A new nonprofit enterprise journalism project called the Santa Barbara Journalism Initiative is being spearheaded by the Santa Barbara Foundation to promote journalistic interests and provide the Santa Barbara community with an in-depth online news source.
The SBJI was initially awarded a $500,000 grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation and recently received a matching grant from the nonprofit Knight Foundation, which focuses on promoting the arts and advancing media. The project is not designed to cover breaking news, but rather to delve into important issues in the area with investigative and explanatory pieces.
According to UCSB sociology professor Richard Flacks, one of five local individuals who conceived the idea for the SBJI, the initiative will create a new medium that will complement existing sources by taking a more in-depth look at select stories. Flacks said while the plan only involves publishing these stories online, he hopes they will one day also be published in print.
The project will produce a few explanatory articles per month, along with annual enterprise pieces that will all be posted on the initiative’s website.
Flacks founded the project in collaboration with Melinda Burns, a former writer for the Santa Barbara News-Press; Hap Freund, a former head of Santa Barbara Channels community television; Abe Peck, a journalism professor at Northwestern University and Warren Schultheis, the founder of the journalism website City 2.0, which hosts over 250 local, news-oriented blogs.
Flacks said he and the rest of the group were concerned with the lack of in-depth news in the local community.
“The SBJI is designed to fill this hole by serving as a media source that is not supposed to compete but enrich already existing media sources,” Flacks said.
According to Jessica Tade, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Santa Barbara Foundation, the organization hopes to give partnership grants to other media outlets in order to foster a positive relationship and encourage cooperation between news sources.
Flacks said the recent grant from the Knight Foundation was given specifically for the SBJI as part of the Knight Foundation Community Information Challenge, a fiveyear initiative that encourages local communities to step up in order to meet their information needs. Over 100 different foundations nationwide have received grants through this initiative since it began in 2008.
“The Knight Foundation grant was a big breakthrough for the project,” Flacks said.
The Santa Barbara Foundation has already begun assembling an executive committee to oversee the SBJI and is looking for someone to serve as an editor-in-chief. According to Flacks, the program will most likely employ three to four people, though the project is still in its early stages. The SBJI will be housed in the Miller McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy, an existing nonprofit organization in Santa Barbara.