California Today: California Today: Your Local Newspaper Is Hurting

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East Bay Times reporters, from left, Matthias Gafni, Thomas Peele, Harry Harris, Erin Baldassari and David Debolt reacted as they learned of their Pulitzer Prize in their Oakland office this month. Credit Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group

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This month the East Bay Times was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36 people.

The publication’s win was evidence that even after years of economic free-fall in the news business, local journalism was alive and kicking.

Then, days later, word came that as many as 20 newsroom jobs would be eliminated in a cost-cutting effort, according to labor negotiators.

“It’s a punch in the gut,” said Carl Hall, executive officer at the Pacific Media Workers Guild, which represents East Bay Times staff. “You cannot say this is not a high quality work force.”

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Neil Chase, executive editor of Bay Area News Group, which oversees the Times, said newspapers had not yet figured out how to counter slumping ad revenue. “Nobody is happy about this,” he said of the cuts. “I’m certainly not.”

Since 2001, American newspapers have shed more than half of their work force. Evidence of the culling in California is everywhere:

A labor survey found that newsrooms in the East Bay and South Bay shrank by more than a third in the last five years.

— With fewer than 500 newsroom employees, The Los Angeles Times is now less than half of what it was in 2000.

— According to a Pew survey in 2014, the number of newspaper reporters assigned to the statehouse, 24, had fallen by a third from a decade earlier.

“It’s been ugly,” said Gabriel Kahn, a journalism professor at U.S.C.

There have been some bright spots. Nonprofit journalism start-ups have expanded in California over the past decade.

Among the entrants are Voice of OC, which produces investigative reporting in Orange County, and inewsource, which does the same in San Diego. Another, CALmatters, was formed in 2015 with the help of tech industry donors to stem the decline of reporting on state politics.

“I just thought it’s crazy that in the state nobody knows who represents them in Sacramento, and the reason they don’t is that there’s no coverage,” said Simone Coxe, a former public relations executive in Palo Alto who co-founded CALmatters.

Still, the rising class of nonprofits is nowhere close to replacing what’s been lost in the die-off of California news gathering.

Matthew T. Hall, editorial and opinion director at The San Diego Union-Tribune, said it’s crucial to make those stakes clear to readers.

“I tell people all the time,” he said. “You don’t have to subscribe to the Union-Tribune, but donate to Voice of San Diego, give money to KPBS. Pick a journalism outfit that you think is valuable and prove it.”

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California Online

(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)


Protesters outside United States District Court in San Francisco this month. Credit Haven Daley/Associated Press

• A San Francisco judge blocked Trump administration efforts to cut aid to “sanctuary cities.” [The New York Times]

• Officials called on the University of California to reverse its tuition increase after a scathing audit accused it of mishandling funds. [Los Angeles Times]


Sierra Williams, a student at University of Southern California, was enrolled in the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, a program that prepares underprivileged kids for higher education. Credit Brad Torchia for The New York Times

U.S.C. has been called a rich kids’ playground, but it outpaces peers in lifting disadvantaged kids to better lives. [Opinion | The New York Times]

• Five people died from heroin overdoses in Sonoma County in the last 10 days. [The Press Democrat]

• The spring home-buying season is here and the bidding wars in Southern California are “insane.” [Los Angeles Times]


The News Feed team at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park. Credit Spencer Lowell for The New York Times

Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged the dangerous side of the social revolution he helped start. What now? [The New York Times]

Ann Coulter is standing by her plan to appear at U.C. Berkeley. Right wing groups called on supporters to be “battle ready.” [San Francisco Chronicle]

Stephen Bannon’s Hollywood years: What he actually did before becoming a senior adviser to President Trump. [The New Yorker]


The vineyard at Bruma Valle de Guadalupe, a small resort that is being expanded by Juan Pablo Arroyuelo, a Mexico City developer. Credit Oriana Koren for The New York Times

• Vineyards and culinary marvels beckon in the austere backcountry of Baja California. [The New York Times]

• “Bay Area chefs are crafting some epic burgers these days” — a guide. [The Mercury News]

• Six satellite images show California reservoirs near their lowest and highest points since the drought. [NASA]

And Finally …

Ken Pesso hasn’t been sleeping well.

It’s been more than a week since a mountain lion slunk into his family’s Pescadero home and walked out with their 15-pound dog in its teeth, never to be seen again.

Pescadero, a coastal town that backs up to the Santa Cruz Mountains, is no stranger to wildlife. Ranchers commonly lose livestock to mountain lions.

But wildlife officials say it’s virtually unheard-of for one to enter a home.


Lenora was snatched by a mountain lion from a home in Pescadero. Credit Ken Pesso

“Never in my wildest imagination would I ever think this would happen,” Mr. Pesso, 64, said.

The attack happened around 3 a.m., the night after Easter Sunday. The big cat slipped through a door that had been left ajar to let in fresh air and entered a bedroom where Mr. Pesso’s wife and daughter were sleeping.

The dog, a Portuguese podengo named Lenora, was sleeping at the foot of the bed. Suddenly, she began “barking feverishly,” said Mr. Pesso.

“The second it happened there was no hope,” he said. “It was gone.”

Wildlife officials later tested blood from the scene and confirmed the presence of mountain lion DNA. They have no plans to pursue the animal.

The family remains on edge. Twice since the attack, their second dog, a Border collie/pit bull mix, has “gone ballistic” late at night, Mr. Pesso said, suggesting it sensed something was on the property.

Mr. Pesso said he was taking precautions like adding motion-activated lights that are known to scare off the cats and keeping an air horn nearby.

And another one, he added: “Obviously close your doors.”

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see:

The California Today columnist, Mike McPhate, is a third-generation Californian — born outside Sacramento and raised in San Juan Capistrano. He lives in Davis.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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