We need you to tell the whole story. Become a member today!

Michael Stoll's blog

10 Things I Learned About Homelessness at Our Community Workshop

At the Impact Hub in the Mission District, a workshop tackled problem-solving for initiatives by the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. Photo by Garrick Wong // San Francisco Public Press/Renaissance Journalism

It was a dizzying day at our Jan. 25 conference, Solving Homelessness: A Community Workshop.

With dozens of speakers and hundreds of side conversations among the 200 attendees, it was clear that the reporting we’ve done at the Public Press to gather and investigate just a few of the most intriguing ideas for solutions to the human rights crisis playing out on our streets daily has just scratched the surface.

By engaging the community, we opened ourselves up to criticism but also reaped the reward of an activated public. Many attendees — neighbors distressed by the sight of people living on the sidewalks and in marginal shelters, as well as subject experts who have devoted their lives and careers to helping stabilize people’s lives — said they learned new things and got inspired to follow up with proposals for fixes to broken systems.

I was surprised to learn a few things too. Here are 10:

  1. Mark Farrell wants to be the homelessness mayor.  That’s what Jeff Kositsky, the director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, told me after rushing in after a series of meetings with the new mayor about his priorities Farrell — the surprising choice for a caretaker mayor after his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors ousted the board president, London Breed, from her temporary job — is very focused on making progress on homelessness, he said. But what can he possibly get done before the special election in June? 
  2. Wheels for the homeless are a sticking point. Kositsky clashed with activist Amy Farah Weiss, whose Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge advocates building temporary structures on wheels organized into ad-hoc clusters on city or donated private land. Kositsky is a fan of building a range of experimental small housing structures, including legal accessory dwelling units in backyards and basements. But anything with wheels, which are hard to get to conform to building and health codes, is a problem for a city department focused on permanent housing.
  3. Alaska is the socialist vanguard. Ken Fisher of the Economic Justice Project/Truth Be Told presented one of the more in-vogue, if quixotic, ideas — universal basic income. Granted that there aren’t many scenarios in which local and state government could provide large checks to every citizen to cover the basic cost of living here, he did provide one counterintuitive example: the Alaska Permanent Fund for decades has given checks to every resident as a dividend from oil industry royalties. Where is California’s commodity windfall to level the playing field for the poor?
  4. S.F. really is a homelessness “magnet.” The third rail of homelessness policy in San Francisco is the so-called magnet theory — the question of whether, by providing generous services and subsidized housing, City Hall is drawing homeless people here. Kositsky pointed out that in recent surveys, about half of the newly homeless in San Francisco came from somewhere else (mostly other cities in the Bay Area). That’s a different slice on the same survey that also says that about 70 percent of all  unhoused homeless were living in the city when they became homeless. I asked him if the data on churn in the newly homeless lent credence to the “magnet theory.” He said no. His point was that we need regional solutions, in which cities cooperate to help people out of homelessness where they come from. However ...
  5. We theoretically can afford to house everyone. “The reality is that we’re serving about 20,000 people a year, with about a third of our budget,” Kositsky said of his department in a talk at the close of the event. “We just cannot build our way out of this.” In fact, he could afford to do it — with a budget of about $750 million a year. That’s three times the current budget. It’s not cheap, but it’s also not technically impossible, considering the city’s budget this year is topping $10.1 billion.
  6. There are many missing persons. One of the most surprising presentations was by Kevin Adler, whose nonprofit organization, Miracle Messages, helps connect homeless people with their loved ones. Some people struggle with mental illness and thus problems doing the research themselves. Others are ashamed. The organization reunites them with family members and friends who can help support them either here or in other parts of the country.
  7. Welcome, village people. Several presenters envisioned micro-housing — tiny, private abodes that can be built for a few thousand dollars each. These are not exactly Weiss’s idea of mobile structures, but rather permanent small villages. The key to neighborhood acceptance, said architect Charles Durrett, is attractive design.
  8. Not in my parking space. You’ve probably heard the phrase “not in my backyard.” Architect/designer Richard Tsai has produced renderings of his proposed “Park Shelter”: beautifully furnished industrial shipping containers that can each fit into a standard parking space. The approach is sound, assuming the requisite political will: The streets are public property that localities can put to a public purpose, and there are more than enough parking spaces to house every homeless person in one of the steel boxes, he said. But what is lacking is the consensus that spots for cars should be sacrificed to get people out of being exposed to the elements in tents, sleeping bags, cardboard boxes (or even their own cars).
  9. Businesses, too, can help. On a panel of people who have experienced homelessness, Shanna Orona (a.k.a Couper) has quite a story to tell. She was a firefighter who lost her job and split with her domestic partner, and through the economic tumult ended up on the streets. She said that when she was living in a tent, people wouldn’t look her in the eye. It was humiliating. The Impact Hub San Francisco, a co-working space in the Mission District where the conference was held, offered her a space in their parking lot for a micro-home on wheels built by St. Francis Homelessness Challenge. In exchange, she helps out with events and logistics. More businesses could do the same, though it’s not at all clear this is a scalable solution. (Read more about Couper and her box home here.)
  10. People care. Of about 200 people who attended the event for the whole day, many were already working on solutions through their jobs or activist projects. But probably the majority were average concerned residents, looking for a way to help. The conference was a chance for them to get up to speed quickly and offer their reflections on solution ideas that were already in motion. And in afternoon workshops, nearly everyone had a chance to speak and offer their own ideas.

At separate breakout groups, participants discussed possible solutions involving mobile transitional villages and services beyond housing. Photo by Garrick Wong // San Francsco Public Press/Renaissance Journalism

At separate breakout groups, participants discussed possible solutions involving mobile transitional villages and services beyond housing. Photo by Garrick Wong // San Francisco Public Press/Renaissance Journalism

Did you attend “Solving Homelessness: A Community Workshop” on Jan. 25? Did you come away with other assessments? What made a big impression for you? What are the most promising — and most problematic — proposals for solutions? Add your thoughts in the comments below, or on our Facebook page. And sign up for our email newsletter for updates and follow-ups on the event.

Community Outreach for LPFM Radio Project Kicks Off

Thank you to the 40+ people who showed up last Thursday for our community meeting to discuss ideas for a start-up radio venture in San Francisco!

The background: The San Francisco Public Press is exploring the possibility of setting up a new low-power FM radio station after winning a permit from Federal Communications Commission to broadcast on the frequency 102.5 FM. We have 18 months (renewable for an additional 18 months) to move forward. We have a timeshare agreement with San Francisco Community Radio (formerly KUSF in Exile) for each group to get 12 hours a day on the same channel.

What happened: In two hours on Thursday, we scratched the surface of what’s possible in terms of content creation, writing a set of shared values, seeking organizational partnerships and exploring new storytelling formats. We are reaching out to individuals who are interested in participating as staff, volunteers, donors, or allies. We will provide more opportunities to brainstorm ideas for diverse public-service programming, including journalism, public events, talk shows and more. Check out this excellent summary on Medium from Samantha Clark, a journalism student at U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

What’s next: We have lots of news to share with you and are preparing a thorough report-back from the meeting. In the meantime, we are setting up a Google Group for people who want to learn more and get involved. If you’ve already provided us with your email, we’ll be sending you an invitation in the next few days. We also plan to hold additional meetings this fall. If you’d like to hear how you can get involved email radio [at] sfpublicpress.org.

Public Press News Editor Rich Pestorich Moves On to SFChronicle.com

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 SFChronicle.com! 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

Uneven fight against human trafficking — San Francisco Public Press Issue #6



Michael Stoll, executive director

Lila LaHood, publisher

(415) 495-7377, news (AT) sfpublicpress (DOT) org


SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area’s battle against the scourge of human trafficking has been hampered by state inaction because of budget cuts and internal competition among an array of local law enforcement agencies and nonprofits that work on the issue. As a result, some counties arrest hundreds of traffickers and some hardly any; and victim services providers often have strained relations with the police.

Those are among the findings of a team reporting project in the Spring 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press, hitting newsstands on Feb. 15. Stories will also be rolled out at sfpublicpress.org/trafficking over the following two weeks. This issue features a 10,000-word special section on human trafficking produced in collaboration with New America Media and the San Francisco bilingual newspaper El Tecolote.

Stories in the package, to go online through Feb. 23, explain why a 2005 California law that made trafficking illegal fell far short of the criminal punishments imposed by other states, and why a citizen initiative is trying to amend that law on the November ballot. Another story, produced by New America Media, explains why the current reform stems back 10 years to the horrific Berkeley “sex slavery” case, in which a wealthy abuser got only eight years in prison and is now free.

The Spring 2012 print issue also features stories about the Healthy San Francisco universal health care program, and how its future could be drastically changed by President Obama’s national health initiative. The issue also tackles the peril facing community gardens in the Bayview, ranked-choice voting and the transit chaos anticipated during the America’s Cup races.

In addition to its own independent, nonpartisan reporting, the Public Press brings quality reporting from other nonprofit media to new audiences. Also in the newspaper are articles and radio transcripts from more than a dozen local public-media and civic organizations, including KQED, KALW, California Watch, Bay Nature and Oakland Local.

The 16-page full-color broadsheet newspaper will be available for $1 at more than 50 retail locations throughout the Bay Area. For locations, visit http://sfpublicpress.org/where-to-buy-the-newspaper. Copies can be ordered online for $4 at http://sfpublicpress.org/order-a-copy-of-the-newspaper.

The San Francisco Public Press was launched online in 2009 and in print in 2010. Its mission is to enrich civic life in San Francisco by delivering public-interest journalism to broad and diverse audiences through print and interactive media not supported by advertising.

The Public Press receives major funding from the San Francisco Foundation, and has received financial support from KQED, the Center for Public Integrity, the California Endowment and more than 500 individual donors. A one-year membership starts at $35. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. The Public Press is fiscally sponsored by Independent Arts & Media of San Francisco, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

- 30 -




Event — ‘The Future of Universal Health Care: Is San Francisco Leading the Way?’

WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, 5:00-6:30 p.m.

WHERE: 330 Ellis St. (at Taylor), San Francisco


Download the 8.5" x 11" flier

Four years ago, the city launched Healthy San Francisco, a pioneering plan to bring universal health care to residents through a network of community clinics and hospitals. Though the program has earned rave reviews for the quality of care and expanding access to thousands of the uninsured, the city is not immune to the national pressures of skyrocketing health care costs.

In an election year in which health reform is on the political front burner, what lessons can the nation learn from San Francisco’s experiment? Will preventive care save or cost more money in the long run? What are the potential long-term policy implications for patients and health care providers? What other cities might have the answers?

Hear diverse perspectives from a distinguished panel of public health planners, care providers, patients and journalists — and share your own health care experiences.

Admission is free. Healthy snacks and beverages will be provided. The facility is wheelchair accessible. 

  • Moderator: Barbara Grady, reporter, San Francisco Public Press (lead author of the Winter 2011 edition special report: Healthy S.F.: Who Pays?)
  • Tangerine Brigham, director, Healthy San Francisco program
  • William Dow, researcher, UC Berkeley School of Public Health
  • Pat Dennehy, director, Glide Health Services
  • Karen Hill, clinic manager Glide Health Services
  • Abbie Yant, vice president of Mission, Advocacy and Community Health at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital... and a Healthy S.F. patient

Sponsors: The San Francisco Public Press, Glide Foundation, Glide Health Services, UC Berkeley of Public Health. 

For information: www.sfpublicpress.org/healthy-sf-forum

Examining local universal care: How San Francisco took an independent -- and expensive -- approach to covering the uninsured

This is a repost of a blog item  for Reporting on Health, the website of the USC Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, which supported the Public Press’ Healthy San Francisco reporting project this winter.

In 2007, San Francisco embarked on a rare and bold experiment, resolving to provide universal health care to its residents. The premise was simple — take an existing local safety-net system of clinics and hospitals and transform it by tracking all patients in one database and giving each patient a medical “home.” The approach, aspects of which are being rolled out in communities across the country, promises to reduce cost, increase quality of care and expand the number of uninsured people covered.

Four years later, many of the goals of the program, Healthy San Francisco, have been met. Over time, more than 100,000 previously uninsured people have been covered. The current enrollment of 54,000 people is anywhere between half and three-quarters of the estimated uninsured population in the city.

But to do so, the city’s Department of Public Health has dug deep into its general fund at a time when most of the other departments in the city have had to cut back. And it has earned less than expected from other sources — payments from low-income patients and a newly created business fee. A $27 million federal government grant expired in July, so the city will have to look for alternative funding sources. The city’s baseline safety net expenditures of about $100 million annually have been wrapped into the $177 million budgeted for the program, and with medical costs rising every year, that liability is expected to continue to grow much faster than inflation.

The big question confronting this ambitious program: can it be sustained financially?

Patient medical records are still kept on paper at the Chinatown Public Health Clinic. Photo by Jason Winshell/SF Public Press

The short answer, after a three-month investigation: yes — but only if the economy picks up, federal grants continue to flow and businesses stop fighting health care mandates.

(Left: Patient medical records are still kept on paper at the Chinatown Public Health Clinic. Photo by Jason Winshell/SF Public Press)

The San Francisco Public Press, which covers public policy in the city and across the region on its website and in a quarterly broadsheet newspaper, decided to go in depth to address this fundamental problem. Coverage of this massive health care program has been nearly absent from the mainstream media outlets. The most in-depth piece about the program was a story in San Francisco Magazine more than a year ago, discussing mostly the program’s promise, before it had much of a track record. Recent coverage in the two daily papers, two weeklies and broadcast media focused almost entirely on a current controversy about health fees levied on businesses, but not on the macroeconomic picture of the program.

With a USC Annenberg/California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship starting last spring, we were able to focus on Healthy San Francisco’s financial sustainability. The rising cost of health care has dominated headlines for years and is one of the key points of political contention between the major parties in Washington. We wanted to examine up close a promising local initiative that could, perhaps, inform the national discussion and trim some of the billions wasted in the current medical care business model. We also wanted to explore what its services have meant to the health of city residents.

Patients vox by SF Public Press

The resulting project: “Healthy San Francisco: Who Pays?” was a special four-page section in the Winter 2011 edition of the print newspaper. Three reporters, two photographers and a graphic designer contributed to the research, interviewing the director of the program, clinic directors, technology specialists, medical staff, independent experts and dozens of patients. They visited nearly a third of the medical clinics and hospitals in the Healthy San Francisco network and discovered some compelling trends:

— While the program has succeeded at providing something like health insurance to tens of thousands of people who never had access to that level of care, without taking into account pre-existing conditions, most of the patients are poor — below 200 percent of the official poverty level. As a result their contributions are millions of dollars below the planners’ initial projections.

— The requirement that medium-size and large businesses pay for the program by giving some level of coverage to their employees, including an option for medical savings accounts and direct contributions to Healthy San Francisco, the program has brought in less money than projected.

— Some businesses are exploiting a loophole in the law to drain unused funds at the end of the year. And there is evidence that some businesses, after initially complying with the law, are lately dropping private insurance in favor of reimbursement plans that are much cheaper. They also leave patients not fully insured.

— Healthy San Francisco appears to be a big bargain, with the average cost of care calculated at $276 per person per month. That compares with an average of $402 for private insurance. But the accounting does not include millions of dollars that clinics and hospitals have had to absorb to care for the additional patient load and technology upgrades to make the system function efficiently.

— Federal grants to spur innovation in health care helped get the program off the ground but may not be renewed, especially if political winds change direction. And while the program was intended to be a bridge to national reform efforts, those programs now face challenges in Congress and the courts.

We published the stories in the print edition Nov. 16, and online later in the week. The response has been very encouraging. In the following weeks the series of four articles has received several thousand hits on the website and has contributed to a marked uptick in purchases of the newspaper, which sells for $1 at about 50 retail locations. The story has been Facebookedtweeted and retweeted more than 1,000 times. Copies were dropped off at the offices of every city supervisor, the mayor and the Department of Public Health, where we have yet to receive an official response.

We have, however gotten ideas for follow-up stories through social media. The point of this project wasnot to produce a package of stories in one lump and then move on. The reporters all say that they have deepened their understanding of health reporting and want to do more. Their laboratory will be follow-up stories on this program and its evolution over time through the Public Press. We are hoping to engage user of the program especially however they can best interact with journalists — online and offline.

See explainer graphic: http://sfpublicpress.org/files/news/healthy-sf-graphic.jpgOne reader wrote in response to a beautiful half-page graphic (left) by Tom Guffey — showing the growing costs of the program and demographic information — that mental-health spending appears to have shrunk as a proportion of the public health budget. We intend to investigate.

Also our lead reporter, Barbara Grady, got a cache of documents from the city indicating which companies had reduced their private insurance offerings. We plan to do follow-up articles on this, as well new reporting by Angela Hart on new budget information — public records that clinic directors should have shared with us months ago. We expect to find several million dollars in extra cost for technology that is not part of the official $177 million tally for the program.

We are planning a live event in in January in collaboration with the Bay Area chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists to get responses from patients, doctors and the general public to our stories and get ideas for follow-up coverage. Reporter Kyung Jin Lee is developing a produced audio story for public broadcasting that uses the extensive recordings we did with a wide variety of sources.

The fellowship was helpful to us in three concrete ways.

First, senior fellow Frank Bass helped us break down the demographics of San Francisco by studying recent U.S. Census data. This helped not only this project but also other reporting on a wide array of stories, indicating neighborhood by neighborhood information on where we would expect to find health problems on a local level. The data show income levels by census tract. Even though one survey asks health insurance status, this information is not asked frequently enough for us to get meaningful neighborhood statistics.

Second, the fellowship helped us moderate the ambition of our project, which still took six months to assemble. We couldn’t report on the quality of care for any of the thousands of medical conditions treated through the system. We were also planning to spend a few weeks hanging out at the San Francisco General Hospital emergency room to observe and interview uninsured patients as they were admitted for non-emergency conditions. It is Healthy San Francisco’s contention that the program has significantly reduced emergency room visits by catching problems earlier and diverting them to clinics, saving money. Healthy San Francisco has produced numbers to suggest that these savings are significant, but the statistics are difficult to interpret because individual health cannot be tracked if tens of thousands of people enroll and disenroll every year.

Third, it helped us focus. Finance remained our main concern — the potential savings notwithstanding, in part because of the unique nature of San Francisco’s foray into health coverage. There are a number of localities — states, cities and counties — rolling out their own universal care programs. Massachusetts and Vermont have the most ambitious, but San Francisco’s approach of tweaking an already robust safety-net clinic system makes it the first major American city to take this route.

Third, the $2,000 stipend that came with the fellowship allowed us to pay decent freelance fees to experienced journalists who could afford to spend the time to do significant shoe leather reporting. We supplemented this with $537 in extra donations earned through a pitch to readers through the online journalism micro-funding website Spot.Us. We hope that our careful but high-impact local reporting on a complex issue, supported by the USC Annenberg California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, will pave the way for future funding from foundations and individuals for similar projects and even an ongoing health care beat.

See the entire package of stories:

* * *

P.S. Like all the participants in my cohort of the Health Journalism Fellowships, the San Francisco Public Press is part of an explosion of startup experimental local news organizations attempting to address shortfalls in serious news coverage as news organizations across the country cut back. The Public Press is nonprofit and noncommercial. We do not accept advertising. We relying on foundation grants (such as The California Endowment’s), syndication, micro-funding, newspaper sales ($1 retail) and the generous support of hundreds of individuals who have donated through our membership program, which is based on the public broadcasting pledge model. Basic memberships start at $35 a year, which entitles you to mailed copies of the newspaper for a year and discounted or free entry to events. Send us $50 and you also get a vermillion SF Public Press branded T-shirt. We are doing a shameless pledge drive because it is necessary to support independent, professional local reporting on topics not covered by the mainstream press. If you’re moved to help out, please contribute!

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.

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: http://sfpublicpress.org/news/healthy-sf


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, MSNBC.com, 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 SFPublicPress.org 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?
Syndicate content