A New Chapter for the San Francisco Public Press

staff photos

Today’s Public Press team: Sylvie Sturm, Madison Alvarado, Mel Baker, Viji Sundaram, Seth Rosenfeld, Ambika Kandasamy, Liana Wilcox, Zhe Wu, Lila LaHood, Michael Stoll, Lisa Rudman. For other team members see sfpublicpress.org/about.

As I transition away from my role as executive director at the San Francisco Public Press, I am filled with gratitude to the community of collaborators who helped build it and optimism for the future of local journalism.

For 15 years, we’ve worked to establish an investigative workshop for the city and region grounded in idealism, resilience and innovation. Now, I’m shifting my focus to environmental and science writing, putting the organization’s direction in the capable hands of co-founder Lila LaHood.

Lila LaHood
Lila LaHood

Our journey began in 2009, motivated by a question: How could we fundamentally improve local reporting? Lila and I were part of a team of civic-minded journalists and other residents who came together to propose a new kind of newsroom, centered on the twin values of accountability and compassion. That culture has remained at the heart of what we do.

We have worked with more than 350 freelancers, volunteers and staff to publish thousands of insightful web, print and audio stories that have held power to account and tackled knotty social, economic and environmental issues in and around San Francisco. Our reporters have dived deep into chronically under-covered stories, spending months — sometimes years! — digging up buried records, checking others’ math, tracking down reticent victims of injustice and spelling out exactly how public officials broke their public reform pledges.

Issue 14: Fall 2011

Hack the Housing Crisis day-long conference, 2013.


We’ve won dozens of awards for our coverage of an array of big problems. Some of the loudest accolades, from our journalism peers and the wider audience, were for several long-term series. These grappled with racially segregated public schools, developers who ignored the threat of sea level rise, reckless city sweeps through homeless encampments, the structural impediments facing people living in their vehicles, public housing management companies disregarding crumbling infrastructure, state agencies colluding with ride-hailing companies to conceal safety records, and the untapped potential of drug-treatment programs to curb overdose deaths, to name a few.

Many readers responded that while they appreciated these important investigations, the stories were often so heavy they were dispiriting. So we pivoted to organizing public events to go beyond the government’s failures and invited community stakeholders to present their ideas for solutions — to provide enough affordable apartments, or to properly care for the homeless population — and reported on those.

Laura Wenus interviews Eugenia Chien and Peter Clarke of Muni Diaries during the KSFP and “Civic” launch event at the Impact Hub in San Francisco on Aug. 19, 2019. Photo by Yesica Prado / San Francisco Public Press

We stretched beyond our comfort zone again when presented with the opportunity in 2019 to launch an FCC-licensed low-power FM radio station, KSFP 102.5 FM. The station became a hub for local podcasters and other audio creators, the home of our award-winning long-form podcast Civic,” and a launching point for investigative reporting published on multiple platforms reaching new audiences.

As an ad-free publication from the start, we’ve been free from corporate influence and commercial imperatives that prioritize clicks over carefully crafted content.

But we have been able to make that work with the consistent support of hundreds of individual donors and over the years a generous cadre of philanthropic funders, including: the Reva and David Logan Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Fund for Investigative Journalism, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, James Irvine Foundation, Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation, Inasmuch Foundation, Google News Initiative, Facebook Journalism Project, Puffin Foundation, Report for America, California Local News Fellowship, California Endowment, Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, Center for Health Journalism, Solutions Journalism Network, Carter Center, Fund for Environmental Journalism, Type Investigations, Investigative Editing Corps, Jay Pritzker Foundation, Tipping Point Community, CatchLight, Strong Foundation for Environmental Values, Renaissance Journalism, ProPublica and Knight Foundation.

ISSUE 30 - Winter 2020 (ride-hailing)

We’re also grateful to two essential industry associations, the Institute for Nonprofit News and the Local Independent Online News Publishers.

We have faced plenty of obstacles. When the pandemic forced the suspension of our print edition in 2020, we doubled down on multimedia storytelling with a focus on public health and housing insecurity. In the process we learned how to be more nimble translating investigative work from text to photos to audio and back again.

The media landscape is constantly shifting, with the creation, and sometimes dramatic implosion, of a long line of collaborators and competitors. But the Public Press’ track record of publishing original stories that matter demonstrates our dedication to serving the community.

Lila LaHood’s transition to executive director marks an exciting evolution for the organization. She is an energetic, highly ethical leader whose vision is distinguished by a sharp focus on equity, diversity, inclusion and collaboration — in the composition of our newsroom and in our coverage.

Under her direction, the Public Press will deepen its investigative efforts and public discussions with the help of a team of experienced journalists and up-and-coming talent, through Report for America and the California Local Reporting Fellowship.

Michael Stoll

I want to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who has donated to support our quixotic-sounding quest, and continues to chip in a few hard-earned dollars each year to keep us going. More than one-third of our annual budget comes from individual members. Your commitment to our work empowers us to pursue journalism that contributes to a more informed and equitable society, so this transition and transformation period would be the best time to donate to the Public Press!

Issue 21, Spring 2017

My new role will give me the chance to explore a range of topics I’ve worked on in the past, and some new ones. These include environmental justice, renewable energy, green jobs, sustainable transportation, climate adaptation, carbon trading, corporate accountability, food systems, and soil, air and water pollution. I’m also interested in a few non-climate-related topics, including neuroscience, digital privacy and artificial intelligence. I’m looking forward to collaborating with partner news organizations.

Overall, I am excited about the important and big-impact stories the Public Press will continue to tell, and confident that we will continue to keep local journalism sophisticated, constructive and feisty.

Senior editor & co-founder

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