Jon Mays with beard

There were six cop cars on my street, why didn’t the Daily Journal have the story? Believe it or not, that’s the type of question we get quite a bit. A large police action may seem to merit news coverage, and people assume we will know all about it and have a story the next day. So when we don’t, people sometimes wonder why. But there is a bit more to it.

The rule of thumb when the Daily Journal first launched in 2000 was that we didn’t pay attention to fire trucks unless there were two barreling down B Street, the location of our first office.

More often than not, the fire engine, then the ladder truck, was from Station 21 downtown. On slow news days, we might find a reporter meandering down the street to see what’s up. That was back when we solely covered the city of San Mateo, and a little of Burlingame. We also might find ourselves at a two-alarm fire or a gas main break that caused office workers to vacate their buildings.

Fast-forward more than 20 years and we now cover nearly every city on the county’s Bayside from South San Francisco to Redwood City, and Half Moon Bay on the coast. And our staff is not that much bigger than when we first started.

There is also much more to cover. There are developments left and right, a housing crisis, transportation issues, school and municipal finance concerns, the pandemic and everything in between.

We cover breaking news, but it has to be fairly significant for us to head out there. For instance, we immediately sent a reporter to the active shooter incident at the Shops at Tanforan in 2019. The CZU Lightning Complex fire last summer was substantial and we covered that from multiple angles for multiple weeks. Besides that tragic fire, we have been fortunate recently in not having to cover a major structure fire. I recall one at Cunha’s Country Store on Main Street in Half Moon Bay that reached six alarms. We get grass fires on San Bruno Mountain about once a year that look worse than they are, but that are also becoming more worrisome. There was also a structure fire in the Shoreview neighborhood of San Mateo that was about three alarms and hit one main structure and two smaller ones. A two-alarm fire may seem big but can be for a pot on a stove in an apartment building and the second alarm is called in case it spreads to another unit. However, it typically has to be three alarms or higher for us to head out.

Another thing we encounter is large police presences in neighborhoods. Sometimes police, depending on how busy everyone is, might have additional backup for routine stops. Or there might be a warrant arrest that requires officers from multiple jurisdictions. It looks like a mighty big crime, but it might be something relatively minor and for an incident that happened previously in another city altogether. One incident in San Mateo caused a large-scale response because a woman called police to say there was a gun involved but was later uncooperative. Turned out her boyfriend had an out-of-county warrant and was arrested at a gas station across the street. Still, because of the initial report, police had to provide a full response. In another instance, there was a huge police presence at an investment firm building but it turned out to be swatting, a term for a false call. And sometimes a car crash can seem like a pretty big deal, and it is, but they are quite common and not something to which we would dispatch a reporter — especially if they are on deadline with another important story. But you never know. Sometimes a car crash can be linked to another crime and have significant news value.

So let us know if you hear of something because you never know if it’s something that might build into a news story.

We always keep tabs on public safety through websites, social media and the scanner and sometimes act upon tips. We scan police reports, also known as blotter, but they don’t always yield all the information. Sometimes, if you don’t see something in the paper, it’s because we didn’t know. So feel free to let us know. We will always check into things and report back personally even if it doesn’t turn into a story for everyone to read.

Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jon@smdailyjournal.com. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.

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(3) comments

aball52

Please advise your readers to call PD and Fire even if they think someelse called..Lots if times I wonder f anybody calls..Call to reinforce the calls received..We were almost side swiped by a car in Edfewater. I couldn't see my husband who was directing traffic behind me..I called the 573333 fire call to report it when a county dispatcher answered more than likely my husband was already reporting the accident It still doesn't hurt to call a county dispatcher answered I asked if any other callers had called I got this I.m not there excuse as they are in Foster city . as if after manning my scanner for years and living my life as wife if a first responder Captain I wouldn't know this? The dispatcher assumed I knew nothing which I already knew what she was saying in a presnickity voice. Late husband told me let him call.. my delimma us he responding as EMT with injuries air just traffic? my neighbor came along and told me what was behind me directing traffuc ,I have never encountered a cocky dispatcher but that day I did. I could at one time hear a ringdown and know exactly where they were going Usually when John Healy explained to me I just smiled and let him explain what I already knew that already. When Hillsborough became county i heard the dispatcher try to pronounce streets all over the county. new system now I wonder know it alls too,

wlydecker

The DJ is doing an outstanding job given the number of staffers. You need more tips from readers to close the gap. A suggestion; reach out to civic groups, say Rotary and such, to make them aware of this need.

Terence Y

Mr. Mays, thank you for an interesting look inside the newsroom. In the future, perhaps another look inside the newsroom? For instance, are style guides used? Any taboo subjects? Adherence to the Five W’s (who, what, where, when, and why) or at the discretion of the editor? Writing edited for elementary or high school level?

BTW, although most of the entries in the San Mateo County police report are robotic, please pass on my appreciation to the person, or persons, who write the top entry. They are doing a great job and a wicked sense of humor is always appreciated (at least by me). I would encourage many who normally don't, to read the police reports. They're a bit tough to find on the website, but they’re easily seen, and read, in the print edition. The funniest of the week, so far, was the entry on June 21 regarding the Slungastol by Ikea. A classic.

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