Julian Mark at his desk on Wednesday morning. Photo by Lydia Chávez

Julian Mark was named today as the outstanding emerging journalist for 2020 by the Society of Professional Journalists of Northern California.

Mark, who grew up in the East Bay, began as a freelancer for Mission Local in 2015 and became a full-time reporter in August, 2017. 

He’s a marvel to have at the office — quick, conscientious, and alert to the possibilities of a good tale.  

“Julian is tireless and driven and talented, and just a hell of a reporter and colleague,” said managing editor Joe Eskenazi. “This is a well-deserved recognition of what we all already knew.” 

Mark has covered every possible daily story with curiosity, tenacity, and intelligence, we wrote in the nominating letter. What his editors most appreciate is his “ability to see those stories in a long news cycle or beat that others miss; stories that give texture to a running story or offer a deep dive on his beat.”

Some examples: Apocalypse Chic: Valencia Street businesses board up their windows and Love in the Time of Covid ‘Not having sex is definitely frustrating.’ The two stories were repeated by dozens of other publications, but Mark saw them early in the pandemic. 

Over the last couple of years, Mark has developed a beat covering police reform in San Francisco. By going to the meetings that few journalists attend, he’s delivered deep, informed, and important coverage. 

Anatomy of a police shooting: The chaotic last moments of Jesus Delgado Duarte,  is a masterfully told story about the chaos among the police officers at the scene. 

Delgado had a decision to make. He could get out of the trunk and face time in prison — and possibly be deported to Mexico, where he had been born 19 years earlier. Or he could raise his gun and die. 

He looked toward Officer Milen Banegas, who was giving him commands in Spanish less than 10 feet away. “You could see all these emotions that he was experiencing,” she would tell homicide detectives days later. “At one point, it looked like he was crying.” 

Delgado made the sign of the cross, she recalled. It was “as if he’s having this psychotic episode … it’s like, he was trying to decide what to do.” 

All of a sudden, that decision would become easier. An officer standing behind Banegas and to her left shot Delgado with a beanbag round, hitting him in the right forearm. Many of the 10 officers who shot Delgado would tell detectives that Delgado winced, flinched, or was unresponsive. But Banegas, who was among the closest, recalled something more: Delgado’s facial expression turned to “rage.”

His range is exactly what a daily news site requires.  In August, 2019, he wrote Homeless poet and bird lover John ‘Swan’ Ratliff is back on the street — and suffering, a closely reported story illustrating how mental illness can upend the best of intentions. 

A public official found a room for Ratliff, who lives to feed the pigeons, and Julian wrote, “Swan” got thrown out for “being himself”. 

“He kept throwing things out the window and feeding the birds,” said the employee who did not give a name. …

Ratliff, when asked, agreed. 

But even Ratliff knew he had not helped himself.

“Then my legs went bad again,” he said. 

He lifted the cuffs of his pants and showed me his legs. They were raw and covered in green pus. They had grown worse since being kicked out of his room, he said, as had his general health. 

Mark is a graduate of Humboldt State University and has written for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The East Bay Express, and the San Francisco Business Times

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Founder/Executive Editor. 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 and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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  1. Congrats Julian,

    It’s a golden era for you.

    Lots of material.

    Fabulous mentors in Joe and Lydia.

    An appreciative audience.

    Do a story on Jack Jacqua at Juvie Hall?

    Bring your camera.


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  2. From a long of line writers & poets, I am not surprised- your ancestors would be very proud, as am I Julian.

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  3. Wow! What a great honor, Julian, to be recognized by your peers for outstanding journalism! Congratulations! I always love to read your stories. Thanks for helping to keep me abreast of important events and trends in the special way I’ve come to rely on from Mission Local. You guys dig in deep and aren’t scared off by the political machine like the Chronicle and other outlets. You tell it like it is! We need that!

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  4. Congratulations Julian – well deserved. Just sure about your burger wars preferences.

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  5. Congratulations to Julian! Very well deserved and a pleasure to read.

    Have there been any recent updates on John Swan Ratliff?

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