New Local News Website Launches In Monterey Bay Area

Oct 16, 2017

The story of daily newspapers around the country and the Monterey Bay area is that they have been shrinking.  As a result, so has local news coverage. A new non-profit online publication aims to fill that gap.  

I recently spoke with a couple of the founders,  Joe Livernois (JL) and Julie Reynolds Martinez (JRM), both formerly of the Monterey Herald.  Today they’re launching Voices of Monterey Bay.  

JRM:  It’s a bilingual and bicultural web site.  That’s why Voices in plural.  We’re kind of modeled after some other things like Voice of San Diego and Voice of Orange County.  We are very multi-media approach.  We have podcasts.  We have audio where the author will talk about why they did the story, how they did the story, why it matters.  It’s a very rich, beautiful web site.  So, it’s an experience. 

You said bi-cultural, what do you mean by bi-cultural?

JRM: Maybe it’s more than bi.  It’s multi-cultural.  It’s really just different references, different points of view.  You know most of our media is mainly from an older traditionally white male point of view, and our region is huge Latino population, and there’s different areas of interest in what should be covered, what stories should be told.  So it’s not a matter of just having stories in Spanish.  It’s what stories do you cover.  So it’s really bringing in other points of view, other ways of looking at the community.

This region already has several daily and weekly newspapers.  What’s different about what you are doing?

JL: Our focus will be on long term, investigative, long read feature type stories, as opposed to the quick hitters.  We won't be chasing the car wrecks.  We won't be chasing the shooting the happened around the corner.  We’ll leave that to the dailies.  They do an okay job with that.  But what the dailies don’t do a real good job with any more is providing the context why these shootings are happening.  Why there seems to be so many car wrecks at a particular intersection, but we’ll be able to spend the time to explain to readers and listeners why these events   are happening.

JRM: And also looking at what can be done about it.  Like why isn’t the city able to get a grip on this problem say of youth violence.  We’ll be looking at not just the causes of tragedies, but also what are the solutions.     We have a strong civic commitment to making our area better, making our community better.  Holding powerful people accountable.  Offering solutions, not just talking about problems.  I mean I think that the civic involvement and even having community involvement directly is important to us.  We’re not just a web site, we’re also going to be holding events on a regular basis where people can see what do people want covered?  What do they want to hear about?

So what’s the story today that’s going to get people to go to the site?

JL: One of them will be our parachute into the community of Pajaro in north Monterey County.  We all decided that we would sweep in one day and just talk to as many people as we could and get a feel for this little community that nobody really knows about.  

JRM: Another very powerful story, is Kathy McKenzie, one of our writers, who is writing about the end of life.  Her father-in-law decided to take advantage California’s legal assisted suicide laws and end his life.  And she went through that process.  And is writing a very intense personal account of that.

In the end as a non-profit, it all does comes down to money.  So where do you go from here to not only launch this, but to keep it going?

JRM: We’re not quitting our day jobs yet.

JL:  Right.  At the moment, we’re all volunteers. 

JRM: One of the things we did though, and it’s great that Joe’s been able to knock on doors and raise a bunch of money to start with, is to pay our freelancers right out of the gate.  Pay them a good rate because we feel like they deserve that.  So we the founders are volunteers, but our writers, photographers get paid, and translators, which is really nice

JL: Right and we are very fortunate to be partnered with the Institute for Non-profit News.  They’re an organization based out of Los Angeles.  The Institute for non-profit news has incubated something like140-150 non-profit news sites

JRM: ProPublica is a member.  There’s really huge sites and there’s just BenitoLink in San Benito County.  It runs the gamut.    They hooked up us with this match called News Match and it’s going to be a national campaign for all these nonprofit news sites through the end of the year where any of these small donations from members and readers will get matched 100%. We’re tapping into those kind of things to get long term sustainability.

Julie Reynolds Martinez, Joe Livernois and former newspaper editor Mary Duan are launching a new local news site for the region at  VoicesofMontereyBay.org.  

In addition to long form reporting, Voices of Monterey Bay will be training young journalists.  The Monterey County Youth Media Project held its first two week training session this past summer.