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Tuesday, February 06, 2007 | I have shared in the exhilarations of a series of newsrooms since I got off the boat in San Diego in 1946 and was assigned a typewriter in a creaky walk-up above the offices of the Bartenders Union on Second Avenue.

None of these newsrooms, nor the admirable journalists who have enriched them, has been outside San Diego. I know a place to stay when I find one.

Eras swirl and disappear. I remember when the kindest thing I could do for San Diego children was to lead them by the hand to see ink-stained men in aprons locking the lead type of words into forms, to hear the thundering roar of presses, to grow dizzy watching steel belts convey newspapers into trucks.

The newsroom that has become my latest interest is the smallest of them all. Nothing spills ink, makes noise, or rolls away on wheels. Its staff of editors and reporters is small. Here in a consummately high-tech city that was a pioneer among the “most wired” in the world, we are doing something that, so far as we can learn, no other website has yet attempted:

We are launching a free, no-frills alternative community based news website that is non-profit and non-partisan. It is a website whose main agenda is the civic interests of a city that we believe needs to try harder and aim higher. We hope it will come to serve as a town hall and community forum for all who share our belief that San Diego needs closer attention and more thoughtful care from ourselves, from our media, and from our elected leaders.

Our, a non-profit, non-partisan community newspaper, has no composing room, no presses, no trucks. There is no paper. There is no charge. We have no obligations except to bring news and ideas to the people of San Diego, wherever they are, and to anyone else, anywhere in the world, who chooses to type in our website name.

Our goal is to interpret a dynamic new region that we believe is emerging, and to stir its people to try harder and aim higher.

This came up last spring over a lunch table with Buzz Woolley, a retired venture capitalist and very private man who speaks through the gifts of his Girard Foundation. Buzz proposed the idea. Over the years, his interests have seemed to me a welcome mix of high tech and high ideals. His thinking is a generation younger than his years. The timing could hardly have been more apt. I had just left the Union-Tribune editorial staff, and City Hall was going in the tank. He offered to supply startup funding and enlist other financial backers. The list of supporting foundations and individuals is growing daily.

Of at least equal importance, the website is bolstered by a long and diverse roster of Contributing Voices, loyal and foresighted men and women of this region, from Pendleton to Tijuana. No one we approached said “No.” They are already offering ideas, news, and opinions. This is precisely how we wish to proceed: A provocative community forum of diverse community voices.

I believe that will become the open meeting, the town hall that can gradually help to enrich the life and culture of this region to which we all pay homage.

A board of three experienced men and two women will direct daily agendas of this news website as it grows and, we hope, becomes a website provoking daily attention for the courage and freshness of our words. The board names are listed on our website, along with those of our Contributing Voices.

They will help steer us in covering the progressive, younger and more forward looking San Diego that now seeks and deserves its own mirror in the media. You and they will tell us when we go off-course. You and they, we hope, will contribute ideas and words.

We do not aim to compete with or replace commercial media sources in San Diego. In fact, other media may find us helpful. Our goal is to strive for a different excellence. We expect, with your constant advice and counsel, to give our time and effort to defining a more profound and progressive community that an increasing number of San Diegans believe represents the region’s future. Many believe that future is already at hand, but often going unrecorded and unobserved.

In a city ready for mature reconsiderations of itself, there has always been, and we hope always will be room for many voices.

Neil Morgan has covered San Diego for more than 50 years.

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