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The volunteers and freelancers who report for the San Francisco Public Press would like to say thank you to all of our members.

With your help, we are producing context-rich, local journalism and publishing an ad-free newspaper packed with public-interest news reports.

If you haven't done so yet, we hope you will consider making a year-end, tax-deductible donation to support independent public media in San Francisco.

Your gift will help the Public Press thrive in 2011.

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Thank you and happy New Year!

Fall print edition launch party -- Thursday, Nov. 11

We're so proud of our team for putting together the second edition of the Public Press newspaper!

Please help us celebrate their hard work. Join us for drinks and appetizers, pick up a FREE copy of the fall 2010 edition of the newspaper and meet the people who helped us make this happen!

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 11, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
WHERE: The Mechanics' Institute, 57 Post St., SF
RSVP: On the
Facebook invite or send names to rsvp [at] sfpublicpress [dot] org.

New and current Public Press MEMBERS get in FREE!

  • General admission — $20
  • One-year membership, includes party admission — $35

Buy tickets or become a member here:

http://sfpublicpress.org/membership

SF Public Press wins award for explanatory journalism from the Society of Professional Journalists

Congratulations to our Treasure Island reporting team on winning an award for explanatory journalism from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. We are honored to be receiving this award in the company of so many talented Bay Area journalists.

Below is the press release from SPJ:

SAN FRANCISCO — In its 2010 Excellence in Journalism Awards, the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has named as Journalists of the Year the staff of California Watch, a new statewide reporting initiative that partners with local news organizations to cover education, public safety, health care, the environment and other critically important issues.

Since its launch in 2009, the site, a project of the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting, has helped fill a widening void in watchdog reporting. Under the guidance of California Watch’s founder, Louis Freedberg, its editoral director, Mark Katches, and CIR’s executive director, Robert Rosenthal, the site has produced a stream of high-impact investigative and explanatory stories on topics ranging from Meg Whitman’s ties to Goldman Sachs to high infection rates at a Southern California hospital chain.

This year, the 25th anniversary of the Excellence in Journalism awards, marks a turning point in Northern California journalism. The society is honoring a number of the winners for meeting the challenges of the online era through innovative newsgathering organizations and collaborations.

Neil Henry, Dean of the UC- Berkeley School of Journalism, receives the Board of Directors’ Distinguished Service award for his contributions to several important online news ventures over the past year, including his pivotal role in creating the Bay Citizen, a nonprofit news site serving the Bay Area, and the creation and funding of student-staffed news sites serving North Oakland, San Francisco’s Mission District and the city of Richmond. The student sites have filled major gaps in local coverage created by newspaper closures and layoffs. At the same time they have provided real-world training for a new generation of multitasking journalists and a laboratory for collaborative experiments.

The late Franz Schurmann and his partner of 42 years, Sandy Close, receive the Silver Heart award, established in 2009 to honor those whose careers reflect an extraordinary dedication to giving voice to the voiceless. Schurmann, a historian and sociologist who died in August, co-founded Pacific News Service, the groundbreaking alternative news source that celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Close has overseen PNS’s evolution into New America Media, the country's first and largest umbrella organization of ethnic news media, with more than 2,000 partners and collaborations around the world. She has also pioneered a new financial model at a time when media organizations are struggling to figure out how to remain economically viable.

The SPJ NorCal Board of Directors also honors three journalists from traditional media for their many years of outstanding work at Northern California news organizations. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Bob Egelko, one of California’s leading reporters on legal and criminal justice issues for nearly four decades, including many years at the Associated Press, receives the Career Achievement award for print journalism. KCBS Radio’s Bob Melrose, whose instantly recognizable voice and succinct news reports have made him a Bay Area institution, receives the Career Achievement award for broadcast journalism. And Trapper Byrne, the Chronicle’s deputy metro editor, receives the Unsung Hero award for his nearly two decades of skillful behind-the-scenes work in shaping coverage of virtually every important breaking news story in the Bay Area, from the shooting of an unarmed black man by BART police to the San Francisco police lab scandal.

The Bay Citizen, an independent news site that has collaborated frequently with the New York Times and other news outlets since its launch in May 2010, is recognized in the Explanatory Journalism category for a story by Elizabeth Lesly Stevens examining the property-tax imbalances that have arisen in San Francisco’s wealthiest neighborhoods in the three decades since passage of Proposition 13.

The Bay Citizen is honored in two other reporting categories as well. Stevens is recognized in the Feature Storytelling category for a series about a con man operating in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. And the Bay Citizen takes home the prize in a new special category, The Environment, for three pieces on efforts by oil refineries, Pacific Gas & Electric, and the Cargill Corp. to influence environmental and development issues around the Bay.

The San Francisco Public Press is honored in the Explanatory Journalism category for a series of pieces, published online and in print, about plans to develop San Francisco’s Treasure Island. The exhaustively reported package—which exposed the seemingly pipe-dream quality of the project, the political cronyism behind it and the widespread uprooting that the redevelopment will cause—was done on a shoestring budget with funding from Shareable.net and micro-donations via Spot.Us.

In the Community Journalism category, judges reward Newswire21.org’s highly collaborative Ingleside Project, for more than two dozen stories on education, aging, and other important issues in San Francisco’s often overlooked Ingleside neighborhood.

In the category of Journalism Innovation, Alameda-based nonprofit Global Press Institute is recognized for its unique mission: bringing responsible, investigative news from the developing world to communities throughout the globe by training women from underprivileged, underrepresented communities to become powerful, conscientious journalists. Since 2006, The Press Institute has trained more than 100 women journalists in 23 countries.

In addition to its Journalists of the Year award, California Watch is honored in the Investigative Reporting category for G.W. Schulz’s reporting on massive waste in the handling of U.S. homeland security funds.

Other multiple winners for 2010 include KQED-TV’s “Quest” series in the Feature Storytelling and Multiplatform Journalism categories and KQED radio’s “California Report” program for Investigative Journalism and Breaking News. Mother Jones is recognized for its online breaking news coverage of the BP oil spill, which included more than 300 articles, blog posts and maps, and also in the Photojournalism category for coverage of the gold trade in Congo. Mac McClelland, a Mother Jones writer who combines a gonzo sensibility with a novelist's flair for description and dialogue, is recognized as the 2010 Outstanding Emerging Journalist.

In the Commentary category, Daniel Borenstein, of the Contra Costa Times, is recognized for a series of hard-hitting columns on astronomical county pensions. Borenstein spent countless hours poring over retirement records of county officials. His discoveries led several East Bay public agencies to initiate pension-system reforms.

The Sacramento Bee’s Marjie Lundstrom is recognized in the Public Interest category for her series on the death of a foster child in Sacramento.

In the Feature Storytelling category, Matthew Heller is honored for a reverse David-and-Goliath tale in California Lawyer magazine about Dole Foods that upended conventional notions about corporate malfeasance.

The San Jose Mercury News is recognized in the Breaking News category for its coverage of a deadly plane crash in East Palo Alto and in the Investigative News category for a series by reporter Sean Webby on the use of force by San Jose police that led to the resignation of the police chief.

SF Weekly also receives two awards. Reporter Matt Smith is honored in the special Economy category for his investigative piece on how private trade schools, funded by stimulus money, leave students deeply in debt without providing them the skills they need to compete in a rapidly changing global economy. John Birdsall is honored for his online reporting about the Bay Area’s food scene.

Andrew Stelzer, of National Radio Project’s “Making Contact,” shares the award for broadcast Explanatory Journalism for his piece on citizen efforts to hold police accountable. The Chronicle’s Peter Hartlaub is recognized in the Arts & Culture Criticism category.

LIST OF AWARDS

JOURNALISTS OF THE YEAR: Staff of California Watch

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD: Neil Henry, dean, UC-Berkeley School of Journalism

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: reporters Bob Egelko of the San Francisco
Chronicle (print) and Bob Melrose of KCBS radio (broadcast)

SILVER HEART AWARD: Franz Schurmann and Sandy Close, of Pacific News
Service/New America Media

UNSUNG HERO AWARD: Trapper Byrne, deputy metro editor, San Francisco Chronicle

BREAKING NEWS

PRINT: San Jose Mercury News for coverage of an East Palo Alto plane
crash that killed three people and destroyed several homes.

ONLINE: MotherJones.com for its exemplary coverage of the BP oil spill.

BROADCAST: John Myers, KQED’s “California Report,” for an overview of
the state’s ongoing budget crisis and Sacramento’s inability to solve
it.

SPECIAL CATEGORY: THE ECONOMY

Matt Smith, SF Weekly, for an examination of the failings of private
trade-school education.

SPECIAL CATEGORY: THE ENVIRONMENT

Bay Citizen for pieces by Katherine Mieszkowski and Zusha Elinson on
the impact of corporate interests on environmental issues in the Bay
Area.

EXPLANATORY JOURNALISM

PRINT: SF Public Press, for  a series of articles and photographs on a
proposed $6 billion residential and commercial redevelopment project
on Treasure Island.

ONLINE: Elizabeth Lesly Stevens, Bay Citizen, for an examination of
property-tax imbalances that have arisen in San Francisco since
passage of Proposition 13.

BROADCAST: TIE: Andrew Stelzer, of National Radio Project’s “Making
Contact,” for a look at policing issues in the Bay Area.

AND KQED-TV’s “Quest” for a feature on California’s energy future.

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

PRINT: Sean Webby, San Jose Mercury News, for a series on the use of
force by San Jose police.

ONLINE: G.W. Schulz, Calfornia Watch, for detailing waste of federal
homeland security funds.

BROADCAST: Sasha Khokha, KQED’s “California Report,” for a series
looking at the national problem of water quality through the eyes of
California families.

PUBLIC SERVICE

Marjie Lundstrom, Sacramento Bee, for an investigative series on the
burning death of a 4-year-old foster child at her Sacramento home.

FEATURE STORYTELLING

PRINT: Matthew Heller, California Lawyer, for the story of how Dole
Foods discovered fraud in a case that drew international headlines.

ONLINE: Elizabeth Lesly Stevens, Bay Citizen, for a three-part story
on the  mysterious man who allegedly bilked millions of dollars from
ordinary citizens.

BROADCAST: KQED-TV staff for a report on algae as a future biofuel.

COMMENTARY

Daniel Borenstein, Contra Costa Times, for a series of columns
exposing astronomical pensions for Contra Costa County public
employees.

ARTS & CULTURE CRITICISM

PRINT: Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle, for three pieces on a
variety of topics that demonstrating his eye for the cultural moment
and knack for matching tone to subject matter.

ONLINE: John Birdsall, SFWeekly.com, for reports on the Bay Area’s food scene.

COMMUNITY JOURNALISM

The Ingleside Project, by Newswire21.org, for more than two dozen
stories exploring important issues in an often-overlooked San
Francisco neighborhood.

JOURNALISM INNOVATION

Alameda-based nonprofit Global Press Institute for training local
women across the globe to be reporters and providing an outlet to
people who don't normally have a voice in their societies.

MULTIPLATFORM JOURNALISM

KQED’s QUEST TV for a package on the Farallon Islands that included
radio, video and online components.

PHOTOJOURNALISM

Marcus Bleasdale, MotherJones.com, for his photo essay revealing the
human cost of gold mining in Congo.

OUTSTANDING EMERGING JOURNALIST

Mac McClelland, Mother Jones, who traveled to Thailand to teach
English to a group of Burmese refugees and provided a window onto a
little-noticed geopolitical hotspot.

STUDENT SPECIAL PROJECT

TIE: Emma Cott, U.C. Berkeley School of Journalism, for exploring the
environmental, economic and social costs of a proposed wind farm in
Mexico. Her news video aired on PBS TV’s “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.”

AND Sandhya Dirks and Sarah Gonzalez, Mills College, for their KALW
news reporting project “Fault Lines” exploring the root causes of and
potential solutions to violence in Oakland.

Treasure Island report-back live: audio of panel discussion with Public Press and Shareable.net

On Monday, the San Francisco Public Press and Shareable.net co-hosted a panel discussion at the Hub SoMa on our reporting about the massive planned redevelopment of Treasure Island. We plan to do more of these events discussing public policy. These gatherings are open to the public and free to members. The report-back capped a package of articles looking at the island and its political, financial and environmental challenges in depth. The stories appeared online and in the summer 2010 print pilot edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

[Audio of the event 9/20/10: Treasure Island development panel discussion on SoundCloud (sfpublicpress).]

Participants:

  • Jeremy Adam Smith, consulting editor, Shareable.net (front in photo)
  • Christopher D. Cook
  • Alison Hawkes (photo)
  • Bernice Yeung (photo)
  • Victoria Schlesinger

For our summer print pilot newspaper, seven reporters, one photographer and a graphic artist produced an eight-page section on Treasure Island. They interviewed the developers, city officials and architects, and pored over documents about the financing, development and environmental remediation. Funding for this project was made possible through micro-donations through our partner Spot.us.  Graphics by Shawn Allen, Stamen Design.

• OVERVIEW: Can Treasure Island realize its ecotopian dream? 
• SEA LEVEL: Uncertain about rising seas, developers using mid-range estimate to build up island
• EARTHQUAKES: Sand and silt require $137 million fix for Treasure Island
• POLLUTION: Experts concerned about Treasure Island cleanup as seas rise
• FINANCES: Financial upside for developers is long-term and risky, city says
• POLITICS: Through two mayors, connected island developers cultivated profitable deal
• PEOPLE: Treasure Island residents face choices for relocation
• BUSINESS: Homebuilder Lennar uses federal taxpayer funds to balance its books
• Treasure Island timeline

KALW News ‘great pledge smackdown’ (oh my!)

A note from our friends at KALW News:

KALW’s Crosscurrents is hosting the “great pledge smackdown” beginning on Monday from 5 to 6 p.m. on 91.7 F

We are outsourcing our membership drive and pitting two celebrity guests against each other to see who can get the most listeners to become members. In one corner, the venerable Bob Edwards, pioneer of public radio, the voice of NPR’s Morning Edition for 24 years.

He faces off against the upstart Glynn Washington, winner of the Public Radio Talent Quest and host of NPR’s Snap Judgement. Glynn says he plans to kick Bob Edwards’ ass. He knows he’s the underdog in this epic battle, but he’s fearless: “Goliath betta watch his back, cause they call me the Giantslayer! My slingshot’s got ‘Bob Edwards’ carved into the handle ...”

We are hoping to bring you the most fun pledge drive ever!

The Evolving Landscape of Local Journalism: A Community Panel Discussion at the Booksmith

Join us for a lively discussion Monday night at the Booksmith in the Upper Haight to wrestle with the question of how new and experimental local news projects can reach audiences and achieve economic sustainability. The announcement:

WhatThe Evolving Landscape of Local Journalism: A Community Panel Discussion
When: Monday, August 9, 2010 7:30 PM
Where: Booksmith
1644 Haight Street 
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 863-8688

It’s an exciting time in the landscape of San Francisco journalism as we see tectonic changes take place before our eyes. There have recently been some enticing examples of citizen-funded journalism, including quality investigative reports on the over-budget Bay Bridge project and the proposed development of Treasure Island. This evening we bring some key players in public-interest reporting to The Booksmith to discuss the emerging models which will compete and compliment the incumbents bringing us Bay Area news.

  • Lisa Frazier is the President and CEO of The Bay Citizen.
  • Michael Stoll is the Executive Director of SF Public Press.
  • Lydia Chavez is the Managing Editor of Mission Local.
  • Christin Evans, co-owner of the Booksmith and a self-proclaimed news junkie, will moderate this panel. She has dabbled in citizen reporting through her contributions to the Huffington Post and will ask the tough questions about what we can expect from local journalism in the years ahead.

We’ll discuss the sustainability of their models, what career opportunities they are providing for aspiring and seasoned journalists, and the ways in which they are distributing their content through new media and traditional print.

Bay Area development giant Lennar accused of fraud

The Sacramento Bee reported that the Bay Area’s mammoth housing developer Lennar Corp. and its spinoff company LNR Property Corp. are being accused of defrauding the California Public Employee’s Retirement System and others in a new lawsuit.

“The suit says Lennar and LNR Property used ‘grossly inflated’ land appraisals in securing the CalPERS partnership investment and a separate $1.5 billion loan commitment from a group led by global giant Barclays Bank.”

The investment was made in LandSource Communities Development, a portfolio of properties that went bankrupt in 2008, causing CalPERS to lose $922 million. (For more on the lawsuit, see the Sac Bee article.)

The general spirit of the suit suggests that Lennar is accomplished in wooing investors with promises of high returns, which should be a heads up to Bay Area residents. Lennar has fingers in a handful of Bay Area development projects, including Mare Island, Hunters Point, and Treasure Island.

The San Francisco Public Press published a special report in June on the redevelopment of Treasure Island. Lennar and its investors are putting up 50 percent of the capitol needed to prepare Treasure Island for development. San Francisco-based Stockbridge Real Estate Funds will fund the other half.

When interviewing Jack Sylvan, redevelopment director for the Treasure Island Development Authority, and the city’s agent negotiating the public-private partnership, he called the Treasure Island project, “about as risky a project as you can find and yes the pro forma shows, which is what they [the developers] need the pro forma to show, that they’re actually going to get a return, or nobody is going to invest in the project, but does that mean that it’s actually going to happen?”

Good question given Lennar’s track record and current legal problems.
 

The SF Public Press hits the streets!

 Originally posted at the Independent Arts & Media blog

What a thrill to be in the thick of print production!

It was an honor to lend a hand last Monday as the Public Press krewe pushed through those final hours before going to press.

I hardly dipped my toe in the water, did a few page proofs, dispensed a little advice and tried to otherwise stay out of the way — and even that was the journalistic equivalent of cliff diving. Dizzying heights, harrowing free fall, and a tremendous, joyful, encompassing splashdown.

And what a splash! The San Francisco Public Press made its newsprint debut on Tuesday, June 22. Read all about it:
 
You can get your own copy at the soiree, from the crew of newsies (count me among them) who are going to line Market Street from Embarcadero to City Hall today, and at any of these fine Bay Area periodical vendors:
 

 

* * * * *

 

I should mention that News You Might Have Missed also makes its print debut today as the national and world content for this great new newspaper. We take up half a page in the “Beyond the Bay” section with six short, pithy news items that are a wonderful preview of what a fully fledged NYMHM syndication service will look like.

Once upon a time this was all just a daydream. The only thing real about it was the prospect of ceaseless labor and uncertain returns.

Our dilemma has evolved. Now all we have to do is figure out how to scale it all up. It’s a popular and interesting problem. We could also try to scale Mt. Everest.

Or start an ad-free newspaper. Howbout them apples?

* * * * *

The San Francisco Public Press newsroom on Monday afternoon was tangled with computer cables, piled with papers, reference manuals scattered on desks, backpacks heaped in corners, half-empty takeout boxes teetering on the edges of tabletops.

The clock ticked down the hours and minutes and the two, terrible press deadlines loomed — 6pm for the Treasure Island “ecotopia” spread, 10pm for the rest of the paper.

The open suite of three connected offices was packed with volunteers young and old, kids fresh out of journalism school hunched over proofs and laptops, a handful of once-weary veterans of the trade now grinning, shaking their heads in astonishment, squaring their shoulders and muscling through sheets and sheets of 10-point type with fine red pens.

I did my part. Plowed through a few newsprint proofs. Wrestled some cumbersome headlines into submission. Flagged some contradictions in a fact-checking piece about public power. Gave due encouragement and advice to a young page editor trying to sand down one particularly knotty, burly slab of text. Made some jokes and tried not to get in the way.

I cringed slightly when giving my proofs to ex-SF Chronicle gunslinger Rich Pestorich. He gazed calmly at the pulpy mass of bloody red ink I’d stuck in his paws, then at all the other marked-up pages waiting quietly next to his laptop, and then back at me.

He said nothing.

“You’re the copy chief, right?” I asked.

“No,” he said, expressionless.

He added my “corrected” page to the pile, and ambled out into the corridor to detach a fresh proof from the wall for me to scrutinize.

Later, I strove to get the attention of Jackson Solway, the beleaguered but remarkably cool-headed designer.

“You may want to know about an important typographical situation,” I said.

“DON’T START WITH THE CURLY QUOTES!” Suzanne Yada hollered, though her desk was about three feet away.

“It’s actually that the en and em dashes are all mixed up,” I said.

“F— YOU!” she offered.

A true journalistic renaissance woman, and one of the powerful forces of nature propelling the whole Public Press endeavor, Suzanne in her wisdom is not to be taken lightly.

Another volunteer, one of the young ones, piped up: “I’m fixing those right now.”

Talk about a roomful of beating hearts!

Newsprint, typography, layout, proofreads and copyedits, the quickening pulse as the deadline approaches — print production brings out a fierce sort of joy that can only emerge from something as serious as committing words to print. Like jumping off a cliff, there’s no turning back, and you better be damn sure the water’s deep enough.

* * * * *

 

I first met Michael Stoll in 2004, at a World Affairs Council conference on press credibility produced by the nonprofit Independent Arts & Media, which I co-founded along with my artist-pal Adam Myers, and ex-MTVi production gal Jen Burke Anderson. We had created this entity because we had serious work to do in media and the arts, but we lacked the business and operational infrastructure to make that work possible.

At any rate, it certainly wasn’t going to happen at our day jobs.

Seems we were not alone in this quandary, and the resource we built turned out to be useful for other folks as well.

After the conference concluded, a thin, serious-looking young gentleman approached me. It was Mr. Stoll himself. I would later discover that his characteristic, soft-toned sobriety was just the calm surface of an oceanic depth of invention, focus, intellect, patience, and dug-in, mule-headed stubbornness. Qualities that have served him well as a “journopreneur” pursuing a decidedly contrarian approach to media production in the dawning digital era.

Michael asked me about Newsdesk.org, the news project I started under Indy Arts’ banner. He spoke about collaboration. He talked about his notion for an ad-free, nonprofit newspaper, one that could translate the public-radio funding model — and the multifacted eruption of online content — into newsprint.

The audacity of it! Delivered with such such an earnest demeanor! It was impossible to resist.

Eventually, when he founded The Public Press, Michael set it up as a fiscally sponsored affiliate of Indy Arts. We helped them get their first grants, and receive donations from hundred of individuals inspired by the Public Press vision, and stay in compliance with IRS tax law. We gave them free tables at our various media and arts expositions, promoted their work through Indy Arts’ newsletters and social media — and otherwise stayed the heck out of the way.

Michael brings such detailed, methodical focus to his work that it borders on inexorable. He recruited his advisers and teammates widely but astutely, held planning sessions at Pauline’s Pizza on Valencia, and soon found, amid the usual bumps and turmoil, that his vision had been taken up by more than a dozen colleagues, of every description and level of experience in the journalism world.

Suddenly The Public Press became a collective, and Michael was hanging on for dear life.

For the nonprofit wonks amongst you: This is the power of a smart, creator-friendly fiscal sponsorship program. It provides a platform for brilliant people to do remarkable things that they can’t do anywhere else. It helps them field-test their vision, launch their project, and then iterate.

Soon, The San Francisco Public Press will receive its own tax-exempt status from the IRS. It’s like they’re graduating! We at Indy Arts want to throw a party for them.

But they’ve taken care of that just fine on their own, thank you very much.

See you tonight at Passion Cafe — or buy a newspaper from me or any of the Public Press volunteers working their beat on Market Street.

* * * * *

 

Oh yeah! One more thing. The SF Chronicle ran an item about The Public Press today. It’s good.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/06/21/DDFJ1E1B6M.DTL

Say what you will about the future of newspapers. All I know is I’ve been selling newspapers to interested people on the streets of the city I love.

Welcome to SF Public Press, beta version

What you hold in your hands is an experiment.

Just as public radio and television arose generations ago to take news in a more substantive direction, so the San Francisco Public Press aims to conjure a new class of news organizations — local, accountable, noncommercial and innovative — that deliver news effectively across print and digital platforms.

Our long-term goal is to publish a nonprofit, ad-free daily newspaper — online and in print — that contributes to a competitive news environment for intelligent and in-depth journalism.

It will combine timely, nonpartisan original reporting with other quality writing and visuals from existing media partners that already produce public-interest news. The idea here is to cross media boundaries to expose this work to new local audiences.

This pilot newspaper is our foray into print. The Public Press has been publishing news online since March 2009 after receiving a startup grant from the San Francisco Foundation. Since then, more than 100 writers, photographers, videographers, multimedia specialists, nonprofit workers and concerned citizens have collaborated to produce professional-quality, in-depth reporting on public policy and social trends in and around San Francisco.

Why no ads? As the newspaper advertising market has drained to Internet competitors, we need to search for other sources of income to support quality journalism. Advertising has also warped the content of the newsroom, both explicitly and subtly, encouraging newspapers to shift their coverage to topics of interest to businesses and wealthy readers — the targets of ads. Noncommercial news, while often less lucrative, has the luxury of independence.

Why print? In an era when most journalism innovation is taking place online, we see untapped opportunities in print, too.

Here’s why:

  • Newspapers help bridge the digital divide. Not everyone is wired 24/7, even in the Bay Area. According to San Francisco’s 2009 City Survey, more than 34 percent of households with income under $50,000 cannot access the Internet at home via personal computers.
  • Newspapers serve as communal touchstones. You can never tell what people are reading by looking at the backs of their laptops. Instead, consider the experience of glancing at a headline over the shoulder of a fellow Muni passenger or picking up a copy of a paper someone left at a coffee shop. These moments spark real conversations with neighbors.
  • We want to pay our hard-working staff for the work they do. Readers might not pay for news online, but they still buy newspapers: 50 million are sold every day in the U.S. 
  • People use paper and electronic devices differently. There are times and places when even the most tech-savvy Bay Area digerati enjoy some screen relief. But the Public Press’ mission and purpose extend far beyond our case for print. If independent news organizations are going to survive into the digital era, what will they look like? Who will control them? Whose interests will they serve? We envision a cadre of newsrooms operating as accountable, locally based publicinterest organizations with high professional standards.
  • We do not stand alone in our aspirations. The Public Press would not exist as it does today if not for an outpouring of volunteer help from scores of people who believe in this vision. And yet, the organization must evolve if it is to thrive beyond this pilot venture. We intend to grow into an independent newsroom that can afford to pay journalists for the work they produce.

To do this, we need your help. If this newspaper in your hands represents to you a worthy experiment, one worth refining and repeating, again and again, support our efforts by becoming a member of the San Francisco Public Press today.

With your pledge you will get home delivery of future editions of the newspaper, free admission to our public events and the knowledge that you are helping redefine journalism for San Francisco.

Contact the Public Press newsroom at news [AT] sfpublicpress.org, or (415) 495-7377.

 

Radio interview: San Francisco Public Press in big print

“Media Minutes,” a national radio program from the nonprofit media policy group Free Press, aired a show June 11 that included an interview with Lila LaHood, director of operations and development at the Public Press, about the upcoming print pilot edition launchBelow is a transcript of the program:

click here to download

The San Francisco Public Press is a nonprofit news organization that publishes public interest reporting with the help of more than 50 professional and volunteer journalists and other nonprofit groups.

Online since 2007, the San Francisco Public Press is about to launch a pilot print edition. In an era where other newspapers are shrinking in size, the Public Press print edition will be big – 22 x 14 inches – with 28 full-size broadsheet pages, mostly in color, filled with news and features, but with no paid advertising.

Lila LaHood is the Director of Operations for the Public Press, which relies on support from foundations and individual donors.

Lila LaHood: We’re trying to do public interest, civic affairs journalism. Some local culture as well. A lot of our stories look at public policy and try to analyze, maybe, larger trends through a local lens. We do a lot of stories that focus on local civics and politics, public policy – issues that would affect a broad range of people who live and work in San Francisco.

LaHood says the Public Press has a commitment to underserved communities.

Lila LaHood: We hope to reach those audiences more with the print edition. Really, the problem isn’t so much with the print newspaper – people still subscribe to print newspapers – but it’s with the advertising model. And having news sponsored by advertising to support print newspapers just isn’t working anymore. We’re looking a
print as a way to bridge the digital divide. Even in a place like San Francisco, not everyone has broadband access at home, and if print newspapers disappear, we’re
limiting access to news for a lot of people in San Francisco.

LaHood says they are experimenting with innovative ways to tell the news. In one feature, they’ve paired a comic artist and a reporter together to produce a graphic novel
that will take up one full page.

Lila LaHood: We think this is going to capture a lot of attention because it’s a great way to present and illustrate an important public policy story, but in a more compelling way
that we think will help deliver it to a broader audience.

The print edition will start out as a quarterly. They hope to move to a weekly edition within a year. For more information about the San Francisco Public Press, go to sfpublicpress.org.

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