The Rebirth of the San Diego Free Press

by on June 14, 2012 · 0 comments

in Culture, History, Media, Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Doug Porter / Daily Kos / June 7, 2012

A Good News story from San Diego, California.

Earlier this week we launched a city-wide progressive news site for San Diego. For the past four and half years a growing number of writers and activists in San Diego have coalesced around OBRag.org, a site based in the Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego. The Rag has evolved from being a simple blog into an influential voice for progressives in the area. Its readership and influence has grown steadily; over 100.000 unique visitors, mostly from the San Diego area visited OBRag during May. Its editorial endorsement was actively sought by progressive Democrats in the region in the recent primary elections.

Our new site, called SanDiegoFreePress.org, aims to serve communities throughout the city of San Diego with an online source of news, issues, and progressive views by citizen journalists, plus the providing of a platform for the discussion of relevant issues. We are actively recruiting authors and activists from the region to report on everything from neighborhood association meetings to political campaigns, and the results have already exceeded our expectations. The Free Press is already posting roughly a half dozen stories daily, including a Monday thru Friday news and analysis summary that seeks to punch through the veil of corporate misinformation and omission of the mainstream media. We are taking the lessons learned with the success of the OB Rag and applying them to create a full throated voice for progressives throughout the region.

The OBRag started as an alternative newspaper back in 1970, making its mark with community organizers, anti-war activists, environmentalists and the arts community. It ceased publication in 1975. In 2007 Frank Gormlie, one of the original staffers of the newspaper, revived the publication as a web based blog that captured the spirit and progressivism of the original paper. Today, the OBRag serves as a model for community based progressive journalism, with a full compliment of writers covering a wide variety of topics. I am proud to have been one of the early writers with the OB Rag and it feels really great to be involved with the re-incarnated version.

Likewise, the San Diego Free Press was also an alternative paper back in the day. Started by a group of (mostly ex) UCSD students and centered in the downtown/Hillcrest areas of our city, its name was changed to the San Diego Street Journal after several issues. The Street Journal set the bar high for the alternative press in Southern California, with a blend of hard hitting power structure research, investigative reporting and a radical-progressive world view.

Its effectiveness, however, led to severe repression from both law enforcement agencies and right wing vigilantes. Street sellers were routinely harassed; police cruisers were always at the ready to conduct “field interrogations” of any known staffer who happened to walk down the street and the FBI would drop by from time to time seeking “interviews”. Of course, none of these law enforcement agencies were anywhere to be found when vigilantes (they would be called terrorists in today’s world) trashed the Free Press/Street Journal’s offices and vandalize its cars.

Eventually, convinced that the repression would increase to the level where their lives were in danger, the staff disbanded and scattered to the wind. I was involved with the Street Journal in a minor way as a contributor, and I will never forget my admiration for the bravery and the esprit de corps that the staff demonstrated in the face of the dangers posed by daring to be a radical in San Diego back in the day.

Fast forward to the present, and I would say that the challenges of progressive publishing in the 21st century are different in that they are manifested in more subtle ways. We are fortunate not to be burdened with the costs and logistics of dead tree publishing. Our meetings are sometimes virtual, held in chat rooms set up in placeholder blogging sites not visible to the public. An “office” or visible public location is no longer required, making our susceptibility to drive by harassment much lower. Still, there are things like the Denial of Service attacks that remind us of our vulnerabilities.

We still assume, however, the possibility that our conversations, even about mundane things like graphic placement, can be monitored. For those of us who have bridged both eras—and we make up a minority with the staff—the modern day challenges don’t seem quite as daunting. I’m retired. I’ve lived through cancer and had a great life. What the hell can they do to me? Put me on double secret probation?

If you happen to live in the San Diego area and are interested in joining our merry little band of troublemakers, please come visit us at www.SanDiegoFreePress.org and click on the contact button. The San Diego Free Press will provide a strong, progressive alternative to the corporate-driven media and press in San Diego. It will be guided by an able and experienced editorial board that will work as a collective, and along with other staff, contributors, and supporters, we aim to forge a new level of citizen journalism in San Diego. We hope to recruit articulate, committed, and compassionate writers, bloggers, and photographers from throughout San Diego’s diverse communities to our new online media project. So come check us out..

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