Mission Local managing editor Joe Eskenazi. Photo by Abraham Rodriguez

 Joe Eskenazi, Mission Local’s managing editor, won top honors as Journalist of the Year, the Society of Professional Journalists of Northern California announced Tuesday. 

“I cannot think of another journalist who writes as consistently, cogently and beautifully about any city as Joe Eskenazi writes about San Francisco,” I wrote in my nomination letter.  That remains the case. 

Joe’s pace and the quality of his work is astounding, the letter went on to say. He’s often the first journalist to pick up a scoop, to see a news event through a slightly different lens or to call foul when no one else bothers. And, inevitably, he also makes us laugh.  

The articles cited in my nomination letter included Joe’s series on last election’s Prop. C, a major homelessness measure, which started with his Oct. 8, 2018 column, Mayor London Breed’s huge political fumble on Prop. C. In it, Joe wrote that, had the mayor opted to support the measure, it “could have been a career-defining thunderclap of a political move by Mayor Breed”; instead, the decision to oppose it reinforced rather than “destroyed the narrative that she, first and foremost, serves the interests of this city’s establishment players.” That put him way ahead of the pack and he stayed out front. 

My favorite scoop of that series was Joe’s piece breaking the story of how Marc Benioff had been swayed to support the initiative by a local bookstore owner through a private Twitter exchange He wrote his story on Oct. 12, 2018. The Chronicle caught up on Nov. 7

Joe’s deadline writing is exemplary. When Jeff Adachi died suddenly, he wrote the most complete obituary that evening. Here is just one small bit from it: 

To watch Jeff Adachi in court was akin to seeing Barry Bonds, in his prime, dig in on a 3-1 count with runners on. Adachi was aggressive. He was a showman. He was a man who, for all the world, seemed to be put on this earth to do what he was doing.

It is hard to overstate the number of lives he touched here in San Francisco.

And Joe did not stop there, but followed to the end, the SFPD’s tawdry shenanigans attacking Adachi’s character. 

He is an incredibly resourceful reporter, finding multiple Chinese speakers to expose Josephine Zhao’s transphobic WeChat conversations that ended her run for the Board of Education. 

Joe wrote powerfully in various instances about the complications that arise in the Mission District when anti-gentrification forces appear wrong-headed. His January column on Manny’s at 16th and Valencia and the protesters outside was one of the most widely read pieces on the site. 

Point by point, Joe went through the accusations and what was actually happening. In the end, he concludes, “Yekutiel’s belief in the Jewish State’s right to exist is, it seems, the only accurate allegation made against him.” 

And in prose that was fun to read, Joe explained in a May the complications of the gig economy through the lens of Mission Pie. 

At times, readers can feel Joe’s blood boiling, as was clear in a recent piece, “Day’von Hann is just the latest black child robbed of his life — and then robbed of his youth or even the perception of innocence,” a column that excoriated readers who questioned why the 15-year-old who died on the Mission’s streets was referred to as a “child.” 

I met Joe, who is now 43 or “neither young nor old” he says, for the first time in the summer of 2018, when he had recently left San Francisco Magazine, but I have followed his career closely since starting Mission Local in the fall of 2008. 

At that time, he had already been working for SF Weekly as a staff writer for a year and it seemed that every time I went to its website, Joe had another story up.  The dizzying pace at which he filed work – annoying as the editor of another site – prompted me, in 2010, to send out yet another link under his byline with this observation: “From Joe does-he-ever-sleep Eskenazi at SF Weekly.

His answer, years later: “Only when necessary.” 

Joe lives in the Excelsior with his wife, Alexia, and three young kids. He became our managing editor in the summer of 2018, and has invigorated the site and served as a mentor for the younger journalists here. He’s generous with sources, always encouraging, and simply the best model any reporter could ask to work with, as he is either out meeting with a source or on the phone. In fact, no one better exemplifies the need to “work the phones.”  As I write this story, Joe sits in front of me typing away as he grills a source on yet another story.  

Lydia Chávez

I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born...

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26 Comments

  1. Exemplary investigative journalism coupled with reasoned editorial insights.
    Particularly impressive is the inclusion of story angles from different perspectives.
    Every JE story is an eagerly anticipated read.

  2. I like his writing but find that his petty arguments in the comments section detract from his strong points. It makes him look petty and uncriticizable.

  3. Good on you, Joe!! I always enjoy your writing. Well done on the “Journalist of the Year” win – it’s certainly deserved!

  4. Joe,

    Keep replying to some comments, please.

    It means a bunch for all of us who comment to see a response, however brief from authors.

    Congrats on the award but your greatest award was the kids and that was from a higher source.

    There’s definitely a Pulitzer soon and I think your work on Adachi rose to that level.

    God bless,

    h.

  5. Always encouraging to see great talent recognized and promoted by a good boss. That’s how a meritocracy is supposed to work.

    Congrats Joe

  6. I couldn’t agree more. Joe’s brilliant and all at mission local are a gift to us. Congratulations and thank you.

  7. Thanks Joe for your great commitment. Leonard and I have been direct beneficiaries! Keep on telling us all the SF news “that’s fit to spit!” I read you daily.

  8. Big congrats to Joe who truly is THE Journalist of the Year and MY Journalist of the Year. And big thanks to Lydia for that wonderful, witty nomination letter.

  9. Congratulations… I receive updates on my phone with your articles from Mission Local. Born and raised in “THE CITY”, Potrero Hill Mission, and the”E”. I thoroughly enjoy reading about all what goes on in my city. I now live in the East Bay but feel like I’m still back in SF when I’m reading your articles.
    Thank you ! SFANAYA

  10. Congratulations Joe! Absolutely well deserved. We are very lucky to have your voice.

    Seems like a great occasion to contribute a few coins to Mission Local today.

  11. Joe,
    We’ve never met, but I’ve been reading your stories faithfully since you wrote regularly for the J. So pleased that your remarkable journalism has been recognized publicly in this way!

  12. I would also like to express my congratulations to you Joe on your well deserved award. We all realize how hard you work to bring interesting stories to us. Personally, I have written to you expressing how much I have disagreed with you several times. Never the less that did not demenish my respect for the effort you made to bring us the story. It’s good to see that your hard work is apprecieated by your peers.

  13. The ceasing of unnecessary and state law violation idling of Muni Buses came to an end in 2018. Though you championed this cause for years, not a peep from you when it finally happened. Without getting into the petty details, believe that decision to remain silent was based on personal animosity, certainly not the value of the effort obtained.

    Well deserved honor, with the aforementioned acceptation.

    All in all, best journalist San Francisco has covering its many iterations.

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