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40 in 40

For our 40th anniversary, we compiled a list of 40 of the Express' memorable in-depth reports and the topics we've loved writing about the most.



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Some things never change. Which is why we keep writing cover stories about it: "A Question of Force," by John Ross, Sept. 7, 1984; "Criminal Law," by Seth Norman and Mike McGrath, Aug. 10, 1990; "The Fraud Squad," by Laura Hagar, May 24, 1991; "Who Do You Trust?" by Gary Rivlin, Sept. 20, 1991; "To Serve and Protect?," by Timothy Beneke, April 23, 1993; "The Cop Watch," by Gary Rivlin, April 18, 1997; "Deadly Secrets," by Ali Winston, Dec. 12, 2011; "Why Can't Oakland Fire Bad Cops," by Ali Winston, Sept. 17, 2014; "Badge of Dishonor," by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston, June 15, 2016.

Here's Ali Winston's take on his 2016 blockbuster report on the OPD sex exploitation case, which garnered a Polk Award:

"Over the years, I wrote dozens of stories for the Express about police brutality and corruption. However, none of them — an exposé on DA investigators endangering murder witnesses, articles identifying cops involved in gratuitous violence against Occupy Oakland protesters — had the impact of "Badge of Dishonor," the 2016 cover story with Darwin BondGraham about the dozens of police officers who exploited Celeste Guap. Three successive police chiefs in Oakland lost their jobs in the span of a week. However, the failure of Oakland and Richmond police to fire some of the officers involved in Guap's exploitation, the Alameda County DA's inability to make criminal charges stick against several of the cops, and the refusal of the DA and U.S. attorney to look into obstruction of justice by former Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent meant that the individuals who bear the most responsibility for what happened to Guap will never be truly held accountable."

6. "Hydro-Fraud," by Michael Helm, March 14, 1980

We've written about Jerry Brown's schemes to ship Northern California river water to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and Southern California — and perhaps destroy the delta in the process — for nearly as long and almost as often as police misconduct. Almost. The only reason we didn't write about it more was because Brown was out of the governor's office for a few decades.

Our first cover story, in 1980, was an in-depth review of Brown's original hare-brained plan: the peripheral canal. We called it as we saw it: "Hydro-Fraud."

Also, "The Delta Dilemma," by Dennis Drabelle, May 29, 1987; "Tunnel Vision Part One: Delta in Peril," by Joaquin Palomino, June 12, 2013; "Tunnel Vision Part Two: Rivers in Peril," by Robert Gammon, June 19, 2013; "California's Thirsty Almonds," by Joaquin Palomino, Feb. 5. 2014; "Brown's Tunnels Could Start in 2018, and Delta Farmers Say They'll Be Devastated," by Alastair Bland, Aug. 23, 2017.

7. "Eviction: Landlords, the law, and you," by Seth Rosenfeld, June 20, 1980

Over the years, the Express hasn't sent reporters undercover very often. We lean toward keeping journalism as transparent as possible. But sometimes a reporter can't really get the story unless they disguise their identity. Rosenfeld, one of the best investigative reporters in East Bay history, did that for the Express in 1980, posing as landlord "Rex Terra" to get the scoop on local eviction mills.

8. "The Medi-Cal Crisis," by Art Goldberg, Feb. 19, 1982

Gross underfunding of health care for low-income people in California is as old as — well, forever, it seems. So, it's a topic we've written about often over the years, especially as it impacts local medical facilities that serve the poor, like Oakland Children's Hospital.

Our first deep dive into the topic was 36 years ago by Art Goldberg, and we just did it again last month in an in-depth piece by Momo Chang, "Sickle Cell: The Last Health-Care Frontier for Black Lives," Sept. 12, 2018.

9. "Warehouse Living," by Linda Sanderson, Feb. 26, 1982

Decades before the tragic Ghost Ship fire in 2016, the Express repeatedly chronicled the lives of artists and musicians living cheaply and illegally in makeshift warehouses in Oakland's old industrial areas. Our first cover story on the topic hit the streets nearly 35 years before 36 people died in the Ghost Ship blaze.

The subhed of Linda Sanderson's story said it all: "Meet the determined band of artists whose search for creative freedom — and low rents — is transforming our cities' industrial zones."

10. "Boom City," by John Krich, Aug. 20, 1982

Oakland is building like crazy and The Town is gentrifying beyond recognition? 2018? Uh. No. Try 1982.

Here's a telling line from Krich's cover story: "In case you hadn't noticed, the Manhattanization of Oakland is on."

Things, as we say, don't change much. Except for this: Back then, we used to call Oakland, "Bump City," not "The Town."

Also, "Under Development," March 4, 1983 about lots of building in Berkeley, and, of course, our Sept. 19, 2018 cover package 35 years later, "Is It Too Late for the Town?"

11. "Yuppie!" by Alice Kahn, June 10, 1983

Yes, we know that for history buffs and trivia nerds like us, this is a bit controversial, but we have long maintained that Alice Kahn coined the term "Yuppie" in her June 1983 Express cover story, detailing the plague of young urban professionals who are like "mutant rats."

Avocado toast for $10? Nah. Yuppies in 1983 were wasting $1.75 (!) on "buttery curved rolls" and the outrageous sum of $89,500 (!!) for one-bedroom condos.


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