By Steve Rodriguez
Mission Valley continues to get a bad rap! The local media are trapped in a paradigm that insists on portraying this beautiful locale as a mere prop for communicating the so-called severity of the few rainstorms we get here in San Diego.
Let me take this opportunity to complain about a not-so-secret local media strategy. As host for the flood-prone San Diego River, Mission Valley has long been the media’s convenient go-to backdrop for highlighting anything remotely resembling a rainstorm. However, in preparation for the upcoming El Niño onslaught that’s predicted, I recommend a new paradigm. It’s time local print and TV media outlets look elsewhere to make a point about San Diego severe-weather conditions. Such a change is bound to improve the quality of their reporting, and result in a better image for Mission Valley.
You know the routine. Whenever a raindrop falls in San Diego, local media outlets immediately dispatch their reporters and cameramen to take their normal and heavily trodden Mission Valley positions somewhere along the San Diego River — preferably around the Fashion Valley Mall and the nearby golf course — as a too convenient way to show their respective audiences how the latest rainstorm is wreaking havoc in the region.
You’ve seen the familiar scenes. A car and its intrepid driver stuck in the water flowing across Camino del la Reina. Torrents of rushing water collapsing a traffic sign somewhere inside Hotel Circle. Columns of mall traffic being re-routed to Friars Road. Wily TV news reporters position themselves in front of such scenes, thus guaranteeing their viewers go to bed believing Mission Valley is frequently eligible to apply for federal government disaster funds.
Though such optics may be good for local journalists, I contend San Diego media outlets are long overdue for change. They need to move on and devise more original ways to communicate our weather conditions, especially in light of the upcoming El Niño rainy season. I contend broadcasting familiar scenes of Mission Valley flooding sets too low a bar for journalists — the equivalent of relying on close-up photos of the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards to make a point about the unhealthy consequences of a sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. And they give viewers the impression of Mission Valley as an Old Testament-like target of God’s wrath. Unfair, I say!
Just as the ongoing drought has forced San Diegans to think differently about their water usage, I recommend the local media think differently about how to cover the upcoming rainy season. Go see what the rain is doing to La Jolla or Rancho Santa Fe. How about Chula Vista? Does anyone know what flooding looks like in Santee? It might indeed look dramatic, but we’ll never know until San Diego journalists start to think outside the box.
One might get a little wet outside that proverbial box, however, such is the price we must pay for a new perspective.
—Steve Rodriguez is a high school English teacher from San Diego and has been published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Voice of San Diego, La Prensa San Diego as well as several professional publications and small literary journals.