Best in Sacramento journalism – Sept. 18 to Sept. 25

[View the story “Best in Sacramento journalism – Sept. 18 to Sept. 25” on Storify]

Each week, I curate the best stories in the Sacramento news scene. The stories are chosen based on a combination of storytelling, difficulty, importance, depth, proximity and heart.

These stories are not necessarily the top news topics in the region. Gay porn actor Ryan Idol was convicted of attempted murder for the beating of a woman with a toilet tank lid; a downtown arena might be built using foreign investment with help of well-compensated consultants and operated by the Anschutz Entertainment Group; and thousands of Kaiser nurses in northern California went on strike in support of co-workers.

And, yet, they don’t make my list. In addition to the above-stated criteria, originality is important. All things being equal, or close to it, platform dictates consumption. You may prefer the television video report over the newspaper print report, or vice versa.  It’s not fun to split hairs on similar stories reported by each major outlet.

Now, on to the 10 best stories in Sacramento journalism:

10. “Problems plague $4.3 million Caltrans Delta ferry” by George Warren for KXTV ABC Channel 10

The Real McCoy II, a ferry tasked with connecting Solano County and Ryer Island, sits docked with a broken hydraulic propulsion system. The $4.3 million ferry has been plagued by problems since the Department of Transportation placed it in service in January. “A Caltrans spokeswoman told me the agency is aware of the great inconvenience the ferry breakdown is causing people on both sides of the crossing,” Warren reports. “She says Caltrans is working to minimize the impact but has no estimate of when the ferry will be put back into service.”

9. “Sacramento homeowner loses house twice to foreclosure” by George Warren for KXTV ABC Channel 10

Miriam Lord lost her Rosemont house twice to foreclosure. Chase Home Finance applied loan payments to the wrong account, sold the house at auction, recognized the mistake, sent notification to the house where Lord no longer lived and then foreclosed a second time after Lord didn’t pay for the home she thought she no longer owned. “This is a bizarre story of how a bank’s mistake snowballed into a woman losing her home of 19 years,” Warren reports.

8. “2 pending CA bills would outlaw sale, distribution of designer drugs” by Suzanne Phan (@SuzannePhan) for KXTV ABC Channel 10

Two bills before Gov. Jerry Brown would make it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of marijuana and cocaine. “Incense” and “bath salts” are sold on the Internet and at smoke shops. “Many of the kids who tried the synthetic stimulants say its popular among teens now because they can go undetected by standard drug tests,” Phan reports.

7. “New high school grads not in college face extra-steep job barriers in Sacramento region” by Phillip Reese for The Sacramento Bee

One out of every three new high school graduates not enrolled in college is unemployed. “Low-skill jobs in areas such as retail sales and fast food were cut fast during the recession, creating more competition for fewer slots,” Reese writes. “Employers often hire someone with a dependable job record over a fresh-faced kid, even for relatively simple work.”

6. “Lonely trumpeter likes the sound of Sacramento City Hall at midnight” by Edward Ortiz for The Sacramento Bee

Trumpeter Ron Sang Cox makes the City Hall parking garage at 11th and I streets his own late-night stage. The 62-year-old New Orleans native can sometimes be found playing until 3 a.m. “The sound from his horn was buttery and filled with the wisdom of life,” Ortiz writes. “It’s the kind of solid playing that many a bandleader would love to tap for a horn section.”

5. “Rare Disease Devastates Dixon Teenager, Family” by Carlos Villatoro (@DixonPatch) for Dixon Patch

Amber Oerding, first introduced to readers in a July story, isn’t doing well. The 18-year-old Dixon High School graduate suffers from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland gradually loses function. Her condition worsened in August and doctors now believe she has the multisystem disorder mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encethalopathy. “The notion that (she) can die from this disease, if it’s really what Amber has, has shaken the Oerding family to the core,” Villatoro writes.

4. “Power to the people – Best of Sacramento” by with portraits by Talecia Bell  (@MsEditorNchief), Hugh BiggarKimberly Brown (@ListMiss), Becca Costello, Jeff ChinnLovelle Harris (@luvharris), Rachel Leibrock (@writegrrrl), Garrett McCord (@GarrettMcCord), Jonathan Mendick (@jmendick), Kel Munger (@KelMunger), Nick MillerStephanie RodriguezAnn Martin Rolke and Shoka for Sacramento News & Review

It’s no secret that I love profiles. I loved writing them as a student journalist and I love featuring them as a professional Web producer. (See: Faces of Our Region photo gallery.) The annual SN&R “best of” issue is always a good pick up and this year is no different, with 24 portraits of community members in arts and lifestyle, food and drink, goods and services, sports and recreation, green and natural, sex and life and marijuana.

3. “Jerry Brown grants bulk of state hiring freeze exemption requests” by Jon Ortiz (@TheStateWorker) for The Sacramento Bee

An investigation found that Gov. Jerry Brown approved 73 percent of all requests for exemptions to hire state workers. Forty-six agencies, departments and offices asked to hire 3,642 workers via 115 request forms; 2,661 exemptions were given. “Jobs covered in the hiring pitches ranged from high-level, six-figure administrative positions to some of the lowest-paid seasonal work the state offers,” Ortiz writes.

2. “Sacramento, CA: All Hands on Deck” by Al Letson (@Al_Letson) including interviews with longtime political journalist A.G. Block, Kings blogger Blake Ellington (@blakeellington), radio personality Dave Weiglein (@CarmichaelDave) and freelance journalist and poet Josh Fernandez (@satandez) for State of the Re:Union

Sacramento can often seem obsessed with how the outside world perceives it. The state Capitol is the model of disfunction, Lisa Ling told the stories of homelessness to Oprah viewers and NBA fans expect the Kings to leave the city without professional sports franchise. So, it’s heartwarming to listen to an outsider paint a nuanced picture of the city’s resilience. “We’re in Sacramento, California, where the politics are depressing and the economy is even worse,” Letson reports. “But, for people here, the time for complaints is over.” He tells a warm story about the city responding to the tough times through volunteerism and community building.

1. Two-part series: “Falsified patient records are untold story of California nursing home care” and “Woman’s death raises questions about nursing home medical records” by Marjie Lundstrom for The Sacramento Bee

Lawyers say nursing homes are falsifying patient medical records to cover for inadequate care. “In California and elsewhere, nursing homes have been caught altering entries and outright lying on residents’ medical charts – sometimes with disastrous human consequences,” Lundstrom, who examined 150 falsification cases, writes.

What do you think? Did I miss a story? Don’t agree with my ranking? Tell me in the comments section.

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