People of Sacramento commenting on the news: Justin Knighten

Justin Knighten, vice president of Lucas Public Affairs
Justin Knighten, vice president of Lucas Public Affairs. Photo: Kevin Fiscus.

(This is the first installment in a weekly series with people who don’t work in journalism commenting on the news. Photography by Kevin Fiscus. If you’d like to participate, message or tweet me.)

Meet Justin Knighten.

He’s newly 30, a Sacramento State graduate, lives downtown and is vice president of Lucas Public Affairs.

I met Justin in 2007 when we were in college and wrote this profile on him for The State Hornet. One of the sources described him as a go-getter, very motivated and active in understanding politics.

You could describe him the same way today.

Justin and I reconnected in February at LowBrau to talk about media consumption, the city of Sacramento and his thoughts on the news.

He says that Sacramento is vastly different than when he was in college (between 2003 and 2007), and that the city is at a crossroads — will it continue to grow or will it maintain the status quo?

Justin says that what makes Sacramento unique is the Capitol, food and our history, including the families that built the city decades ago. He stressed the importance of Sacramento as the birth of policy.

“We should really be the second (Washington) D.C.,” he says.

Justin later answered the following questions by email about how he gets the news. Text submitted March 31.

How do you get your news?
Nothing beats the feel of a traditional newspaper or hardcopy magazine; however, I find the use of digital platforms – websites, Twitter, etc. – more accessible and practical. I find myself using a mobile device more frequently.

What’s the first news event you remember?
The one news event I can recall with the most clarity is the United States Presidential Campaign and Election of 1992. I was in the second grade that year so I was more enthralled with cartoons, but I do remember watching the presidential debates with my parents and monitoring news coverage.

What content do you pay for?
I pay for The Sacramento Bee and Sunday edition of the New York Times – Sunday mornings are made for the Style and Arts & Leisure section as well as the recently redesigned New York Times Magazine. I’ll also pay for The New Yorker, GQ Magazine and FourTwoNine magazine.

What’s the last great thing you ate?
About 8-9 months ago I went to Carpe Vino with friends. The meal I had at the Auburn-based award-winning wine bar is still on my mind. Yet, I’m long overdue for a return.

Who’s doing it right in news?
Since Ezra Klein left The Washington Post and launched VOX with other veteran journalists, I’ve been a huge fan of tracking how the outlet covers some of the most pressing and important issues of the day. Their overall talent and approach to covering the news is impressive. They take a wide range of content and stories – from the complex, difficult and challenging to the lighthearted and mainstream – and simplify the information for the masses while ensuring the news is always compelling and smart. While consuming their content, I often think back to their first video that defines VOX’s purpose and value.

The New York Times, “The Gray Lady”, continues to hold its position as the journalism gold standard, driver of influence and model for pushing boundaries and staying current. Their steady evolution says a lot about their leadership and commitment to excellence, our culture and the future of the news industry as evident in the 2010 documentary: Page One: Inside The New York Times.

I consider PBS Frontline as the authority on broadcast news. Their in-depth news documentaries set the bar for broadcast investigative journalism and storytelling. And right here in the Capitol of California, there are members of the Capitol Press Corps steadfast in their commitment to shine a light on important issues and follow trends that shape California’s future.

Name the three most important issues facing Sacramento.
(1) Industry — the city must expand its pool of industry to ensure a dynamic and robust economic future.

(2) Navigating a crossroads — it’s an exciting time for the Capitol City. Sacramento is building and planning for the future. There’s a lot of momentum behind important projects, movements and initiatives. These are outstanding opportunities that do or will present some challenges. Big decisions have been made and others will continue to carve a path forward.

(3) Forward thinking and action — we must celebrate and learn from our unique history, but Sacramento can sometimes get lost in “what is” and “what was.”

What do you absolutely hate about the news?
It is frustrating when pundit commentary and rhetoric is disguised as news and fact or when small mundane stories get more ink and airtime than the issues and developments that actually matter.

What’s the most important issue to you that’s not being covered well enough?
I must admit that over a year ago my inner pessimist was convinced that the regular national and local print, broadcast and online coverage of LGBT issues was a fad destined to reach a swift conclusion. So far, that has not been the case. I’m thrilled and impressed by the mainstream news coverage on issues that impact the LGBT community. The news has been consistent, extensive and meaningful.

This is not exclusively a media phenomenon. The level of ongoing media interest is fueled day-to-day by human rights advocates and dedicated champions of change. In light of recent events – particularly with the discriminatory legislation signed by Indiana State Governor Mike Pence (R) – the business community has shown extreme visibility and action on LGBT issues. A recent Washington Post article highlights the influential voices and public figures who have publicly opposed the legislation, especially businesses. The level of corporate leadership on this issue and countless others demonstrates how powerful and important business leaders can be to help advance the charge on LGBT and human rights.

If you could be anywhere, an-hour-and-a-half drive away, where would you be?
San Francisco, California.

Follow Justin (@JustinKK) on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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