We’re so grateful for Julie’s leadership and work shaping California Today over the past four years. As we bid her farewell, we asked her to share a little about the experience.
Do you remember the first California Today that you edited? What were the big stories in the state at the time?
The first edition published on Sept. 6, 2016, with a call to readers to tell us about the issues they cared most about and wanted us to cover. Wildfires, housing and ballot measures were all top of mind — issues that are still extremely relevant today.
The idea was to hear from and speak to readers more directly, and to use all the incredible expertise of our reporters in California to help keep them informed. We also wanted to highlight local journalism across the state at a time when many outlets were under threat. My favorite early editions relied a lot on our readers, they helped us report out the terrible Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire, shared opinions about the midterms and gave us tips about where to find hidden gems like this one from a reader in Napa:
“Everyone comes to the Napa Valley for the wine. Only a handful of people know about Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Hiking is wonderful and the first mile, in a beautiful shady forest, ends at a plaque commemorating the site of the cabin where Stevenson honeymooned with his new wife, Franny, in 1880.”
— Kathie Fowler, Napa
What do you think has changed the most about the state since then?
Looking back it’s incredible to see how much hasn’t changed. Our first several editions were all about wildfires. We spent a big part of a year focused on homelessness and how the conditions in camps in Oakland resemble those in the developing world. The wealth divide has been a consistent theme and it seems only to have gotten starker.
In the past year, it’s been remarkable to see how Californians have come together to fight the pandemic and it’s reassuring to see how well the state is doing now. But it also feels like many problems have only gotten worse. I know people who are considering moving because they don’t want to risk losing their house to yet another fire.
As my colleague Adam Nagourney said, “The sense of California exceptionalism — of why would anyone live anywhere else — is not as strong as it once was.” And as Conor Dougherty points out, in the past few years there has been a pretty collective recognition that the current path is unsustainable and we need a serious course correction, but as always there is little agreement over exactly what to do.
You’ll still be helping to guide California coverage in your new role, but is there anything you particularly want to keep reading about, as a Californian yourself?