To follow local civic matters in Alameda these days, you'll likely end up reading a blogger.
You can learn about the closing of the Alameda Sun by reading historian and planning scholar Rasheed Shabazz's blog or reading former high school journalism educator Larry Freeman's blog or reading remarks on "the state of local news in Alameda" to a state legislative committee given by Adam Gillitt, publisher of the Alameda Post blog.
The key difference between the Alameda Sun and the other options isn't that it was print and the "blogs" are online only. It's that the Alameda Sun was the last news outlet attempting to cover Alameda with paid editors and reporters. (Although I can't imagine the pay was much or that it had reporters-plural rather than reporter-singular in the final COVID-era stretch of the paper.) In contrast, today's options are mainly driven by individuals' donated time and their personal interests.
It's unfortunate that Alameda's residents, voters, businesses, and visitors can't read systematic coverage from a newsroom of eagle-eyed editors and writers paid for shoe-leather reporting. But in the meantime, here's a "blogroll" of who does still write about Alameda (in addition to the blogs I linked to above):
- Daniel Borenstein blogs in the Alameda Journal. Sure, it looks like a print newspaper. But its private equity owners are in the process of laying off staff, reducing coverage to wire stories, and sucking it dry to the last drop. Peter Hegarty, the paper's long-time and well-regarded reporter focused on Alameda, died in 2021. None of its remaining news reporters focus on Alameda. In the paper's opinion section, Borenstein is "their one-man editorial board" (to quote an East Bay-wide politics blogger). So when you read an editorial or an election endorsement in the Alameda Journal, you're effectively just reading this one fellow. Nothing wrong with that if you just call it a blog instead!
- Robert Sullwold posts at Alameda Merry-Go-Round. He writes essay-length posts that include references to his sources, often quote from interviews he conducts, and his own analysis. The line between the reporting and the analysis is sometimes quite subtle — which is very much a blogger's right, but just means that it's up to readers to notice when they're being taken on a journey to the writer's destination. If you're in the mood to insult people who work in government, this blog's comments section is for you.
- The Alameda Post's team has created a online publication that covers a wide range of topics, from city meetings to local arts and events. I don't mean to downplay its quality by calling it a "blog." But its coverage does appear driven by the individual interests of contributors who are available to volunteer their time. Maybe the Alameda Post will someday succeed at landing sufficient financial support to become more like an "Alamedaside" (like the well-resourced Berkeleyside and Oaklandside that are able to produce both meeting-by-meeting coverage and larger investigative reporting projects).
- Alexis Krieg and a handful of other residents toot — err, post — about city meetings on Mastodon under the #alamtg hashtag. It's not as lively as previously on Twitter, but at least Mastodon comes without the nasty downsides of Twitter. (Mastodon posts can be read across the "fediverse" network. To keep it simple, if you want to join, just sign up for an account at sfba.social, a Bay Area-based network operated by a group of friendly and competent volunteers.) Mastodon posts can be somewhat long and are also exposed as RSS feeds, so it's more or less a blog.
The big one is missing from this list: Lauren Do, who just concluded her 18 year run of posting to Blogging Bayport Alameda.
The loss of Blogging Bayport's most-mornings-at-6 a.m. posts will leave a more substantial hole in civic affairs than the Alameda Sun's print broadsheet.
One thing I've found oddly amusing about the little Alameda blogging scene is how many times I've read other bloggers — all males — react strongly and viscerally to Do's blog. It's mainly jealousy of how prolific she's been. But there's also a reaction to her voice that completely misunderstands its value. It's a reaction that's offended by opinions shared bluntly. It's a silly assumption that readers can't read both fact and interpretation in a single piece of writing and decide for themselves whether they agree with the writer. And it completely misses the way in which editorial judgement is actually exercised by Do and all other bloggers.
The real choice in blogging has nothing to do with the way one writes. Rather it's what one choose to write about — what you try to convince others to spend some time also thinking about.
And that's also the biggest challenge with local civic matters. Not that people don't care. Rather, that so few people follow the nitty gritty of what's happening, so they can't decide whether they even want to care about a given topic.
With many of her blog post, Do effectively sent out little alerts across Alameda saying Hey folks, if you care about this big broad topic, now here's a meeting or a document or a vote that's specifically important. Here's why. It's time to tune it!
Year after year, she's helped activate attention on efforts like homeless support services, school funding and equity, and addressing Alameda's history of racial segregation. (And this is just from my limited knowledge of the last ~7 years.)
And then there's the color she's also added on the characters, the hang-ups, and the history of this place. Sometimes it's amusing, sometimes it's offensive, and sometimes it's merely frustrating. Regardless, it's all useful to newcomers curious to learn more about both the highs and the lows of Alameda.
Today's no longer the height of blogging, but the technology and the culture does remain. It's possible to read along from an RSS reader, an email subscription, or just an occasional click on a link. And blogging's rule of thumb does still apply: if you disagree with a post you read — whether it's on Do's blog, this one, or any other — the best way to respond is to just go start your own blog.