Santana: A Voice to Rely on

JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC Contributing Photographer

Voice of OC Publisher Norberto Santana Jr. leads a class about civic engagement and opinion writing in the Voice of OC office in Downtown Santa Ana during a Media Summit on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.

I’ll never forget the feeling driving out of the Register building that day back in the summer of 2009, intent on standing up, doing something.

I had just publicly walked away from a good paying, stable job covering the County of Orange for the Orange County Register to found Voice of OC, a nonprofit newsroom focused exclusively on civics and accountability.

I was excited, pissed off and intent on making a difference.

R. Scott Moxley at the OC Weekly broke the story of my leaving, deftly capturing the scene of my Jeep roaring out of the now defunct Register’s parking building, which triggered an avalanche of calls from my colleagues questioning whether it was smart to leave a good job amidst imploding news empires and the worst economic times since the Great Depression.

I felt it was important to take a stand.

From hearing about my father’s own journey from Cuba for freedom and my own work in Central America, I knew I would someday have to face my then year-old son, Maximo, and answer his own questions about what I did during the great news crisis facing our nation.

Luckily, here in Orange County there has always been a vibrant community of donors from all sides of the political spectrum that get it.

Without an effective local newsroom there to check government every day, we are all dead people walking.

Now, if you regularly read Voice of OC, this is the time to join the very special ranks of our donors.

It’s the best way for you to stand up for your right to know.

Our nonprofit civic newsroom enables you to take action, no matter your political affiliation.

And thanks to the special folks at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the MacArthur Foundation, this month any contribution is matched up to $1,000 through a special program called, NewsMatch.

Under the Newsmatch program, about 130 verified newsrooms – like Voice of OC – across America are eligible for the special grant program. It’s part of a national movement by these foundations recognizing the achievements of local newsrooms and their importance to America’s civic ecosystem.

But NewsMatch runs out on Dec. 31.

So act now. Join us. Take a stand.

Our reporters are there for you every day, in the trenches of public agencies and city halls across Orange County. We need to expand their corps, ensuring that every single city is covered.

Real time accountability reporting is key to protecting our collective quality of life.

Our budgets are transparent. We run a very lean operation. Most of our hires are local and we maintain an active intern program for college journalism students seeking basic training. We also host civic training for community members on topics like budgets and public records requests.

In addition to our journalism and training efforts, we also litigate for public records when necessary, winning a total of three public access lawsuits in recent years, the most recent this past month in Westminster.

Most importantly, your donation demonstrates that communities can effectively finance strong, local, independent news organizations that in turn, stand there for them and their families on a daily basis.