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Press Announcement

Orange County establishes investigative news non-prot

For more information, contact: Sen. Joe Dunn, board chairman, 916-955-3400, Norberto Santana Jr., editor, 949-374-0402, Dan Morain, board member, 916-201-6281, Former California State Senator Joe Dunn has assembled some of the best legal and journalistic minds in the region to launch, Voice of OC, an on-line non-prot news outlet dedicated to investigative journalism at the local level. A formal press conference announcing the formation of the non-prot newsroom is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 10 a.m. at the Law Ofces of DiMarco, Araujo & Montevideo, 1324 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA (714) 835-6990. A vibrant press is crucial to democracy, said Dunn. And in the current economic environment, weve seen too many newspapers shrinking, too many experienced reporters leaving the industry. The result is troubling: watchdog coverage and investigative efforts have dwindled. So we here in Orange County are standing up as a community, and are committing ourselves to secure the resources that ensures this important civic work - investigative journalism - stays alive at the local level on a long term basis. With corporate-owned newsrooms being drastically downsized, communities across America have fewer beat reporters, and even fewer investigative teams, keeping watch over government agencies. Nowhere is the void in accountability felt as starkly as Orange County. Orange County - with 34 cities and a host of countywide mega agencies - has become vastly under-served. Both the Los Angles Times and Orange County Register are in bankruptcy proceedings. And no large broadcast outlet operates in Orange County. Even radio news coverage has dwindled with one station - KFWB - replacing all news with an all-talk format. The county also is in dire need for news coverage that reaches into ethnic communities. Orange County boasts one of the nations most diverse populations - with one third of residents identifying themselves as Latino and the largest concentration of Vietnamese residents outside Vietnam.

Establishing a local investigative non-prot news organization helps ensure government accountability for communities in a way that cant be downsized or de-emphasized by a corporate entity affected by economic downturns. Acknowledging the challenges facing any publication in this new era, Dunn said he placed special emphasis on recruiting the right mix of people for the Voice of OC board of directors. The board is extremely diverse and committed to investigative journalism as well as fundraising and providing assistance with public access lawsuits. Dunn brings a wealth of investigative experience and zeal from his legislative efforts to probe Enron, the National Guard spying scandal and illegal deportations. Two experienced reporters - Dan Morain and Henry Weinstein - offer key support on the journalistic side. Between them, they spent the better part of three decades covering major stories for the Los Angeles Times. Two Mexico experts - former State Senator Marta Escutia and Santa Ana attorney Jess Araujo have direct in-country experience and contacts. Voice of OC also features the board participation of Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the nations foremost constitutional scholars, who is currently the dean of the University of California, Irvine Law School. Finally, the board also features the participation of some of the nations top attorneys with Tom Girardi and James Brosnahan. The board of directors at Voice of OC also have contracted the services of Norberto Santana Jr., an award-winning investigative reporter with 20 years of experience at major daily newspapers, to become executive editor for the news operation. Since 2004, Santana has been a lead investigative reporter for the Orange County Register and has spent the last decade covering local governments across Southern California and the Mexican border. Santana also brings border investigative experience as an academic, with a Masters in Latin American Studies and experience as an elections analyst with the National Endowment for Democracy. Santana, a Southern California native, also has direct experience on Internet news start-ups. He was a key leader in the establishment of one of the rst Internet news services on Cuba, helping to create for dissident writers inside the island. Established in 1995, the news site still operates today and is one of the largest grant recipients for U.S. AID programs and other endowment grants on Cuba. Voice of OC will strive to provide real-time daily watchdog coverage of public agencies throughout the county as well as more in depth investigations that will be made available to major newspapers through a syndication service. Voice of OC coverage will be made available in three different languages: English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Voice of OC is currently recruiting additional board members and reporting staff. The website is expected to go live by the end of the year.