Did you know that a pair of Japanese journalists spent the day in the voiceofsandiego.org newsroom recently and published a profile that ran in several of that country’s newspapers? Japan, they said, is facing the same frightening downturn in its economy and the financial solvency of its newspapers that we are. They were interested in whether voiceofsandiego.org provided a model for the future.

‘Web Sites that Dig for News Rise as Watchdogs’ — New York Times, Nov. 18, 2008

A model for the future? Maybe. But to even be considered means we’ve come a long way since we went live with our first news stories on Feb. 9, 2005.

In each of the months of the past four years, the pace of what we do and what we offer has quickened. And now, things are happening very fast. As the news industry undergoes nothing short of a revolution, we’ve heard from people in nearly every state of the union who want to use voiceofsandiego.org as a model for their community. From Hawaii to Kentucky, Vermont to Washington. News sources around the continent — including a front-page story in The New York Times and on national radio shows — have profiled us and we’re very fortunate to be one of the many participants in a truly international discussion about the future of journalism.

Reporter Rani Gupta talks about the city’s budget crisis on NBC 7/39. The television station and voiceofsandiego.org have recently stepped up our news collaboration.

But we have one mission and it’s very clear: We are here to provide investigative news and analysis about quality-of-life issues and public affairs in San Diego. It is our belief that through that effort, residents of San Diego will be better able to track what’s happening and use the information to become part of the civic conversation. This means that more ideas will emerge and more scrutiny will be facilitated. Both of those ingredients — ideas and scrutiny — are crucial to ensuring San Diego progresses as effectively as possible.

We wanted to take a minute to highlight a few of the things we’re doing — and a few of the things we’re very proud we did.

Did you know that we have raised nearly $2.7 million in the last four years from 810 different sources?

Did you know that we plan to spend less than 10 percent of our $860,000 budget for 2009 on distributing the news and stories we do? This includes the hosting and manipulation of the website and the daily e-mails and news blasts. Traditional newspapers spend up to 70 percent of their budgets on printing and distributing the paper. We put nearly all of our money into the people producing the stories — a key efficiency advantage over printed publications.

Did you know voiceofsandiego.org‘s business operations are set up most similar to a public broadcaster, like NPR and KPBS? We raise money through the individual donations like yours; we receive donations from philanthropists; we apply for and receive grants; and we get corporate advertisements and sponsorships.

Listen to NPR’s ‘On the Media’ discuss us.

Did you know voiceofsandiego.org‘s special reports have affected positive change across a wide spectrum of issues, from investigations that have spurred resignations, firings, federal probes and criminal charges, to series that have highlighted such key issues as campaign battles, climate change, the region’s workforce, and dysfunctions in the education system?

Did you know that this formula has enabled voiceofsandiego.org to employ 11 people, nine of whom are writing or producing content? We have six full-time reporters and one full-time photo editor. These people follow their beats — government, housing and economics (Survival in San Diego), education, the environment, science and technology, and public safety — and have no other job than to ensure they tell the best stories out of these areas possible. Andrew Donohue and Scott Lewis, who oversee voiceofsandiego.org, also find time to put together in-depth stories and analysis, as well.

Did you know that we have a news partnership with NBC 7/39 and our reporters and stories appear on the television nearly every day? If you hear about a story on voiceofsandiego.org it is virtually guaranteed to be talked about on one or more other outlets. We also frequently appear on the television and radio — from KPBS and KOGO to KUSI. As a nonprofit, we have a mission to perform a service, not to make someone money. So while we worry about the bottom line, we’re most concerned with ensuring as many people as possible get our news and analysis. And we’ve built a very strong network to help us accomplish that.

How about our reporters and writers? What do you know about them?

Reporter Rob Davis‘ investigations into the Centre City Development Corp. changed the city forever and led to criminal charges. Davis’ work covering environmental issues have led to some landmark stories. Davis, who’s been with voiceofsandiego.org for three years, recently spent weeks compiling the list of the largest water users in San Diego revealing that despite the mayor’s push for water conservation many companies and even local governments are flat out ignoring the plea.

Reporter Will Carless started his job with voiceofsandiego.org in 2005. He’s left from time to time — to travel the world; to care for his newborn daughter — only to return and produce some of the best stories in town. His investigations into the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. have led to federal investigations and drastic changes in that organization’s leadership.

Reporter Kelly Bennett began her job here in July 2006 and writes a monthly feature on a San Diegan and what he or she does to make money. People at Work is a fascinating, sometimes heartwarming series that has so far had 30 installments.

Did you know that Kelly and Will’s early coverage of the housing market along with Rich Toscano’s always prescient commentary put voiceofsandiego.org in a position years ago to warn of the troubles facing the San Diego housing market? Did you know voiceofsandiego.org helped thousands of people anticipate what might happen like no other local news outlet did?

Reporter Emily Alpert has brought a new level of depth and dimension to education reporting in San Diego, putting together stories that have forced change, as well as a meticulous investigation into a financial guru who promised rescue and brought ruin to several regional charter schools.

Reporter David Washburn was an investigative reporter for the Union-Tribune and a producer with Dateline NBC before he joined voiceofsandiego.org in May. He’s now in charge of our new /science section, with all the latest news about the science and technology sector of San Diego’s economy. He also helps oversee our long-term investigative projects.

We recently hired Rani Gupta, who was writing for the North County Times. She’s already authoritatively covering San Diego politics in true voiceofsandiego.org form. Did you see her examination of how much more valuable the San Diego Padres are now to owner John Moores (who’s selling the team) than before San Diego residents helped build a new stadium?

Photographer Sam Hodgson started with voiceofsandiego.org as an intern in late 2005. He began as a strong news writer but decided to pursue his dream to become a photographer and we have been lucky to host his work ever since. His photos can be seen here on his new blog.

Did you know you can help voiceofsandiego.org grow and respond to the growing gap between the stories that should be told in the community and the stories that are being told? Consider donating to voiceofsandiego.org or e-mail bart.hoffman@voiceofsandiego.org for more information about how you can be a corporate sponsor or advertise with us. That way, you can send our informed, intelligent and engaged readers a strong message while at the same time helping independent media grow in San Diego.

Did you know that voiceofsandiego.org has been here now for four years, and in four years, we plan to be only bigger? This voice is only getting louder.


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