A PRECIPITOUS DROP
The opening of the [April 22] San Diego CityBeat "From the Editor," declares "...the alarming rise in the popularity of promposals is the latest sign that the apocalypse is upon us." It then degenerates from there into a fist-shaking, unfunny, get-off-my-lawn screed against the spending habits of prom-centric youth culture.
Pardon my language, but just what in sweet fuckery is this malarkey?
Wait, never mind, I'll tell you what it is: The kind of content mill-generated clickbait garbage one sees on those annoying pay-for-placement ads scattered around the web. What that doesn't answer is what in the world it is doing littering the pages of this newspaper.
I moved back to San Diego in 2005 and have made a habit of reading CityBeat cover-to-cover every week since. Under David Rolland, the editor's column was a venue for truth-to-power commentary on myriad progressive social issues, always intelligent, passionate and at times deeply personal; while I may not have always agreed with Mr. Rolland's take on things, I always admired his journalistic acumen and willingness to have the paper stand on declared principle. It was this editorial focus and direction that has kept me coming back as a reader for the last decade.
I expected a certain amount of flux once Mr. Rolland stepped down, as will happen until equilibrium is reached between the new management and existing staff. What I did not expect was the precipitous drop in editorial quality we have experienced since Ron Donoho took over. The last few weeks' worth of issues have been directionless messes barely held together by whatever the particular theme is, and buoyed only by the reliably quality work of CityBeat's existing staff of writers and department editors. Whereas Mr. Rolland would regularly provide insightful commentary and perspective on important local and national issues such as transit, gay rights and environmental efforts, Mr. Donoho's bent seems towards nothing more substantive than forced scatological metaphors and curmudgeonly rants declaring war on the prom industry (Newsflash: the paper already has a resident crank in Edwin Decker, who is far wittier, more insightful, and crucially understands that at heart a cynic is just a disappointed romantic). If I want to read a vapid, pointless harangue I'll pick up the SD-UTís editorial page, thank you very much.
This drop in quality is not a downward arc, it's a plateau. It's enough to make me wonder if Mr. Donoho has any grasp of the paper's reader demographic, or even bothered to read a single issue before taking the job.
This is to say nothing of the recent deplorable treatment of former associate editor Kelly Davis. If David Rolland was the captain of CityBeat's respective ship, Ms. Davis has been the bosun, keeping things running while the voyage is underway. Her reportage in these pages on local homeless, mental health and penal issues puts to shame that of not only our local daily paper but any number of vaunted national publications, much of that recent work done while undergoing medical procedures that would have rendered a lesser reporter housebound and out of commission. She deserves far, far better than this week's brusque dismissal and to have to fight for her accumulated back pay. I hope that CityBeat's current publishing and editorial powers-that-be don't similarly fail to recognize the assets they have in the paper's remaining staff and freelance contributors.
CityBeat can do better than this; it HAS done better than this, and with luck will do so again. San Diego deserves it. I'll continue to pick up the paper every week, if only to support the writers I value, but it's clear that under Mr. Donoho this ship is adrift on the tides.
Matt Baldwin, Bay Park
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