In the middle of May, the Community Alliance newspaper published a Special Edition about the barbaric treatment of the mentally ill in the Fresno County Jail. We have reprinted “Freefall into Madness” as a Special Section in this paper.
When Mark Arax, who is a Fresno State journalism professor and arguably the best writer in the Fresno area, approached me about the jail/mental health story a couple of months ago, I knew it was the kind of article we wanted to print.
I have read several of Arax’s books, including In My Father’s Name and The King of California, which tell the remarkable history of our lives in Fresno and the Central Valley.* Those books and his years of investigative journalism as a writer for the Los Angeles Times left me with no doubt that he could make the story about what is going on within the Fresno County Jail come alive.
If you are an editor for a small alternative/independent newspaper, having someone like Arax write for you is about as good as it gets. But now, not only do we get the benefit of Arax’s significant skill to help tell this story, but he is also teaching the next generation of journalists how to write news stories. Almost too good to be true, eh?
Because of technological developments, there are those who want to write an obituary for newspapers and think that investigative journalism is dead. Projects such as this Special Section and Edition are evidence that rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. This is our best argument that even in the world of the Internet, Facebook and smart phones quality journalism will survive. I believe readers need and will continue to demand in-depth information about the world around them that you simply can’t get from a source like Twitter, which limits you to 140 characters.
Arax and his students have worked on several great investigative articles in the Fresno Bee. They did the research that led to the story about Tony Vang not living in the district he represented as a trustee for the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) and wrote a groundbreaking story in the Bee about the dropout situation in FUSD. The Bee’s publishing of those stories gave visibility to important issues that probably would not otherwise have been brought to this community’s attention. Elected officials were removed from office and public policy changed as a result of these articles.
One of the great things about having several newspapers in Fresno is that writers have more than one publishing option when they have an important story to tell. We are honored that Arax and his students have chosen the Community Alliance to tell their story about the appalling conditions within the Fresno County Jail.
It has been a logistical challenge for us (a small, mostly volunteer group) to produce this Special Section and Edition and get it into your hands. Let us know if you like what you read and want us to publish more investigative stories by Arax and his students. Another way you can show that you like investigative journalism is by clipping out and mailing us the subscription form below.
*I strongly encourage readers of the Community Alliance to get a copy of Arax’s books. They are wonderful to read and will tell you things about your community that you probably didn’t know. For example, In My Father’s Name details the crime and corruption (in the highest places) that has made Fresno what it is today—such as a former police chief who was involved in graft and corruption, who ended up marrying the woman who ran prostitution in the city.