing about Muni?

I'm always learning something new about Muni, whether I'm muninjudahlearning about sander hoses or how the Muni Metro operates. Through my reporting, I'm able to provide riders who can’t attend Muni meetings the latest news about service delays, budget plans, upcoming projects and other important announcements.

How would additional funding help with your coverage?

It would give me time and resources to do more investigative pieces. I would also be able to add more visual elements to my stories, as I did with my video series “Can S.F.'s next mayor save Muni?” which included interviews with almost all of the mayoral candidates on their positions on the city’s transportation system.


Consider making a year-end donation today and help the Public Press expand regular beat coverage of important topics like homelessness and transportation in San Francisco.

Leapfrogging the Commercial Press

Thanks to everyone who became a member this week! Your donations were doubled through our end-of-year matching grant. If you haven't already, we hope you'll consider becoming a member. Your contributions will be matched by our board of directors dollar for dollar up to $3,000 through Dec. 31.

Please become a member today.

Board member Maryann Hrichak explains why she supports the Public Press

Don't you love newspapers? Here are instructions on how to make your own origami frog!

What do you enjoy most about being on the board of directors?

I enjoy talking about the Public Press with people in the community and thinking about ways to get the paper out there. I also enjoy the camaraderie of the board. It's the first board of directors in which I've ever participated. I love seeing the progress of the organization each time the board meets.

What have you learned?

All about the hard work and dedication it takes to actually make this organization run. And how good news is hard to come by. It’s been great to work with such a committed and dedicated group of people who also like to have fun and contribute important, relevant and timely news for people in the Bay Area.

Why should people support the Public Press?

Because their journalism is excellent and the issues they report on are not covered as indepth anywhere else, to my knowledge. This is a good organization to call your own, especially if you live in San Francisco.

Why do you support public media?

All kinds of public media are important to our daily lives, especially in a place like the Bay Area. You get some of the best views and critical news from those who are involved with public media and helping to make it really work. Your perspective is broadened and you learn a lot.

What's the best way to get involved?

is important not only for the special benefits you get as a member; it also gives the organization a steady financial base so the editors and reporters can focus on doing good journalism. Members also get to meet other members at special events, share common interests and concerns, and feel like they are part of something much larger than themselves.

Please consider making a donation today.

Double Your Donation to Independent Media!

Great news! Our board of directors will match your donations up to $3,000 now through Dec. 31, 2011. Your gift will help the Public Press continue to do serious reporting on important under-covered stories in San Francisco. Please become a member today.

We Don’t Duck Important Stories

Our news editor, Rich Pestorich, who has worked in Bay Area journalism since 1987, asks you to support the Public Press this holiday season.

Why did you join the Public Press?

I liked the idea of it being a startup. We are covering areas other newspapers and news organizations aren’t. The whole idea of nonprofit, noncommercial news is intriguing.

What’s the best part of your job?

I like the variety of stories and people I get to work with — a lot of people come through here with a range of talents. It’s interesting to see how they attack stories. It’s also been fun to help guide young journalists and help them improve their reporting

Newspapers are fun! Click here for instructions to make your own origami duck.

Why quarterly newspapers?

This is a good, old-fashioned broadsheet that has a good mix of stories with our own original investigative and explanatory reporting along with reports from news partners. It’s a unique array that you can’t find anywhere else.

So, the Public Press also publishes stories from more than two-dozen Bay Area news and civic organizations. Why?

A lot of these organizations don’t have a print outlet. They only publish online, so people who don’t have regular access to the Internet don’t have a chance to see those stories. That’s one of the things we offer with print — we help bring important news to underserved communities.

Why would you encourage someone to become a member of the Public Press?

Membership gives people an opportunity to be involved with the Public Press and with journalism in general. We’re not making decisions in some far-off boardroom. We’re making them right here on Mission Street in San Francisco. Members are always welcome to visit our newsroom and share their ideas with us.

Your donation to the Public Press will expand our ability to hire freelance writers and editors to cover under-reported stories in San Francisco and beyond. Consider making a year-end donation today.

Not all newspapers are dinosaurs!

 As the year comes to an end, we would like to take you behind the scenes of the San Francisco Public Press and introduce you to the editors, reporters, photographers and others working together to dig up unheralded local stories in the public interest.

We can't do this work without your support. Please donate to the Public Press during our end-of-year fundraising drive.

Michael Stoll, Executive Director






Why did you start the Public Press?

The inspiration came from the deterioration in local news media that a lot of colleagues and I saw in the late 2000s, due to corporate consolidation and the loss of advertising revenue to the internet. No one had thought to combine the newspaper subscription model and the public broadcasting "pledge" model, so we officially began our endeavor in March of 2009 with a grant from the San Francisco Foundation. We launched the print edition just over a year after that.

What makes the coverage in the Public Press different?

We’ve done stories about local development and the problems of overspending on capital projects resulting from political interference — like the Bay Bridge report from 2009 and the Treasure Island package from 2010.

The just-published Healthy San Francisco reporting project is a great example of how a small independent news organization can take a deeper look at a very big local program than any of the mainstream news media have done before. 

What is the benefit of your ad-free model for news?

We can do journalism more independently. In our first edition, we investigated dubious sales practices in the gem department of Macy's, something that is unlikely to receive a lot of attention in a commercial newspaper.

The in-depth story on the payday loan industry, published in the Winter 2011 print edition, is another great example of business coverage not from the perspective of people who invest in businesses, but from that of average consumers. That’s not the approach that the business page of a daily newspaper usually takes.

What is the biggest challenge that the organization faces?

Money to bring readers more and better independent reporting. We currently have bigger ambitions than resources. We have more than 75 active freelance contributors, volunteers and interns, and a larger network of supporters across the Bay Area. We would love to be able to pay our staff competitive freelance rates and publish both the paper and the website more frequently.

What can we expect from the Public Press in 2012?

We are already developing two big collaborative reporting projects for the next two issues, and we hope to roll out additional reporting on the low-income finance industry, environment, transportation, and housing and homelessness. Our dream is to increase frequency of the publication to monthly by the end of next year.


Will you help Michael bring serious, independent news back to San Francisco? Memberships start at $35 for one year. Contributions of all sizes are welcome, and are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Please become a member today


Coming this week: Issue No. 5

The San Francisco Public Press remains a unique offering. Call us a story of “old-school entrepreneurialism.” With every print edition we get sharper and more adept at producing a publication chock-filled with important local stories and serious, in-depth reporting — and not one paid ad.

We're incredibly excited to announce the impending arrival of our Winter 2011 print edition (Issue No. 5). It's hitting the streets this week. You can find copies at your local bookstore for just $1 (find locations). If you're a member — or become one — expect your copy in the mail soon.

This four-color broadsheet features several original stories, including a special section that tackles the Healthy San Francisco program, the city's unique attempt at local “universal” health care. We found that the quality of the care is great, but there is a high hidden cost in the form of reliance on federal grants and an overstretched network of community clinics that are facing a flood of new patients. The story touches on the national health care debate as many local and state governments attempt to provide their own universal care systems. We are rolling the health care stories on the web this week and will publish the stories listed below as we deliver, mail and hawk the paper in the city.

What else can you expect? We examine an initiative called “restorative justice” being pioneered in San Francisco that tries to get students diverted from suspension and expulsion. By diverting offenders to peer courts where they are confronted by their victims and own up to their misdeeds, the San Francisco Unified School District has reduced suspensions and expulsions to among the lowest levels in the Bay Area. Other school districts are following San Francisco’s lead.

The paper also features a report on the San Francisco Police Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking, and how experts say street arrests of prostitutes conducted over the summer may actually have frustrated their ability to help victims.

And we have a great story on efforts to relax restrictions on “payday” loans, and why some of the biggest banks, including San Francisco’s own Wells Fargo, have invested in an industry that offers short-term loans to low-income people at interest once considered “usurious” by the state of California. Some state legislators are nonetheless working to allow these profitable storefront businesses to lend even more money at annual interest rates of 400 percent, or more.

Buy a copy at any one of 50 Bay Area locations. We will be making deliveries throughout the day and will update the page as copies arrive at each location.

If you'd like a copy hot off the press, stop by our office at 965 Mission St., Suite 220, after 8 a.m. this Wednesday.


The Editors

Who really pays for San Francisco to cover the uninsured?

UPDATE: Thank you to all the supporters who donated to see these stories published! The report was published in the Winter 2011 edition of the Public Press. Read more:


Could San Francisco have figured out a model for providing universal health care on a tight budget?

The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at USC Annenberg is helping to sponsor a reporting project by the San Francisco Public Press to take a closer look at whether local health care reform ideas are working in one major metropolis.

The city recently launched a grand experiment, stringing together a bare-bones community clinic network and a county hospital into an ersatz universal health care program.
Local officials claim to be saving millions of dollars through coordination, prevention and digital medical records. If the program pencils out as promised in San Francisco, it might be a model for the nation or other cities. Gavin Newsom, who ascended from San Francisco’s mayor to lieutenant governor, made such promises, but he left the city in January. Now the Department of Public Health is working hard to reduce costs and improve health outcomes.
Healthy San Francisco was designed to bring health care to San Francisco’s estimated 73,000 uninsured adults. Two years later, at least two-thirds of them — or 54,000 people — had enrolled, and the system was delivering health care at a cost of $126 million.
The city deems the program a success as measured in social equity. But there has been little analysis of cost savings. No media outlet has thoroughly reported whether Healthy San Francisco is a better financial bet than the former patchwork of private insurers and public hospital emergency rooms covering the medical emergencies of the uninsured.
At a time when federal health care reform is under attack — with Congressional Republicans threatening to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, and 28 states challenging it in court — we need to take a closer look at whether a local version of universal health care is cost effective. Congressional opponents of the federal system are most concerned about cost, claiming that the new law will balloon the deficit. States argue that the federal law violates their sovereignty and that of its citizens.
A close examination of the finances and cost-effectiveness of Healthy San Francisco would be welcome reading for anyone interested in the future of health care in the U.S. Our story also will provide lessons for other municipalities and states considering how to address health care access shortages at a time of squeezed budgets and rising costs.
We are developing a data-driven story examining the cost effectiveness of Healthy San Francisco and laying out the context of past efforts to include those who lacked health coverage. We will find out how much is being spent, how much is being saved, and by whom and what trend lines can be expected (as a whole and on a per capita basis). We’ll also assess the costs to medical practitioners, users and hospitals.
We've assembled a team of four experienced reporters, a photographer, a graphic designer and a social media expert to tackle the story from the angles of changing medical records technology, preventive medicine and emergency room costs.
  • Barbara Grady is a veteran reporter who has written for Reuters, the Oakland Tribune,, Oakland Local, Patch, Business 2.0 magazine and various nonprofits in addition to SF Public Press. She was a 2009 recipient of a national "excellence in journalism" award from the Society of Professional Journalists. 
  • Reporter Kyung Jin Lee is an editor at the National Radio Project, and has written freelance stories for a wide array of local and national publications.
  • Angela Hart is a longtime reporter for the San Francisco Public Press who has written about media, development and the San Francisco budget. She is the editor of Rohnert Park Patch.
  • Alice Joy is a former reporter for the Hollister Free-Lance, where she focused on education and health.
  • Jason Winshell is photo editor for the Public Press.
  • Tom Guffey is design director for the Public Press.
  • Ambika Kandasamy is a Public Press reporter focusing on social media engagement through Facebook, Twitter and other tools.
The San Francisco Public Press is developing a package of in-depth stories covering the Healthy San Francisco program from multiple angles. The stories, interviews and photos will be the centerpiece of the winter 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press — a local nonprofit, noncommercial startup news organization.
We are working with various public-media and civic partners to magnify the reach of this story. We are working to develop a public discussion in San Francisco this fall based on our project, and have plans to turn the reporting into a polished radio story to air on a local or statewide public broadcaster.
We are planning to use to host audio interviews with a wide range of formerly uninsured users of the system to ask: Is Healthy San Francisco affordable to you? Are you getting the care you deserve?Could San Francisco have figured out the model for providing universal health care on a budget?

Can S.F.'s next mayor save Muni?

With a $23 million deficit only two months into the fiscal year and on-time performance stuck at a measly 72.9 percent, San Francisco’s public transit system, Muni, is clearly in trouble. Riders bear the brunt of Muni’s woes as it tries to balance the budget.

What do San Francisco’s mayoral candidates have to say about Muni’s financial plight as well as the other problems — reliability and Muni overtime — that have been plaguing the system for years?

Public Press Muni beat reporter Jerold Chinn (@jchinn84) and photographer Steven Rhodes (@tigerbeat) are interviewing the top mayoral candidates on their plans to improve Muni’s service and fund the transit agency.

You can make the reporting possible by pitching in a few dollars or taking a short survey at Spot.Us:

You will get a chance to see and hear what the mayoral candidates' plans are to improve Muni service and help fund the transit agency if they become mayor on Nov. 8, 2011.

Thanks for your help.

SF Public Press Crossword Creator Featured in New Documentary

For Andrea Carla Michaels, who has been crafting crossword puzzles for about thirty years, a good puzzle is “the same thing that makes you laugh — you don’t know quite what it’s going to be, but it’s something unexpected and it’s something that resonates deep inside.”

Michaels, who creates crossword puzzles for the quarterly print edition to the San Francisco Public Press, is a regular puzzle contributor to The New York Times. She is featured in a charming new short documentary “Life in Black and White” by San Francisco filmmaker, Regina Rivard. The film sheds light on four Bay Area residents whose lives center on black and white — a crossword puzzle-maker, an aquatic biologist who works with penguins, a piano tuner and a Domino club founder.

Watch the interview with Michaels here:

Film credits:

Producer/Director/Editor: Regina Rivard

DP: Josh Hittleman, Rob Fitzgerald, Bevan Bell

Audio Tech/Post: Ben Morse

Music: Andy Greenwood

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