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The Public Press Blog

Fall membership drive - LAST DAY!

This is it. It’s the last day of our fall membership drive, and your last chance to help us reach our goal of adding 25 members, and to own one of these reusable shopping totes with our logo. We’re still just a few members shy of meeting our goal.

We hope you will help us make it happen. 

As you know, we are modeled on, among other things, public broadcasting. Our funding model depends on the support of our readers to keep producing 100 percent ad-free journalism. Our independence from commercial funding allows us to cover stories that see the city and the Bay Area from the viewpoint of average people, and to cover stories and communities that traditionally receive little attention from the press.

But we can’t do it alone. Join us. Memberships start at $35. One benefit of membership across all levels is a subscription to the print edition. Each paper features a special team reporting project that takes an in-depth look at an under-covered news topic. Recent reports include:

As a member, you’ll receive print editions in the mail, hot off the presses, for a year. Don’t miss another issue. Become a member today!

Thank you for your support.

Michael Stoll                 Lila LaHood

Executive Editor           Publisher


Two days left of our membership drive!

We're in the final stretch of our fall membership drive, which runs through Wednesday, Oct. 31. We'd like to give a big THANK YOU to our newest members and renewers — your support is greatly appreciated. With just two days left, we are six members away from reaching our goal of adding 25 members during the fall drive. Time is running out. Please help us meet our goal by joining or renewing your membership today. Memberships start at $35 and come with a host of benefits.

And don't forget, if you join or renew by tomorrow, as a bonus we'll give you a reusable, stuffable shopping tote with our new logo, custom made for us by ChicoBags.

As a member of the San Francisco Public Press, you'll be in good company. Here's what David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for the New York Times, L.A. Times and Philadelphia Inquirer, and author of "The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use 'Plain English' to Rob You Blind," has to say about the work we do:

"I contribute to the Public Press because San Francisco needs serious journalism about issues that affect the quality of life."

The San Francisco Public Press is small but growing. Your support will help us continue to report on undercovered topics, bringing attention to the plights of underserved communities and holding the powerful accountable. If you're a regular reader, then you know that we produce the kind of in-depth, content-rich, investigative stories about issues affecting San Francisco that no one else is covering. You can help us continue to produce important public-interest journalism by becoming a member today.

Thank you for your support!
Michael Stoll                              Lila LaHood
Executive Editor                       Publisher

Fall membership drive — join now!

Did you hear that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced at a press conference that he was investigating his department’s low rate of prosecutions for domestic violence?

That was because of reporting in the fall 2012 edition of the Public Press, which found that San Francisco takes just 28 percent of cases to court — the lowest per capita rate in the Bay Area.

In the cacophony of sensational coverage of the San Francisco sheriff to win back his job after being charged with domestic violence, the Public Press went in depth to look at the thousands of other cases — some of which lead to severe and repeated injuries — that never make the headlines.

Team reporting projects like these are what distinguish the Public Press in an era of shrinking resources for local journalism and commercial news operations that no longer have the stomach to do independent research.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your support to do more reporting projects that hold the powerful in our community accountable.

The San Francisco Public Press is small but growing. In August, after an epic, 32-month struggle with the IRS, we earned our independent 501(c)3 charitable status. That means that 100 percent of your tax-deductible donation will go to reporting and infrastructure that keeps our independent, nonpartisan professional journalism voice alive.

Help us celebrate our first membership drive as an independent nonprofit! You can become a basic member for just $35 a year, and get four quarterly editions of the newspaper mailed to you.

And for the two weeks of this fund drive, we’ll also send you a custom Public Press reusable, stuffable grocery tote from Chico Bags. Just in time to deal with San Francisco’s ban on plastic bags at the check-out line!

Of course, we’ll love you even more for a donation of $50 and above, which also gets you a vintage vermillion SF Public Press T-shirt.

Thanks for your support!

Michael Stoll                         Lila LaHood
Executive Director               Publisher                        

IRS Awards 501(c)3 Status to San Francisco Public Press

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Sept. 14, 2012

Contact: Michael Stoll, Executive Director — 415-846-3983; Lila LaHood, Publisher — 415-846-5346


IRS Awards 501(c)3 Status to San Francisco Public Press

After 32-month wait, independent ad-free newspaper finally receives charitable status, paving way for several similar nonprofit news startups


SAN FRANCISCO — After more than two and a half years, the IRS has awarded 501(c)3 nonprofit status to the San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial local news organization that publishes in-depth public-interest news daily online at and quarterly in a print newspaper.

The ruling allows the Public Press to directly accept tax-deductible donations from individuals, and elevates the organization to the same legal status as NPR, the Associated Press and the Center for Investigative Reporting, among many others. Importantly, it enables the startup news organization to solicit more significant grants from foundations — many of which say they are more comfortable funding 501(c)3’s. Since its founding in 2009, the Public Press has operated as a fiscally sponsored project of Independent Arts & Media, providing vital bridging services as we waited for our final 501(c)3 approval.

The Public Press, described by the Investigative News Network as “the poster child for nonprofit news projects deserving charitable status,” is funded by small grants from about a dozen foundations and more than 200 individual members. While it pays its reporters and photographers, it is largely volunteer-run, and like many magazines and noncommercial radio stations does not accept advertising, in order to maintain editorial independence.

The eighth edition of the newspaper, featuring a team report detailing San Francisco’s inconsistent efforts to battle domestic violence, will be published on Sept. 18.

“We are thrilled to have received this positive determination from the IRS,” said Michael Stoll, executive director of the San Francisco Public Press. “It will allow the Public Press to pursue larger grants and other opportunities restricted to nonprofits with 501(c)3 status.”

The Public Press first submitted an application to the IRS in January 2010. Nonprofit professionals say that the application processing typically takes between two and 12 months. After more than a year of delay, in early 2011 the organization sought help from the Digital Media Law Project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, and from the Investigative News Network, a nonprofit organization representing more than 60 nonprofit news producers around the country.

"It is reassuring that the IRS has finally recognized the critical educational function that the San Francisco Public Press serves,” said Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project, which provided pro bono legal assistance. “Hopefully, the Public Press has now paved the way for other journalism organizations to receive their federal tax exemptions more quickly.”

While the IRS does not comment on pending cases, agents working on the case have confirmed that “several” other projects are still in nonprofit limbo, including The Lens, an award-winning investigative online publication in New Orleans that has been waiting 23 months for a 501(c)3 determination. Both organizations have been supported by Kevin Davis, CEO and executive director of the Investigative News Network.

"The San Francisco Public Press is 100 percent focused on the mission to inform and educate the community in order to foster a vibrant democracy," Davis said. “We hope that this is the start of a phase where the IRS not only grants 501(c)(3) status to the other equally qualified organizations that have been waiting patiently for their turn, but also brings clarity to the process so new organizations can help fill the gap left by commercial media.”


The Public Press gained national attention for its fight for recognition by the IRS from many publications and broadcasters:

“Dan Rather Reports,” Season 7, Episode 7 (April 2012), second segment — ($2 download for whole hour-long program including 14-minute segment) (See a short cut here:

The Chronicle of Philanthropy —

Columbia Journalism Review —

American Journalism Review —

Save the News —

Yes Magazine — —

Nieman Journalism Jab —

The Nonprofit Times —

Inside Counsel — —

Knight Blog — — Some News Organizations in Limbo as IRS Consolidates Review of Exemption Applications (search under News Stories)

-- 30 --

News Quiz Night on Sept. 27!

Are you a pub quiz pro? A local news junkie? Show off your big brain and support local public-interest journalism — come to News Quiz Night, a zany, interactive fundraiser for the San Francisco Public Press! Purchase tickets here:


to our sponsors who have donated products or services to 

News Quiz Night, a fundraiser for the San Francisco Public Press!

If you would like to contribute quiz contest prizes or items for the silent auction, please email

San Francisco National Maritime Museum

Exygy Web + Mobile

Andrea Carla Michaels

Bi-Rite Market

The Booksmith

Cal Shakes

California Academy of Sciences

Charles Michael Photography

Christopher's Books

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Doc's of the Bay


Fins on the Hoof

 Green Apple Books

The Green Arcade

Iliana Montauk

 Little Green Cyclo

Magnolia Pub and Brewery

Maryann Hrichak

 Namu Gaji

Real Food Company

San Francisco Ballet

Skylite Snowballs

Voodoo Van

Yelp if you need HELP!





Public Press on ‘Dan Rather Reports’

In early April, the San Francisco Public Press was featured on “Dan Rather Reports” in a segment titled “Taxing News.” The segment focused on the Public Press and other nonprofit journalism startups’ struggle to gain nonprofit status from the IRS. Though the Public Press currently accepts tax-deductible donations through the San Francisco-based Independent Arts & Mediaindependent 501(c)3 status from the IRS would pave the way for additional funding. 

Though the full episode, “The Queen of Green” is available for download in iTunes for $1.99 or by subscription on Xfinity by Comcast, a three-minute excerpt can be viewed here and on the San Francisco Public Press’ YouTube channel.

For more information on the “Taxing News” segment, visit our blog. For additional information regarding other nonprofit news organizations, check out the PBS article “How Non-Profit, For Profit Newsrooms Are Working Together” or the San Diego Reader’s piece “IRS Delays, Questions Nonprofit Status of News Organizations.

Behind the Scenes: News Partnerships

The Public Press partners with more than 30 nonprofit news and civic organizations to expand our coverage of community issues. We feature news reporting, edited text from radio programs, graphics and photos from these partners on and in our quarterly ad-free newspaper. 

We talked about partnerships recently with Lydia Chávez, managing editor at Mission Local, a bilingual nonprofit news outlet covering San Francisco's Mission District.

Why does Mission Local share stories with the Public Press and collaborate on reporting, as it did in a story about extended Mission District bus detours?

The Public Press is invaluable in getting information to the public. Even in the digital age there are simply people you don't reach online and news should be consumed as widely as possible. We too put out a print edition and find that some of those who become digital readers, first find us first in print.

How can nonprofit news operations fill some of the gaps left by the commercial press?

 They can play a tremendous role, but they need the public's support. News gathering takes time and people. The pieces that appear in the Public Press represent a lot of time and care by editors and reporters who are working for very little money. If we truly believe in a democracy, nonprofits like the Public Press should be supported by foundations and individuals. We all benefit by having a more informed populace.

Thank you to all of our nonprofit partners for working with us to share more context-rich, public-interest journalism with communities throughout the Bay Area

The Bay Citizen, Bay Nature, California Watch, California Northern Magazine, Central City Extra, KALW News: Crosscurrents Radio, KALW: Philosophy Talk, KALW: Your Call, KPFA, City Visions Radio, KQED: The California Report, KQED News, KQED Forum, Mission Local, National Radio Project, New America Media, Shareable, Spot.Us, Center for Public Integrity, Mother Jones, El Tecolote, San Francisco Neighborhood Newspaper Association, Oakland Local, PBS MediaShift, Consumerist Union: Consumerist blog, Creosote Journal, Earth Island Journal, Center for Investigative Reporting, Public Policy Institute of California, Commonwealth Club of California, World Affairs Council of Northern California

Support local public media by becoming a member of the Public Press today. For $35, your annual membership will include copies of the newspaper, invitations to special member events and other perks. 

Public Press wins national award


The San Francisco Public Press has won an award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. Last month, the group recognized our reporters and editors with a national Prevention for a Safer Society award for their articles on experiments in San Francisco with “restorative justice,” an alternative method for dealing with youth misbehavior in schools. 

The series, produced in collaboration with the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., delved into alternative, nonpunitive routes that the city’s schools are taking to mediate conflict among students and prevent suspensions and expulsions.

In the lead story, “Bucking a punitive trend, San Francisco lets students own up to misdeeds instead of getting kicked out of school,” lead reporter Jeremy Adam Smith revealed that through innovative new approaches involving counseling and confronting peers, San Francisco schools achieved some of the lowest expulsion rates in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Public Press reporter T.J. Johnston and editors Rich Pestorich and Michael Stoll, as well as the Center for Public Integrity’s Susan Ferris, also received recognition for their work on the report.

Behind the Scenes: Meet the Director of Design

Tom Guffey, director of design, has a key role in conceptualizing the layout of the Public Press print editions. Here's his perspective on the creative process.

What do you enjoy most about designing the print edition?

What I love about designing the newspaper is that it is catered to a more patient and deliberative reader. We are not under pressure to put fluff and flotsam on our pages. Also, we are still changing and growing as a publication, which makes it easier to play with different formats and styles.

The Public Press doesn't accept any paid advertising. Does that give you more room to experiment with design?

One of the surprising things I've discovered in designing an ad-free newspaper is that in some ways it's harder. Our design and layout have to stand on their own. On the plus side, every page is better-looking and easier to read. The negative side — for the designers at least — is that there are no "easy" pages.

The front page is an index of everything you are going to find inside the newspaper. You can literally judge our book by our cover.

What interests you about newspaper design?

I fell in love with newspaper design working at my college newspaper and reading Tim Harrower's amazing books on editorial design. What I love about it is the mixture of substance and style. You're giving people vital information for life, but trying to do it in a way that's interesting. It's the fundamental challenge that all journalists face whether they're writers, photographers, or something else — our job is to make the important things interesting.

Become a member today. For just $35, your annual membership will include copies of the newspaper, invitations to special member events and other perks. To acknowledge your contribution, we will publish your name in every print edition for one year.

Behind the Scenes: Production of Issue No. 7

Step into the Public Press newsroom where reporters and editors are preparing to publish Issue No. 7 — coming next month. Michael Stoll, executive director, explains the thinking behind the 16-page, ad-free, broadsheet.

What is distinct about the print edition?

The Public Press is, as far as we know, the largest circulation nonprofit newspaper in California. As a community-funded news organization, we pride ourselves on strident independence from the powerful in business, government and other sectors. We are able to go deeper than many mainstream news outlets because we're not focused on maximizing profits.

The special section of the next edition focuses on smart growth. Why did the Public Press decide to report on this issue?

We've seen terms like smart growth bandied about by government planners, academics, developers and activists, but there's little consensus on what these ideas actually mean. Many news outlets have covered individual developments or public meetings, failing to consider the big picture. Bay Area regional planning is becoming very controversial. A team of seven reporters, two graphic designers and two photographers is exploring a region-wide political firestorm that could derail planned transit-oriented developments and walkable communities in all nine Bay Area counties.

How can people support the newspaper?

The Public Press was founded on the example of public broadcasting, which relies primarily on cultivating small donors. We need community support to continue to provide freecoverage of local public affairs on our website and distribute the paper below cost across the region. All individual donations go into developing unique editorial projects that have public impact.

Please consider becoming a member or making a donation, so we can continue to publish public-interest news stories online and in print.

Become a member today! For just $35, your annual membership will include copies of the newspaper, invitations to special member events and other perks. To acknowledge your contribution, we will publish your name in every print edition for one year.

Follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook for updates about the next print edition.

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