Voice of OC Taps Voice of SD Reporter for Editor Job

The Voice of OC, the nonprofit news site helmed by former Register reporter Norberto Santana Jr., is hiring up–and it's taking at least one staffer from a publication close to its own heart.

Voiceofsandiego.org on Wednesday blogged about the departure of David Washburn, the nonprofit investigative site's science reporter. He'll be heading up to his former employer's newborn Orange County counterpart–which is affiliated in name and spirit only–where he'll serve as managing editor.

Santana and Washburn worked together for five years at the San Diego Union-Tribune. That's part of why Santana's so glad to have him.

“It's a great get for us,” Santana says. “It was something important to have in that one and two slot people who had a knowledge of each others' working styles.”

Washburn brings about two decades of daily newspaper reporting experience to the job. He has also had gigs as a college teacher, a researcher for Dateline NBC and, of course, as a senior writer and assistant editor at the Voice of San Diego. It's that last credential that, he thinks, makes him cut out for the job.

“How many people have experience at start-up, non-profit news organizations?” Washburn says. “There's not many of them now.”

He's also been working towards a master's in film and new media at San Diego State. Santana says that should make Washburn well-equipped to handle the Voice's forays into multimedia journalism. And his teaching experience, Santana says, will help him mentor the clutch of young reporters that will be on the Voice's staff.

“I'd describe him as a total package,” Santana says. “And one of the most thoroughly decent people you'll meet.”

Washburn says his biggest blind spot is Orange County knowledge–he's not well acquainted with the county–but Santana says he's making up for that with the rest of the staff.

“We haven't had to go outside of the county to get those hires,” Santana says. “It's amazing the array of talent that's here, that's locally available. It's been heartening to see how many reporters get what we're trying to do: We're not just looking to give journalists a job, we're looking to get people that can make a difference in the community.”

Santana says he's in the final phase of negotiations for a number of staffers, and thinks he'll end up with a stable that'll be “one of the most diverse newsrooms in America.” And he's already got a squad of interns–or as he'd prefer to call them, “researchers”–laying the groundwork for investigations into OC government and politics. “The younger people we're finding are unbelievably fucking talented,” he gushes.

When we spoke with him for last month's cover story, Santana said he wanted the Voice to launch by the end of this year. He's now thinking they might not make that goal, but will definitely be up and running early next year. If nothing else, the Voice will be having a “definite impact” on the June primary races, he says.

Still: One missed deadline already. But if you know Santana, you know the guy's not been dragging his feet. He says they're thinking every little decision through to maximize resources. “If you shoot a buffalo, you eat everything,” he says. “Nothing is wasted at our organization. Nothing goes into the trash bin.”

Corrected 12/1/09: I incorrectly wrote that Washburn has completed his masters at SDSU; he has in reality completed the coursework but not his thesis. Also, Washburn's title at Voice of San Diego was “assistant editor,” not “associate editor.” Also, the Voice of San Diego likes to go by voiceofsandiego.org.

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