On June 4th, the San Diego Free Press was launched as an online news source for the San Diego area, promising in its byline, “Progressive views and neighborhood news.” It was the latest effort in citizen journalism to hit San Diego. So how is it doing, two months into its re-birth?
Re-birth it is, for the original San Diego Free Press was published for about one year, 1968 to 1969, by graduate students and undergrads from UCSD – not too long after Martin Luther King was murdered. The original was hawked on San Diego streets and on college campuses for a quarter by its staff. After that initial year, the staff changed the name to the San Diego Street Journal.
There have been other online versions of the Free Press here in San Diego, primarily one that was associated with the loose network of indy media across the country.
Way back in 2010, the staff of the OB Rag began discussions on starting a city-wide online publication, using its name. Our ideas finally jelled this Spring, we formed an Editorial Board and began soliciting contributions from our contacts and networks of San Diego County grassroots, labor, environmental, and anti-nuke activists.
And launch we did – and today we are still publishing the San Diego Free Press daily – for most weeks it’s 7 days a week. It’s a hodgepodge of mayoral race news, critiques of the U-T San Diego, some accounts from different communities, reviews of plays, books and restaurants, photo galleries, national tie-ins to the Obama vs Romney race, – yet, definitely progressive and even outright radical, but always in good taste.
Since the launch, readership has steadily increased. By two and half weeks into its run, the Free Press started seeing daily readership totals of between 400 to 600 (measured in “unique visitors”) – with the traditional weekend dips (something the OB Rag has experienced in its over four year history). There would be the occasional day of over 800, 900 or even a thousand hits as readers. Around the third week of July, the daily averages were hitting 600 or more. Yesterday, Sunday, August 5th – was the online site’s best day ever with 1,776 readers.
Also at the tail of its third week, the SDFP made national news with its contest to find where the Koch brothers were holding their San Diego County shindig. We were prominently displayed on Melissa Harris-Perry’s weekend MSNBC show.
The publication obviously is not straying from controversy and feels that it is needed ‘now more than ever’ what with Papa Doug Manchester’s consolidation of the U-T San Diego into a propaganda rag for the Republican Party. It joins with its parent, the OB Rag, and other San Diego blogs across this section of Southern California to provide alternatives to the centralized corporate press in this region.
The Free Press editorial board is made up of veterans of the OB Rag: Andy Cohen, Anna Daniels, Annie Lane, Doug Porter, Patty Jones and myself. There are others who join us at our meetings and help us provide direction and content. We are hosting a huge “meet and greet” event this weekend with our current contributors and those folks who are considering whether to jump in.
For Annie Lane, a member of the editorial board:
“The San Diego Free Press is about making a commitment to freedom of expression and seeing it through. When I peruse the daily papers or online media, I see the same conservative stories written slightly differently. The SDFP is a new voice, one that’s finally talking about all those white elephants.
There have been some ups and downs, but we’ve all worked together to provide something that really isn’t available anywhere else in San Diego: a free forum where people of all journalistic levels can provide their own insight into the world today.
An article for the SDFP doesn’t have to be conservative, it doesn’t have to be middle-of-the-road, it won’t be combed and filtered to match one narrow-minded standard. It simply has to be thoughtfully written and true. Of course, that’s not to say we’re not fans of satire; in fact, we invite it.
It has truly been an honor to be a part of this process. Our stats have grown incredibly in such a short time — which proves that what we’re providing is something many people are craving.”
Anna Daniels, another member, adds her thoughts:
We’re two months into our collective endeavor of providing community news and progressive views. The amount of quality original content by citizen journalists that we have posted is noteworthy. Actually, it’s astounding! It is very easy to feel isolated from other progressive voices; SDFP is a way for us to find each other, talk to each other and act together.
On a strictly personal level, I have found a home on SDFP for expressing my views and observations about my community of City Heights. I have found my bliss. How can I not feel blissed out? I have been extended the freedom to write about experiences that shape my life. I have been given the opportunity to become a better writer.
It is hard work sometimes being part of a collective effort. It requires good will and open mindedness, honesty and trust to get through the hard parts. The hard work is worth it. I not only respect my colleagues on the editorial board, I care about them deeply and there is no doubt in my mind that they care about me too.
I am hoping that other citizen journalists not only in City Heights, but across the county will feel encouraged to write about the important issues in their community, and feel free to leaven their observations with humor and joy as well as righteous indignation and keen analysis.
This is my invitation to the citizen journalists in waiting out there—Tell us about life as YOU are living it. You live a specific neighborhood, and you are busy thinking about things and doing things. We are listening for your voice.
To our readers– thank you for your monetary support. We appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time to comment, correct our errors and read what we are writing. Your presence is what motivates me to look at a blank computer screen, take a deep breath and begin searching yet again for the right words.
One of the columnists for the OB Rag, Judi Curry, also writes occasionally for the Free Press. Judi told me, in an email:
Writing for the SDFP gives me a lot of lee-way in what I write about. I can cover Ocean Beach well, but can branch out into other areas that are more than just public interest stories. I have really enjoyed reading the posts from other parts of San Diego and contributing to the publication.
Christine Shanes writes about the homeless in San Diego. She said:
“It’s great that The San Diego Free Press will be covering the issues of homelessness from a number of perspectives because the vast and varied experience of its writers.”
Another occasional contributor, JEC, also gave us some kudos:
Off to a good start. The Free Press fills a void and helps San Diego to be a better place to live. Checking out alternatives, I think the SDFP has a great future.
With the two month anniversary of the publication this past weekend, another milestone was also reached with the acceptance by google news of the site as a source of news and online information. This is major. It can only increase our readership. Compared with the early history of the OB Rag, the San Diego Free Press had 18,000 visitors in July – its first full month, whereas it took the Rag 6 or 7 months to reach that level of readership.
We here at the OB Rag realize that there has been some confusion – especially at first – about our relationship with the Free Press. But our baby is doing swell, thanks for asking. Check it out, and come back to these pages for news and views of Ocean Beach, Point Loma, the beaches and coastal environmental issues.
We’re stoked about the Free Press and we hope you are too. San Diego needs both online publications.
And both sites are looking for writers, authors, cartoonists, photographers, reviewers … let us know what you think.