Each week, I curate the best stories in the Sacramento news scene. The stories are chosen based on a combination of originality, storytelling, difficulty, importance, depth, proximity and heart.
I tried to find a recurring news theme this week and nothing stuck. So, let’s dive right in.
Here are the 10 best stories in Sacramento journalism:
Amid the swarm of laptops, netbooks, tablets and smartphones, a few independent publishers toil away to create something outside of the mainstream. In Sacramento, Dan Curran’s Zipgun covers graffiti culture and Laura-Marie Taylor’s Functionally Ill covers mental health. “The paper zine may be old school but it hasn’t gone the way of the cassette Walkman, yet,” Harris writes.
9. “Where Northern CA counties spent their post 9/11 anti-terrorism money” by Suzanne Phan (@SuzannePhan) and California Watch for KXTV ABC Channel 10
Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Homeland Security has awarded billions in anti-terrorism grants to California agencies. “How exactly has the Golden State and the Sacramento region spent all of that Homeland Security money?” Phan asks, before detailing purchases by police departments in Lincoln and Sacramento County.
8. “Despite fines, illegal gold mining persists in El Dorado County” by Susanne Rust (@srustCW) for California Watch
Joseph and Yvette Hardesty continue to search for gold at Big Cut Mine despite repeated notices of illegal excavation and unpaid fines totaling more than $100,000. “Not only did they not adhere to the original violations cited against them but they have expanded their operations,” Stephen Testa, executive officer of the State Mining and Geology Board, tells Rust. These “outlaw minors,” as described by Rust, seem to be quite elusive. Certified notices were returned unopened, fines remain ignored and the couple failed to appear before the state board. They didn’t return her calls either.
7. “Head games” by Hugh Biggar for the Sacramento News & Review
Local high schools are responding to nation’s focus on football-related head trauma by providing concussion-management online courses for coaches and teaching good technique to student athletes. “With a growing body count of players suffering the crippling long-term effects of concussions and head injuries, enthusiasts of the sport are now moving the goal posts closer toward better protection of players, ” Biggar writes. Some schools, however, are limited in their ability to protect players. Cash-strapped districts can’t afford athletic trainers at games and limited budgets keep teams for purchasing safer, albeit more expensive, helmets.
6. “Misplaced recording sets defendants free in Sacramento drug case” by Denny Walsh for The Sacramento Bee
A federal judge dismissed the case against two cousins facing methamphetamine distribution charges and Sacramento County will have to pay $400,000 in a settlement to the resulting civil lawsuit. “Few caught up in the criminal justice system have experienced a reversal of fortune like that of John Phillip Pruitt and Darryl Anthony Berg,” Walsh writes. Prosecutors failed to turn over a recording to the defense after a detective claimed the recording didn’t exist.
5. “Grieving parents outraged over order to pay doctor’s defense costs” by Andy Furillo (@andyfurillo) for The Sacramento Bee
A Cameron Park couple lost their 19-year-old daughter and then lost the subsequent medical negligence case. Now, a Sacramento Superior Court judge has ordered Richard and Batrice Mohr to pay $15,626 in court costs. “The Mohrs said the outcome of the case has left them shaken and cynical,” Furillo writes.
The housing bust disproportionately affected the region’s blacks and Latinos. “Their homes are gone, their credit is shot and their rent is often more expensive than a mortgage payment,” Reese and Magagnini write. Many blacks and Latinos took out subprime mortgages with skyrocketing interest rates that they could not longer afford.
3. “Post-9/11 rescue effort transformed Sacramento-area firefighter” by Cynthia Hubert (@Cynthia_Hubert) for The Sacramento Bee
Fire captain Michael Bartley and members of the Sacramento Urban Rescue Team spent 10 days in New York searching for survivors after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. “As he emerged from ‘the pile’ each morning, surrounded by scenes of grief and loss,” Hubert writes, “Bartley began to search his own heart.” He detailed his struggles on souvenir postcards for his girlfriend Erin Brittain and would return a changed man ready to start a family.
2. “The House Of Dream Chasers” by S.L. Price for Sports Illustrated
Price, a former Kings beat writer for The Sacramento Bee, catches up with Texas Christian University football coach Gary Patterson. The two men lived together in Davis when Patterson was co-coach of the linebackers at the University of California, Davis. One-year with the Aggies would lay the foundation for Patterson’s future defensive success. “A quarter century ago I was onto the best sports story I’d ever know—and I almost missed it,” Price writes. (Patterson, by the way, notched his 100th win as the TCU coach this weekend.)
Avila dedicates this week’s episode of 20/20 to the murder of Joanne M. Witt and the trial of teen lovers Steven Paul Colver and Tylar Marie Witt in El Dorado County. Colver was sentenced in August to life in prison without the possibility of parole after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder in the stabbing of Joanne Witt. “What I did was terrible,” says Tylar Witt, who was sentenced to 15 years to life under a plea deal in exchange for testifying against Colver. “I am responsible for my mother’s death.”
What do you think? Did I miss a story? Don’t agree with my ranking? Tell me in the comments section.