Illustration by Carola Noguer

What do you do when $100,000 unexpectedly lands on your desk? You take a deep breath, say thank you, and — if you’re me — you tell your loyal readers. 

So here’s the good news: Recently we received an unsolicited $100,000 grant from the ChanZuckerberg Initiative. It’s the largest grant we’ve ever received, and it couldn’t be more welcome. It also confirms the advice I got years ago from fellow reporters at the New York Times: Don’t worry about your editors and readers, just do consistently good work and, when they look up, they will see what you are doing.

      ChanZuckerberg looked up. 

Truth be told, getting the attention of grant officers this past year wasn’t top of mind. Like so many, we’ve been focused on Covid-19, testing, vaccines. Much of that has occurred right in our own backyard, such as the support by Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital for initiatives to get testing to the Latinx community.  Or the efforts of the Latino Task Force and UCSF researchers such as Dr. Diane Havlir and Dr. Carina Marquez who work at ZSFGH. 

We depended on the researchers and doctors to help us understand what was going on, and while we’re not reporters calling from The New York Times or the Washington Post, we always got callbacks. Maybe we’re something better: neighbors. I remember emailing Joe DeRisi, the co-president of the ChanZuckerberg BioHub, to ask if we could set up an interview. Within minutes the phone rang, and there was DeRisi, speaking at DeRisi speed, explaining that he had a quick break and could talk at that moment.

Still, for someone who applies for a lot of grants, I was shocked to get an email from Jeff MacGregor at the Initiative saying, “I wanted to connect you with a colleague of mine, Patricia Flores. We’re interested in understanding if there may be any need for funding to help sustain the important work that Mission Local is doing…” 

Wow! What? I had to read it twice. 

Those talks resulted in our first major grant to sustain our reporting and train a new reporter and intern. It makes sense that it comes from people who understand how we cover the community. We didn’t have to convince them that we’re a good investment – they know our work. And while they may not have liked — or will like — everything we write, they recognize that an independent media is essential. 

And you recognize it, too, dear readers. Thanks so much for your generous support for our efforts at Mission Local this past year. I write about this gift because it was unusual, and because it will allow us to add a reporter, but the vast majority of our funds come from you – our loyal readers. Without your support, we would not last a year. 

Keep reading us.  

Read more on how a local news site survives


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.


Follow Us

Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.