It may not be sexy, but it’s important

Pub date July 29, 1987
WriterJean Field

The problem with reading comprehensive analyses of the state of anything — the union, the art or the economy — is that you often have to wade through a whole lot of facts and figures before you get to the good stuff. Most of us zone out when we see too many numbers in front of our eyes. No matter how interesting or important we find the topic, if a report contains more than one statistic per paragraph, we never make it to the end.

For The Bay Guardian, that has always been a dilemma. Unlike a lot of news outlets, we don’t ask you to believe our stories on faith alone; we give you the facts to back them up. Sometimes, with complicated stories, we give you so many that you can’t be bothered reading them all.

Bruce Brugmann, the editor and publisher, is fond of telling us that the headline on every story has to summarize everything important in the story. Most people, he says, won’t read anything else. If we want to make sure they get the point, we have to put it in 96-point Tempo Bold.

Which makes sense. But when the story is about the state of San Francisco’s economy and how the next mayor should guide it, the point doesn’t lend itself to a few short, bold words on the top of a page. It’s too complicated for headlines.

It’s also too complicated for short campaign slogans, or for 30-second radio and TV ads. That may be one reason why the mayoral candidates have, by and large, ignored the issue. It just isn’t sexy. It takes too long to explain. Too many numbers. The voters will go to sleep.

Unfortunately, the issue is also crucial. The economic policies of the next mayor will affect the lives of everybody living or working in San Francisco. It’s something the candidates should be talking about.

We aren’t running for public office, so we don’t need to hustle for votes. But we are concerned about the future of the city — and no matter how much work we put into a story, it does no good if people don’t read it. This week’s main news story, by reporter Tim Redmond, is full of numbers and statistics, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s

the kind of story that would normally scare me away. But the story is important, and the proposals that form the final section should be required reading for anyone interested in a serious debate over the city’s future. Give it a shot — then call your favorite candidate and ask him or her what they think of our ideas and why they aren’t discussing these issues as part of the campaign.