Perhaps you snagged a copy of this week's Express, took one look at Donald Trump's rug on the cover, and thought to yourself, "No thanks."
I feel you. We all want this Trump soap opera to disappear, for the man to exit political stage right — tiny hands in his pockets, coif hopelessly ruffled — and return to hosting some half-rate reality show. Last summer, I even recommended implementing a "Trumpatorium" at my former paper, the Sacramento News & Review.
That's right: This is my first issue as editor-in-chief of the Express. And Trump is on the cover. What have I done?!
In all seriousness, while I'm not thrilled to lend The Donald this fine paper's primo front-page real estate, I know it's crucial. Traditional journalists keep validating the man — I'm talking to you, cable TV news — so it's become the adopted role of the weekly paper to skewer him. (Dive in for more on page 12.)
Anyway, I'm new to town. Or, The Town. My last 12 years were at SN&R, the free weekly in this state's capital. During the last four, I was co-editor, which means I oversaw features, news and investigations, and occasionally dabbled in some food or music reporting.
That paper's mission aligns with the tradition of smart journalism here at the Express. So don't fret: This paper will still be the East Bay's watchdog. It will still dig into public records and keep the powerful in check. It will still dish on exciting and worthy food spots, art galleries and musicians. And it will definitely still raise hell.
But the Express will also change in the coming year. There will be new voices. In twelve months, my hope is that you'll flip through these pages and read columns and stories by a diverse mix of writers who better reflect the East Bay community.
I'm also mindful that journalism is changing, and that honest and clearheaded reporting is more important than ever in the East Bay.
To that end, you're probably asking why I'm qualified to carry the Express torch, what with all the terrific folk who've pounded keyboards in this building over the years. Fair question. (And our prez asked me to brag a little.)
My departure from SN&R last month ended on a high note. In March, I accepted the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists James Madison Freedom of Information Award, for our reporting on Sacramento mayor and former NBA star (and Cal standout) Kevin Johnson. My drama with K.J. is a marathon tale — he sued my paper! — but shoot me an email and I'll share more over coffee. (It's Nick.Miller@EastBayExpress.com.)
More crowing about awards? OK, fine: This past Saturday, I was on the 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis near Union Square holding in my hand the California Newspaper Publishing Association's first place "General Excellence" plaque. This is awarded each year to the best weekly paper in the state. That was a sweet moment.
Writers I collaborated with also took home first-place prizes: for best investigative reporting (exposing incompetence, and worse, at City Hall and saving Sacto water users north of $65 million), and for local-government reporting (on how Sacramento's sheriff issued more concealed-carry gun permits than any other major California lawman).
So, why leave a good thing? Why skip on my hometown for the Bay? It's simple: I love it here. I was actually born in the Bay Area. My dog is named Bernie (after Coco Crisp and Bernie Lean, not Sanders). I've always admired this region's political grit, and the audacity of its creatives. Oaklanders and Berkeley residents are unafraid to dare, be it challenging the establishment at City Hall or rolling the dice on a local business that celebrates a neighborhood. I dig that. And I'm thrilled to have parachuted into this place, to be accepted as a part of it. It's a privilege to spend my days sharing your stories.
I'm looking forward to it — and to focusing a lot less on Trump.
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