A win for local journalism; thank you from CEO Kara Meyberg Guzman
Aug. 5, 2020
Dear Santa Cruz Local supporters and watchers of local media,
On Aug. 19, 2019, my business partner Stephen Baxter and I officially launched Santa Cruz Local’s website and membership model. We co-founded this news organization because we saw large gaps in local news coverage in Santa Cruz County. We believed local media in our county needed a fresh start. We wanted to create a news outlet that not only identified the problems, but also solutions. We wanted to ask the community to drive our work. We wanted to help people have informed conversations on local issues.
As we surpass the 500-member milestone and approach our anniversary, I want to look back on all we’ve accomplished.
We look at solutions and how other communities have approached similar issues.
- We learned how a program in Eugene, Oregon reduces harm in law enforcement with non police responses to mental health crises. We explored what it would take to bring a similar program to our county.
- We investigated what Santa Cruz County could learn from countries that suppressed the coronavirus without long, drastic lockdowns.
- We shared how San Jose addresses its homeless camps along the Guadalupe River, and compared it to the City of Santa Cruz’s approach.
- We looked at San Francisco’s needle exchange and needle cleanup programs, and compared them to Santa Cruz County’s programs.
We produce the deepest and most comprehensive elections reporting in our county.
- We hosted more than a dozen listening posts around the county in January and interviewed more than 200 county residents to understand their priorities for the March 3 local races. We pressed the candidates on issues that mattered most to voters, not just the candidates. We produced a six-part elections podcast series with candidate interviews.
- We followed the money in local campaign donations more than any other news outlet.
We are committed to serving communities of color and others not typically heard by local media.
- We formed a Community Advisory Board for our Nov. 3 elections podcast series to help us hear from Latinos, Spanish speakers, working families and those most impacted by our region’s high cost of living. We want to hear their priorities for local candidates.
- We partnered with local nonprofits that serve these communities and hosted listening sessions. We worked with Spanish interpreters to host listening sessions.
- We became one of the first newsrooms in the country to create a community engagement statement. It defines what community engagement means for us and to hold us accountable.
We host events for residents to connect, ask questions and have productive conversations about complex local issues.
- We hosted an online community town hall with our county’s public health leaders to answer people’s questions on COVID-19 and hospital capacity.
- We gathered members on Zoom to connect and brainstorm ways to help our community get through the COVID pandemic.
- We partnered with Local Voices Network to host a series of guided conversations for county residents on COVID-19 and the Nov. 3 elections.
We produce the deepest and most useful reporting in our county on housing, homelessness, development, local government and COVID-19.
- We produced a narrative podcast episode about the county’s wage gap and how it pressures residents to leave.
- We filed several public records requests to investigate whether Measure M, a failed rent control 2018 ballot measure, shrunk Santa Cruz’s rental market.
- We cover city councils in Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Scotts Valley and Capitola deeper than anyone else. We have the most comprehensive and consistent coverage of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. More than any other branch of government, these local government bodies make the decisions that affect residents’ daily lives.
What makes me most proud
In early 2019, Stephen Baxter and I carefully crafted Santa Cruz Local’s vision: We believe that when we are all watching and engaged in our public institutions, our needs are addressed, democracy works better and our community is stronger.
It’s been about 16 months since we produced our first podcast on Santa Cruz City Council. After more than a thousand interviews, dozens of public meetings, 82 podcast episodes, hundreds of news stories and many late nights, I’m proud that we’ve managed to build a company that’s committed to and making progress on that vision.
Before we became entrepreneurs, Stephen Baxter and I were longtime local journalists. I was the first woman and first person of color to serve as the top editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Stephen was an award-winning crime reporter and did some of the hardest-hitting Santa Cruz County journalism in recent memory.
We built this company from the ground up. We started with our reporting. We’ve held second jobs and drew from our savings. Today, we’ve built a news organization that’s community-funded and community-driven. We’re staffed by locals who live in, care about and are deeply invested in Santa Cruz County. Our goal is public service.
Most of all, thank you to our 504 Santa Cruz Local members for believing in local journalism and wanting to see us grow. About 80% of Santa Cruz Local’s revenue now comes from memberships, and our strong growth in 2020 is a testament to the community’s support. Santa Cruz Local would not be here without you.
Of course, I thank Stephen Baxter for being a great business partner, editor and friend. Thank you to Natalya Dreszer, our first employee and our community engagement/business development coordinator, without whom Santa Cruz Local would not be the success it is today.
Thank you to the freelance team that has helped produce our journalism: reporters Matthew Renda, Michael Todd and Bek Borreson, our UC Santa Cruz Science Communications intern Jeremiah Oetting, photographer Will Duncan, graphic artist Haley Williams, Spanish interpreter Oscar Rios and Spanish translator Beatriz Trujillo.
Thank you to all our Community Advisory Board members, for helping us reach voices not often heard by local media: Diana Alfaro, Sara Coon, Elaine Johnson, Mariah Roberts, Fe Silva-Robles and Jim Weller.
Thank you to our Business Advisory Circle members for helping us move toward financial sustainability: Mary Anne Carson, Kristen Collishaw, Leslie Conner, Doug Erickson, Dan Haifley, Greg Larson, Patrick Reilly and Mike Rotkin.
Thank you to Santa Cruz Local’s many advisors, partners and grantors: jesikah maria ross of Capital Public Radio, Phillip Smith of the Journalism Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, Chris Neklason of Cruzio, Brad Kava of the Cabrillo College Department of Journalism, LION Publishers, Solutions Journalism Network, American Press Institute, Local Media Association, Local Voices Network, Facebook Journalism Project, Hearken, Google News Initiative, Santa Cruz Works, Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce, UC Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Tech Beat, KSQD 90.7 FM, Elizabeth Clifton-Doolin and Elena Cohen.
I look forward to serving all Santa Cruz County residents through deeply-reported, community-driven journalism in 2020 and beyond.
Kara Meyberg Guzman
CEO/Co-founder, Santa Cruz Local