We are so grateful for Julie's leadership and work that has shaped California Today over the past four years. When we said goodbye to her, we asked her to tell us about the experience.
Do you remember the first California Today you edited? What were the big stories in the state at the time?
The first issue, published on September 6, 2016, calls on readers to tell us about the issues they most cared about and wanted to address. Wildfires, housing and voting measures were all top of mind – issues that are still extremely relevant today.
The idea was to hear and engage readers more directly, and to use all the incredible expertise of our California reporters to keep them informed. We also wanted to showcase local journalism across the state at a time when many outlets were under threat. My favorite early editions relied heavily on our readers, helping us report on the horrific fire at the Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse, sharing opinions on the midterms, and giving us tips on where to find hidden gems like this from a reader in Napa:
“Everyone comes to the Napa Valley for the wine. Only a handful of people know about it Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Hiking is wonderful and the first mile, in a beautiful shaded forest, ends at a plaque commemorating the site of the cabin where Stevenson honeymooned in 1880 with his new wife, Franny.
— Kathie Fowler, Napa
What do you think has changed most about the state since then?
When you look back, it's incredible to see how much has not changed. Our first few editions were all about forest fires. We spent much of a year dealing with homelessness and how conditions in camps in Oakland resemble those in developing countries. The wealth gap has been a consistent theme and it seems to have only widened.
This past year has 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 home in yet another fire.
As my colleague Adam Nagourney said, "The sense of California's exceptionalism — of why would anyone live anywhere else — isn't as strong as it once was." And as Conor Dougherty points out, there has been quite a collective acknowledgment in recent years that the current path is untenable and that we need a serious course correction, but as always there is little agreement on exactly what needs to be done.
You'll still be helping guide California coverage in your new role, but is there anything in particular you'll want to keep reading about, as a Californian yourself?