Where are all the journalists now that we need them?

Journalists are like firemen. They aren’t needed all the time. But when they’re needed, they’re needed fast and you need a lot of them. They have to do a lot of things all at once. And it helps if they know each other too, so they don’t fall all over each other and make a mess.

I think the San Francisco City College closure threat makes it clear what happens when a city gets rid of most of its journalists.

Now, let me say right up front that I am writing from ignorance. I am writing as a non-expert, as just a joe. A guy that lives here. And that’s the point. I shouldn’t have to dig like a journalist. Journalists should dig for me. The news should be all over me. It should be on front pages on buses and on blogs and everywhere. I haven’t been paying attention. I’m like most everybody else. I don’t have time to pay attention to everything. That’s the job of journalists. So when something happens that’s complicated and potentially calamitous, they’re supposed to get on their fire trucks and see what’s happening. They’re supposed to swarm.

The question is simple: Who are all these assholes who are trying to close down City College. Who are they really? You need a bunch of journalists all at once to start interviewing their families and friends and colleagues, and looking at the things they’ve written and where they grew up. Right now. Because what they’re doing is insane. But apparently there aren’t enough journalists around when we need them. I guess if you were to ask the Guardian and the Weekly and the Chronicle and the Examiner they’d say there’s too much to do and not enough people to do it with.

What we need to know is this: How did this set of institutions reach the point where an ostensibly sane, rational process is heading toward a calamitous result?

And how are we to understand this? Are we to understand it, as I initially did, as a trivial bureaucratic fight that will be resolved one way or another without major harm? Still? Are we to understand it as a clash of ideologies? Is it a clash between right wing and left wing? Are there elements of resentment toward San Francisco in it? Is there a business mentality clashing with a liberal arts mentality? Are there elements of racism involved? How does it relate to the overall class divide being experienced in San Francisco? Where is the tech community positioned in this? What are the opinions of our recent arrivals, the technical workers about whom there is so much surface agitation?

What are the local roots of the struggle?

Especially when something crazy is happening in an apparently rational way, journalists have to get to the craziness of it. Most of what’s happening is just reporting. Reporting is boring. It just tells us what happened. We need to understand who the players are and what they have to gain from doing what they’re doing. As in a movie script: What are the stakes? We know what the stakes are for us as a public: We stand to lose City College. But what is the motivation of the players? That’s what we don’t understand.

It’s not just a boring public service thing either. It would be really, really fun to find out who these assholes really are. I hate them already and I don’t even know anything about them. Finding out enough about the players to really hate them is part of the fun.

Where are the education beat reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle? Where is Jill Tucker and where is Nanette Asimov?  Is there some other, more important, education story right now that merits their full attention? Is there something we don’t understand about this that makes the threat of losing City College less important than, say, any other story? Is there any other education story that is more important right now, more important to understand in depth? And by the way why are the Chronicle stories walled off to non-paying people?

And what is the SF Examiner doing? Joshua Sabatini, Jessica Kwong and Jonah Owen Lamb have all posted stories over the last month (were they all born in the Year of J Names, by the way?) but none has done the kind of digging that the public needs to see done. They are just reporting on what happens. They aren’t helping us understand what happens.

Here is what we need to know: Who are these crazy people? Who is Barbara Beno, really? Who is Arthur Tyler, really? Who’s side is everyone on?

What’s the story?


This is what happens when you get rid of all the journalists. Stuff burns out of control until it’s too late.

What a tragedy it would be if City College were to close

On Thursday nights I play music with some friends while my wife, Norma, takes a singing class at City College. Norma has taken classes there for years. She has studied painting, Russian, Italian and other things. City College has been a great life-enriching place for her. She is smart. She knows the value of a community college in a city as rich and varied as San Francisco. She has taken full advantage of it. Our lives have been better because of it.

So on Thursday, March 13, I picked Norma up about 9:30 p.m. at the Ocean Avenue campus and she told me that her singing class had gotten a late start because the police had broken the bones of some singing students earlier. Her instructor was talking with another instructor before class about the beatings and that delayed the class. Students had occupied a building and police had come in and bones had been broken and students had gone to the hospital. These were voice students. It’s oddly poetic, isn’t it, that in a fight for free speech and access to low-cost education it should be the voice students whose bones are broken by police?

Since July 2013 I had watched this controversy out of the corner of my eye. I now endeavored to learn what I could. I began to look into it. It didn’t take long to form a clear and passionate impression. It boils down to this: The ACCJC sucks. That is, in quickly reading the available information about its requirements and the current legal process and the correspondence sent to schools that have been sanctioned, and its own account of its purpose and its methods, and some legislative testimony and the various lawsuits pending, I came to see that the ACCJC is a troubled institution granted wide powers to act in secret and capable therefor of wreaking great harm. Their approach appears philistine and heavy-handed and inappropriate to an educational institution.

In other words, the ACCJC sucks.

More could be said and no doubt will be. More reporting must be done to expose the true long-term strategy of the people behind this move. The true story will no doubt involve power and money. It will involve ideology and infighting. It will involve public vs. private education. It will involve capitalism vs. democracy. It will be seen that some ACCJC’s rulings seem to favor private for-profit colleges at the expense of publicly run ones. A full, detailed picture will no doubt reveal our current cultural battle at its most venal and ugly.

Lest we forget: No fight about money and power and politics in San Francisco can be without real estate money. Wherever there is land, someone stands to make a fortune. There must be real estate money somewhere in this tale. And there must be clueless zealots and venal operators and ideological nitwits and the settling of old scores and backbiting and striving and all the great human passions that make life in California so interesting and so maddening.

Such is the ongoing carnival of human folly. If it were not dangerous, one would like to just let such folly play out. One would just like to watch with a mixture of horror and glee. I was content to do so until it appeared that the ACCJC’s actions may not be harmless at all. Now it appears urgent that the public become informed and take action. The loss of City College would be a tragedy for the city of San Francisco.

See These Links:

ACCJC: A Troubled Institution. An illuminating piece by independent journalist Rick Sterling (rsterling1@gmail.com) about deficiencies in the accrediting organization itself.

For a chilling look at the mindset of the people doing the accrediting, there is no better example than their own prose. I don’t know about you, but I am quite sensitive to how the quality of a person’s mind shows in the style of  prose he or she uses. ‘Nuf said. Just take a look at the PDF.  If you aren’t howling in laughter you will be howling in pain.

Accreditation Watch. Again: ‘Nuf said. This comprehensive site will give you a quick sense of the magnitude of the ACCJC’s shortcomings, and there is enough depth here for days of reading.

Hashtags on Twitter are #ACCJC and #CCSF.

Thought you’d like to know. Trying to remain civil about it, the breaking of voice students’ bones notwithstanding.