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Press Clips: Delaney Smith Spots "Many Acts of Selflessness" in Covid Reporting - Plus SB Biz Scoops

Delaney Smith possesses all the natural traits needed to succeed as a reporter -- she's sharp, smart, skeptical, driven, persistent and resourceful.

What sets her apart as special in the journalism racket, however, is that she also possesses a large talent for caring -- about the work, and for the people and community that she covers.

"I've just witnessed so many acts of selflessness," the staff reporter for the SB Independent told us in a Zoomed conversation about her coverage of the Covid-19 catastrophe.

"And I'm not trying to be all schmoozy, I truly mean it...I love these people," she added. "Reading stories from other communities – people aren’t like us, people (elsewhere) don’t band together and sew hundreds of masks and then go feed the homeless just because... they want to. That's what this has really shown me."

High energy and fast talking, Delaney has been central to the Indy's all-hands-on-deck coverage of coronavirus, filing a flurry of reports on every aspect of the crisis -- from beaches, child care, cruise ships, domestic violence, food banks, gang violence, homelessness and the legal system, to the Lompoc prison scandal, masks, public transit, shelter animals, taxes, telephone town halls, tests and UCSB's latest.

In our conversation, she offered a glimpse of the day-to-day labor of covering a constantly unfolding catastrophe: Churning out 70 bylined stories in the 70 days since the pandemic hit home, she's not only crafted reliable breaking updates on county briefings and a bilingual cover story on urgent efforts to connect emergency messaging with left-out communities of color, but also worked her regular beat to learn how public school teachers are responding to the unprecedented challenges of nurturing students whose schools are shuttered, while also chronicling a poignant tribute organized by the Dos Pueblos Class of 2020, whom the virus cheated of their long-awaited graduation ceremony.

In her spare time, Delaney's also managed to profile the Public Health Director, get verbally attacked for wearing a mask by some yahoo as she covered an open-it-up protest and, oh yeah, mark the arrival of Twiga, the baby giraffe, at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

"I fell in love with Santa Barbara," she said, having arrived here from San Diego to attend SBCC. "I've been here for (nearly) six years and I know we’re a resilient community, right? I've been here through the mudslides and the Thomas fire and the Conception.

"I know how resilient we are, but this experience has really shown me... how much people really do love each other and care about each other and have come together."

You can watch our entire conversation with Delaney Smith by clicking below.

Our dystopian downtown. On April 27, Josh Molina broke the story about an agreement, negotiated between embattled Community Development Director George Buell and the owners of the city's Paseo Nuevo mall, disclosing for the first time to the public a proposed pact that would require the company to make $20 million of capital improvements while extending their lease for 46 years.

At the time it seemed a rare bit of good news about SB's economically distressed downtown.

Buell crowed that the deal would raise, "the proverbial economic tide and restore vibrancy for many years to come downtown" (comments which may or may not have been translated from the original Swedish); more importantly, Paseo Nuevo Owners LLC's Mary Lynn Harms-Romo provided great news about the status of the iconic Nordstrom store on the mall.

From the story:

Harms-Romo said Nordstrom isn't going anywhere.

"There are no plans for them to close this location," Harms-Romo said. 


Alas, just 10 days later, Josh scored another scoop, this time reporting that Nordstrom is, um, closing. As in: gone in August.

"We are saddened and disappointed to see the announcement that Nordstrom will be leaving Santa Barbara," the unfortunate Harms-Romo commented for this story.

Sputtering and spinning to put a brave face on the imminent departure of the last anchor tenant on the property that has anchored Santa Barbara's retail economy for three decades, she declaimed a masterwork of corporate-speak gibberish:

"The closure provides an opportunity to rebalance the asset and continue to evolve Paseo Nuevo through a transformative anchor adaptive reuse," Harms-Romo said. "It’s unfortunate to lose them as a partner, but we remain committed to serving the greater Santa Barbara communities as a retail, business and cultural center of downtown."

All righty, then.

Bad to worse. The Nordstrom move capped a week of bad business news, as two other State Street mainstays, Plum Goods and Forever 21, also announced they are closing.

The double-bummer development provided Tyler Hayden over at the Indy the chance to fire up the alliteration machine -- the store closings demonstrate the “commerce killing power of the coronavirus,” he crisply commentated -- as he also turned around a previously unreported nugget of news:

Entrepreneur Teddy Cabugos spoke to the City Council two weeks ago and outlined in broad terms a plan to turn the (Forever 21) building owned by Ray Mahboob, a powerhouse of downtown real estate, into a one-stop shop for cannabis cultivation and consumption with an accompanying museum dedicated to the psychoactive crop. By keeping sales of products limited to patrons or members, Cabugos explained, the project would not qualify as a dispensary, thus avoiding any potential conflict with the city’s cannabis dispensary ordinance. Cabugos and Mahboob have been making the rounds and speaking individually with councilmembers, some of whom are apparently open to the idea.

Perfect -- exactly what's needed!

(Behold: The International Museum of Toking, Poking, Blazing and Blasting! No doubt Das will shake a few bucks outta the guy for the '24 re-elect campaign. But we digress).

As Tyler correctly noted, however, beggars can't be choosers, even if it means selling yet another shred of Santa Barbara's soul to the last stage bro capitalists of cannabis:

The concept is bound to spark some controversy, but according to the latest quarterly report from Hayes Commercial, State Street will need all the help it can get in the coming months and years. California’s unemployment rate spiked to 22 percent by mid-April, the report states, and Santa Barbara County has reportedly lost 22,000 jobs.

The California Restaurant Association estimated that up to 30 percent of restaurants may not reopen when dine-in restrictions are lifted, it noted. Before the pandemic hit, there were 941 restaurants in Santa Barbara County that employed approximately 18,000 people.

All this economic gloom makes Newsmakers really wish we had, like, a special place in town, just for leaders, or something? Maybe we could call it, um...City Hall?

Hello? Anybody out there?...Cathy?...Paul?...Jason?...Anybody?...Hello?

Must read of the week. If only we'd had the foresight to book tickets to American Samoa.


Images: Delaney Smith (Paul Wellman); Nordstrom (Josh Molina); The inside of Forever 21 this week (Daniel Dreifuss).

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1 Comment

Aug 22, 2020

Nice to see some fresh perspectives at SBI. Nick used to ridicule those who warned of imminent pandemic. Recently in his canine-exploitative sarcasm screed he concluded by saying "resilience...I hate that word" which was typical N.W. backstabbery vs. a key concept that readiness advocates have worked with over the years. I found that very offensive, so it is nice to see Ms Smith use "the R word" twice in one interview. Pro tip: Don't say "resilience" around your editor-in-chief. He might sick his poodle persona on you...#yesIsaidthis #Nickwilldoxmeintensecondsflat #andIdontcare

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