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Longtime Editor Leaves San Diego CityBeat

Longtime Editor Leaves San Diego CityBeat
Longtime Editor Leaves San Diego CityBeat
Longtime Editor Leaves San Diego CityBeat GUESTDavid Rolland, editor, San Diego CityBeat

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. San Diego CityBeat is not going away. It is definitely undergoing a change. The man who helped launch the alternative weekly newsmagazine more than 10 years ago is leaving. Editor David Rolland who has been a frequent guest on the show and the editors Roundtable on KPBS is wrapping up his tenure at CityBeat. In addition, CityBeat associate reporter Kelly Davis is also leaving. Joining me to talk about where they're going and why and what happens to CityBeat now is David Rolland. Dave Koller welcome. Thank you, morning. It's great to be here one last time before hit that dusty trail. [ LAUGHTER ] Dave, this is a big shakeup for journalism in San Diego.. Is it -- was of the difficult decision free to leave? It was a difficult decision a while back when I first started -- realized that my journalism career might be starting to wind down and as I felt more and more strongly about moving into a new phase in my life that is never easy but I think it has been happening sort of gradually so that made it a little easier. Tell us first of all where you going? I am moving to Sacramento, the U-Haul will be rolling out of town on Saturday and I will be starting soon thereafter, starting job with a similar speaker Toni Atkins. Why did you feel your journalism career was winding down? Is this something you are no longer passionate about? Would FML a passionate about it. I will always be passionate about journalism. It is just so important but I think does what I think about when I started to feel this way it kind of trace it back to a visit to Washington DC in 2008 when I went to hang out with Bob Filner when he was still a member of Congress. And happy times. I was just so inspired why the idea of public policy and how it gets made I have become more and more passionate about helping shape policy. As you know, I write almost all of the editorials for CityBeat so largely my job has been commenting on and helping move the needle in terms of public policy, especially when it comes to social injustice issues, partly, homelessness, that sort of thing. So, I have just become increasingly passionate about that part of it. I felt like even though I have had -- I'm really proud of the indirect impact the CityBeat has had on public policy in San Diego I just feel like I want to be more directly involved. And for your coeditor, Kelly Davis, why is she leaving and where is she going? I think it got to the point in her career where she felt like she had done everything she could do. She had gotten to the point where she needed to move on and maybe try to reach a bigger and broader audience for the kind of journalism that she does. She plans to continue doing what she has been doing but not just, not necessarily only for CityBeat. She might contribute. In fact she will contribute to CityBeat. She writes a cocktail column that is continuing for the time being. But her passion is writing about criminal justice as it relates to specifically poverty and mental illness and that sort of thing. She is going to continue doing that Bush wants to do sort of a deeper dive than is allowed amid her current responsibilities, for old responsible these at CityBeat. It is just, it is giving herself the time to devote more of her energy toward its. Are you concerned about what may happen to CityBeat with both of its editor and associate -- associate editor living at the same time? I'm not. I'm not concerned. We have announced my replacement and that is Ron Donahoe who many San Diegans who have been around for a while know from his days of editing San Diego magazine. He is well-connected in town. He has a lot of experience editing publication that is brought in terms of its coverage, of arts and lifestyle and also news. He has something some investigative reporting experience in his background. I feel pretty good about CityBeat prospects moving forward. Did can't take us back to when he moved to San Diego to start CityBeat. What with the concept for this weekly at that time? Wolcott the idea was we looked at the media landscape in San Diego at the time, in 2002 and largely what you had was the union Tribune and you have the San Diego reader and you had to be stations, you had KPBS, the voice of San Diego didn't exist yet. There were some other online San Diego repress that didn't exist, that is doing some good work these days and we thought that there was a niche for a traditional conventional alternative weekly. The San Diego reader is technically an alternative weekly but it is sort of anomaly in our business. It is a little different than your standard alt weekly. We thought there was a niche there mostly for progressive opinion at that time the San Diego Union Tribune was fairly conservative. The reader is, was and is, published by Jim Holman who happens to be an orthodox Catholic and he is not terribly progressive when it comes to LGBT issues and reproductive rights so San Diego did not have a progressive, a strong progressive opinion. That was one of the things that we thought we could come in and do. And also be copper by coverage of more emerging art, visual art and emerging music and just providing more investigative reporting as well. And, who would you characterize, how would you characterize CityBeat audience? Well, I would say that our demographics show that I think the average CityBeat reader is well-educated, has a bit of money and is probably about, I would say, 38 years old. That sort of thing. But that is demographics. Were generally speaking I think it is people people who are engaged, like to know what is going on in terms of lifestyle and entertainment, what is going on around town. The typical alt weekly reader, somebody largely our audience is progressive -- politically but we pride ourselves in knowing that quite a few influential Republicans also read CityBeat. [ LAUGHTER ]. As you say, CityBeat has a reputation of being a progressive, taking a progressive editorial line. Focusing on stories like homelessness, Kelly Davis did a lot of work on homelessness. As you say most recently was focused on prisons and the justice system. And the progressive slant , I guess, permeates, I think it's fair to say, the San Diego CityBeat -- some journalists think that is a reporting from a completely unbiased perspective are -- are over. Do you agree with that? I have always felt that way. Index, one of my mantras when I talk to people about our approach is that objectivity is a myth. You cannot be -- nobody can be objective, really, about anything. What you can try to do can't you can try to be as fair as possible and try to be accurate. You try to get things right so that your readers trust you going forward. I think readers are able to see the revised pretty easily. Bias, subjectivity goes into every decision that you make as a writer, and editor and the design of a story. Who gets -- what source is the first word in a story, what source gets the last word, what quotes you decide to put in there, what the headline is, how you start the story, how you ended -- even just what stories you decide to do. Subjectivity goes into everything -- every decision that is made at every moment of what you do. What we have always -- what we just decided is that we're going to be pretty straightforward about our prices. We're going to tell people we come from a certain slant but try to be accurate, try to be fair and hopefully people, readers will also be reading other publications and getting their news from the radio and television and online and everywhere the idea is you don't get your news from one place. It is just a piece of the puzzle. Is a becoming increasingly challenging to run a weekly? It is challenging to be , I think, in any position in the media these days. But especially publishing? Yes. Print -- print publication has been in and if he plays now for 10 years or so. Largely the tenure of CityBeat has been that. Of time where it is in just a state of flux. When we first got here the economy was just coming out of bust and it had started to turn around in the first few years we lost money, as many startups will do, but then very quickly caught within a couple of years, we really started hitting our stride and we were making some money but then the economy tanked again. It is almost like a perfect storm for us and other media lately. Yes, it is always a struggle but there are so many people that want to do journalism and that will go into this business, still, I talked to college students who want to go in this business even though they know they're not going to make a ton of money, depending on what part of the business to go into, but they are passionate about telling stories and I think that is always going to be the case. People are always going to tell stories and find a way to get those stories out there. Kelly Davis, as we talked about, she just launched an indigo go campaign to find her own journalism. I think everything is changing all of the time. You find a way to tell your stories and get them out there. What are some of the stories that you think had the most impact and influence on the community all you were editor of CityBeat? Well, I would probably say overall over the length of our time so far, as you say, homelessness has been a big issue. I think that has been probably our number one priority editorially how putting faces to homelessness. For a year about seven years ago or so we do something called homeless person of the week. It was a very flippant title for that but it was really almost provocative to say we are going to focus on, every week we will profile somebody that is homeless to introduce somebody who is really your neighbor. We are going to tell the person's story and why they are homeless. That was sort of implement a of our coverage but also editorials, talking about the need for people to be able to sleep outdoors when they don't have a place indoors to sleep. The city should stop ticketing them for that. Fortunately, lawsuit took care of that. That is the kind of thing but also housing first. This model where the best way to help people who are chronically homeless is to get them under a roof and that gives them a better shot at tackling some of the issues that contribute to their homelessness like mental illness or physical disabilities or substance abuse and that sort of thing. I'm sure you are aware that a lot of people in journalism, when they hear a journalist is going to go work for a politician they will say you have gone over to the dark side. [ LAUGHTER ] how are you dealing with that? I say that myself. In fact, ears ago if you had said that was going to happen I probably would have said no, you don't want -- you don't know me. [ LAUGHTER ] like I said, just really got increasingly passionate about public policy and writing about it over the years so much that I just really want to head out these issues from a different angle and try to be more direct about it. I still talk about a. I have lots of friends in the public relations business, in fact, the love of my life the public relations person and they, she and they are just delighting in the fact that I am going to be doing sort of public relations now as a job. What, I tell you, I think a lot of people are going to miss you at the helm of CityBeat. I want to thank you for coming in at explaining why you are leaving us and I hope it will be forever. When are you going? I am heading up on Saturday. I start my job on March 13. It is really only a short-term job because, as you know, with term limits there is an explanation date -- and expiration date and that is the end of 2016. At that point I will look for the next phase of possibly coming back to San Diego to do it. David Rolland, thank you so much. It's for having me. I really appreciate the opportunity to.

San Diego CityBeat is not going away, but it is definitely undergoing a change.

The man who helped launch the alternative weekly news magazine in 2002 is leaving.

Editor David Rolland, who has been a frequent guest on KPBS Midday Edition and the Editor's Roundtable, is wrapping up his tenure at CityBeat.

Rolland is leaving the publication for a position at the office of California State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

CityBeat's associate editor and reporter Kelly Davis is also moving on, but will continue reporting on juvenile criminal justice issues on a freelance basis.

Next week's March 18 issue will be Rolland's last.

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