California Loses a Journalistic Innovator

New America Media developed a reputation for bringing diverse voices to modern journalism. Photo Credit: cohdra/morguefile

Suzanne Potter

California News Service

SAN FRANCISCO — California is losing a venerable independent news agency that leaves as its legacy a stronger, more diverse news landscape.

New America Media announced it will be closing its doors on November 30. The nonprofit started in 1970 in San Francisco as Pacific News Service. The name may not be familiar, but its articles became a staple for hundreds of newspapers around the country.

Executive Director Sandy Close said its writers broke many major stories about the war in Vietnam.

“It was among the first to provide eyewitness accounts on the impact of the air war and Agent Orange, fragging – when GIs turned on their own leaders – and we had the last American reporter in Cambodia after the fall,” Close said.

In the 1980s, the organization became New America Media and launched a number of publications designed to amplify the voices of low-income youth – some from behind bars – to combat the myth of the super-predator. Many of those are still publishing today.

Later, editors formed partnerships with many ethnic media publications to bring their perspectives to the mainstream.

Close said the whole enterprise has been funded by donors and foundations, but they got overextended in recent years because they tended to keep projects going even after the funding ran out.

“Our ambitions exceeded our budget constraints,” she said. “We’ve completed a lot of projects and we’re now exploring opportunities to continue some key projects under other auspices.”

Some of the projects that the organization hopes to continue concern issues such as immigrant rights, the 2020 census and the future of watersheds in California.