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Bill Macfadyen: Noozhawk Welcomes Mission & State, Plans Sharper Focus on Local News

As a 24/7 news site, Noozhawk knows better than most how fast the Internet moves and what a voracious appetite it has.

Although our staff plays well above our league, the bottom line is that there just aren’t that many of us. We keep up, but we often wish we could call a time out and dig deeper on many of the stories that grab your attention — and ours.

We’ve made the most of our opportunities, having twice been honored with California Health Journalism Fellowships at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which resulted in our Prescription for Abuse project in 2011 and our 2013 Safety Net series.

We joined forces with KEYT News for a look at the disturbing Santa Maria gang culture that emerged after a gruesome torture-murder of one of its own. And we’ve explored the City of Santa Barbara’s budget in partnership with the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.

But these in-depth projects are taxing for us, as they are for most other professional news organizations in this tumultuous era of modern journalism.

Thanks to a new strategic partnership with the Santa Barbara Foundation, however, Noozhawk will soon be playing a major role in bringing more of them to our community.

On June 1, we have the privilege of taking over management of Mission & State, a groundbreaking journalism initiative created last year with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, local donors and local foundations.

If you’re not familiar with Mission & State, that’s OK; we have a plan to change that. Besides, startups sometimes take a while to gain traction and visibility. Been there, done that.

You also could be forgiven for thinking of Mission and State as an intersection on the Upper Eastside. That thought occurred to us, too, but when I mentioned the name to my friend, Craig Moore, a marketing guy, he urged me to think of it instead as our Mission to report on the State of our community.

So, yeah, what he said.

In all seriousness, we’re excited to have the opportunity to assist the Santa Barbara Foundation in establishing Mission & State as a vital resource in Santa Barbara County. Since its inception, we’ve had a keen interest in its innovative concept for in-depth reporting on challenging, important local issues.

We see tremendous potential and an unparalleled opening to educate and engage our community. As pioneers ourselves, we believe we’re uniquely positioned to grow Mission & State, and to extend its reach and reputation among a broader audience.

To accomplish these goals, we plan to focus on three immediate objectives:

» Increase the volume and relevance of Mission & State’s reporting

» Increase Mission & State’s visibility in the community and web presence through Noozhawk’s resources and with meaningful collaboration with other local media

» Concentrate on moving Mission & State toward independent financial viability

We believe Noozhawk’s own experience as a startup will be instrumental as we chart Mission & State’s course into the future. Equally important, we know our community and we know local news.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton, one of the foremost journalists on the Central Coast, will take on the additional role of editor at Mission & State. Although we’ve worked together for three decades, I remain in awe of his skill at managing reporters, projects and budgets, and his ability to get the most out of each.

He’ll bring a relentless focus on the issues that matter most to our community — just as he has for Noozhawk.

Josh Molina, another experienced and familiar local journalist, will continue as Mission & State’s senior writer. Additional content will be contributed by Noozhawk’s own reporters, local freelance writers and — we hope — through collaborative projects with other local media.

We’re grateful to Ron Gallo, the Santa Barbara Foundation’s president and CEO, and to Jan Campbell, its senior vice president of philanthropic services, communications and marketing, for having the confidence in us to take on this responsibility.

My partners — Tom Bolton and Kim Clark, our business development vice president — and I also appreciate the support from our former boss, Steve Ainsley, and the rest of the Mission & State advisory board.

And lest you think we’re shifting resources away from Noozhawk, we’ve promoted staff writer Giana Magnoli to help oversee the day-to-day news operations that Tom had been running and to assist managing editor Michelle Nelson. Once we catch our breath, we’ll begin interviewing for Giana’s replacement.

We’re also very close to making an additional announcement related to Noozhawk’s ongoing expansion. We’ve been pursuing this separate opportunity since last year, so I think we can wait another week or so.

Thank you for your support of and enthusiasm for Noozhawk. We’re proud to share our community with you, and we look forward to introducing — or reintroducing — you to Mission & State.

— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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