When you’re running a daily news organization, it can be difficult to take time to breathe, let alone reflect on a year of accomplishments. But reflection is a good thing. And when we look back on what our small staff at Voice of OC accomplished in 2011, we look back in amazement.

In 2010, Voice of OC was a scrappy, new, nonprofit news organization that had crashed Orange County’s media party with a mission to hold the powerful accountable and give local communities a voice.

In 2011, we showed why we belong at the head table.

Orange County is a spectacular place to live, not only because of its beaches and nearly perfect weather but also because of its diverse population and vibrant cities. But too often in Orange County the same people and the same institutions are allowed to stay in power for too long without facing the intense scrutiny and tough questions that a strong democracy needs.

Voice of OC applies that scrutiny and asks those questions every day. And as a result, Orange County has a better-functioning democracy.

In the past year Voice of OC reporters have uncovered conflictofinterest issues in Anaheim, showed how repeated oversights by Orange County officials allowed the state to take away $48-million in tax revenues and revealed how an Orange County Transportation Authority board member jumped from his seat on the board to an investment banking firm that does business with the agency.

We also provided in-depth and continuing coverage of the gentrification debate that has engulfed downtown Santa Ana and the battle over outsourcing in Costa Mesa. On both of these issues, the national media followed us in our reporting.

At the end of 2010, Voice of OC received a grant from the California Endowment for in-depth public health coverage. Since then, we have given our readers a steady stream of articles on crucial public health issues such as homelessness, obesity and low-income healthcare.

The centerpiece of our Healthy Communities coverage in 2011 was a threepart series on the disparities in Orange County’s park space.

Our coverage not only revealed the many public health ramifications of lack of park space but also showed how decisions by public officials decades ago created this unfortunate reality.

And in addition to all our investigative and specialty reporting, we provided day-in and day-out coverage of happenings inside county agencies and city halls at a level that no other Orange County news source provides.

The quality of our journalism has been recognized by our peers in the local media as well as some of the largest and most respected media organizations in California. Voice of OC swept the investigative category at the 2011 Orange County Press Club awards. And the Press Club also recognized our open government blog, “Who Says You Can’t Fight City Hall.”

We’ve also forged partnerships with The Associated Press, National Public Radio station KPCC, PBS SoCal and California Watch, the state’s largest investigative newsroom.

And in October we unveiled our Community Editorial Board, which features the county’s best and brightest leaders from business, labor, public health and the environmental movement. It is also the most diverse editorial board in Orange County history. You can expect strong, informed opinions from across the political spectrum.

As proud as we are of our work in 2011, we know we can top it in 2012. But we need your help. Please donate to Voice of OC by clicking here. And when you do, know that you will be contributing to a stronger democracy and helping to give everyone in Orange County a Voice.

— The Editors

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