Annika Hom, reporter
Wow, what a whirlwind of a year it’s been, huh?
Hot take? Though our Joe Eskenazi is known for his columns, one of my favorite pieces of his this year was his news story on how a judge kept aspirational District 4 supervisor Leanna Louie off the ballot. Funny, quick, and bursting with cheeky quotes and detail, this piece was a master class in how storytelling can transform an otherwise straightforward story into a deeply entertaining one. The fact that it capped a series of stories he broke made it all the sweeter.
I also got a front-row seat to my coworkers’ amazing prowess. No one else in the city wanted to cover redistricting — and then Will Jarrett came along. Jarrett’s fairness, tenacity and willingness to stay up past 4 a.m. helped inspire a civic movement, as his stories would time and time again. This ability, or his polite British accent, is why he is the outlet’s Golden Boy.
Eleni Balakrishnan never fails to inform with her top-notch police accountability coverage. I think my favorite has been her trial coverage of Officer Terrence Stangel; it was so well-written, at the time my father and I would rather die than miss the latest installment. Her compassionate obituary on John Crew also resonated with me, and I love her Cop Watch series for keeping me in the know and laughing out loud.
Though English is Yujie Zhou’s second language, you’d never know it. Her writing shines best in features that reveal more about the ordinary people who make our community and their relationships. My favorites were her recent piece on Angela Chung, a Korean immigrant whose wig shop is frequented by Black customers, and a story about a mechanic who fixes rideshare drivers’ cars.
Special shout-out to former intern Carolyn Stein, who blew Jarrett and me away with her reportage on drag performers.
Eleni Balakrishnan, reporter
I love reading the stories where Yujie deep dives into communities that often don’t get much of a voice in the news, such as this one about immigrant gig workers who have developed strong support systems and have each other’s backs while they sleep in empty parking lots at night. Her story about the elderly of Chinatown playing in hidden mahjong parlors gave us a fascinating look into a community that we might’ve missed due to language and cultural barriers.
Will’s database of police shootings was a huge project and provided us with a record of the humans behind the shooting statistics. Some of these records remain incomplete or rely on impossible-to-verify police accounts; this work underscored just how difficult it is for the public to really know what happens when someone is shot by cops, and the importance of body-worn cameras and police accountability.
And as someone who likes to keep up with our ever-changing neighborhood, I truly enjoy when Annika brings us not only the news of a restaurant opening or business venture but helps us get to know the people and community that are part of it. There are plenty of examples, but her stories of a garage pop-up, a new Treat Street bar, and a man slinging pancakes stuck with me.
Yujie Zhou, reporter
Joe’s piece on the about-to-open Central Subway brought me so much pure joy. I love how he compares it to the airport BART line, since both of them had similar problems. Not only that, the article is very funny and certain lines just made me laugh out loud: “The BART extension to SFO also went grotesquely over budget — and, perversely, local transit agencies serving put-upon riderships were made to fund a rail line for more affluent airport passengers. But nobody talks about that anymore, because the BART line to the airport is so useful. You can go to the airport without even meaning to!”
But, of course, like Joe’s other articles, the Central Subway story was full of solid reporting; solid to a point of harshness. “The transfer from the Central Subway’s Union Square/Market Street station to Powell Street Station requires a 1,018-foot walk — nearly three football fields. There’s also an 85-foot ascent and an estimated travel time of seven minutes, six seconds. And that’s for an able-bodied adult.”
I also enjoyed Annika’s months-long account of Bayview’s housing issues and Lydia’s extremely honest document of a day at the 24th Street BART Plaza, as well as Will shedding a light on “killer robots” when no one was looking, and giving it an international reach. Not only that, Eleni revealed that District Attorney Brooke Jenkins was blowing off families of men killed by SFPD, David sent dozens of emails to sources in Guam to expose shady dealings of an SFUSD contractor, and Chuqin thoroughly dissected a problem that has plagued cyclists for a long time: Getting doored.
Will Jarrett, data reporter
There was an embarrassment of riches to choose from in this year’s stories.
Annika’s February obituary of “Lone Star Swan” was deeply researched and beautifully written, a fitting send-off for the larger-than-life Mission personality. In a completely different style, but no less impressive, was Eleni’s coverage of the meltdown at Everett Middle School in April. Eleni got a lot of pushback on this story, but her reporting was rock solid and was entirely vindicated when a letter from staff alleging even worse conditions came to light.
I’ve also enjoyed reading Yujie’s coverage of tech workers and the gig economy, although I was deeply jealous when she got to try out a driverless car for a graphics piece we collaborated on. David’s coverage of the ongoing school district payroll saga has made wild reading. And finally, it has been great working alongside our data intern, Chuqin, and I have learned a lot from her visualization skills, not least in this great story putting the recent tech layoffs in perspective.
Chuqin Jiang, data intern
I’m new to the city and the newsroom. In my first few weeks here, Joe Eskenazi’s column was my toolkit to quickly get the city’s agenda and the newsroom’s vibe. His series on Muni Central Subway Station and election day reaffirmed my belief in the power of local journalism. Eleni and David’s ability to deal with breaking news, which is a skill set I don’t have (yet), really impressed me. Their stories on shootings and stabbings provided the neighborhood with the latest and most accurate information. How can they write something up in such a short time?
I also learned a lot from other beat reporters. I enjoy reading Annika’s series on housing issues and Yujie’s series on gig workers. Many of the stories that I wanted to pick have already been mentioned by others. If there are any missing, Yujie’s story about a DoorDash driver would be one. She followed the main character for a day and documented how he fought his life with the platform and algorithm. Though unrelated to her beat, I love Annika’s scene description on the 24th Street BART plaza. I also love her enthusiasm in every Mission Moves and Neighborhood Notes!
And BIG SHOUT OUT to Will Jarrett, especially his campaign funding visualization, police shooting database and driverless car route project. He told me his favorite color for data viz is hot pink. Did you notice his consistent style?
David Mamaril Horowitz, reporting intern
It’s encouraging to work with colleagues whose stories make me want to write better. Where do I begin?
Some of my favorite stories were Yujie’s, of camaraderie within immigrant communities — from Iraqi or Ukrainian gig workers looking out for one another as they sleep in their cars, to senior residents who live alone finding social connection in Chinatown.
I greatly appreciated Will’s lead on our live election coverage, ensuring that our reporters’ real-time reporting was compiled without a hitch. His five data-driven tidbits after the election also helped me make sense of a very complicated ballot.
Other favorites were Annika’s in-depth reporting on the sordid living conditions within several apartment complexes in Bayview-Hunters Point, as well as Chuqin’s dive into data showing that San Francisco experienced its fifth hottest early-September period in a century.
Beth Winegarner, copy editor
One of my favorite Mission Local stories of 2022 demonstrates the importance of having a diverse and multilingual newsroom: Reporter Yujie Zhou caught a translator for DA Brooke Jenkins deviating from Jenkins’ actual remarks, and claiming that Jenkins would “bring all the bandits who attacked Asians and our community to justice.”
Another of my favorites reveals how spending some time with a subject can reveal details that a quick phone call can’t: Lydia Chávez, curious about the street-vending situation at the 24th St. BART Plaza, staked it out for a full day, detailing the variety of sellers and wares — and got yelled at by vendors multiple times.
And, if you missed Annika Hom’s investigation of the astonishingly unlivable living conditions in four public-housing sites in the Bayview, now’s your chance. Read part one here and part two here.
Joe Eskenazi, managing editor
As Charles Schulz noted, the late bird does not even get the late worm. As one of the last on the Mission Local team to contribute to this article, I find that many of my choices have already been chosen — and laudably lauded.
Going through every story we ran in 2022 in the course of several hours, I was struck by the overall quality on this site; it’s one thing to edit and post the articles as they come, but it’s another to see them all in one place.
So, yes, I greatly enjoyed Annika Hom’s reporting on tenants living in squalor while their corporate landlord attempts to spin government money into gold; Will Jarrett’s marathon redistricting reporting; Eleni Balakrishnan covering San Francisco police reform (which may or may not contain a reform-like substance); Yujie Zhou’s deep dives into the lives of marginalized gig workers and elderly Chinatown residents; and graphics from Jarrett and Chuqin Jiang that presented information in a way I’d never even thought to consider. And the interns; don’t forget the interns.
But I’d like to highlight the work of Naomi Beth Marcus, who has written a series of fantastic slice-of-life stories about Mission dwellers. But with her profile of Angelina and Jose De Anda, a married couple of nearly 70 years, we got the whole cake.
In the De Andas, Marcus found fantastic subjects, and she delivered to the utmost. We get their early life stories, their meet-cute in 1953, and their ultimate key to seven decades of marriage: “Perdon. Perdon. Perdon, FORGIVE.”
Yes, we could all take notes.
Well into their 90s, the De Andas are still neighborhood fixtures, walking about the Mission, talking to the people they’ve come to know, and ready to offer advice if asked. One of the great privileges of being a journalist is that, when you see something interesting going on, you get to go ask, “Hey, what’s going on here?” When you meet someone interesting, you get to ask, “Hey, what’s your story?”
I’m glad Marcus did.
Lydia Chávez, executive editor
First, applause for community contributors who regularly send in Snaps, including Walter Mackins, Angel Mayorga, Robert B. Livingston, Michael Santiago, Kent Klaudt, Kathleen Becerra Naruhn, Mike Schuller and many others who you can see here.
To Sandy Salmans and Mimi Chakarova who do amazing editing — Sandy with words, Mimi with images. Elizabeth Bell who catches mistakes that we miss. And to George Lipp whose never-ending curiosity about people and the neighborhood always produces an interesting piece. The latest: An exquisite, bird’s eye view of, well, birds that Will Jarrett, our data and visualization editor produced into this piece; and Lipp’s experience in the neighborhood reflected in this piece. Like a good neighbor, Lipp engages with everyone.
Annika Hom’s series on housing, but especially Part two because it illustrated how a young reporter can dig deep and stretch in both reporting and writing. Hom figured out how to write a compelling narrative while telling a complicated financial story. I also loved that a young intern, Chuqin Jiang, took on building and then managing an interactive template that we can use for live events. Better yet, she improved it between the first night at LitCrawl and the second outing for Day of the Dead. Will Jarrett’s data journalism won him an award this year, but just as impressive was his relentless reporting on redistricting, following the story into the night and through the weekends, adding new maps and data with each post. As an editor, there’s nothing more exhilarating than witnessing reporters engaged in a story. That happens every day at Mission Local.
Everyone on the staff turned in great work: Eleni Balakrishnan piecing together the complicated meltdown at Everett Middle School and sticking with it through two excellent pieces with loads of reporting from parents and staff; Yujie Zhou taking us into the frantic life of a ride-share driver and then to the man who fixes their cars and David Mamaril Horowitz being on top of a lot of breaking news including his jailhouse interview the day after an elderly man was arrested and charged with stabbing someone on 16th Street. Come to think of it, we need to follow up on that story. I haven’t even mentioned Joe Eskenazi. Pick any one of his many pieces. Joe is a gift to San Francisco.
The dedication and resource allotment to covering the police has been astounding. Personally I think the importance of such reporting is difficult to overstate.
Thanks to each of you. What a gifted, committed, tenacious bunch!
Joe Eskenazi is a phenomenal writer and really making a huge difference in the community