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Nonprofit website plans watchdog journalism for Orange County

The Voice of OC, the mission of former state lawmakers, attorneys and former newspaper reporters, plans to launch by the end of the year.

September 15, 2009|Mike Anton

A group that includes former state lawmakers, high-profile attorneys and veteran former newspaper reporters plans to launch a nonprofit online news organization to provide watchdog and investigative journalism in Orange County.

The Voice of OC, which will get its start with $140,000 from the Orange County Employees Assn., hopes to fill a void left by shrinking staffs covering the county at the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times, said Joe Dunn, a former Democratic state senator from Santa Ana who will chair the outlet's board of directors.

Dunn said funds to support an initial $600,000-a-year budget are being sought from foundations and private sources and that former Register investigative reporter Norberto Santana Jr. has been hired as the website's editor. Work on hiring a staff of six to eight reporters has begun.

"We want to make sure that we have enough money to get up and going and then keep it alive on a sustained basis," he said. "It's the only way you can do investigative reporting."

The Voice of OC, which hopes to begin posting reports by year's end, is the latest online venture focusing on local reporting and investigative journalism -- two areas hard hit in recent years as newspapers have slashed staffing because of losses in ad revenue.

Dunn said he and the other founders of the Voice of OC sought advice from Voice of San Diego, a nonprofit online news outlet that has won praise since launching in 2004.

Among others on the board are Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law; Los Angeles trial lawyer Thomas Girardi; and San Francisco attorney James Brosnahan.

Two former Times reporters are also on the board: Henry Weinstein, former legal affairs reporter and now a faculty member at UCI's law school; and Dan Morain, who covered the Capitol.

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mike.anton@latimes.com

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