CALmatters Has a New CEO

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.

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