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Journalism Website Mission & State Folds
updated: Jul 24, 2014, 8:30 AM

By the Dedicated Staff of edhat.com

The nonprofit investigative journalism website Mission & State has been shut down, according to the Santa Barbara Foundation.

On Monday, June 21st, President and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation, Ron Gallo, emailed a letter to all media outlets in Santa Barbara County stating "the Mission & State experiment must come to an end" and the current management arrangement with Noozhawk will also end, effective immediately.

Mission & State began less than two years go with a $1 million grant from the Knight Foundation and several other donations from local organizations. Their goal as a non-profit was to deliver in-depth journalism about the Central Coast.

The Santa Barbara Foundation decided to turn over the management of the non-profit Mission & State to the for-profit local news website Noozhawk. Ron Gallo informed the community of this decision last month with the goal of creating a new collaborative project including all local media outlets with Noozhawk at the helm, unbeknownst to members of the Santa Barbara journalism community.

Many local media outlets raised concerns and questions about this merger which prompted a collective meeting on July 15th. For two hours, over 50 members of the community who were involved with Mission & State spoke about the issue of having a for-profit competitor run a non-profit aimed to combine journalistic talents, as well as the funds Noozhawk would receive for doing so. Many representatives of local media outlets, Edhat included, stated their concerns regarding this arrangement. Others, including Lois Mitchell of the Orfalea Foundation, suggested a time-out to reassess the plan and to freeze funds until then.

According to Gallo, the Santa Barbara Foundation will be working with the Knight Foundation, local donors, and Noozhawk to settle existing obligations, while over $300,000 in unspent grant money will be returned.

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Below is the letter that was sent out by Ron Gallo on July 21, 2014.

Dear Colleagues and Friends,
You are receiving this communication because you, in some meaningful way, have been involved with the Mission & State experiment: as a member of the Advisory Committee, as a funder, as a Santa Barbara Foundation trustee or staff, as a media collaborator, and/or as a careful observer of the project. Many of you attended the public meeting held last Tuesday (July 15), and so this also serves as a response to that gathering.

There has been much said and written about Mission & State in the last two months; and I suggest that some of it has been unpleasant, some of it has been inaccurate, and some of it has been very important. It is not my intention with this letter to address the first two parts of that suggestion, but rather only the last part.

There is a larger story here, and it is about doing the right thing for the community. When the Santa Barbara Foundation learned of the push-back to its decision to award the management responsibility of the project to Noozhawk, it immediately scheduled a public meeting. Fifty-five people attended.

The meeting lasted nearly two hours, and I think there would be no disagreement that everyone was given an opportunity to say their piece. The conversation was candid, passionate and civil, and it was clear to me by the end of the interchange that the current management arrangement with Noozhawk did not have sufficient support among potential media partners for it to have a reasonable chance of widespread collaboration.

Accordingly, 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 (although there will be two more stories; one this week and one next week that will be published under the Mission & State banner).

Unfortunately, with this decision, the Mission & State experiment must come to an end. In an amicable discussion with the Knight Foundation yesterday morning, I learned that its clear preference is that a third iteration of Mission & State not be attempted at this time. We discussed several versions of an idea - which was raised at the public meeting - of a more streamlined (and perhaps more sustainable) model that provides a pool of dollars to an impartial board that would entertain requests from individual journalists and/or media entities to do longer-format stories of importance to the community. Knight believes that would not accomplish the aims of their challenge, which focused on developing new and innovative structural models that increase media cooperation and collaboration.

Knight doesn't believe that we, as a community, have failed. This was a bold national challenge offered by Knight precisely because of the severe stresses on the journalism industry today. With ever-changing technology and consumer habits coupled with shrinking financial margins, it was their hope to help the industry find new ways forward. If it gives us any comfort, we are in good company. Relatively few of the Knight projects created long-term sustainable projects. Out of the 100 grants given, four have been singled out for additional funding by Knight.

This is a learning opportunity, and I think, once we catch our breath, a thoughtful postmortem is in order. Knight is hungry for "lessons learned." So too is the Santa Barbara Foundation, and so, I am sure, are many of you.

In terms of next steps, we will be working with Knight, 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. There is so much of importance that we can do together with creativity, innovation, generosity, and good will…all long-time hallmarks of this wonderful county.

Best regards to you all,
Ronald V. Gallo, Ed.D.
President & CEO

Related Articles

  • July 24, 2014: Mission & State's Former Editor Speaks Out
  • July 22, 2014: Independent- Plug Pulled on Mission & State
  • July 18, 2014: Pacific Coast Business Times - How Mission & State Became Foundation's Mission Impossible
  • July 15, 2014: Pacific Coast Business Times - News Organizations Object to Mission & State Funding Plan

    The former editor of Mission and State is speaking out about the recent end of the non-profit investigative journalism project. (07/25/14)
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