Illustration of a woman with white hair sitting at her desk with flowers
Illustration by Lola Noguer

We have exciting news! After testing the waters as a fiscally sponsored project,  we are striking out on our own. The legal work is underway to get our own 501(c)(3) status. And, already, you can give directly to the new Mission Local entity. You may not notice any change at first, but we believe our new status will allow us to improve, to grow — and to serve you better.

Our inaugural board had its first meeting this morning. The current members are listed below, and two additional members will join in October. The members bring decades of experience in journalism and/or the neighborhood. In addition to Joe Eskenazi and me, the board includes: 

  • Geeta Anand, the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Marty Baron, the former executive editor of the Washington Post.
  • Mimi Chakarova, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and longtime pro bono advisor to Mission Local.
  • Amanda Martinez, soon to be a Mission resident again, and previously with Mission Local, NBC and the City University of New York.
  • Andrea Valencia, a Mission resident and co-founder of Linguaficient, where she works as a community and conference interpreter based in the Mission.
  • Kuang Xu, a Mission resident and Associate Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
  • Elizabeth Zitrin, a Mission resident and lawyer with an enduring interest in criminal justice issues.
Left to right: Lydia Chávez, Andrea Valencia, Joe Eskenazi, Amanda Martínez, Elizabeth Zitrin, Mimi Chakarova, Geeta Anand, Kuang Xu, Marty Baron.

This is all new to Joe and me, but we’re very much looking forward to getting new ideas and help from a group of super-smart and dedicated advisors. 

All of this has happened because of your support. When we became a fiscally sponsored project in August, 2018, our budget was less than $200,000. That was too small to warrant getting our own nonprofit status, so we agreed to be administered by a nonprofit sponsor, a common arrangement for startups. We had two full-time paid reporters and me. Paid interns helped out. 

We increasingly became known not only for the stories we broke, but as a place where journalists of color could get superb training, build a portfolio and apply for full-time jobs here and elsewhere. 

Thanks to you and some grants, our budget kept growing. Report for America, a national journalism project that puts reporters in newsrooms, contributes to the salaries of two of our reporters. We now have five full-time staff members and a regular crew of paid interns.

Once we have the funding, we look forward to hiring a full-time development director and a paid executive editor. In fact, the need for those positions also pushed us in the direction of being a 501(c)(3). As we spoke with funders, it became clear that, to get bigger grants and donations, we needed a board and our own nonprofit status. 

I’ve always believed that Mission Local has attracted donors because of the strength of its content. I still think that is the case. But we’ve also attracted a first-rate and incredibly loyal staff who believe in our mission. Joe Eskenazi, for one, could work anywhere in San Francisco, and yet he has stuck with Mission Local. And the new media owners and sites in San Francisco have approached nearly all of my staff. But they’ve stayed.

That means an awful lot. There is something special here. We’re determined to make it even better. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch. lydia.chavez@missionlocal.com.

Bonus News: We learned this morning that “Garbage Odyessy,” written by Lydia Chávez and edited brilliantly by Joe Eskenazi and Sandra Salmans, is a finalist for the Insight Award for Explanatory News. The winner will be named on September 21 by the Institute for Nonprofit News.

And More Good News: Later in the week we were named a finalist for the Online News Association’s General Excellence award.

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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.

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8 Comments

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  1. Geeda is the coolest! Congrats, been following Mission Local since my first days of highschool here in SF.

  2. Congratulations! Your board looks so strong.

    Good luck with next month’s award.

    It seems Mission Local is going from strength to strength. I hope you are enjoying this moment.

  3. Congratulations! I hope this secures longterm financial independence for Mission Local. You do a lot of good work with a very small team.

  4. So many congratulations!

    Thank you for appointing such a diverse board — super majority women, all ages.

    For one, I am excited that you will be able to continue and grow your work.

  5. Congratulations! Pivoting an organization to a non-profit is no small feat. Wishing you luck! Though I frequently disagree with your POV, I find Mission Local interesting and thought provoking.