The backstory: the journalism festival


Kristy Toten: Welcome to “San Diego News Fix: The Backstory,” where we take you behind the scenes of our newsroom to show you how decisions are made.

Local journalism matters more than ever. Journalists reveal hidden truths, expose wrongdoings and celebrate the best of our community. This Saturday, October 15 is the first-ever journalism festival, organized by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Voice of San Diego, KPBS and the SDSU School of Journalism and Media Studies. The free one-day event will include panel discussions with editors and journalists, a screening of documentaries, as well as keynote speakers. It’s also a chance to get to know the people who tell San Diego’s biggest stories. Today, I’m joined by Union-Tribune executives, including Jeff Light, Lora Cicalo, Fiona Leung and Luis Cruz.

Jeff Light: Thank you very much Kristy. Luis, let’s just start at 30,000 feet on the Journalism Festival. First of all, it’s kind of a funny name. Journalism is serious business, and you can see from the lineup for this event – we’re talking about murders of journalists in Las Vegas and Tijuana, corruption at City Hall, we’ll see the final moments of United States in Afghanistan, so it’s pretty heavy stuff. Still, it’s a festival that really celebrates the search for truth and what’s important in all of this, and I guess it’s really a celebration. Tell me a bit about why we are hosting this event.

Luis Cruz: First, I think it is fitting that the week the Union-Tribune celebrates its 154th anniversary, we are hosting a Journalism Festival. As you know, San Diego Union was founded on October 10, 1868, making us the oldest company in San Diego. So it’s kind of a celebration, and we’re inviting our brothers and sisters from other media organizations – who are our colleagues – our cousins ​​from local journalism organizations and our extended family, which is really the community we’re on count. We have over 25 local media and journalism organizations participating – print, online, radio, TV, they will all be represented. It should be a good time.

To your question about why we’re doing this: I think we live in an important time in our history where there’s a lot of misinformation and misinformation, and it’s very scary at times. People want to know where they can find reliable and trustworthy information. Without informed citizens, democracy does not work. We also need our readers – we need to hear from them; we need to find ways to connect with our readers and find that audience. We need to get their support and earn their support. That’s why I think events like the Journalism Festival are important.

Jeff Light: For me, the two groups you just mentioned – local journalists (people who have dedicated their professional careers to finding the truth) and their audiences (community members who want to know what’s really going on, people who ask for the truth) – these two groups together are fundamental to maintaining a social order in which truth matters. And it turns out to be a somewhat fragile social order, or so it seems. So it’s a chance to connect these two really important groups: these audiences – the people in our community who demand the truth – and the journalists who serve them. That’s the idea here.

I want to turn to Fiona, who has done the really hard work of putting together an inaugural event like this, and it’s kind of an unusual event. Fiona, what can people expect on Saturday?

Fiona Leung: First of all, it’s a very rewarding job to do this. It was so great to see all the different media and organizations come together and really collaborate on this event. I can’t wait for Saturday.

People can look forward to eight panel discussions and that includes sessions on community journalism, the pursuit of truth in the age of propaganda, the future of print media, a lot of really important topics. Eight panel discussions, a documentary screening, and we also have three speakers throughout the day, so lots of really great content from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On top of that, we also have media and organizations that will be there. And we’ll be there to talk about subscriptions and the work we do. We will also distribute many promotional items for the event.

Jeff Light: How many journalists, in total, participate in these panels?

Fiona Leung: About 30. It’s really a collaboration between so many very talented journalists and editors.

Jeff Light: I think one thing that has been instructive in putting this all together is that this event is inspired by one of our most successful events, the Festival of Books, which we started six years ago. . So the format is similar – big, powerful speakers and then panels on topics of great interest. I think one difference we’ve learned is that in the book world there are a lot of forces aligned to make a festival come together. There are the independent booksellers, who are really important – the most important partners we have in this event – and they do a lot of the work, and then there is a whole world of authors, publishers and publicists who are all geared towards getting authors in front of large audiences. These festivals are a big part of the book world, and adding our festival to this list was a big step forward, but a lot of things were lined up for that to happen.

The Journalism Festival has many similarities, but also some rather important differences, namely that while the authors – or at least a slice of authors – are well supported by a marketing infrastructure, the journalists are really only a collection really smart and clumsy people. people who don’t easily organize themselves into a festival. So doing this festival was a bit more difficult, I think, than doing the book festival, and we have a lot of partners here the first year. I feel like we probably weren’t as good at getting all the partners on board. I don’t know if you have anything else to add on partners, Luis?

Luis Cruz: Just that I’m thrilled to partner with so many colleagues from other news organizations and also from local journalism organizations. We have mentioned our main partners, which are SDSU’s School of Journalism and Media Studies, KPBS and Voice of San Diego, but we have also collaborated with the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the San Diego Association of Black Journalists, Online News Association, the folks at the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and then some of our community publications, like Asian Journal, Chula Vista Today, El Latino, Filipino Press, inewsource, Latina Publishers.

We’ve also partnered with the San Diego Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists of San Diego, SD Monitor News and, of course, our Spanish-language publication, the San Diego Union-Tribune en Español. It’s really exciting for me, having worked in television, radio and now in a “mainstream” newspaper, to see my friends and colleagues from other media.

Jeff Light: Yes, there aren’t many events like this across the country, but we’re going to make this a standard of our year and help others develop them elsewhere.

Let’s talk for a few minutes about what we’re looking forward to on Saturday. Kristy Totten, what session are you most looking forward to?

Kristy Toten: I look forward to the opening speech in the morning. This speech will be given by a journalist I know and worked with in Las Vegas, Steve Sebelius. He’s a longtime television and print journalist, and he worked alongside murdered journalist Jeff German, who, of course, was killed in September, allegedly by a government official he was reporting on. Steve is going to talk about the danger of being a journalist and how we can carry on. He’s just a really brilliant guy, and I think he’s going to give a great speech.

Jeff Light: Yes, the dangers of the work of journalists are not to be overlooked. So thank you Kristy. And Lora Cicalo, and you?

Lora Cicalo: I look forward to the panel that I have the chance to moderate – the panel dealing with the history of Ash Street and how journalists have come to expose this deal and the scandal. Our panel includes Jeff McDonald from the Union-Tribune, Lisa Halverstadt from Voice of San Diego and Art Castañares from La Prensa San Diego. I think people will be very impressed when they hear the hard work that each of these reporters brought to their work on this story and a lot of information about how the reporters got to the story in the first place, the threads they pulled, eventually unraveling what was going on. I think the public will learn a lot about the work that has been done in this area over the past few years.

Jeff Light: Yes. A fascinating story and which, in my opinion, is not yet completely elucidated.

Lora Cicalo: To correct. I think all three would be okay with that.

Jeff Light: So more to come there. Fiona, what piece are you looking forward to?

Fiona Leung: So many. But the one I’m really looking forward to is Marcus Yam. He was one of the last Western journalists to leave Afghanistan after the country fell to the Taliban and recently won the Pulitzer Prize. He will share his work and talk about life on the front line. I can’t wait to meet him.

Jeff Light: Yes, such an impressive and courageous person, Marcus Yam. I can not wait to be there.

And you, Luis?

Luis Cruz: I look forward to the screening of a documentary by our UT Studio productions called “Journalism at Risk” which tells the stories behind the people who tell Tijuana’s stories. Covering the news in Mexico can be very dangerous, and we saw it during the first week of January when photojournalist Margarito Martínez Esquivel and journalist Lourdes Maldonado were murdered right outside their home in Tijuana. So our photojournalists and reporters have followed reporters in Tijuana and Baja California and recount the dangers they face in a city with a long history of crimes against the press. They spent months editing this documentary, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Jeff Light: Yes, fantastic work from this band. I would say, in closing, that I actually have two on my list: First, the closing speech by Justin Brooks of the California Innocence Project. Justin is someone who has freed countless people from California prisons – innocent people – including death row, and his story of how bias, false narratives and misinformation can cost people their lives is a such a powerful lesson for journalists in many different fields. manners. And his work with journalists has helped to right those injustices across California. It’s super powerful. And then, of course, there’s a panel on the future of print – an issue close to all of our hearts. So I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ll see you all on Saturday, and I thank you all for the work you’ve done to put this together.


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