Four years ago, I rushed home to the Las Vegas apartment I shared with my husband Josh and blurted out the words quickly and breathlessly. The idea had been percolating all day in my mind. I was obsessed with it. I couldn’t think of anything else.
“Let’s start a nonprofit news organization in San Jose,” I said.
His eyes widened. I expected him to call me crazy. But after a rambling explanation about how I had researched the model, read every article I could find and meticulously studied an amazing nonprofit newsroom called The Nevada Independent, he perked up.
We watched for years as the local news market in our hometown of San Jose shrunk and we knew we could fill the void.
“Let’s do it,” Josh replied. Nine months later, we received 501c(3) status from the IRS. We quit our full-time jobs in Las Vegas and lived off our savings. Months later we hired a fabulous San Jose design firm to create our logo and launch the site. San José Spotlight was born. Our mission to serve our hometown with high-quality, public service journalism had begun.
Now, three years later, it’s like watching your child grow up. Since the launch, we’ve garnered more than 16 million pageviews from nearly 7 million readers. We have support from more than 3,500 donors. We’ve won four state and national awards. Our scrappy team has grown to seven full-time employees, including our first-ever director of development, with plans to hire four more people on the news and business side in 2022.
I’m thrilled to announce more exciting changes as we evolve and enter the next stage of growth:
- We received a transformative $500,000 grant from the American Journalism Project, a venture philanthropy dedicated to local news. This significant investment will allow us to hire revenue development professionals and audience growth specialists to expand our accountability reporting and build a sustainable newsroom for years to come.
- We are moving into our first-ever office in the heart of downtown San Jose. A special thanks to CreaTV CEO Chad Johnston for leading the charge on Open San José, an 18,000-square-foot office on South Second Street with studios and gallery space for arts and media nonprofits like us. Come visit us and say hello!
- We received a grant from Report for America to hire a full-time reporter in our newsroom dedicated to education reporting. This is the second position funded by RFA which places reporters in newsrooms across the nation to cover underreported topics and communities.
This past year, San José Spotlight brought on two seasoned editors to guide the newsroom, Nick Preciado and Moryt Milo, and veteran director of development Lyn Balistreri to lead our revenue generation efforts and oversee a team of professionals dedicated to ensuring our long-term sustainability. With these leaders at the helm, Josh and I will focus on the big picture growth and sustainability of San José Spotlight as we evolve from the start-up phase to the next stage of expansion.
To all our readers and donors, thank you. This dream that began in the living room of a Las Vegas apartment would not be possible without you. I can’t wait to see what’s next. To support our vision to provide independent, nonprofit journalism in Silicon Valley, please click here.
Contact Ramona Giwargis at [email protected] or follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.