It occurred to me as I sat to reflect on Voice of San Diego’s 10-year anniversary that I’m no longer around anyone on a daily basis who was here for the launch.
Not even me.
People often assume I founded VOSD. But I didn’t. That would be philanthropist Buzz Woolley and newspaperman Neil Morgan. Their first hire as CEO and editor in chief was Barbara Bry.
Bry recruited me in late 2004 but I turned it down to move with my wife, who had to attend a school for the Navy in South Carolina for a year. By October 2005, though, they pulled me in, and within several weeks, I took over as co-editor with Andrew Donohue.
Donohue was around at the launch, but he left a couple years ago.
That means everyone in the office now only knows the Voice of San Diego of the last few years.
That is the symbol of something important: This organization is its own institution, independent from those who serve it. Voice of San Diego has evolved into a place brilliant people land and then graduate to the highest levels of journalism and public culture. Donohue helps run the prestigious Center for Investigative Reporting. Evan McLaughlin, another writer who was here at the launch, is now chief of staff to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.
I feel immense pride that people like Dagny Salas moved to The New York Times. I love seeing Rob Davis breaking stories at The Oregonian and Emily Alpert covering Los Angeles City Hall for the L.A. Times.
Will Carless is tearing things up in South America. Sam Hodgson decided to go see about New York and is appearing in the Times regularly. Rani Gupta graduated from Stanford Law. Vladimir Kogan is now a professor of political science at The Ohio State University. Kelly Bennett returned to Canada and is reporting frequently for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Adrian Florido is a reporter for Southern California Public Radio.
I could go on and on. The point is I feel their successes as much as I did when they sat near me.
Someday, I’ll move on too. I don’t think it will be soon – I have a few things I want to see accomplished. But one of these days, it will happen. Even if it doesn’t, I’m pretty sure I’ll die at some point. The organization would march on.
That’s the beauty of it. A nonprofit is not just a tax status. It’s a commitment to create an organization whose purpose is not to serve anyone who helped build or finance it. No one person can shut it down, or take the money. Profits stay in the organization and must be re-invested in the mission.
We took that mandate and had a lot of ups and downs. We passed the point in 2006 when we had to battle rumors that we were going under. We passed the period of quick growth and painful financial correction. We’ve now created a good, understandable business model that has allowed us to make crucial investments.
Ten years after it launched, it’s clear that Voice of San Diego is an institution in this city. It’s bigger than any one of us who helped it grow.
Most importantly, we’ve proven what you can do with about a million dollars a year. You can have an impact. You can produce products that people rely on and enjoy every day. It has inspired dozens of others around the country to address their communities’ own information needs.
We’re not settled, though. We have to reach more people. We have a lot to do to ensure that this is an institution that can survive decades into the future while protecting the spirit and feistiness that has propelled us through this decade.
Fortunately, we’re launching again. We have as bright of a team as ever. And this time, we know a lot more than we did 10 years ago.