Journalist Joel Engardio

Monday, January 27, 2014

On Monday, January 27, 2014, S.H.A.R.P. members convened for the first general meeting of the year.The first order of business was the election of officers and board members for 2014. A roster will be posted on the Website soon.

Board Member Jeremy Friedlander announced upcoming S.H.A.R.P. and S.H.A.R.P. underwritten events. He also informed those present about MUNI’s proposed changes to the N Judah line (a meeting of the MTA about this will be held at 6:00 p.m. on January 30, 2014 at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park) and a proposal to transform Irving between 9th and 10th Avenues into “Irving Commons,” a pedestrian mall (a meeting was held recently at St. John’s Church on Irving to discuss this).

The featured speaker for the evening was Sunset Heights resident Joel Engardio who is a San Francisco Examiner columnist and who was endorsed by the San Francisco Chronicle when he ran for District 7 Supervisor in 2012. Joel speaks as thoughtfully as he writes, and his style was engaging and conversational. He shared stories about his experiences in print journalism, which began when he was in elementary school and continued throughout high school, college, and beyond. Starting out wanting to share stories, he learned about the power of the press to change lives and hold others accountable.

Joel had the good fortune to interview Michael Moore before he had even entered college; during his college years he won an internship at the Boston Globe. He wrote a story about a man who had been a political radical in the 1960’s and who had eventually fled to Canada, where he had led an exemplary life for 20 years. Joel shared the story, and ultimately his subject was allowed to remain in Canada. Joel also interned for the Boston Globe in its Washington Bureau, where he heard Janet Reno make frank and critical comments about the NRA during a routine press conference. He ended up getting an interview with Ms. Reno, and the story about her NRA views made the front page.

Joel entered the workforce just as the Internet was expanding its reach, so he expanded his skills to include online journalism and documentary films. For a while he worked for the ACLU in an advocacy role, trying to reach “the hearts and minds” of the public to help shape public opinion. He told the stories of 5 Guantanamo detainees who were released without charges back to Britain.

Joel also made a documentary for PBS called “Knocking,” which explored the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ struggles to exercise their First Amendment rights free from harassment and persecution. Supreme Court decisions upholding their rights were ultimately relied upon by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who overturned Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in California, when he ruled that fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be curtailed by popular vote.

Finally, Joel gave the audience insight into how he writes his column: look for new angles; ask deeper questions; take on sacred cows; offer a solution if you can; and avoid an “us versus them” mentality.

The evening ended after Joel fielded audience questions about city government, city officials, transportation, and ballot initiatives.

If you want to read Joel’s column online or send him any ideas, sign up at his website.

See all 2014 meetings

See upcoming meetings