(This is the 19th 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 Kelly Rivas.
She’s 30, a Santa Rosa native, a University of California, Santa Cruz, graduate, lives in Tahoe Park and works as the field director/deputy press secretary for Rep. Ami Bera.
Her job includes understanding important issues in the district, educating local agencies, managing campaigns, community outreach, organizing events, writing press releases, pitching stories, participating in interviews and managing social media.
“We operate like a switchboard” to help people with all manner of issues, she says.
Outside of work, she’s a founding member of the Fem Dems of the Sacramento Region, was a peer adviser at Pathways to Policy 2014, has been a panelist for Emerge California, served as the project director for Sacramento Farmers and Chefs and is currently working on a water sustainability project as a part of the Global Shapers.
We met in September at Burr’s Fountain to talk about the city of Sacramento, media consumption and her thoughts on the news.
Kelly relocated to Sacramento six years ago for a job opportunity and has developed an appreciation for the people, the businesses and the agriculture scene.
“(The people) are just awesome on all accounts,” she says.
When she lived in a studio apartment above Aces of Fades on Broadway, she saw how the barbers watched over the neighborhood and how the Oak Park Neighborhood Association rallied to keep a coffee shop in the closing Starbucks space. She mentions Old Soul, Unseen Heroes and Oak Park Brewing Company as catalysts for the neighborhood’s continued revival.
“(The are) pockets around Sacramento becoming gathering places,” she says, crediting the MARRS Building as one of the first modern examples in the region.
She sees room in the ongoing farm-to-fork conversation to include food sustainability, the nutrition of children and access to fresh food. Restaurants have shown how you can cook with fresh, local ingredients. Now, she says, they need to direct their attention to the kid’s menu, which often includes nothing more than bar food and fried food staples.
As someone who’s job motivates them to look beyond the grid and think regionally, she’s also concerned about the widening achievement gaps.
“There are parts of the economy that are picking up again, but, as diverse as we are, our economy isn’t that diverse,” she says. “We need to diversify the regional economy.”
In our conversation, two types of news seemed particularly important to Kelly: in-depth coverage that teach you something and hyperlocal news that you can’t find elsewhere. Outside of the answers below, she mentioned long-form pieces, the advertorial sections by local nonprofits within the Sacramento News & Review, local stories on Capital Public Radio and the many, small community newspapers.
“They do a good job job covering things people care about in neighborhoods,” she says.
Kelly answered the following questions by email about how she gets the news. Text submitted August 30.
How do you get your news?
I should answer this in two parts because the way I get news for work is very different from how I get news personally.
For work, I rely on daily subscriptions and news alerts to stay up to date on what’s happening in Washington D.C. and here in Sacramento County. Publications I use for this include: POLITICO, CQ Roll Call, AP news alerts, and then local print subscriptions (The Sacramento Bee, the Elk Grove Citizen, The Folsom Telegraph, Grapevine Independent, Inside Arden, the Orangevale Sun, the Carmichael Times, etc.) I also toggle back and forth between NewsRadio KFBK and Capital Public Radio on my way to and from work.
For personal consumption, I read theSkimm from my phone, browse through The Bee on weekends with a cup of coffee in bed, and scroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds randomly throughout the day.
What’s the first news event you remember?
The first major news event I remember is the the 1989 earthquake. I was about 5 years old at the time and was practicing how to make waves in the bathtub after swimming all day. I finally got a really good one going that didn’t subside and was in pure awe of this wave as it grew bigger when my father scooped me up in a serious rush and ran me outside. We stood outside watching the house sway and I realized it was the earthquake, not my bathtub moves that made that incredible wave. We lived an hour north of San Francisco and the rest of the day consisted of my mom checking in on our family in the Bay Area. I remember seeing photos from the newspapers and TV about the quake and the Bay Bridge partial collapse. The whole event sunk in and stayed in my early memory banks because of that wave including stories from relatives about their experiences.
What content do you pay for?
I have a daily subscription to The Bee and magazine subscriptions to The Atlantic, Scientific American and National Geographic. Does Hulu or Netflix count? I watch TED Talks and documentaries via both, maybe not news so much as educational.
What’s the last great thing you ate?
The deviled eggs at Revolution Wines. I’m not necessarily on the whole bacon bandwagon where I think it should be on everything but they put bacon in the deviled egg mixture and a lardon on top. It was very appropriate.
Who’s doing it right in news?
I love theSkimm. It’s a great digestible breakdown of top stories around the world with some modern snark and pop delivered straight to your inbox each morning. I just love it. Beyond that, I think the Atlantic does a great job with in-depth articles and topics. I really enjoy their longer pieces. I also appreciate the local traffic updates from KFBK during the morning and afternoon news, they do a really great job.
Name the three most important issues facing Sacramento.
(1) Our inability to talk about the uncomfortable taboos in a constructive way — Sacramento has some serious issues that aren’t really talked about openly. I see it as a problem of educating and engaging the public about the serious and prevalent issues in Sacramento that most people would rather not talk about. Human trafficking, STD rates among youth, mental health, prescription drug abuse, heroin use and homelessness are the core ones here that too often are put ‘out of sight, out of mind.’
There are certainly steps towards addressing each of these issues by advocacy groups and local agencies but as a whole, we aren’t talking about them in a constructive way or coming from a place of collaboration to address them. I think they’re all public health or public safety issues and we could be doing a lot more to engage our region to openly acknowledge and constructively address these issues.
(2) Achievement gaps — In education, food and neighborhoods. We have some incredible schools in the county and turn out some stellar graduates but we also are lagging behind with third grade reading levels and resources. Similarly, we have great ambition to be the Farm-to-Fork Capital with all the right resources but we are still facing food deserts and a hidden population of children and adults who are hungry and not getting the right nutrition.
(3) Identity — Sacramento has so much going for it but we don’t really understand who we are or how we can leverage a regional identity to become a world-class city. The beautiful thing about us is that we are so diverse and integrated but that could perhaps be part of why it’s so hard to identify one or two core qualities for a shared identity. I think everyone knows and agrees that we are a government town as the capital but it doesn’t encapsulate the spirit of Sacramento and all we have to offer; this may be the crux of our identity crisis.
What do you absolutely hate about the news?
I can’t stand the style of news that was made popular by Morton Downey Jr. and is now embodied in some talk radio shows. Some of the self-aggrandizing and spiteful judgements can get under my skin when they so unabashedly ignore facts and are completely unfounded.
What’s the most important issue to you that’s not being covered well enough?
Prescription drug abuse and the rising heroin epidemic. We talk about this a lot at work and I think we could be doing so much more to help address this issue, especially in Sacramento. The more I learn and talk with folks the more I realize how prevalent it is and how many people are directly affected or know someone who is.
If you could be anywhere, an-hour-and-a-half drive away, where would you be?
If I drive fast enough I can make it to my mom’s house in Sonoma County in that time. Then I’d be in the swinging hammock chair under the Sycamore tree. It’s simply heaven and one of the few places on earth I completely let everything go.
Follow Kelly (@KellyFRivas) on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.