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Reports of SF Weekly’s death greatly exaggerated 

Wednesday, Jun 10 2015

Among the most satisfying moments in an editor's life is when he or she receives the first draft of a story that is destined to make a difference. That's how I felt when I read staff writer Julia Carrie Wong's cover story this week on San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi.

Over the decades, I've heard countless readers complain, "Why do you only publish the bad stuff?" The answer is both simple and complex: 1) There's a hell of a lot of bad shit out there that needs to be exposed; and 2) You like reading about bad news. The numbers say so.

But let's get back to the story of Jeff Adachi, which you can read on Page 8. Like him or not, agree or disagree with his methods, Adachi is on a mission to make things better in San Francisco. His goal is to find justice for those who rarely get it: people living on the streets or in SROs; people suffering from addictions; people of color — people who can't afford the prohibitively expensive defense teams that, say, a city supervisor or member of the Giants could. And that is good stuff.

When Julia sat down to talk with me about Adachi, his story seemed to be the perfect long-form feature profile. It also resonated for me personally. Adachi and I are the same age. We began college the same year, and gravitated to many of the same radical political thinkers: Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Dick Gregory, Huey Newton. We even both played in college rock bands with a political bent, although Adachi's best-known song, "The Ballad of Chol Soo Lee," was not just some Clash soundalike — it's a quintessentially 1960s/'70s San Francisco psychedelic folk-rock tune about a tangible case that happened right here, in 1973, and that you can read about in Julia's' story. (You can also listen to Adachi's song here.)

But Julia's story is not about nostalgia for a bygone radical era in San Francisco. It's about a public servant who continues to make a difference in the city's criminal justice system. Does he have his detractors? Of course he does. (One critic calls him a "media whore.") But anyone who tries to make a difference has detractors. Does that stop Adachi. Not at all.

Read Julia's cover story on San Francisco's public defender. Even if you're the most fervent right-wing loyalist — in the intelligent William F. Buckley vein anyway — you'll find Adachi's story riveting.

And speaking of Julia Carrie Wong — she's one of several brand-new SF Weekly staffers. If you've been following the paper for the past year or so and have read what others have written about us, you might think we were in the process of imploding. After I arrived in February, several veteran Weekly staffers decided it was time for them to move on. For the most part I respected their decisions and wished them well. It was a hairy time. Some of them were quite talented, and I had to scramble to find editors, reporters, and writers who could help take this paper to a new level of quality. I'm happy to report that, as of this week, we've completed that process — and assembled a team that's far exceeded my hopes. This SF Weekly staff is better than ever.

I'd like to introduce you to them:

Peter Lawrence Kane, our new arts editor and food writer, has brought a much-needed sense of playfulness and levity to his sections. He makes me want to eat hamburgers. And I'm a vegetarian. The Weekly's new music editor, Matt Saincome, at just 24 brings the wisdom of a young man who lives and breathes music. But not just the same-old, same-old band profiles and intentionally esoteric critiques — Matt searches for and finds the intriguing stories behind the music.

I've already introduced Julia, whose scrupulous reporting and flair for penning great narratives have produced a ton of short news items and two excellent cover stories: this week's profile of Adachi, and an April 23 report on the sharing economy. And our newest staffer, managing editor Jeremy Lybarger, brings his impeccable experience as an fine reporter and writer for the city's dearly departed website The Bold Italic.

Several stalwarts from the previous team are folks we couldn't do without: ultratalented art director Audrey Fukuman, whose outstanding designs make the Weekly pop from newstands before you even notice you've missed your bus; listings editor John Graham, a guy who knows pretty much everything about everything in San Francisco, past and present; associate culture editor Giselle Velazquez, writer of clever headlines that make you want to read the stories; and Stewart Applin, the proofreader who has saved all our asses at one time or another.

I can't be naming all these names without a nod to the staffers we share with our sister paper, the Examiner — those are intrepid reporters Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez and Chris ("don't call him a stoner") Roberts, who covers the growing cannabis industry.

As for me: I've been a writer and editor for more than half my life, beginning as a crime reporter at a small North Carolina newspaper, moving on to the science magazine Discover and then into the world of music journalism: Option, Rolling Stone, MTV, the Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, and Acoustic Guitar.

Now I'm here. And here and now are what matter to me more than anything. I'm incredibly proud of SF Weekly's new staff and awesome mission to cover the goings-on in San Francisco like no other outlet in town. With the journalistic excellence we now have in place, that's a promise we aim to keep.


About The Author

Mark Segal Kemp

Mark Segal Kemp

Mark Segal Kemp is SF Weekly's former Editor and the author of a book called Dixie Lullaby, as his tinge of a southern accent will attest.


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