Over the last two years, a nonprofit journalism website, VoicesofSanDiego.org, has broken some of the biggest news stories in the California city–city officials with conflicts of interest and hidden pay raises, affordable housing that was not affordable, misleading crime statistics. Many cities are experiencing the same phenomenon, reports the New York Times. As America's newspapers shrink and shed staff, and broadcast news outlets sink in the ratings, a new kind of Web-based news operation has arisen in several cities, forcing the papers to follow the stories they uncover.
VoiceofSanDiego.org offers a brand of serious, original reporting by professional journalists – the province of the traditional media, but at a much lower cost of doing business. Since it began in 2005, similar operations have cropped up in New Haven, the Twin Cities, Seattle, St. Louis and Chicago. More are on the way. Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs. “Voice is doing really significant work,” said Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I have them come into my classes, and I introduce them as, 'This is the future of journalism.' ”