From the CEO: San José Spotlight is expanding its reach
San José Spotlight staff with renowned broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien at the news outlet's PolitiBeat festival on June 10, 2023.

    Nearly a year ago we started exploring what an expansion of San José Spotlight could look like—five years after launching the publication that’s become a national leader among nonprofit newsrooms.

    We hear almost daily from readers who hope our impactful journalism can serve other South Bay cities. While our commitment to our hometown of San Jose is unwavering, we know residents of Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Cupertino and Los Gatos are hungry for high-quality local news coverage.

    Now, with major support from two funding opportunities, we’re launching an ambitious expansion plan into several new cities.

    Our efforts began with months of listening to residents and gathering feedback. We launched citywide surveys, community meetings, one-on-one interviews and house parties in these cities. Our surveys revealed nearly 71% of respondents in Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Cupertino and Los Gatos have heard of San José Spotlight. The majority of respondents expressed a high likelihood of following our coverage in their city.

    A screenshot of San José Spotlight’s survey results in Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Cupertino and Los Gatos.

    Residents in these cities understand the critical role independent journalism plays in sparking civic engagement and strengthening our democracy.

    In Sunnyvale, we heard deep concerns about housing affordability and homelessness. Milpitas residents voiced worries about the housing crisis, traffic congestion, road conditions and the environment. In Cupertino, the impact of tech giant Apple, development stagnation, concerns with school leaders and quality of education loomed large. Los Gatans said public safety concerns, racist rhetoric and housing development keep them up at night.

    In Los Gatos, a house party hosted by our board member Ann Ravel welcomed dozens of attendees eager for San José Spotlight’s local news coverage—from elected officials to nonprofit, business and education leaders.

    A house party hosted by San José Spotlight board member Ann Ravel to discuss the organization’s expansion plans. Photo by Josh Barrouse.

    Each of these cities deserves a reliable source for civic-minded journalism and a trusted team of reporters committed to shedding light on wrongdoing, uplifting voices of marginalized communities and holding power to account.

    A generous grant from the Google News Initiative to support our expansion over two years will fund the audience, marketing and product development to build readership, distribution and revenue in these new cities. The funding is critical to support the infrastructure to make this expansion possible, including new pages for each city on our website, an improved mobile app, podcast episodes and newsletters dedicated to each city.

    With support from the California Local News Fellowship, we hired reporter B. Sakura Cannestra this month to begin immediate coverage of Sunnyvale and Milpitas. In just a few short weeks, she sat down for an exclusive interview with Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein to discuss his priorities and explained how Milpitas’ little-known rideshare program for residents is at risk of disappearing.

    “Having grown up in the South Bay, I’m excited to learn more about the region from a journalist’s perspective,” Cannestra said. “People’s lived experiences are so vastly different, even across this region, so I know I’ll be doing a lot of learning and am looking forward to engaging with different communities.”

    San José Spotlight reporter B. Sakura Cannestra. Photo by Robert Eliason.

    We’re applying for additional funding to support a second reporter to focus on the West Valley cities of Cupertino, Los Gatos, Campbell and Saratoga.

    We’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to expand our work into more South Bay cities and we invite you to join us. What stories matter to you? What issues should we pay attention to? Send an email to the address below.

    As always, our award-winning journalism will never go behind a paywall and our stories are free to consume—but they’re not free to produce. Support from readers is vital to sustain our work and fuel our growth. We’re building an organization that will scale and serve the South Bay for years to come. Learn how to support us.

    Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on X, formerly known as Twitter.

    Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

    Leave a Reply