Another one has bit the dust at San José Spotlight, adding to the list of staff writers, freelancers, interns and editors who have walked through the local nonprofit newsroom’s revolving doors.
(To be fair, there’s been turnover in many newsrooms, including this one, in the pandemic’s wake.)
Most recently, we noticed Bob Staedler, principal at Silicon Valley Synergy, no longer hosts the “Podlight" weekly podcast. The production, previously branded as a “collaboration” between Spotlight and Silicon Valley Synergy, has since dropped any reference to Staedler.
Avid listeners may have noticed the first episode sans the well-known name—released after a two-week hiatus—is already a bit different, featuring new intro music and a decline in recorded sound quality.
Though he was at the mic since its December 2019 inception, Staedler’s departure was met with radio silence, without any acknowledgement from editor Nick Preciado, the show’s new host, or Ramona Giwargis, Spotlight’s co-founder and CEO.
Staedler confirmed that he and Spotlight’s management have gone their own ways. He’s currently still writing his monthly column on business, land use and development, which he has contributed since the news site’s launch.
Spotlight editor and self-described podcast enthusiast Preciado said that after guest hosting the podcast, “SJ Spotlight’s management team decided to move things in house and I took over hosting.”
Staedler declined to discuss the reasons for his depodification. However, local mediaites immediately speculated that he might be another wage theft victim, an allegation that has quietly buzzed around the Turlock, CA-registered startup nonprofit media company, where writers have said they work long hours that are not always compensated—or are misclassified as independent contractors.
If true, it would be somewhat ironic since Spotlight has done dozens of articles about wage theft in the past two years and has close ties to labor unions, some of whom give the news organization five-figure donations. Spotlight did not provide a copy of its Form 990 financials and directed Fly to the IRS, whose website produced no record of Spotlight’s disclosures in its monthly indexes over the past two years.
Update: Spotlight, to its credit, provided copies of its Form 990s two days later. “Bob is an unpaid columnist,” Giwargis texted. “He was never on our payroll for the podcast.”