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The Public Press Blog

The People Behind the Press: The Skeptic

We’re grateful for support that we’ve received this past year. We want you to know what you’re getting for your donation by introducing you to some of the talented freelance writers, editors, photographers and multimedia journalists who make our newspaper possible. Make a donation today to make sure that our journalists can continue to bring you more serious public-interest reporting in 2014.

The Skeptic: Michele Anderson

Michele Anderson brings her dry wit, prodigious vocabulary and keen editorial eye to her work at the San Francisco Public Press.

As print edition editor, Michele contributes to the Public Press in ways that extend far beyond her title. With a background in law, journalism and nonprofits, she wears many hats in our growing organization.

Michele manages our partner team, which selects content from our nonprofit media partners to publish on and in our quarterly print edition. When selecting partner content to highlight, Michele says, I first ask myself, do any stories address 'hot' issues and do they have local impact? Partner stories about Google buses, affordable housing, the tech renaissance, sex trafficking, cooking in SROs, rising seas near Ocean Beach and zombie bees have all found their way onto the Public Press website and print edition. I choose important stories that affect the lives of people living in the Bay Area.

As a self-professed “news hack,” Michele is perfect for her work at the Public Press: “I love news, facts, info — and I am addicted to keeping up with what is going on in the community.” As our most experienced copy editor, Michele catches tough-to-spot errors in grammar and usage, questions assumptions and encourages reporters to consider alternative perspectives.

In the newsroom, we appreciate Michele for her enthusiasm and her versatility. Whatever needs to be done, she is willing to roll up her sleeves and pitch in. When deadlines loom and stress fills the newsroom, Michele has a way of livening things up with her positive energy and humor.  

The People Behind the Press: The Public Records Hound

Journalism that changes public policy takes hard work and resources. Your membership in the Public Press helps inform the community about life-and-death issues affecting tens of thousands of San Francisco and Bay Area residents. We’re grateful for support that we’ve received and want to let you know what you’re getting for your donation by introducing you to some of the talented freelance writers, editors, photographers and multimedia journalists who make our newspaper possible. Make a donation today to make sure that our journalists can continue to bring you more serious public-interest reporting in 2014.

The Public Records Hound: Noah Arroyo

Around the newsroom, Noah Arroyo is known for his persistence. “Camping out at someone’s office is an effective, though time-consuming, way to get a source to talk,” he says. “I've learned that the politicians who avoid my phone calls are usually the ones from whom I'll get something interesting – and that, if I do my job well, they'll evade me far less for the next article.”

Noah has worked on three team projects, including “Bracing for the Big One,” in partnership with veteran reporter Barbara Grady, which exposed an obscure list of 3,000 soft-story buildings that San Francisco officials thought to be potentially at risk in the next earthquake. Noah grilled city officials for months about why no effort had been made to contact those building owners and tenants.

After graduating from San Francisco State University in 2010, Noah cut his teeth as a beat reporter at Mission Local before coming to work with the Public Press, where he says he finds the opportunity to delve deeply into an issue rewarding. “Because we take months to fashion long stories on complex topics, Public Press reporters become mini-experts on things that other news outlets don’t often cover.” When researching a story, Noah has found that the most useful thing to say to an expert is, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I would love to understand it. Can you break it down for me?”

Noah's reporting has led to guest appearances on several local radio talk shows, including KQED’s “Forum.” Last month he appeared on KPFA’s “The Morning Mix” with Executive Director Michael Stoll to talk about the findings of his latest project, “Help Wanted: San Francisco’s Workforce Reboot,” examining dysfunction in San Francisco’s workforce development system.

Help us to hire more freelance journalists to do in-depth reporting on under-covered issues. Now is an opportune time to join the Public Press. Make a donation of $100 or more before the new year and we’ll send you a copy of a great example of muckraking investigative reporting — “The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use ‘Plain English’ to Rob You Blind” by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, author and Public Press enthusiast David Cay Johnston.

THANK YOU from the San Francisco Public Press

From all of us at the Public Press, thank you for your encouragement and engagement. Every time we hear from one of our readers, it reminds us that our watchdog reporting efforts are appreciated.

We are especially grateful for all the financial support we’ve received from you this year. Member contributions are a cornerstone of our funding model and essential to sustaining our newsroom operations. Thank you for supporting in-depth, public-interest journalism in San Francisco.

The Fine PrintWith your support over the past year, the Public Press has brought you stories that no other news outlet in San Francisco is delivering. By digging into public records, we've uncovered stories about minimum wage violations and the efficacy of workforce development programs in San Francisco, as well as the challenges of enforcing California's newly implemented cap-and-trade policies. Our next project, looking into the impact of parent fundraising in San Francisco's public schools, is underway.

If you’re not a current member, now is a great time to join or renew. Make a donation of $100 or more before the new year, and as a thank-you gift we will send you a copy of “The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use ‘Plain English’ to Rob You Blind” by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author David Cay Johnston. In the book, David investigates how phone and cable companies get away with charging customers more by incrementally adding hidden fees to utility bills. Last year we published an excerpt — How the Profits Upkeep Commission Helps PG&E Pick Your Pocket — which you can read on our website. 

David also happens to be a longtime supporter and member of the San Francisco Public Press. He says, “I contribute to the Public Press because San Francisco needs serious journalism about issues that affect the quality of life.”

We hope you agree. Support the Public Press by making a donation today.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Public Press!

Support what's brewing at the Public Press

I’m pleased to tell you that we will be publishing the fall edition of the San Francisco Public Press — Issue No. 12 — in just two weeks, featuring an in-depth report on the effectiveness of San Francisco’s workforce development programs. 

As always, we want to say thank you to our current members. We appreciate your support.

If you need to join or renew your membership, now is the time! Today we are kicking off our fall membership drive. Our goal is to add 30 members by Sept. 27. We hope you'll take this opportunity to renew your membership, join for the first time, or upgrade your existing membership.

Do it now and you will receive the next four quarterly issues of the newspaper delivered right to your door.

As a thank-you, we'd like to send you some coffee to go with your newspaper. Become a member or make a donation of $35 or more through Sept. 27, and we will send you a pound of organic, fair trade coffee beans roasted in San Francisco by Nomadic Ground.

Higher-level memberships come with additional benefits, including our newly designed T-shirt sporting our updated logo, available in gray or orange.

We can’t wait for you to see the new issue. I hope you'll show us your support by joining or renewing today.

Thank you, thank you, for reading and supporting the San Francisco Public Press!

Warmest regards,
Shinwha Whang
Membership Manager

Public Press News Editor Rich Pestorich Moves On to

Photo: News Editor Rich Pestorich, Executive Director Michael Stoll, Publisher Lila LaHood, and reporters Ambika Kandasamy and Barbara Grady.

I'm writing with some bittersweet news.

The sweet: Rich Pestorich, who’s been with us as news editor since the fall of 2010 (issue No. 2) has scored himself a prominent full-time job: online producer for! The bitter: Rich will be stepping down as news editor — though he will remain a core Public Press editorial adviser.

This opportunity came quickly. After his career of more than two decades as a news editor at the Chronicle, Rich had been working for three years part time at the Chron’s sister site, SF Gate. The new job across the hall in the newsroom opened up unexpectedly. He will be helping to shape the paper’s new online direction after the recent announcement that the site's paywall is coming down.

We’re extremely proud that Rich was able to leverage the experience he gained volunteering for a small startup nonprofit newsroom to qualify for one of the top jobs in local mainstream news. Rich used his time here productively, cross-training in new skills, specifically Web production and project editing.

We are grateful for everything Rich has done for the Public Press in the last four years. He has been an invaluable resource on questions of news ethics, San Francisco history and how to manage people in a dynamic and heterogeneous organization. We will miss his thoughtful and witty presence here in the office, as well as his patience and enthusiasm for working for cub reporters and interns. And his dedication to the ideas of in-depth nonprofit news we’re trying to propagate in this quixotic endeavor. He will be impossible to replace.


Michael Stoll, Executive Director


The Fourth Estate and You

Note from the editors, in the summer 2013 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press

Welcome to the future. Thanks to the collapse of print advertising and über-consolidation of formerly competing commercial news companies, independent journalism is becoming a threatened, if not endangered species.

In the news vacuum this trend has created, journalism entrepreneurship is accelerating. But it’s unclear which ventures will achieve influence and sustainability.

That’s where you come in. By design, the San Francisco Public Press is supported by readers, not corporate advertising. Startup nonprofit news organizations around the country are realizing the powerful and liberating potential of this approach.

If you’ve ever tuned into NPR or PBS, or any of the local noncommercial stations around the country that rely on donations, you know the “pledge” model. You may find it charming or a bit grating — but it works. Year after year it helps deliver public affairs programming you can’t find anywhere else.

Without a compelling new commercial model to flood city halls around the country with crusading public-interest muckrakers, the public broadcasting approach is an attractive alternative for media innovators.

It’s a model that might actually expand the ability of the press to do what Glen Greenwald of the U.K. Guardian calls “adversarial journalism.” Think “investigative,” “accountability” and “watchdog.”

Many news organizations have curtailed that kind of reporting when faced with declining ad revenue — the status quo economics of the news business in the 2010s.

 At the Public Press, our focus is public-interest news in a limited geography — San Francisco and the Bay Area.

We know that readers here are hungry for independent reporting on local issues, and that many will support a nonprofit news organization that addresses this need.

We’re hearing from more and more readers who voice appreciation for in-depth reporting that presents complex under-covered stories in context. But to keep the reporters on the beat, we need to build a broad base of public support.

What do you get by becoming a member? In addition to the swag, you’ll know you’re contributing directly to public policy reporting on a range of topics.

Greenwald said that reader-supported journalism holds great promise for emancipation from elite interests. The model, he wrote, “enables journalism that is truly in the public interest — and that actually engages, informs, and inspires its readers — to be primarily accountable to those readers.”

With community support, we can focus on consequential topics that spark meaningful debate. As our member roster grows, we’re prepared to bring you more powerful reporting to extend those conversations.

Don't Let the Fog Fool You

San Francisco is getting sunnier. Not in the way you might learn about from TV news or features in the daily papers; superficial stories about the warm weather at street festivals are cheap and easy to produce.

The sunshine we need is of a kind that’s harder to capture.

Journalists at the San Francisco Public Press are hard at work for you, illuminating complex and consequential policy questions in the city and across the Bay Area. In every quarterly print edition and in updates online we produce an in-depth team reporting project exposing obscure public documents that we wrest from recalcitrant city and regional agencies.

In the last year, our reporting has often led local coverage. We broke the story about a plan to reduce the minimum apartment size to 220 square feet, unleashing a national debate about urban housing standards. Our domestic violence report led Police Chief Greg Suhr and District Attorney George Gascón to launch internal probes on the handling of investigation records. And after we unearthed a list of the 3,000 buildings city inspectors think will be especially vulnerable during the next big earthquake, tenants packed a public meeting to ask why city officials neglected to tell them they were at risk. Michael Krasny of KQED’s “Forum” called on us in February to explain the city’s landmark legislation requiring apartment buildings be retrofitted.

Our upcoming summer edition shines light on California’s ambitious plans to battle the greenhouse effect. We’re scrutinizing state records that few have bothered to look at, and have found what some might call early warning signs that the state’s cap-and-trade pollution marketplace might not achieve its goals in controlling gases that add to a warming atmosphere.

But the real news is that sunshine like this isn’t free. This kind of work requires exhaustive reporting, thorough data analysis, careful writing and compelling visual presentation. To keep that going, we rely on the support of hundreds of individuals who have donated to the Public Press to support independent, nonprofit, in-depth local reporting.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation during our Sunshine Membership Drive. If you’re already a member, thank you for your support! If you haven’t yet given, or if your membership has expired, this is a great time to start or renew. Help keep the lights on at the Public Press. Thank you for your support.

Best regards,

Michael Stoll
Executive Director

Bring on the sunshine!

Summer is as good as here in San Francisco, which means it’s time for the San Francisco Public Press to kick off its Sunshine Membership Drive.

Bring on the sunshine!

As you dust off your barbecue grill and start packing your Memorial Day picnic, we hope you’ll take a moment to send a little sunshine our way — by becoming a member or renewing your membership.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of our current members! Your support makes our work possible.

The journalists here at the Public Press are hard at work to bring you our next print edition's special reporting project on California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For a preview of the project read Chantal Jolagh’s recent story, “California Environmentalists Decry Governor’s Raid on Cap-and-Trade Dollars.”

Pledge now, and you’ll become a member just in time to receive Issue No. 11, coming in mid-June. You’ll also be invited to our quarterly member mixer later in the month.

Membership begins at $35 a year and offers a range of benefits, including home delivery of the next four issues. Visit for more details.

So, bring on the sunshine and become a member today!

Warmest thanks,

Shinwha Whang

Membership Manager

San Francisco Public Press

(Sunrise photo from Shutterstock.)

Thanks for making our fall drive a success

Thank you for making the San Francisco Public Press fall membership drive a big success! Tremendous thanks to all of our new and renewing members for helping us surpass our goal. Your support means so much to us.  

If you weren't able to join during the fall drive, it's not too late: Become a member today.

Annual Open Board Meeting

Annual Open Board Meeting

Join us this Saturday for our annual open board meeting. Our executive director, publisher and other board members will present reports on current operations and future plans. There will be time for public comment and discussion. We will provide coffee, tea and snacks.

When: 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 3
Where: San Francisco Public Press, 965 Mission St., Suite 220, San Francisco

Please let us know if you will attend:

This meeting is open to the public. We will hold an annual meeting for members in early 2013.

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