Voice of OC: Project Summary

Voice of OC is a nonprofit, investigative newsroom focused on daily coverage of Orange County’s city halls and government agencies, with an eye toward providing real-time accountability journalism that makes a difference on good-governance and quality of life.

This project explores how to monetize the civic engagement generated by its investigative reporting. This experiment includes several engagement initiatives to attract an audience that is more willing to donate to a cost-effective, locally focused newsroom.

The grant will fund the work of an involvement editor, an experienced local community activist to work with community organizations and develop op-ed content from neighborhoods — connecting civically active residents to the newsroom. The project will incorporate an online civic calendar function for government meetings, community events and other civic functions.

Voice of OC also will launch civic training workshops in which reporters and editors train community members to use local sunshine laws to access relevant documents. And the newsroom will also continue its popular outreach events at the monthly downtown Santa Ana’s Art Walk and work with an experienced local radio producer to produce weekly podcasts focused on the 2016 Orange County elections.

Reviewers felt this could be an important project seeking a work-around to one of the challenges faced by strong local watchdog newsrooms: that their accountability reporting can put them sideways with the local donor/underwriting community. By providing a platform and a voice to numerous activist organizations in addition to continuing its own independent reporting, VoOC is proposing new ways to broaden engagement and support.