By Doug Porter
Well, we made it to the one year mark. So today we’ll skip the news round up and take a look at what’s been going on around here. On this date (June 4th) last year the San Diego Free Press went ‘live’.
Here’s how Patty Jones describes the process:
When Frank and I started the OB Rag it was sort of on a lark. We jumped in and before too much time had past, we had a collective of wonderful people around us. We felt like these people deserved a place where they could write about their own neighborhoods and the things near and dear to them. We had resurrected the OB Rag, why not the San Diego Free Press? We gathered these people together and we talked about it. We saw a light in their eyes…
It’s not been easy, we have bumped heads and ruffled each other’s feathers, but we are a family. A family that continues to grow. As for me, I am an enabler. There, I said it. What I do, by taking care of the back-end of this website, enables this family to do what they do best. What a wonderful thing it is.
The OB Rag started as a two person show, banking on the legacy of the San Diego’s late Sixties and early Seventies alternative press, and became a full throated voice for progressives. You could say the OB Rag birthed the San Diego Free Press. Or you could say we evolved out of it. We remained connected as family members, but are evolving in different (and good) ways.
We haven’t started down this road with bucket loads of venture capital cash, a fairy god father/mother or a collection of writing super-stars. There is no economic or organizational model here that Huffington Post/AOL or Yahoo! can replicate.
This San Diego Free Press thing is a work in progress. What we know is that ‘if you’re not seated at the table, you’re probably on the menu.’ And we think the changes going on the media world should open up the process for citizens.
Citizen journalism to us is a lot sexier than journalism super stars. We know that wonks everywhere need to be encouraged. Who knows? YOU might have something to say. And I think it is especially important for progressive leaning voices to be heard early and often, even if (and when) we’re wrong.
Is the San Diego Free Press an ‘objective’ news source? Hell, no.
The better question is: ‘Are we honest?’
And I’d like to think we’re meeting that standard every day.
How do we do it?
It’s publish or perish, day after day. We want to take this “new media” thing up another notch and see where it leads us. That means we explore, take challenges and even get out of our comfort zones sometimes.
Why do we do it?
I suspect you’d get different answers from everybody who publishes here. What we have in common is a sense that we’d like to see a ‘better’ world in every sense of the word ‘better’. And we all find comfort in using the written word to express that desire.
Here’s Andy Cohen, writing about his experiences here during Year One:
In this first year, I have been privileged to interact with some of our more prominent local politicians and officials in order to bring stories to the SDFP that I believe matter to San Diego. Although I have tended to split my time between being a reporter and an opinion writer, it is those stories based on interviews and interactions with such figures as Bob Filner, Sherri Lightner, Scott Peters, Jan Goldsmith, and others that I have found most gratifying to deliver to our readers.
The fact that such officials are willing to take the time to talk to us is a testament to the hard work and diligence of my colleagues on the SDFP Editorial Board and the impact that our little publication has had on the San Diego news scene. This first year was a great start, but it was just a start. Here’s to an even greater presence in the San Diego news and political scene in year number two!
Here’s Anna Daniels’ take:
Throughout the past year the editorial board members have gone out into the community and talked to friends and strangers, encouraging them to not only read SDFP but to become citizen journalists themselves. In addition to our outreach efforts, a number of individuals have contacted us, wanting to know how to submit articles. I respond to many of these inquiries and have learned over the course of the year to provide this piece of information right up front:
The SDFP is an all volunteer endeavor at this time. That means that editors don’t get paid and contributors don’t got paid. We would like to change that situation, but this is the current reality.
If you are still reading, this is what you need to know to submit an article….
So how do you explain the publication of more than 1,000 original articles this past year? How do you explain a committed core group of editors and contributers who attend monthly meetings and an editorial board that has just expanded to include Brent Beltrán?
If you don’t like the news, make your own…. Too many of us in San Diego have genuine concerns and perspectives that are dismissed or ignored by mainstream media. Likewise for the neighborhoods and communities that we call home. SDFP provides a platform for us to find each other, talk to each other and act together.
That is priceless.
One thing we’re not, as a media outlet, is part of the pack. We’re outsiders, and that’s by design.
Take me, for instance:
I write five days a week about subjects that expose the omissions of the (mostly local) news media: protests, labor, the environment and, of course, politics. I don’t care about what they think of the San Diego Free Press. I don’t need their approval. I don’t need to play nice to keep access to powerbrokers or keep my job.
I also seek to poke holes in the assumptions that arise and are promulgated by the chattering class: the themes, ‘Mayor Filner is some kind of monster’, the oft-repeated untruths, ‘lowering taxes will improve the economy’ and the complete corruption of the lexicon, whereby ‘reform’ is code for AynRandian agendas and ‘bullying’ is used by the rich and powerful to describe those who would dare oppose their schemes and scams.
You wouldn’t believe how much of the news we get from the mass media is shaped by reporters seeking to gain or maintain the approval of their peers. Been there, seen that, got the tee-shirt. And NO, thank you.
- Since Day One we’ve published slightly more that 1600 articles, two thirds of which were sourced locally from over two dozen authors.
- We’ve published 6,700 comments on those articles, which have been viewed 640,000+ times.
- Our handy-dandy spam filter has turned away over 300,000 scumbags trying to sell everything from handbags to Viagra.
- The San Diego Free Press averages more than 1600 unique visitors daily, reading about 60,000 pages each month. And that number is growing steadily.
- Our own Annie Lane figured out a ballpark estimate of how much time we’ve all put in over the past year on this project. She figures it’s about ten thousand hours. In Malcolm Gladwell‘s book Outliers: The Story of Success, he repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. We’re not sure we’re even close to success, but it’s nice to know we’ve hit some kind of important metric.
Our newest editorial board member may be the most enthusiastic of us all.
Here’s Brent Beltran:
“¡Feliz birfday, San Diego Free Press!
To be thriving after one year, with no corporate funding or advertising, shows that the all volunteer founders and contributors at the Free Press are truly dedicated to providing an alternative to the mainstream media. I’m honored that the Editorial Board has given me the space to write about my community and tell the stories I want to tell.
They found me and gave me this wonderful opportunity to share my neighborhood and my perspective. The San Diego Free Press’ dedication to offering relevant progressive views and community news from a left perspective is unparalleled in San Diego and I look forward to contributing for many years to comes.”
How San Diego Free Press works:
- We’re an all-volunteer organization. Someday that may change. For right now we have lives, children, families, and might even have hot meals waiting for us, so we may not be right here, on the spot, all the time. And we definitely don’t have a pool of reporters waiting in the wings to respond to press releases.
- We have an editorial board that meets monthly to drink assorted beverages and argue politics and policy. Sometimes we yell. More often we get along pretty well.
- We (try to) host monthly meet-ups with local writers to exchange story ideas and put a human face on all those emails we exchange. (Email us if you’re interested)
- We have an ‘editor du jour’ program. Each day of the week is ‘covered’ by an editorial board member, who curates the site and keeps an eye out for comments, spam and boo-boos.
- Most stories go up in the mornings. San Diego Free Press usually posts articles seven days a week. We are, by the way, a virtual organization. There is no ‘office’. We work from pcs, laptops, cellphones and ‘the drum’.
- We are not politically monolithic. Some of our writers aren’t particularly ‘political’.
- The standard we have for ourselves is NOT that we should be unbiased. It’s that we should be honest.
- Some of us are ‘old school’ about our craft, others are borderline ‘gonzo’ and still others just want to share a slice of life.
Here are a few of our accomplishments:
- The Progressive’s Voting Guide for last fall’s elections was a huge success. San Diego Free Press’ busiest day ever was smack dab in the middle of when people were making voting decisions (Oct 23rd), proving beyond a doubt that there is demand for progressive election analysis. Articles leading up the November elections and analysis of election results were all huge hits.
- Our ongoing effort to focus on communities in San Diego. Thus far we’ve done three ‘special focus’ periods, with history, narratives and reviews of North Park, Barrio Logan and Golden Hill. Sometimes communities are about shared interests, as we have learned from interacting with the wonderful people who are serious about bicycles.
- We’ve made the commitment to publish serialized novels by San Diego authors set in identifiable San Diego locations. Steve Burns thrilled us each week for 34 weeks with The Dove and Cockerel, a slice of life crime novel written from the point of view of a San Diego police officer. The latest novel, Tío Emilio and the Secrets of the Ancestors, by Richard Juarez, is written with a younger audience in mind and set in San Diego’s Barrio Logan. (The chapters appear every Saturday)
- We’ve provided a venue for people with concerns and passions to reach out to the general community. John Anderson’s ‘SD for Free’ column, Annie Lane’s ‘Field of View’ photographic essays, Ernie McCray’s deep thoughts in both prose and poetry about life in the USA, and Judi Curry’s culinary adventures are all prime examples.
And the most important thing…
…Are the people who read this site, comment, criticize, donate, push and shove.
I know I speak for everybody here in saying “Thank You” for stopping by.
Over the coming days, we’ll have a few essays from our contributors (and maybe an editor or two if they take issue with what I said) talking about their experiences with and aspirations for the San Diego Free Press, a square peg looking for a round hole.
On This Day: 1892 – The Sierra Club was incorporated in San Francisco. 1974 – The Cleveland Indians had “Ten Cent Beer Night”. Due to the drunken and unruly fans the Indians forfeited to the Texas Rangers. 1984 – Bruce Springsteen released his “Born in the U.S.A.” album.
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