Introducing San José Spotlight

San José is many things to many people.

For me, it’s the cramped apartment in Hoffman-Via Monte that was ripe with graffiti and gang activity, but welcomed my refugee parents who came to this country with one suitcase. It’s the old Thrifty’s (now Whole Foods) where my sister and I snuck out to buy candy. It’s Pioneer High School’s back parking lot where I learned to drive. It’s the memory of counting red lights as my father, who worked nights at a gas station where a robber pulled a gun on him, drove me to Almaden Elementary School.

And every time I left San José — for my first journalism job or because the rental market squeezed us out — I yearned to come back. There’s something about this city. I defended it to friends who said it’ll never be as cool as San Francisco. San José is cooler. San José is home.

But my hometown has changed — new apartments have sprung up and old stores torn down — and now it’s embarking on a journey that will forever transform its downtown. There is no better time for honest, ethical, transparent journalism than now.

There is no better time for San José Spotlight.

Ironically, San José Spotlight was born in … Nevada. During a yearlong journey covering quirky politics in the Silver State (a dead brothel owner wins Assembly election, sorry, San José — Las Vegas beat you this time) I began following a nonprofit news organization called The Nevada Independent. The model was unfamiliar to me — but one thing was clear. It worked. The stories were high-quality, deeply reported and Nevadans quickly embraced an alternative source for independent news.

Why can’t we replicate this success in San José?

We can — and, with your support, we will. In an era of misinformation, half-truths and the denigration of public trust in journalism, we will be impartial, neutral and fair. We will search for truth, we will shed light on wrongdoing and we will hold the powerful accountable. Good journalism should ruffle feathers, and we are not beholden to anyone — except you, the readers.

You, our readers and supporters, will help shape the conversation and drive our coverage. We’ll share inspiring stories about unsung heroes, historical figures and everyday citizens doing amazing things. We’ll bring you expert analysis from subject matter experts on issues that matter to you. We’ll connect you with decision makers and influencers through exclusive panels and forums. We’ll hunt down answers to your questions. We’ll follow the money and reveal how your tax dollars are being spent — and who’s funding major political campaigns.

As we grow, we’ll expand our editorial team, launch a political blog and a podcast.

We aren’t perfect. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll own up to them and fix them. We know we won’t earn your trust overnight. But we’ll work hard to win it — and even harder to keep it. Transparency will be at the heart of everything we do. We’ll disclose our donors and maintain a firewall between revenue and editorial content.

The time is now, San José.

Nonprofit news is the fastest growing field in journalism and many believe it’s the future of our struggling industry. We need this now more than ever.

This is a big undertaking, but I’m not doing it alone. This is a joint venture that wouldn’t be possible without our co-founder and my husband, Josh Barousse, also a San Jose native and community leader who worked tirelessly for more than a decade to improve his hometown. Josh, who serves as our director of development, will focus on fundraising, revenue generation, forging community partnerships and coordinating our events.

And we’ve recruited some of the most talented journalists in the region — some trusted, familiar names you’ll recognize and some new faces we know you’ll grow to love.

A democracy cannot function without a free press. We’re ready to fill the gap in a shrinking local news landscape, but we cannot do it without you. Please consider becoming a member. Write an op-ed. Share our stories on social media. Join us at an upcoming town hall or educational panel. Get involved and stay connected. Email us if you liked a story. Email us if you hated a story. Tell us what else we should be writing about. Tell your friends about us.

This is a two-way conversation, San José, and this is your newsroom. Onward!

Contact Ramona Giwargis at ramona@sanjosespotlight.com or follow her @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

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