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Editor Defends Mission & State Experiment

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Letter to local media by Joe Donnelly, founding executive editor of Mission and State

msI was saddened by the announcement on Tuesday that Mission and State was coming to an end many months and hundreds of thousands of dollars before it should have. That the announcement came on the same day Judge Colleen Sterne denied the city’s proposed gang-injunction is a bittersweet irony I’ll get to.

I was the founding executive editor of Mission and State. It was an honor to have been selected to start up this noble enterprise and I was even more honored to work alongside the dedicated and passionate journalists I had the pleasure of working with during my tenure, which came to an abrupt end early last March.

I can assure you, everyone who worked with me approached his or her job with the utmost integrity. It is mostly for them, their work, and their legacy, that I feel compelled to address the onslaught of unchallenged misinformation regarding Mission and State, at least as I knew it.

The first thing I want to put to rest is the narrative of failure being foisted onto the community. Publicly circulated attempts to justify the missteps regarding the disposition of Mission and State and to spin its demise in recent news accounts have explicitly or implicitly trafficked in the notion that Mission and State wasn’t meeting its objectives, was “burning” through its budget, that “radical action” was need to save it from failure, that the Knight Foundation had pulled its funding, etc.

This narrative isn’t accurate or fair and belies the hard work and commitment of the journalists who strived to make a difference with Mission and State.

Despite what you may have heard or read, the Knight Foundation had funded Mission and State for two years contingent upon local matching funds, a challenge that Santa Barbara commendably met. That funding wasn’t in question until the recent attempt by the Santa Barbara Foundation to offload the project. It’s also worth noting that the Knight Foundation, according to a report made at an advisory board meeting last fall, was extremely happy with Mission and State’s initial direction and progress. Peer associations such as The Investigative News Network also lauded Mission and State as a model for nonprofit, multimedia digital journalism.

You may have also read that Mission and State was recklessly burning through its budget. Nothing could be further from the truth. The project came in under budget in year one and was operating well below the allotted budget for year two when I left. From what I understand, there is still more than half this year’s budget untapped as of Tuesday’s announcement that the project was shuttering.

Another red herring that’s been tossed out there is that Mission and State had failed to achieve sustainability. Sustainability beyond the two-year Knight Foundation commitment and community match was a primary responsibility of the advisory board, though it never acted on this duty despite being urged to do so and despite funds being slotted for a development director.

We should also keep in mind that the people and entities contributing to Mission and State didn’t donate funds to be used some day, for some thing. They funded a specific project for a specific period of time with the charge that excellent, narrative journalism be pursued during that time. Former managing editor Phuong-Cac Nguyen and I respected these commitments and took that mission seriously.

It has also been suggested that Mission and State failed in its objective to collaborate with other media. The Mission and State I knew made every conceivable effort to collaborate with local media. Mission and State “1.0″ as its initial incarnation has been called, had an arrangement with the Sentinel and Casa that placed stories in those publications on a nearly weekly basis. Casa published our work in English and Spanish. At the time of my dismissal, we were planning to put the entire Mission and State/Casa collaboration in an archive available on both websites.

We placed several significant stories with Noozhawk and The Independent, both of whose participation I solicited regularly and with whom we were increasingly finding ways to collaborate. We collaborated with Pacific Coast Business Times on several occasions and were exploring further investigations into stories of mutual interest. On Edhat, our stories were among the most frequently posted and commented on. As far as local radio goes, Mission and State reporters made several key appearances on KCLU during my tenure. Early in the year, we discussed an ongoing partnership with KCBX news director Randol White, leading to one of our reporters recent on-air discussion of her excellent oil-industry coverage, the first of what was meant to be many such collaborations. We had an ongoing collaboration with KDB before it was sold and had been discussing ways to work together with Jennifer Ferro, KCRW’s general manager, before the station had even made an offer on KDB.

We not only placed stories with, or collaborated with, every available local media, we also did community- based collaborations with Brooks Institute, UCSB and Antioch including energetic, well-attended forums on pro bono legal services and homelessness. More was in the works. Not a bad track record for the eight months Mission and State had been publishing by the time I was let go.

In my final month at Mission and State, the site had nearly 14,000 visits with 23,000 page views, according to Google Analytics. These numbers had been trending up for several months and while they certainly wouldn’t scare The Huffington Post, they were much admired by peers in our community-based nonprofit segment, especially considering our ripe-young age and that our in-depth stories demanded significant time and attention from readers.

A reader survey undertaken just before my exit indicated a high-degree of community support for what we were doing as did the average length of time spent on our stories, which well exceeded the industry norm. More important were the hundreds of comments on stories posted our website and the hundreds more generated when our stories appeared on Edhat, comments that attest to the civic spirit of Santa Barbara and the resonating spirit of our work.

The ginned-up narrative of failure does a disservice to that spirit, to the journalists who dreamed up this enterprise to serve an underserved community and to those who made a difference during Mission and State’s too-brief run by helping to stir up energy, discussion, and sometimes outrage over such issues as oil-company mischief, public safety, the county jail system, water use, homelessness, environmental degradation, growth and development, transportation, healthcare, education… it goes on.

Mission and State wasn’t perfect, no start up is, but objective evidence would support the idea that it was on the right track and really starting to hit its stride when a series of unfortunate decisions led to this point.

I was particularly proud of our coverage of the proposed gang injunction. We played a critical role in getting that issue in front of the public, despite the pushback we got for doing so. As councilwoman Cathy Murillo commented on a social-media post about Judge Sterne’s decision to deny the measure, “The coverage from Mission and State brought the subject into the light. The public needed to understand the injunction and its ramifications. So unfortunate that it was mostly discussed in closed session for many months. … M&S coverage of other issues also to be celebrated! Much to be proud of!”

Indeed. I’m sure a perusal of the excellent work by former Mission and State journalists such as Phuong- Cac Nguyen, Alex Kacik, Sam Slovick, Melinda Burns, Karen Pelland, Yvette Cabrera, Erin Lennon, Natalie Cherot, Kathleen Reddington, Daryl Kelley, Laura Bertocci, Jeff Wing, Joshua Molina and others will bear that out.

I would hope that a small portion of remaining Mission and State funds could be used to keep this legacy of success alive in a digital archive so that future attempts at this sort of community-based, nonprofit journalism, which is surely going play a growing role in journalism, can learn and be inspired by the fantastic model Santa Barbara contributed with Mission and State.

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Santa Barbara’s Gang Injunction Denied

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Gang Injunction Ruling

Colleen Stern, a Santa Barbara Superior Court judge, denied Santa Barbara’s gang injunction. The PDF left contains her 32-page decision.

“Wherever you stand on the gang injunction, you must acknowledge the damage gang activity does to a neighborhood, its families, and its children.” Sharon Byrne

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The End of Mission and State

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Last Tuesday’s appeal by local media outlets objecting to the partnership arrangement made between Noozhawk and Mission & State made an impact on Santa Barbara Foundation President and CEO Ron Gallo.

In a letter posted on Noozhawk, Mr. Gallo announced the end of Mission & State…

the Santa Barbara Foundation has decided, with the understanding of the principals of Noozhawk — who have acted honorably and with good intentions throughout — that the current management arrangement must be brought to an end. It is effective immediately.”

Ron added, “a third iteration of Mission & State not be attempted at this time… In terms of next steps, we will be working with the Knight Foundation, local donors and Noozhawk to settle existing obligations, return (on a pro-rata basis) unused monies, and most important, commission a white paper on our nearly-three-year experience… With all that said, it is time, I hope you agree, to move on.”

So sadly, there it ends. A $1 million dollar investment in Santa Barbara journalism gone, with very little to show. Imagine the possibilities…

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Crosswalk Sting Enforcement in Santa Barbara

crosswalkOver the next two days, watch out for decoy pedestrians who are standing in crosswalks! The Santa Barbara Police Department, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department, and California Highway Patrol are conducting a crosswalk sting throughout the Santa Barbara and Goleta areas. According to officials, “this detail is being conducted due to continued complaints of vehicles not yielding to pedestrians who are in crosswalks and high pedestrian involved collision rates. Locations utilized will consist of both marked and unmarked crosswalks.” The last sting netted 70 drivers with a ticket cost of around $200.

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Cup Holder Commentary on Bicyclists

This inappropriate cup-holder commentary video about bicyclists comes from nearby Santa Paula (a reserve police office who has since resigned) and should resonate in Santa Barbara where bicyclist/ motorist relations are often strained, KEYT story credit.
Video removed.
Continue Reading →

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Pearl Chase Newsletter: July, 2014

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Pearl Chase Society Newsletter

Santa Barbara View is proud to publish The Capital, a monthly newsletter of the Pearl Chase Society. You can read the full July newsletter by clicking on the PDF icon, left.

In this issue is a wrap-up of the Historic Homes Tour which was attended by 700 people! Kellam de Forest offers updates on the Juarez-Hosmer Adobe, Irene and Frances Rich Beach Cabana, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s plans for upgrades due to seismic reasons. And Hattie Beresford presents her new book, “My Santa Barbara Scrapbook - A Portrait of the Artist, Elizbeth Eaton Burton“.

PS: please help keep Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, and consider becoming a member of the Pearl Chase Society. You can also like the Pearl Chase Society on Facebook.

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A View of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission

Ali Azarvan volunteered for 25 local non profits in May and shares his chronicles:

I reached out to my good friend, Kaitlyn Turner at the Dream Foundation to see if there were any other local nonprofits that she was excited about – and there were! She quickly introduced me to Rebecca Weber, Director of Communications and Constituent Relations, at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.

Rebecca literally pulled the quickest turnaround of a call I’ve ever witnessed and was very open to allowing me to see what they do – she’s a great voice for this amazing charity and I owe her a ton for making this happen so soon.

What do they do? The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission provides help in the form of food and shelter 365 days a year to those who have no place else to go. They also provide lasting hope in the form of a 12 month residential recovery program for those looking to break free from a cycle of addiction.

I was first blown away by the amount of people standing outside of the Rescue Mission as I was pulling up – so many of our local homeless just waiting for a good meal. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last month, it’s that I need to appreciate what I have – and how relatively easy my life is. Tonight was just another reminder.

My night was spent alongside 3 great UCSB student-volunteers, Chloe, Hayley, and Rachel and the resident volunteers to feed the needy. The gentleman running the show is named Rick Robinson. He gave me a tour of the place and quickly got me up-to-speed on what was about to take place and I immediately felt comfortable with him.

maydayAs the homeless starting walking in and getting fed their (amazing) meals, I got to spend a lot of quality time with a resident also named Rick. He is a recovering alcoholic and is currently on his 9th month of the 12 month residential recovery program. He was gracious enough to share his entire story with me and he made me a believer in everything that The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission is doing. He came to the Rescue Mission in need of serious help.

He’s now totally sober and hyper-responsible. He wakes up at 4:30am 6 days / week and is on the road by 5:30am in order to pick up all of the donated food from the local Vons grocery store as well as 6 different Starbucks. It’s a homeless shelter so the food is terrible, right? WRONG. I was shocked at the high-quality food that is donated every single day to this great charity. He also attends church every Sunday and has become much more religious over the course of his treatment (note- this is a Christian-based non-profit).

He was so appreciative of the opportunity he has been given – “I get free room and board, 3 great meals a day, bible study every morning, and they sponsor my AA meetings” he told me. It was readily apparent that Rick was now a confident man. He knows he has the ability to get over his disease and make it “on the outside”. He shared with me the fact that his resume is updated and that he’s learning how to type better / quicker and that he believes that he has a job lined up at Vons as soon as he finishes his program.

And that’s exactly what it’s about, right? It’s the kind of comeback story we all love. I couldn’t have been more motivated after speaking with him and I’m so excited to see what the future holds for him.

To learn more about this brilliant non-profit, please visit their website. To donate and help create more stories like Rick’s, please visit their donation page.

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Ads from Yesteryear

On Santa Babara’s bicentennial in 1982, a 72-page glossy gazette was put out with a pictorial review of 200 years. In the publication were a number of ads…
does anyone remember Kimo’s Polynesian Shop?
Kimos

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Saturdays with Seibert

Local views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

Thursday morning I smelled if before I saw it.  The Bird Refuge is blooming, something nasty.  The water should reflect the blue sky, but this other color is what the neighbors are smelling. – Dan
odor

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Sign of the Times in Santa Barbara, California

The stage-two drought isn’t the only ordinance being ignored… sign laws designed to protect (pdf) and enhance the City’s historic character continue to be mocked:

10.36.020 Advertising Vehicles.
No person shall operate, drive, tow, draw, transport, move, park or stand any vehicle used for commercial advertising purposes, or for the purpose of displaying such vehicle for sale, or as a prize, on or upon any public street or alley at any time, excepting that the City Council may grant special permission to organizations when it so deems worthy. (Ord. 2713 §1(part), 1959; prior Code §31.57.)
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Ornamental Water Fountains in Santa Barbara

After publishing drought discrepanciessome ornamental water fountains flow in Santa Barbara while others are turned off due to drought regulations; a viewer writes in with a photo to say the fountain in Loreto Plaza has been drained and turned off.

Here are two more… can you identify these beautiful fountains?


Photos taken Saturday, July 12

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Local Media Outlets Object to Partnership of Noozhawk and Mission & State

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Joint letter from SB media to the SB Foundation Trustees

News organizations from around Santa Barbara met with the Board of the Santa Barbara Foundation to object to the partnership arrangement made between Noozhawk and Mission & State, PDF left.

As detailed in May, Noozhawk, the for-profit online news website which started in 2007, took over management of Mission & State June 1. Mission & State started as the Santa Barbara Investigative Journalism Initiative, a heavily-funded (via a Knight Foundation Grant through the Santa Barbara Foundation) non profit intended “to enhance the delivery of impactful journalism to Santa Barbara.”

Mission & State burned through a majority of its $1 million initial funding before operational control was handed over to Noozhawk. Local news organizations and at least one funding partner asked for a time out to reassess the awarding of the management contract. Tuesday’s meeting ended without a resolution.

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The Reclaimed Water Shell Game

By Dan Seibert

Last week I read a couple comments about the dead grass in Chase Palm park and the green grass at Fess Parker Doubletree hotel. It’s quite a contrast.

The odd thing is the hotel “park strip,” the very green grass between the hotel and street is owned by the city and is being watered with reclaimed water. Presently the reclaimed water system is under repair, the reclaimed H20 is being supplemented with city water. I think about 75% of reclaimed water is actually city water. If my info is wrong please feel free to correct me.

I don’t want be the water cop, but this photo was too strange not to post.
watercop

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Lance Orozco Catches Up with The Trailmaster

Walks-SBKCLU’S legendary newsman Lance Orozco caught up with, John McKinney, aka The Trailmaster, who has written many outdoor articles for Santa Barbara View, to talk about a new series of trail guides and mini books that every local should have.
Click here to listen to the 4-minute audio report:

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On the Docket: Funding for Visit Santa Barbara

Today at their weekly meeting, the Santa Barbara City Council will discuss and likely approve $1,380,00 for a community promotions contract with Visit Santa Barbara, formerly the Conference and Visitor’s Bureau and Film Commission.

According to the Agenda, the funding will come from the Mayor and Council’s Office Arts and Community Promotion budget to “promote Santa Barbara as a tourist destination and location for film production. This contract will help support year-round administrative expenses for Visit Santa Barbara, including salaries and benefits, advertising, consumer and trade information services, public relations, and sales. The term of the contract covers the period of July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.”

Last year, Visit Santa Barbara used this money to developed a $1 million ad campaign that rubbed many residents the wrong way. $10,000 was spent on a new logo that depicted Saint Barbara as a mermaida logo which has not been used to date.

duncan

Mayor and City Council
Post Office Box 1990
Santa Barbara, CA 93102-1990
City Hall Voice: (805) 564-5318; FAX: (805) 564-5475
735 Anacapa Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
HSchneider@SantaBarbaraCA.gov (805) 564-5323
Cmurillo@santabarbaraca.gov (805) 564-5322
DFrancisco@SantaBarbaraCA.gov (805) 564-5324
FHotchkiss@SantaBarbaraCA.gov (805) 564-5320
Ghart@santabarbaraca.gov (805) 564-5319
HWhite@SantaBarbaraCA.gov (805) 564-5321
RRowse@SantaBarbaraCA.gov (805) 564-5325

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