Media future

The San Diego news model

Voice of San Diego could be the future of Los Angeles journalism: small, independent, online, aggressive and above all smart — content with value trumps attitude, and there are no petty fights or celebrity worship. It's also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, employing a staff of eleven with income mostly from grants and donations. From Richard Pérez-Peña in the New York Times:

As America’s newspapers shrink and shed staff, and broadcast news outlets sink in the ratings, a new kind of Web-based news operation has arisen in several cities, forcing the papers to follow the stories they uncover.

Here it is, offering a brand of serious, original reporting by professional journalists — the province of the traditional media, but at a much lower cost of doing business. Since it began in 2005, similar operations have cropped up in New Haven, the Twin Cities, Seattle, St. Louis and Chicago. More are on the way.

Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs....Financially, VoiceofSan Diego and its peers mimic public broadcasting, not newspapers. They are nonprofit corporations supported by foundations, wealthy donors, audience contributions and a little advertising.


"No one here welcomes the decline of newspapers,” said Andrew Donohue, one of two executive editors at VoiceofSanDiego. “We can’t be the main news source for this city, not for the foreseeable future. We only have 11 people.”

After the jump, the site's origins and annual budget.

VoiceofSanDiego grew out of a string of spectacular municipal scandals. City councilmen took bribes from a strip club owner, a mishandled pension fund drove the city to the brink of bankruptcy and city officials illegally covered up the crisis, to name a few.

A semiretired local businessman, Buzz Woolley, watched the parade of revelations, fraud charges and criminal convictions, seething with frustration. He was particularly incensed that the pension debacle had developed over several years, more or less in plain sight, but had received little news coverage.

“I kept thinking, ‘Who’s paying attention?’ ” Mr. Woolley recalled. “Why don’t we hear about this stuff before it becomes a disaster?’ ”

In 2004, his conversations with a veteran columnist, Neil Morgan, who had been fired by The Union-Tribune, led to the creation of VoiceofSanDiego, with Mr. Woolley as president, chief executive and, at first, chief financial backer.

The site's budget this year is $800,000, up almost 200K from last year, the story says. Wow, imagine the Los Angeles reporting vacuum that could be filled with $800,000 put to the right use — with no printing costs. The story also says Voice of San Diego gets 18,000 monthly uniques, but it's hard to believe the traffic of a site that good is basically 10% of LA Observed's.

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