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The Start of a New Chapter: Introducing verbdowntown

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, September 15, 2008, at 10:18AM
verbdowntown verbdowntown [verbdowntown.com]

It's very exciting for me to announce that on Thursday, September 11, the verbdowntown project was accepted into Community Partners' Incubator program. verbdowntown is a not-for-profit project whose mission is to create online community resources for Downtown Los Angeles. It also happens to be the new parent of blogdowntown.

The project's acceptance marks the start of an exciting chapter for this site. We believe that by creating a non-profit to run blogdowntown, we are making a statement that we want this site to be a public service for Downtown Los Angeles.

When I started blogdowntown in January of 2005, there wasn't much of a plan attached to it. I had been writing about Downtown -- where I had lived for a whole eight months at that point -- and the site was just a place for those stories to go. I quickly got more involved in what was going on, and the site's content evolved along with my understanding of the issues.

In May of 2007, I asked Dave Bullock and Ed Fuentes to join blogdowntown. The story announcing their addition was titled "More Conversation." Our goal was and is to cover the issues affecting Downtown in a way that educates readers, allowing them to enter the conversation and help to shape Downtown's path.

Our internal conversations about what the future of the site looked like have been going on ever since. In particular, Ed Fuentes and I have both agreed and debated long and hard about where we wanted to see the site go and what models existed to take it there.

There have been a lot of interesting trends in journalism recently, some good, some bad. One of the more intriguing is the rise of not-for-profit news and the idea that local stories are a public good rather than a product. Historically, that sort of thinking has been the sole realm of NPR, PBS and their affiliates. Recently other organizations have started to consider the same approach, reaching out to foundations and to the community for support.

After exploring all manner of models, including advertising and mergers, this not-for-profit approach kept coming back to the front. We believe it to be the model that provides us the greatest opportunity to focus on our original vision rather than on editing our mission for commercial success. We have had a lot of meetings with leaders in the community as we have begun this process, and we believe that there are people, businesses and organizations who support what we're doing enough to contribute the funds that will make it possible.

And so on August 1st we turned in our application to Community Partners. Their incubator program provides a way to get up and running efficiently, making use of their expertise in helping non-profits get started and allowing us to focus on the mission.

Thursday's acceptance by their Board of Directors allows us to function as a charitable non-for-profit organization.

As stated earlier, verbdowntown's mission is to create online community resources. blogdowntown is at the heart of that mission, but we also want to explore new ways to tell the story of Downtown.

We're still getting a handle on how all of the details work, so bear with us if we don't have the answers to all your questions right away. We've got some really cool announcements that will be coming up shortly, and what we think are some great ideas to expand on what blogdowntown has been doing. No matter what else happens, this should certainly make for an interesting ride. It's time to switch gears and see if we can turn some of our theory into practice.

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