Santa Barbara's news environment is still adjusting to the Wendy McCaw-ization of the local daily paper, but it sounds as if things are about to get more interesting. Joe Donnelly, a former senior editor at the LA Weekly and co-founder of Slake, has been named executive editor of the Santa Barbara Journalism Initiative, a nonprofit journalism startup supported by a Knight Foundation grant and some local foundations. The focus will be "enterprise journalism [and] investigative and explanatory reporting." Steven Ainsley, the project's volunteer board chairman and publisher of Pacific Standard magazine, announced the move in a piece on Noozhawk, a news website that's one of the alternatives to McCaw's News-Press.
Joe has been recognized for a broad range of journalistic efforts, ranging from hard news, feature stories, arts coverage and magazine design,” said Steven Ainsley, board chairman for the Santa Barbara Journalism Initiative. “Just as significant is his history in bringing startup publications to life. His proven experience in this regard along with an impressive record of developing journalists made Joe an easy choice for this position.
“It became clear from our first conversations with Joe that he believed strongly in the collaborative opportunities the initiative could and should pursue with established area media outlets. This will be an important driver for everything the initiative hopes to accomplish and it was critical the editor understood this. Joe clearly endorses this approach.”
Donnelly will be starting in his new role in early January and plans to be relocating to Santa Barbara shortly thereafter.
“I couldn’t be more excited about this project,” Donnelly said. “I think a close-knit, civic-minded community is the perfect place to start exploring the best ways to deliver quality, community-based journalism in the 21st century. I’ve always said journalism is a collaborative process between the public and the profession that works best when both parties demand the most of each other. I think we have an opportunity to do just that here in Santa Barbara with this initiative.”
Here's some backstory on the project from Columbia Journalism Review and from the Santa Barbara Independent. There are some former News-Press people involved, including Ainsley, one of the paper's ex-publishers. The new project will be based at the Miller McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy, which also publishes Pacific Standard.