Friday, May 12, 2017

I am saddened to learn of the death of Susan Luzzaro

Perhaps it is because Susan was just a few months apart from me in age that her death has hit me hard, even though I didn't know her well. I was aware of her existence since the seventies when I worked with her husband. I was also aware of her career as a poet and a journalist. One writing professor at SDSU lamented Susan's involvement in journalism since it cut into her output of beautiful poetry. I myself think that we need to save the world first, and write poetry in our spare time. I think Susan made the right choice.

I finally met Susan at one of the arraignments for South Bay education officials and contractors. She struck me as sincere and gentle. The world seems incomplete without her.

South Bay Loses an Icon and Faces a Journalism Crisis 

By Barbara Zaragoza

Susan Luzzaro

Susan Luzzaro passed away on May 1, 2017, after a year-long battle with brain cancer. She was 68. She was also an extremely important voice in the South Bay. A gifted writer, she taught at Southwestern College and penned many features in the San Diego Reader dating as far back as 1999.
Several tributes have been written about Luzzaro. Her obituary highlights her many contributions.

The San Diego Reader gave links to some of her more important works, including an article in which Luzzaro described her parents’ brutal unsolved murder in 1988. Randy Dotinga at the Voice of San Diego also gave a tribute to Luzzaro under the heading RIP, South Bay’s Voice of Outrage.

A lifelong Chula Vista resident, Luzzaro spoke truth to power. She was best known for uncovering corruption in the Sweetwater Union High School District. A true community activist, her writings took tremendous courage. Her bravery was well-known and admired by many reporters.

South Bay Journalism In Crisis

The loss of Luzzaro comes during a time when the entire country faces a crisis in journalism. With the Trump Administration waging a “fake news” war on major news outlets  — including the Washington Post, which supports an ever-decreasing number of investigative journalists — the South Bay has also taken several hits.

I can identify only two full-time paid journalists whose focus is exclusively the South Bay (defined as anything South of the I-54 to the border): Robert Moreno, who is the only full-time journalist at the Chula Vista Star News and Allison Sampite-Montecalvo at the San Diego Union Tribune.
Christine Huard, who covered South Bay school districts, was laid off in February.

The Voice of San Diego, the Union Tribune, the Times of San Diego do have journalists who cover the South Bay, but not full-time. Instead, they must also focus on other regions.

What’s more, some of the journalists who have gone out of their way to cover the South Bay in an investigative way recently became targets of a vicious Internet scam, likely meant to discredit them.

Think on that for a moment. One full-time paid journalist (Robert Moreno) is hired to cover all of Chula Vista & National City which make up approximately 250,000 and 60,000 residents respectively. The Chula Vista Elementary School District is the largest elementary school district in the state of California.

Allison Sampite-Montecalvo seems to cover an even larger swath of land for the Union Tribune: the entire South Bay, which is made up of approximately 450,000 residents...

I have talked to acquaintances who would like to establish publications in the South Bay (they shall remained anonymous). They told me that the advertisers they approached generally said they don’t want to be associated with controversial news articles — they would prefer to advertise in publications that have articles about food, places to visit, people. “Fluff,” basically.

It’s unpleasant to have pesky investigative journalists at a city council or school board meeting. However, their presence alone tends to change behavior: people remain a bit more diligent when they know someone is watching for transparency and truth...

What happens when a populace has no reporters? What does this mean for the South Bay? 

It means that checks and balances are gone. There’s no one around to make sure taxpayer money is wisely (and ethically) spent. There’s no one around to see if building contracts with schools and cities are being legally made, that campaigns are being fairly launched, that companies are considering the safety of their consumers not just their bottom-lines and that children are provided a decent education...

Doug Porter reports false accusations on the Internet against San Diego reporters and editors