Santa Barbara Journalism Initiative

Enterprise pieces will be produced annually, with shorter pieces as appropriate, as well as monthly explanatory pieces. These news pieces will be posted on the initiative’s website, creating avenues for citizen engagement extending beyond traditional social network opportunities, and offering community interaction specific to published pieces. It is not the intent of the initiative to cover breaking news stories, but to provide more in-depth coverage exploring the root causes of the major issues affecting the community.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the people and communities of this county,” said Ronald V. Gallo, President & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “This initiative will provide much-needed additional depth to the able coverage of local and regional news already offered by our media community. It is unarguable that a more informed citizenry demands better public policy and contributes mightily to a strong democracy.”

Originally the brainchild of five local citizens, Melinda Burns, a former senior writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press; Richard Flacks, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Hap Freund, formerly head of Santa Barbara Channels community television; Abe Peck, professor emeritus of journalism at Northwestern University; and Warren Schultheis, the creator and founder of City 2.0, a local blog network. SBJI was conceived as a complement to local, county news, gaining local and national support for independent, in-depth reporting. The Santa Barbara Foundation, the Fund for Santa Barbara, the James S. Bower Foundation, and the McCune Foundation were the primary providers of seed money for the research that went into the successful proposal receiving the grant from the Knight Foundation.

The initiative will be housed at the Miller McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy – an existing nonprofit organization with media expertise – and overseen by an executive advisory board comprised of individuals with deep media experience, foundation representatives, and key community leaders. Steven Ainsley, a former publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press, is the board’s first chair. A search is imminent to find the initiative’s first editor. SBJI will encourage collaboration and partnership among existing media outlets in the community. In addition, Media Partnership Grants will be offered to solidify partnerships and strengthen the enterprise journalism skills and opportunities of local media.

The funding is part of the Knight Community Information Challenge, which engages community and place-based foundations in supporting news and information projects that inform and engage residents. As traditional media has struggled, funders have increasingly realized how integral good information is to all their areas of interest, whether coverage is focused on education, housing, health or the arts. Community foundations, now celebrating 100 years of service and leadership, and the larger field of place-based foundations, are uniquely positioned to play a leadership role on this issue. So far, close to 80 local foundations nationwide have launched news-enhancement projects.

Through SBJI local news will be enhanced with thought-provoking in-depth reporting about Santa Barbara County, collaborating with local media to strengthen journalism in the public interest and encourage debate for a more informed, engaged, and democratic civic life.

About the Santa Barbara Foundation

The Santa Barbara Foundation is a community foundation established in 1928 to enrich the lives of the people of Santa Barbara County through philanthropy. As one of the largest private sources of funding for area nonprofits, agencies, and college bound students, the foundation builds and facilitates philanthropy through donor partnerships; invests in nonprofits to strengthen the nonprofit sector; and identifies and strategically addresses important community needs to solve problems. Guided by compassion for the most vulnerable and those most in need of help, excellence in what it supports and with whom it partners, and integrity with a focus on stewardship and transparency, the Santa Barbara Foundation is invested in a more vibrant, engaged, and meaningfully connected Santa Barbara County…for all.


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