Thrills at 48 Hills
Zachary James ’20, graduate student in the Urban and Public Affairs program, spent his summer working in the field of investigative journalism as a writer for the local online newspaper, 48 Hills. He reflects in this week’s blog on the issue areas he was exposed to and how his internship gave him the ideas for further academic research.
Working for 48 Hills as an intern was an incredibly valuable learning experience. Under the guidance of Urban and Public Affairs professor and editor Tim Redmond, I was able to gain first-hand knowledge surrounding the world of investigative journalism.
48 Hills is an independent, local online San Francisco newspaper and over the summer I worked on a variety of different projects and covered an array of different stories happening around town. For example, I covered events like Elizabeth Warren’s town hall in Oakland and the Kaiser mental health worker strike in San Francisco. It was really eye-opening to go to these events and talk to the people involved. Through this process, I was able to improve my interview and reporting skills while also learning about the technical aspects of writing journalistic pieces in the pyramid structure.
In addition to covering these stories, I also worked on some longer investigative pieces throughout the course of the summer. An issue that is of particular interest to me is housing and during my internship I performed research on “no fault/low fault” evictions in the city of San Francisco. During my research, I primarily focused on Ellis Act evictions and the neighborhoods where they are most prominent places like the Mission District. Ellis Act evictions are so polarizing because they allow landlords to legally kick out existing tenants many of which are under rent control and sell the units for huge sums of money at a large profit. In other words, Ellis Act evictions are often used as a loophole for landlords to get around rent controlled units.
During my research for this project, I conducted a group interview with tenants facing eviction and talked to numerous others. I also spent a lot of time at the San Francisco City Assessor’s Office and the San Francisco Rent Board to find concrete data on these evictions. Through working on this project, I have become much more familiar and comfortable finding information that isn’t accessible online.
One of the biggest takeaways I got from my internship was that it has also helped to guide my capstone project. I am planning on extending the research that I did this summer in housing and no fault/low fault evictions for my capstone research. My internship with 48 Hills helped me to narrow my interests and has given me a big jumpstart on my preliminary research. 48 Hills was such a cool internship because it enabled me to focus my interests and turn them into concrete writing projects. The research methods that I learned and used during my internship have all been directly transferable to my academic work. During my time with 48 Hills, I was also able to build relationships with people in the community and gain a better understanding of the issues that face San Francisco.