2020 General Excellence in Online Journalism, Micro Newsroom finalist

Voice of San Diego

About the Project

In March, Voice of San Diego immediately dived into timely enterprising reporting related to COVID-19. We used data to show that testing in San Diego was stagnant. Then we pushed harder and found out area hospitals were actually testing far below capacity. We created a testing tracker with a dashboard that lives on our homepage. It shows how many tests are being performed daily and whether it meets the actual testing capacity available.

As the pandemic set in, we quickly and nimbly created a new livestream series, called Voice of San Diego at Home, which includes exclusive interviews with reporters, and answers questions about the local impacts of the coronavirus and how our region is responding. The series runs three times a week on Facebook, Youtube, Periscope and Instagram and has significantly increased our sense of connection to the community while we all work remotely. We also organized online town halls, virtual happy hours and member coffees to maintain a strong and intimate connection with our readers.

We’ve offered a number of innovative products to give readers the tools they need to better participate in civic life in San Diego:

Our San Diego 101 video series offered an engaging and innovative way to introduce readers to the fundamental issues and institutions that shape civic life in San Diego.

Our Good Schools for All guide to public schools broke down complex, convoluted state data in a straightforward and digestible way so that parents can understand the factors involved in one of the biggest decisions they must make: where to educate their children. The project has the support and funding of Girard Foundation, Nordson Corporation Foundation, Univision, UCSD Extension and individuals. INN Local that Works funded a trip for our CEO to present the guide at the Public Broadcasting Regional Summit so radio stations across the country can replicate our work.

The International Center for Journalists funded a trip to Honduras so our border and immigration reporter could better understand and educate readers on what was driving thousands of migrants to San Diego’s doorstep. That reporting generated a photo essay, podcast and explanatory reporting about the crisis there.

This finding from an Aspen Institute report on local media and health reporting summarizes VOSD’s outsize impact on the community, which consistently outpaces traditional media outlets several times its size: “The Voice of San Diego was consistently named by all four other external stakeholders for its reporting on the Hepatitis A outbreak and the homeless population. For example, one interviewee praised the depth of Halverstadt’s reporting, and another noted that the outlet does a good job of holding people accountable. A third interviewee echoed these sentiments, likening the Voice of San Diego to a ‘little chihuahua nipping at your heels all the time, at the politicians.’”

Circulate San Diego for the first time gave out a Public Voice Award, meant to honor watchdog reporting on mobility, affordability and environmental health issues, to VOSD. The San Diego Psychological Association selected VOSD for its Media Award.