Three years ago our nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization, CALmatters, was founded with a simple mission: to explain how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. We share our coverage of state government with more than 140 news partners big and small across California, who are dedicated to informing their communities.
Every day we work hard to create transparency and understanding in the policy process that allows decision-makers and civically engaged citizens to shape dialogue and encourages a healthy democracy with informed voters.
We put trust at the center of all we do and we deliver fair, accurate, and balanced coverage.
As a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization, CALmatters doesn’t have an editorial board and we can’t and don’t take positions on anything.
But we can and do stand today with the hundreds of news organizations that published editorials supporting freedom of press, as well as our media partners, and others across our state and nation like the Institute for NonProfit News, of which we are a member; veteran journalist and CALmatters board member Gregory Favre whose op-ed we published today; and all of us here at CALmatters, who, like our nation’s founders, believe that a free and independent press is vital to our democracy.
Marcia Parker, Publisher
Report for America, the national service program that places journalists in under-covered communities, is funding three reporters for an ambitious effort focused on California’s worst-in-the-nation poverty rate and the growing divide between the state’s rich and poor.
The project brings together CALmatters, McClatchy’s five California news organizations and the 25 Digital First newsrooms across the state in a first-of-its-kind joint reporting collaboration. The Report for America journalists will be based at The Fresno Bee, The Mercury News in San Jose and the CALmatters newsroom in Sacramento as part of a team we’re building to bring an unprecedented level of attention to this vital issue.
With millions of Californians living in or near poverty, we’ll cover the important legislative and policy issues and provide on-the-ground reporting about the people who are affected. This significant expansion of Report for America — which started a year ago with 13 reporters, is assigning 60 more in the coming year and plans to have 1,000 working across the country by 2023 — is the first step toward building a substantial longterm statewide initiative. Several donors have already contributed to the launch of our poverty coverage, and we’re in conversations with others who will help us scale it statewide. The coverage will be made available to our 160 media partners across the state, in multiple languages.
This expansion of Report for America is possible because of generous support from many sources, including these:
- Google News Initiative
- Knight Foundation
- Ford Foundation
- Heising-Simons Foundation
- Dirk and Natasha Ziff
- Galloway Family Foundation
- Craig Newmark Philanthropies
- The Tow Foundation
- Select Equity Group Foundation
- Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation
- The Lenfest Institute for Journalism
- The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
- The Joyce Foundation
- The Steans Family Foundation
- Henry L. Kimelman Family Foundation
- Duo Collective
We deeply appreciate their support, and we’re grateful that Report for America is embracing and enabling our effort to bring this important coverage to Californians.
Neil Chase, an experienced leader of news organizations and journalism innovator, will join CALmatters as Chief Executive Officer on January 2, the board of directors announced today.
Chase will assume the CEO position from David Lesher, CALmatters co-founder, who will continue to serve as editor. The addition of Chase reflects the growing demand and opportunity for CALmatters to expand its high-quality journalism and its mission to improve California’s democracy through more understanding, transparency and accountability.
Since 2016, Chase has been the executive editor of The Mercury News and the East Bay Times, winner of an all-staff Pulitzer Prize in 2017. Chase worked for more than 30 years as an editor, manager and marketer, in recent years building digital brands and audience as a senior vice president at Federated Media Publishing and as a consultant for major publishers and corporations. He has been a leading participant in national discussions about the future of journalism, including the emerging nonprofit sector. And he served previously as Managing Editor at CBS MarketWatch and Continuous News Editor at the New York Times.
“Dave Lesher and his team have produced impactful one-of-a-kind stories about state politics that have provided insight and analysis to the growing readership served by CALmatters,” said Simone Coxe, co-founder and board chair. “Neil’s marketing and business acumen will be critical as we expand our statewide reach and grow and diversify our revenue.”
CALmatters has grown rapidly since its founding in 2015. Today, with a staff of about two dozen in Sacramento and Los Angeles, it produces hundreds of stories each year that are posted at CALmatters.org and shared with more than 150 news organizations including all of California’s major newspapers and public radio stations. In 2018, CALmatters produced an award winning election guide and added a podcast, a daily newsletter, a forum for statewide commentary and a series of public events. It has also received several state and national awards for in-depth collaboration and innovative storytelling formats that included video and interactives.
“I’m thrilled to join CALmatters at a time when journalism is proving to be more essential than ever to the operation of our democracy,” Chase said. “This organization has proven that it can have an important and meaningful impact on accountability, transparency and civic engagement. I’m proud to help this talented team develop the newest forms of storytelling to fulfill our centuries-old responsibility as journalists.”
CALmatters plans to increase its team of journalists and to continue to experiment with new storytelling formats and technologies as it increases its impact in America’s largest state. It also plans an aggressive outreach effort to build its direct digital audience. Those ambitions will be supported by continued philanthropic donations and membership, as well as new earned revenue streams such as sponsorship, events, advertising and syndication.
Lesher, a co-founder of CALmatters who has served as both editor and CEO for more than three years, said that separating his two roles is essential to the organization’s growth. “Neil and I have worked together for the last couple years when he was one of the best media partners for CALmatters,” said Lesher. “I’m excited that he will help grow the organization and that I will work more closely with a talented team of journalists to help Californians understand and resolve our state’s major issues.”
CALmatters, founded in 2015, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism organization whose mission is to make California’s democracy better by increasing government transparency and accountability and by informing and engaging Californians. It is headquartered in Sacramento, California.
We are excited to share that CALmatters has won the prestigious EPPY award for our California election guide.
The guide was recognized as the Best Innovation Project on a website with under 1 million pageviews a month.
Given by the Editor & Publisher magazine, the EPPY awards are intended to honor the best in digital media. The magazine’s staff recruited 49 judges this year to choose winners in 30 categories.
The CALmatters newsroom, which put in months of hard work into the guide, is thrilled to receive this recognition. “Every election year, news organizations face the big challenge of how to engage readers, viewers and listeners in what many citizens consider boring, even irrelevant to their daily lives: midterm elections,” said CALmatters Publisher Marcia Parker. “Traditional voter guides, information-packed as they are, don’t always help. This year, CALmatters set out to make the races and propositions accessible and meaningful with a unique approach. We positioned voters as the hiring committee evaluating candidates for the top jobs in state government.”
The election guide is a nonpartisan resource that comprehensively explains the propositions you’ll see at the state level on the ballot, reviews candidates for statewide offices and covers critical races. It is designed to deliver all the information voters need as they prepare to head to the polls. In addition to articles about the arguments and endorsements on each side, this guide also has an interactive ballot guide as well as an explainer video series. There’s also a fun interactive Gimme Props game. If you haven’t visited it yet, do check it out here.
It’s been a good year for CALmatters. We recently won an award from the Online News Association for our housing explainer. Read more on that here.
CALmatters welcomes Donna Lucas, President and CEO of Lucas Public Affairs, and Christy Remey Chin, a Venture Partner at the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, on to the CALmatters Advisory Board
“We are thrilled to have these two very talented and accomplished women join our advisory board,” said CALmatters Publisher Marcia Parker. “They have a broad range of experience, skills and networks.”
Chin, an advocate of social entrepreneurship and high-impact philanthropy, has been instrumental in growing the Foundation’s pipeline, portfolio support, and stewardship of its donor partners over the past decade. Chin has served on the boards of Accountability Counsel, Adventure Scientists, Blue Engine, CareMessage, Green City Force, Jacaranda Health, Students for Education Reform, Urban Teachers and Watsi. Her career includes impressive achievements at the Skoll Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Bedrock Capital Partners and Norwest Venture Capital and at a venture-backed company, The Frontier Group
She also chairs the board of Benetech, serves on the National Venture Capital Association board and is on the advisory board of Ashoka U. Chin received her MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a BA in History from Colgate University.
Donna Lucas is often referred to as one of the most influential people in Sacramento. The Founder, CEO and President of Lucas Public Affairs has had a 30-year-career in which she has worked in senior executive positions both in public and private sectors. She was the deputy chief of staff for strategic planning and initiatives for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and chief of staff to First Lady Maria Shriver. She was the deputy press secretary for Gov. George Deukmejian, deputy treasurer for state Treasurer Tom Hayes, and California press secretary for the 1988 presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush.
Lucas serves on several boards including the Crocker Art Museum, John Burton Advocates for Youth, College Futures Foundation, All About Sacramento, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Maria Shriver’s Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. She is on the Executive Committee on the California Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is Chair-Emeritus of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)
They join advisory board members: Mekahlo Medina, Emmy Award-winning co-anchor, technology and social media reporter for NBC4 Los Angeles; Douglas McGray, Editor-in-Chief of The California Sunday Magazine; John Thornton, Founder of the Texas Tribune; Richard Tofel, President of Propublica, and; Ernest Wilson, professor of communication and political science, and founder and director of the USC Center for Third Space Thinking at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications.
Launched in 2015, CALmatters is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. Environmental regulation, education, health care, criminal justice, economic inequality – the debates on these issues and others have a profound impact on the lives of 38 million Californians and beyond. Our team of 20 + experienced journalists, with the time and resources to dig deep, is committed to meaningfully informing Californians about the players, politics, and interests that shape the issues that affect their lives. To ensure we reach many Californians, we work with more than 140 media organizations throughout the state that have long, deep relationships with their local audiences.
Media outlets interested in becoming CALmatters media partners should contact Editor-in-Chief Dave Lesher at [email protected]
We at CALmatters are excited to share that Health and Welfare Reporter Elizabeth Aguilera has been selected by the California Latino Journalists News Media Association (CCNMA) as one of the 15 Most Influential Latina Journalists of the Year.
“In this time of division and misunderstanding, it’s more important than ever that we recognize voices who bring context and knowledge to their beats. We are honored to join with Hispanicize as we shine a light on L.A. Latina journalists who are working hard to uncover stories that might otherwise go untold and who bring nuance and perspective to ongoing news stories,” said CCNMA president Laurie Ochoa.
CCNMA said that the criteria for choosing the 15 honorees was the work they’ve completed in the past year, the impact of that work and each honoree’s reach and influence in the communities they cover. They will be honored Oct. 12 at a breakfast at the Intercontinental Hotel in Century City, CA., during Hispanicize LA, an annual conference for Latinx professionals in content creation, journalism, marketing & entertainment.
“We’re very proud that Elizabeth has been recognized by CCNMA for her work,” said Dave Lesher, CALmatters co-founder and Editor in Chief. “Her coverage of topics including health care, immigration, and inequity here is extremely important in California.”
We’re very pleased that Ricardo Cano is joining our CALmatters team next month to cover K-12 Education in California.
Cano joins CALmatters, the state news nonprofit dedicated to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters, from the Arizona Republic, where he spent three years as the education reporter. There he covered breaking news and produced enterprise reporting, explanatory videos and data-driven features. Cano has been a finalist for three awards, a Livingston Award for Young Journalists honoring outstanding achievement by professionals under the age of 35, an Education Writers Association award for data journalism and two consecutive Arizona Press Club awards for public service journalism.
“We are excited that Ricardo will be joining the team,” said David Lesher, CEO, editor in chief and co-founder of CALmatters. “He is a solid journalist who has demonstrated data and multimedia skills as well as a passion for education issues.”
Cano’s stories at the Arizona Republic included a data-driven report on how Arizona has been hiring unqualified teachers and another data series uncovering an alarming percentage of unsafe school buses. He juggled those projects with multi-media reporting and responsibility for regular coverage and analysis of all education news, including that state’s turbulent teachers’ strike. When voters in key Arizona neighborhoods faced outrageous lines at the polls, Cano went to his local polling spot and hung out past midnight to interview the last person to cast a ballot—an immigrant from Guatemala who had languished in line more than five hours. “Cano is a relentless reporter and a quick study with terrific instincts,” said CALmatters Managing Editor Vicki Haddock.
A bilingual journalist, Cano will be returning to California. Madera is his hometown and his journalism degree is from Fresno State. He will start at CALmatters on Sept. 10.
UPDATED: September 17, 2018.
CALmatters’ explainer on California’s high housing costs won a first-place award Saturday from the Online News Association.
NPR producer Niala Boodhoo, host of the award ceremony in Austin, Tex.: “The judges felt the winning package made excellent use of data, graphics and visualizations to clearly explain a complex, multi-layered problem in an engaging and easy to digest presentation.”
Californians: Here’s Why Your Housing Costs Are So High” was prepared by data and housing reporter Matt Levin, political reporter Ben Christopher, web developer John Osborn D’Agostino and Managing Editor Vicki Haddock. It was among 1,100 entries and won in the “small newsroom” category for features. It was released in August 2017, as the state Legislature was considering a package of bills to address the state’s affordable housing crisis.
Take a look at the explainer here for answers to your questions about housing in California.
ONA is the world’s largest association of online journalists. The OJAs are administered by ONA and are the only comprehensive set of journalism prizes honoring excellence in digital journalism, focusing on independent, community, nonprofit, major media and international news sites.
For generations, newspaper commentary sections have been an important and influential forum for experts and advocates, policymakers and pundits to share their views on major issues. Most of our social challenges are not simple and the solutions are not obvious. A forum for commentary is an opportunity to hear directly from people involved, in their own words. And it is a complement to the journalism at CALmatters.
CALmatters is a nonpartisan, statewide news organization with a mission to raise public awareness about California issues. So it is an appropriate place to host a forum with a wide range of perspectives on the major issues for our state. We will seek out voices from across the political spectrum to help understand where we have common ground and where there are differences. We will include a diversity of voices representing California’s population, its geography, its young and its old. It will be a place to hear different sides of issues, as we will show with the propositions on the upcoming November ballot. And it will be a place to hear about ideas for how to solve California’s major problems from experts, advocates and decision makers.
As with all of our work at CALmatters, the commentary articles we post will be shared with more than 140 print, broadcast and digital media partners statewide. On our site, calmatters.org, the commentary articles will also be clearly marked to distinguish the individual perspectives from our journalism.
Senior editor Dan Morain will oversee the forum. He is an accomplished journalist and former editorial page editor at the Sacramento Bee. He is looking for pieces of fewer than 700 words that help explain important facets of our state. Please feel free to reach out to Dan with any suggestions and with your thoughts at [email protected], 916.201.6281.
CALmatters is pleased to announce that Janet Clayton, senior vice president of corporate communications for Southern California Edison and its parent company Edison International, has joined the nonprofit news organization’s Board of Directors.
“I have known Janet for many years at the LA Times, where she was a highly respected editorial page editor and Assistant Managing Editor for California coverage,” said Dave Lesher, CALmatters co-founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief. “Janet shares our commitment to the important mission at CALmatters. She will bring extensive, high-level experience in journalism, the nonprofit world, and business, and a substantial network of contacts to CALmatters.”
Clayton leads internal and external communications, corporate and brand positioning, and community relations and philanthropic programs. Before joining Edison, Clayton was president of ThinkCure, a community-based nonprofit that raises funds for cancer research and is the official charity of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to ThinkCure, Clayton had a distinguished career at the Los Angeles Times as a key member of the newspaper’s leadership team. She held numerous positions, including editor of the editorial pages, where she determined the Times’ official opinions, and California section editor, where she managed the largest news staff at the newspaper. Clayton has received many accolades for excellence in her profession, including recognition as the editor of two Pulitzer Prize-winning series. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Southern California.
“I’m delighted to join the CALmatters board in its important societal mission,” Clayton said.
The CALmatters board is now eight people, including Clayton, Simone Coxe, Board Chair & Co-Founder; Director, KQED & Internews; Chris Boskin, Co-Founder; Director, NPR, Internews & Gladstone Institute; Gregory Favre, Former Vice President of News, McClatchy; Executive Editor, The Sacramento Bee; Jeff Klein, Executive Chairman, 1105 Media; Tony Ridder, former Chairman, Knight Ridder; Leo Wolinsky, former Executive Editor, Los Angeles Times; and Richard Koci Hernandez, Multimedia journalist and Associate Professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
“We know Janet will be an excellent addition to our board as we work together to chart CALmatters future growth,” said Coxe. “In particular, her experience in the foundation and corporate worlds will add value to our earned revenue strategies.”
CALmatters also has an Advisory Board, including Ann Grimes, Lorry I. Lokey Professor of the Practice in the Stanford Journalism Program, Stanford University; Douglas McGray, Editor in Chief, The California Sunday Magazine; Mekahlo Medina, President of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and anchor/reporter for KNBC News; John Thornton, Founder, Texas Tribune; Richard Tofel, President, ProPublica, and Carlos Watson, Co-Founder and CEO of OZY Media, Inc.; and Ernest Wilson, formerly Dean, The Annenberg School of Communications, and now professor of communication and political science, and founder and director of the USC Center for Third Space.
Launched in 2015, CALmatters is a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. Environmental regulation, education, health care, criminal justice, economic inequality – the debates on these issues and others have a profound impact on the lives of 38 million Californians and beyond. Our team of 20 experienced journalists, with the time and resources to dig deep, is committed to meaningfully informing Californians about the players, politics, and interests that shape the issues that affect their lives. To ensure we reach many Californians, we work with more than 130 media organizations throughout the state that have long, deep relationships with their local audiences. CALmatters is based in Sacramento, CA.
Media outlets interested in becoming CALmatters media partners should contact Editor-in-Chief Dave Lesher at [email protected]
Veteran Editorial Editor and Writer, Political Affairs Columnist Joins Nonprofit Nonpartisan Public Interest Journalism Venture
Dan Morain, editorial page editor and political affairs columnist at The Sacramento Bee, is bringing his decades of experience and institutional knowledge to CALmatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.
“I am proud to be joining CALmatters and excited about its collaborative model,” Morain said. “I cannot wait to work with CALmatters’ great staff and its partner news organizations to help tell the ever-changing California story.”
Morain, who has focused on state government and politics for much of his career, will take on a new role of building an expanded commentary and perspectives section of smart and diverse voices to share their insights about California’s biggest issues and challenges. He’ll also produce a daily newsletter starting in April featuring must-read content from across the state to keep readers in the know, and contribute his own insightful columns.
CALmatters will share Morain’s work with a network of more than 130 print, radio and online publications that it has developed since its launch as a nonprofit in 2015. Morain’s addition at this juncture reflects the spotlight CALmatters will shine this year on the vitally important 2018 gubernatorial and state legislative races, which will define California’s future.
“Dan knows the issues, the people, the process and where the secrets are hidden. His work will give readers a smart and simple understanding about what is happening and why,” said David Lesher, editor and CEO of CALmatters.
Morain has been The Sacramento Bee’s editorial page editor since 2013 and a columnist and editorial writer at The Bee since 2010. Morain spent 27 years at the Los Angeles Times, covering the California Supreme Court when Rose Bird was chief justice, the Legislature when Willie Brown was speaker and the Governor’s Office during Gray Davis’ tenure. His final assignment for The Times was to be part of the team that covered the 2008 presidential campaign. After nine months working in public relations for Consumer Attorneys of California, he joined The Bee’s editorial board. Morain is a California native. He and his wife, Claudia Morain, have three grown children. Morain will be working with his former colleague from The Bee, Dan Walters, who joined CALmatters last year as its first columnist.
The expanded commentary and perspectives will complement the news coverage CALmatters has provided from its team of 20 based in Sacramento and Los Angeles. Our experienced journalists provide coverage of major state issues in education, environment, healthcare, poverty, fiscal issues and politics. Their work is shared through in-depth explanatory projects, timely news stories, weekly news analysis and commentary, radio appearances, original data-driven stories, a subscription newsletter, public events and innovative social media.
“At a time when civil discourse often seems at risk, CALmatters is committed to creating a statewide forum for thought provoking ideas and insights to help all Californians become better informed about public policy issues,” said Publisher and COO Marcia Parker.
Readers can sign up for the CALmatters newsletter here. Visit CALmatters’ website, CALmatters.org, as well as the nonprofit’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Follow Dan on Twitter @DanielMorain.