Santana: We Did It!

Voice of OC was awarded first place in the category for news websites exclusive to the internet by the Los Angeles Press Club. From left: Thy Vo, staff writer; Sonya Quick, digital editor; Nick Gerda, staff writer; Norberto Santana, Jr., publisher; Meg Waters, development director; Tracy Wood, civic editor; Theresa Sears, involvement editor; Colleen Clark, Voice of OC board member.

We did it!

Together, we’ve shown national journalism leaders that Orange County cares about community journalism…enough to fund it.

We were all challenged this past month by a national merit match campaign called NewsMatch, where eligible newsrooms, like ours, could have individual donations of up to $1,000 matched until Dec. 31.

The total available for a match this fall expanded from last year — up to $56,000 — and frankly, I wondered whether we’d be able to meet that goal.

Yet we did…largely with online donations.

Our actual count as of Jan. 1 was $55, 727.00. I thought it was fair to round up in declaring our goal met.

It’s once again a great recognition of the value our readers place on accountability reporting in their community.

We are poised for an active and fiscally sound 2018 and as we enter our ninth year of operations and keep expanding.

This month, the first of our policy event series will kick off on Jan. 26 with the South County Economic Coalition in a public event with Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and city leaders to talk about the rising costs of policing in South County and options for the future.

We also are expanding our ongoing collaboration with the Los Angeles Times as you’ll soon start seeing more advertisements on Voice of OC stories, which are being sold by LA Times advertising staff and offering direct revenue to Voice of OC.

Our publishing arrangement with the LA Times, to provide stories for their weekly news supplement, Times OC, is also expanding with a page redesign that debuts later this month and will feature more Voice of OC civic coverage reaching more than 100,000 print readers across Orange County.

We also are in the midst of expanding our cooperation with KPCC, Southern California Public Radio, working to establish radio broadcasting offices at our new Santa Ana headquarters — within walking distance of the downtown civic center.

In addition, we are working to launch a weekly podcast in the first quarter of the year that would cover Orange County’s civic life and also delve into a host of hot elections such as the four contested congressional races that have garnered national attention as well as our own district attorney’s election, which has become competitive for the first time in a decade.

This year, we will also be offering more and more civic training sessions for members of the public on democratic fundamentals, such as Government 101, Op-ed writing, Public Records Requests, Budget Analysis and Public Speaking.

Yet our big goal for 2018 is to be able to launch more robust city pages that will help readers really delve into their civic life by enabling them to see much more meta data about where they live…things like real biographies of elected leaders, looks at local campaign finance as well as profiles of major city and public projects.

In the last eight years, we’ve all seen what committed people can do.

I’ve spent the last week detailing the amazing staff that powers the Voice of OC as well as the amazing impact they’ve enabled you as readers to accomplish this past year.

Renewed homelessness policy, groundbreaking on a new animal shelter, the start of an ethics commission, district elections in one city after another…

These are all concrete policy achievements this newsroom has inspired, just by doing it’s job and putting all sides under a microscope – enabling residents to hold people accountable.

Most importantly, I want to express a heartfelt thanks to all the readers who did their part and stepped up this past month during the campaign to become donors.

You’ve made a great difference to a bunch of hard working reporters who now come back from their holiday break renewed by the community support they so obviously enjoy.

We’ll see you all out there in the civic trenches…

Happy New Year!