City College alumnus becomes voice of education issues in San Diego

Jakob McWhinney’s reporting on education draws influence from his own educational journey


Jakob McWhinney works on a story at the Voice of San Diego office in downtown San Diego, May 5, 2023. Photo by Sean Monney/City Times Media

Sean Monney, Multimedia Journalist

Jakob McWhinney was finishing his 5-month internship at the online news organization Voice of San Diego when it posted a job opening for the education reporter position.

Then a second-year digital journalism student at San Diego City College, McWhinney was encouraged by his coworkers to apply.

But he said he never imagined himself writing about education.

He decided to apply anyway, compiling information and experience for his resume and reflecting on his own educational journey. 

“I started to realize my story is an education story,” McWhinney said. “It’s a story that shows really the truly transformative power of education.”

After graduating from Helix High School in 2008, McWhinney mainly played guitar and sang with other musicians and occasionally attended class at Grossmont Community College.

It was not until the pandemic that he decided to go to City College and “give school a real shot.”

When McWhinney took a journalism class to fulfill a prerequisite, he fell in love with it.

He got fully involved in journalism at City College, where he wrote for City Times, the student-produced digital news website, as well as produced podcasts for CT Sound and wrote and anchored TV news shows for CTTV’s Newscene and Inside City.

McWhinney was the anchor for the Newscene show nominated for a regional student Emmy by the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on May 5.

During his internship with Voice of San Diego, McWhinney worked on projects independently but also alongside other journalists like Jesse Marx, the associate editor at Voice of San Diego.

“He embodied all of those traits that make a really good reporter,” Marx said about McWhinney. “So I strongly encouraged him to apply and I put in a good word for him.”

McWhinney was hired as the education reporter for Voice of San Diego, where he went on to write about chronic absenteeism, student worker wages and transitional kindergarten.

McWhinney said he wouldn’t have even been able to get back into school without the grants and scholarships he received, and now has to work full-time to afford the costs of university.

“Education is supposed to be this great equalizer,” he said, “but still to this day it’s very, very unequal.”

McWhinney sees evidence of educational inequality in his field constantly, with stories and data correlating low test scores and absenteeism to poverty and race. 

“He deserves a lot of credit for his approach to covering education,” Marx said of McWhinney’s approach that values the viewpoints of not only the Board of Education but also parents and labor leaders.

Despite writing for Voice for almost a year and studying journalism for several years, McWhinney still sometimes struggles with feelings of imposter syndrome. 

“There are all these questions that you ask yourself, like, ‘Am I the right person to be telling other people’s stories? Have I done enough research? Is what I’m writing even having an impact?’” he said.

McWhinney said the harder he works, the more that negative voice and feeling of being an outsider disappears.

“It’s really easy to find yourself in a position where you’re waiting for something to happen,” he said. “But things happen more often when you’re moving, when you’re making something happen for yourself.”