Lots to do in Oakland on Thursday

I apologize for not yet being able to get to the parking issue or last week’s lobbying ordinance meeting. After enjoying all sorts of free time during recess, I’m having a little trouble getting back into the swing of things around here and have accumulated somewhat of a backlog of half-written posts. I’ll catch up soon, I’m sure.

For today, I want to take care of a little housekeeping around here, and then highlight a number of cool things going on in Oakland tomorrow night.

First, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to complete my reader survey. I received nearly 300 responses and your feedback really is helpful. A recent computer meltdown unfortunately means the loss of many months of work on the site update. Redoing work that’s already been done is always easier than building things from scratch, so I hope it won’t delay the upgrade for too long, but I think we’re probably looking at the end of October at this point. Sorry. Still, there were a lot of decisions I had been struggling with, and your feedback has been instrumental in guiding the choices I have to make.

A number of people asked if I’d be sharing the results of the survey, and I will. But not just yet. I will, however, give you a taste of some of the answers that I found most surprising. First, I was shocked to see that more of you (80%!) report getting your Oakland news from the San Francisco Chronicle than anywhere else. Are you guys aware that the Chronicle barely covers Oakland? Only 65% of you said you read the Trib. Show some love for the hometown paper, folks! I could (and often have) spend hours talking about my frustrations with the local traditional media, and I agree that the Trib could do any number of things better, but at least they write about Oakland!

I was also floored to discover than even though like 90% of you say you live in Oakland, about 30% reported not voting in the special election. dto510 told me to put that question on, and I thought it was silly (“of course all my readers vote. how could anyone possibly spend time reading something so wonky and not vote”). I know I have at least one reader who isn’t old enough to vote, but the rest of you have no excuse.

Anyway, moving on. I also want to extend my deep appreciation to everyone who stepped up and pulled together a guest post for me while I was on break. I hate the idea of leaving you guys with nothing to read, and thanks to the contributions of Max Allstadt, Steve Brown, Vivek B, John Klein, Bob LaMartin, Bruce Nye, and Rebecca Kaplan, that didn’t happen. You guys are all awesome, thank you so much!

Finally, I want to clear up some confusion. A reader who saw me at one of Jean Quan’s meetings about how she wants to be Mayor last week asked if that meant I was supporting her candidacy. The answer is no. Similarly, someone who saw me at a Don Perata event this Spring had asked if that meant I was supporting his candidacy. The answer to that question is also no.

The Mayoral election is, at a minimum, nine months away, and more likely, thirteen months away. I understand why people running for the seat want to start the race now, but for my part, it’s way too early to even think about. When I make a decision about who I’m supporting, I will say so here. Until then, I will likely attend any number of campaign events – for Jean Quan, for Don Perata, and any any number of other people. If Paulette Hogan (who I miss, does anyone know what happened to her?) had a Mayoral campaign event, I would go to that too. So for now, if anyone sees me at any kind of campaign event, they shouldn’t read anything into my presence there except that I am, just like everyone else, curious about what the candidates have to say.

Now, onto the fun part. Tomorrow night one of those evenings that’s just so lousy with cool events that it makes me wish I had a time turner because I would go to all of them if I could.

First off, I will be spending my evening at the Fruitvale-San Antonio Senior Center (3301 E. 12th Street) for the fifth community workshop about the Central Estuary Specific Plan. I was hoping to find time to write about the existing conditions report before the meeting, but I’ve up to my ears in a backlog of work, both for the blog and for my actual job, and I another thing for me to cover and getting all caught up is taking a little bit of time.

As you guys might remember from earlier this year, I tragically lost my Estuary beat writer to grad school, and while we all of course wish him the very best in his studies, it’s yet another thing to add to my very full plate. Until further notice, I’ll be covering this process myself, although I really liked having someone who lived in the area doing it. So if any readers out there live in or near the Specific Plan area and would be interested in covering the issue from this point on, please don’t hesitate to contact me about it.

Anyway, at tomorrow’s meeting, attendees will be get to discuss the Specific Plan’s draft alternatives. As you may remember from our little primer on Specific Plans, once the existing conditions have been studied and cataloged, the next step is to evaluate three different possible approaches to future growth in the area. And that’s what going on at this workshop. It’s a large area, and there are a lot of directions it could go, so if you’re interested in this process at all, this particular meeting should be well worth your time. The meeting (PDF) runs from 6:30 to 9.

If transportation is more your thing, you may want to head over to Eastmont Mall for At-large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s transportation town hall (PDF). AC Transit Director Joel Young, MTC Minority Citizens Advisory Committee Member Jacquee Castain, and California Senior Leaders Alliance Co-Chair Frank Rose will all be on hand to discuss the issues impacting transit service in East Oakland, including AC Transit and BART service cuts, proposed new transit projects, State budget cuts, and how the City of Oakland can help improve services. The meeting will take place in suite 37 on the first floor of the Eastmont Town Center and run from 6 to 8 PM.

Finally, if you don’t like the idea of spending your evening geeking out over transportation or planning, you should definitely make your way down to Jack London Square for their full moon night market. I’ve found myself spending a lot more time in Jack London recently, and I have to say, it’s just thrilling to see things picking up down there. Every time I go, there’s lots of people strolling the square, the outdoor seating at Heinold’s is nearly full, and there are so many couples making out at all the benches along the water that it is practically impossible to find an out of the way place to go smoke. The new building looks great and Bocanova is always packed (I haven’t been yet. I hear it’s good, but expensive), and The Oakbook’s art gallery is charming.

And what better time to take it all in than when the Square is going to be even more crowded than usual. Along with all the usual street fair type vendors, there will be all sorts of entertainment, including live music, craft demonstrations, and OMG an outdoor ice skating rink! You’ll be able to skate all month long, but the rest of it is just a one night only deal. That’s tomorrow from 5:30 to 9:30.

With all those great options, who would even dream of staying home?

34 thoughts on “Lots to do in Oakland on Thursday

  1. A

    Just dropped by the Trib’s website and was greeted with this amusingly confused Javascript error message:

    “No content exists at page 1! Loading 1st page instead.”


  2. Helen

    To A: Agree that the Trib website leaves something to be desired, but please, please continue to try reading. It’s the only newspaper that even tries to cover Oakland.

  3. len raphael

    two most positive things in the trib recently were their investigative piece on Elihu/Peralta school district; and the quote of v’s by brenda payne’s replacement, Tammerlin Drummond (who tends to repeat bp’s habit of tossing off op ed pieces w/o any research).

  4. Patrick

    I usually read the Oakland news on SFGate.com, then go to the Trib website to flesh it all out. After all, V. blogs on SFGate, not the Trib. Can’t stand Tammerlin Drummond. Another emotions-trumps-facts writer.

  5. Robert

    The Trib is not an Oakland paper any more either, although it may have slightly more news about Oakland. But rather than spend time reading two papers, I choose to read one (the Chron) and pick up Oakland specific news in other ways.

  6. East Lake Biker

    I go to sfgate.com for the wealth of news and active commenting on articles. Their subject matter is updated frequently throughout the day. I do check out the Tribune and insidebayarea.com somewhat less frequently. It seems that there’s less going on there. My neighbor subscribes to the paper edition of the Tribune and it’s pathetically thin some days. Being a transportation geek my interest waned in the Tribune after the departure of the original Capricious Commuter, Erik T. Nelson.

  7. Karen Smulevitz

    Some articles in the Trib were written for the Newsgroup’s other papers and not even modified for insertion in the Trib. Community event notices have more Contra Costa entries than Oakland. The other day I was reading an item about city hall, and halfway through figured out it was Piedmont city hall, not Oakland.
    The reporters on local stories don’t know the difference between Avenues and Streets and the headline writers are the worst I’ve ever seen. I subscribe to the Trib in a desperate, unsatisfied search for local news, but I get the Chron for a little balance. The Trib has gotten worse with every change of ownership.

  8. dto510

    I think the Trib is kicking the Chronicle’s butt at Oakland coverage. The Chronicle has an article about Oakland about every other day, and much of that is Chip Johnson and Matier & Ross pontificating. The Trib has several articles a day about Oakland, and they’re much longer than the Chron’s. After the woman killed her daughter and herself at a nursing home, the Trib ran a three-part series on nursing home care – the Chronicle just ran a boilerplate crime story. I can’t remember the last time I read something in the Chronicle I didn’t already know.

    SFGate.com is a good website, and InsideBayArea.com is not. But content trumps presentation. V and I do not blog for the Chronicle, we blog for SFGate.com, which is organizationally separate. I’ve probably linked to more Trib stories than Chron stories there.

  9. Naomi Schiff

    I agree, dto510. We subscribe to both papers. Much of what Chip and M&R write is partially or entirely unresearched. They aren’t talking to enough people and they are not reading many documents. Maybe that is understandable, (though it is not very helpful) as they are columnists, not reporters. On issues I know well, I can see that these writers are frequently clueless; one has the feeling that it is just gossip and received ideas. I remember Chip calling me one day to get some quote (well really it seemed he was trying to provoke me into an angry remark) and when I gave him some alternate informants to call, saying he would not bother to take the time to call anyone else. This is not investigative journalism, this is column-filling. Lots of fiber, not too much nutrition. So where are the Chron’s local reporters and what are they doing?

    They are also unduly prone to occasional unwarranted dissing of Oakland, even though half the Chron staff lives in the east bay and they have plenty of subscribers here. Perhaps the editors think it makes SF feel more nirvana-like to put down the gritty Town across the bay once in a while? Well, I guess I don’t care that much, but it only damages their credibility.

    The Trib is hurting from staff cuts and probably isn’t helped by having their offices moved far away from downtown, but I appreciate that they are making the effort to do local coverage. I hope that they can survive and thrive, and perhaps even expand local reportage. Businesses should consider advertising in it.

  10. navigator

    The Oakland Tribune used to be a great regional paper. Now the Tribune has decided that it would rather break up the paper and tailor it to different suburban communities. The Contra Costa Times is a sister paper of the Tribune but contains just about zero Oakland news other than maybe an occasional sensationalized crime feature.

    Oakland has no media to speak of. Oakland has no reach to the suburbs. The Oakland Tribune is a shell of a paper which still tries to profit from Oakland’s unseemly side by running their incessant and sensationalist “Oakland Homicides” yearly feature. I’ve never seen a city the size of Oakland with virtually zero media. On the electronic side Oakland has Channel 2 with a logo of the Golden Gate Bridge, run by SF executives, and SF anchors. No wonder Oakland has a horrible image. There are no image makers based in Oakland. We are left with the occasional SF charitable crumbs of positive news in the midst of a torrential rainstorm of crime and negativity.

  11. len raphael

    my suburban friends who read the contra costa times (sister to the Trib) describe the cc times coverage as reasonably in depth local coverage including local politics
    and yes even some oakland news.

    Why is the Contra Costa Times (owned by same parent corp) a better newspaper? Maybe it’s staff wasn’t decimated by multiple ownership changes and subscription/advertising drops. Maybe it didn’t have to compete with the Chron and lose the figfht.

    Whatever the causes, the Oakland Trib is a shell of a newspaper.

  12. len raphael

    hmm. taking the npr model to the news media biz.
    hope it works, but judging by the superficial coverage than public radio and tv provides of oakland now, i’m skeptical.

    i’d like to see them try different models to see what works.

    got a smile from the faq’s stats on how diminished newspaper coverage = higher percentage of incumbents getting re-elected. reminds me of the Trib’s city council endorsements. first the editorial page announced we needed new leadership. then they endorsed all the incumbents.


  13. V Smoothe Post author

    Regarding the Bay Area News Project, I’m of course excited about the idea of more local news and very supportive of the non-profit model, but very concerned about their apparent plans to rely heavily on J-school students. The content on the J-School’s existing Oakland website, Oakland North, is routinely riddled with egregious factual errors. The articles lack context and background, and I have witnessed extremely disturbing behavior from the students at meetings.

    I am hopeful that having the student work filtered through a team of professional editors will help mitigate some of these problems. Unless the new project has a significantly stronger commitment to honesty and accuracy in reporting that what we’re currently seeing from the J-School, it will not do anything to fill the local news void.

  14. Max Allstadt

    “Extremely disturbing behavior”? Do tell…

    As for Oaklandnorth, yeah, there have been some pretty bad articles there. Their coverage of Allen Michaan’s recall initiative was particularly info-free. Though, I must mention, the only writer who has mentioned that Michaan’s recall is pointless and that he can’t even vote in oakland… that would be me.

  15. len raphael

    Oakland North UC J coverage: mostly seemed that the reporters did not do their background work before interviewing and writing. no easy to find archives considering dearth of local journalism around here for last twenty years.
    some permanent full time professional editors would help a lot there. many articles were fluffy cultural pieces.

    but you mention poor fact checking. isn’t that journalism 1A?

    btw, who does go to J school?

    -len raphael

  16. livegreen

    V, I totally agree with your concerns. Also, as often done on KQED, when Forum was covering this new News organization, they skipped around a similar concern.

    Another concern expressed was about KQED’s local coverage (anywhere in the bar area). KQED’s CEO (or whichever exec. was on) totally did not get it.

    They’ll have to prove to us they can cover local & esp. Oakland issues. Esp. fact-based instead of just reporting opinionated peoples opinions (which news seems to have degenerated into, no matter who their covering. Ironically the same accusation they transfer blame onto blogs…).

  17. V Smoothe Post author

    Yes, I found that episode of Forum frustrating as well. The most vexing comment for me was:

    The internet is full of all kinds of, you know, homemade, you know, citzen journalism, okay. I think what we’re gonna try to do is bring in the professional core, as Neil put it, the heart, the dedication to truth. The craft. And that’s a paid function.

    Like I said, I’m all for more local news coverage. And obviously dedication to “the truth” is important. But the idea that honestly can only be expected from people who are paid is pretty insulting. And if the project is going to be relying as heavily on J-School students as it appears, well, like I said above, I’ve yet to see evidence of such a commitment on their existing Oakland news site.

  18. Jim T

    Check out CrossCurrents, a show on KALW, for some excellent Oakland coverage. Notably, they recently did a five part (five hours!) series on Living with Violence in Oakland. It was genuine intelligent reporting. Here’s a link to the podcast, in case you don’t listen to KALW (91.7FM) http://crosscurrentsradio.org/podcast/?p=archive.

    On the original topic…Jack London’s Night Market was pretty damn cool. Lots of people, lots of pretty young things, and families, and couples, and stately old ladies. In short, the usual and wonderful Oakland mix. I was struck by the excellence of the retail, which is not too usual for Oakland (by my judgment). I was also struck by extreme lameness of the ice skating rink (um, plastic skating rink, I mean). I hope they do it again! (minus the skating)

  19. len raphael

    LG and V, yes it is ironic that KQED in depth fair and balanced coverage of Oakland typically consists of collecting three self designated talking heads to opine.

    has KQED ever asked Oakland bloggers or even East Bay Express writers to opine?


  20. V Smoothe Post author

    They’ve asked me on Forum a few times, but the timing has just never worked out for me. The shows are usually put together quickly, so you don’t get much notice, and my schedule isn’t as flexible as I wish it was.

  21. livegreen

    When FORUM interviewed Phil Tagami, I thought it was mostly a good interview.
    However I was surprised when an interviewer as skilled as Michael Krasny made a generalization about how terrible the Oakland schools are.

    Besides hating generalizations, if he didn’t know, he shouldn’t have made the comment. He should have asked a question. It’s one of the great problems of journalist & SF based coverage of Oakland: They think they know our City because they happen to live close to it. But Proximity does not = Knowledge.

    Anyway Tagami gave a partial answer by saying he sends his kids to public schools. But he should have outright told Michael that his generalization was not true, there are some very good schools in Oakland. & even though we have a long ways to go, and are starting from behind, Oakland is the most improved school district in the State.

  22. Dave C.

    As for EB Express writers, I seem to remember that Chris Thompson was on Forum after Chauncey Bailey was killed, since Thompson had written an expose about the Bey organization for the Express. It’s generally true, though, that the traditional media are mostly interested in talking to bloggers only when the subject under discussion is navel-gazing about “new media” and “citizen journalism” and blah blah blah. This might be changing, though, as bloggers more and more frequently break news or “own” a story—several times in recent months, I have seen bloggers get props on the TV news for breaking a story, and I don’t think that happened as much just a couple of years ago.

    It’s really a shame that Oakland North is so sloppily reported, written and edited, since they are producing a fair amount of content. Nearly every time I read an article there, I have to resist the urge to post a comment pointing out a factual error or omission, and it’s not as if I’m any kind of expert on the stuff they are writing about. And the frequent grammatical and/or spelling errors make me think that most of the articles aren’t really edited or even proofread either. (Even the posts on my personal blog are more closely edited, in the sense that I read through them looking for problems before I hit the “publish” button!)

    The one time I did post a comment pointing out an error at Oakland North (their first article on the parking controversy said that meter rates had been “doubled,” when in fact they were only raised 33%), they went back and revised the article without any indication that it had been updated to fix a very relevant error. Not only is it a good practice (even among personal bloggers, never mind professional journalists) to make clear that a post or an article has been updated or corrected, but it also made my comment under the article look bizarre, because the error that I mentioned in the comment no longer appeared in the article. Oh well—as the great xkcd cartoon points out, “Someone is wrong on the internet,” but you can’t drive yourself crazy worrying about it.

  23. livegreen

    About reporting updates or corrections, that’s another issue I have with FORUM & Talk of the Nation especially. THey simply don’t do it. When I complained I got a generic legal disclaimer back saying “We’re not responsible for the statements or opinions of our guests”. What a cop-out.

    If the host doesn’t know about a fact, a guest on either show can say a factual error, and it comes across as fact if it’s not corrected.

    M. Krasny tries to hold his guests accountable but if he doesn’t know about a factual error, at least a major one, they should issue a correction.

    They’re treating their shows as a Talk Show, not a News Talk Show, which is what we expect (along with higher standards) from NPR.

    They’re getting used to being compared with declining sources of news like CNN, FOX, the Chronicle or the Tribune. If they accept those comparisons it will only hurt NPR.

  24. Dave C.

    Your expectations from NPR are apparently higher than mine. Personally, I can barely stand to listen to most NPR shows, but I guess that’s neither here nor there.

  25. livegreen

    Don’t worry, if you can’t tell from my post, my expectations of NPR are coming down fast…

    My comments above, about NPR needing a corrections section (like many papers have), were born when Lawrence Eagleburger said on Talk of the Nation that Clinton sent U.S. troops to Somalia. ??

    It’s one thing for the host not to catch that, but to not correct their guest is another story.
    Esp. when the guest is an “expert” and obviously knows better. His error shows either a deliberate variation of the truth, or a gross error in his supposed area of expertise.

    BTW, that is not wrong in opinion (as their legalese said in reply to my complaint). It’s also wrong in fact. This is but one simple example of many…

  26. Quercki M. Singer

    Dave C.It’s really a shame that Oakland North is so sloppily reported, written and edited, since they are producing a fair amount of content. Nearly every time I read an article there, I have to resist the urge to post a comment pointing out a factual error or omission, and it’s not as if I’m any kind of expert on the stuff they are writing about.

    I wish you would comment pointing out factual errors anyway. Even if

    The one time I did post a comment pointing out an error at Oakland North (their first article on the parking controversy said that meter rates had been “doubled,” when in fact they were only raised 33%), they went back and revised the article without any indication that it had been updated to fix a very relevant error. Not only is it a good practice (even among personal bloggers, never mind professional journalists) to make clear that a post or an article has been updated or corrected, but it also made my comment under the article look bizarre, because the error that I mentioned in the comment no longer appeared in the article.

  27. Ralph

    not a fan of oaklandnorth.net. i must have been the only person who had something to say about oakland. i get a cameo but no voice. instead, i know boys, girls, and books keep people up at night.

  28. Max Allstadt

    The fundamental problem with Oakland North is that it takes years to build up a knowledge base and a sense of context about this city.

    It’s bad enough when a local paper has a new reporter, particularly on a political beat. Even with the resources of their peers and predecessors available to them, a new reporter for the Trib or the Chron has a serious learning curve to face.

    Nothing beyond surface level accounts can come out of a program which is using fresh-off-the-boat grad students as it’s primary writers.

    I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out how to make better use of all of that free labor. I’m somewhat stymied.

    Perhaps more man-on-the-street type reports make more sense as appropriate for OaklandNorth. Or perhaps they should be linking to stories from more veteran reporters.

    Or perhaps they should realize that the reason J-school students have historically mainly done internships and subordinate work at real media outlets is because that’s what they’re capable of. The fact that the internet can help them run around the distribution controls of yesteryear does not mean that they should make that end-run. It’s an end-run around a wall with a minefield on the other side.

  29. Ralph

    of oaklandnorth.net, i find it disturbing that they pitch themselves as journalists filling the void created by the loss of local newspapers but ON offers superficial coverage on news items and page six news. Perhaps they are auditioning for Chip’s job.

    i wasn’t expecting the man on the street interviews to be deep (one of the interviewers mentioned to me that most of the people who stopped only provided fluff and he seemed a little annoyed by it). Unfortunately, i haven’t seen anything deep and complete from them.

  30. Dave C.

    I’m not sure lack of knowledge about Oakland is the fundamental problem with Oakland North. Sure, reporters who have been around Oakland for a while will have a better feel for the nuances of the politics and the backstories, but a diligent, fair-minded reporter should be able to quickly familiarize him/herself with an issue and produce a competent summary without having years of experience in a city. I’ve seen good reporters arrive in a new city and produce thorough, balanced, informative accounts of a local issue within a day or two, and on the flip side, there are of course plenty of reporters who have years of experience in a city and still can’t get their basic facts right.

    If I personally had to pick one fundamental problem with Oakland North, it’s that they always seem to focus on the ambience and theatrics of a particular event (for instance, a city council meeting, or a neighborhood budget meeting, or whatever) without seeming to do ANY research or interviews outside the four walls of the room, so you end up with a piece that only reflects the viewpoint of the people who happened to dominate that one event. Their coverage of the first community meeting at the Grand Lake was an egregious example of that, as I said in my comment on the article. It doesn’t require years of living in Oakland to overcome that—it just takes basic journalistic practices, such as comparing what people say with independently verifiable facts, or interviewing a wider variety of people before writing an article, etc. Also, as I said above, the sloppiness is sometimes appalling. I’d be embarrassed to have some of their grammatical and spelling errors appear in an comment here, never mind in a published article appearing under a byline. I can forgive a J-school student for being inexperienced, but I think that attention to detail is one of the few prerequisites for being a good reporter, and unfortunately, attention to detail is something that can’t easily be taught.

    Okay, I’ll get off my damn soapbox. I’m sure some of the writers at O.N. are better than others, and I can’t say that I’ve paid close enough attention to the bylines to know which ones are more reliable. Many of them will also presumably get a lot better over time. I’ve known some people who developed useful skills and experience at Berkeley’s J-school, so I don’t think we should scoff at the entire enterprise or write off all J-school students just because they are J-school students. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with having inexperienced journalists learn the trade by producing a site like O.N., but it seems like the editorial oversight from Cynthia Gorney or other professors could be a bit more heavy-handed. I hope they do post-publication critiques of some of the articles in their classes, because that seems like a productive way to learn.

  31. annalee allen

    I hope this isn’t too late to add a comment about the Tribune, and also hope this doesn’t sound self serving. I write the landmarks column every week, and I think it adds value to the paper. The reporters and writers I’ve worked with over the years really do care about Oakland. The editors are very professional and the photo staff consistently take good pictures.