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Welcome to California Local (Beta)

BY ERIC JOHNSON   •   PUBLISHED AUGUST 9, 2021

Larich   Shutterstock.com

Thank you for finding California Local. We’re glad you’re here. I’d like to take a minute to tell you about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

We are building a community where you can discover cool and important stuff, connect with other interesting people, and take action by getting involved. Discover, connect, act—these are the verbs driving this enterprise.

We put most of California Local together over the past 18 months, during some pretty dark days. I believe that the worst of what we’ve experienced before and after 2020 was fueled by the untruths and rage that dominate the virtual world of the internet. We’re building California Local because we believe the real world needs a place online to find truth, community, civility, respect, and reasons to have a little hope.

The fact is, there are hundreds of thousands of people throughout California working toward these ends. Some of them are already catalogued here on California Local.

Community Leaders
When you click the Community Group tab in the navigation bar above, you will find organizations in your county listed under 28 topics, from Agriculture to Water. As you can see, we make it easy for you to learn about them, contact them, volunteer, and donate.

The staff and volunteers at these organizations do important work in every community in the state. As of August 1, 2021, we have more than 1,200 community groups and nonprofit organizations in our database. 

Public Servants 
I purposely use the old-fashioned descriptor for our elected officials, appointed officials, and other government workers. I think of these folks as public servants partly because I want them to think of themselves as public servants. And also because, during 30-plus years covering politicians for a dozen media outlets, I have often been surprised to find that most of them, especially on the local level, take their mandate very seriously. 

Unfortunately, there are electeds and appointeds who abuse their power. Holding people in power to account is a journalist’s most important job. But helping their constituents know about their good work is also important for democracy—especially now that political cynicism is rampant.  

In our database, you’ll find each member of every city council from every municipality in eight California counties. (We plan to roll out to the other 50 counties in the state over the next couple years.) We have here all of the county supervisors, and many planning commissioners, state senators, assembly members, and ordinary local residents who serve on various commissions and committees. Click Public Sector above to find your county’s local officials.

Again, as you can see, we make it easy to learn a bit about these folks and to contact them. And we’re going to keep track of what they’re up to and let you know about it. 

Journalism & Democracy
Among the many bad things that happened in 2020, the already dire situation for local news outlets got much worse. Many local businesses they rely on were shuttered, and many news outlets folded.

And yet there are still a lot of talented and devoted reporters, editors, and producers putting out great journalism every day. California Local draws information from many of these news outlets and links to these authoritative sources. Some are so-called legacy media outlets, including newspapers that have been around for decades or more. Others are online outlets run by enterprising journalists, many of whom formerly worked at one of the legacy outlets. We amplify their work and help them combat disinformation and strengthen local democracy. 

A Civic Engagement Engine
Our proprietary operating system, NewsOS, is built to allow our members to engage in constructive conversations that lead to positive actions. For you techies (we know you’re out there), NewsOS consists of a graph database layered on top of a relational database. This allows us to relate any “object” (such as a Community Group listing) to any other object (such as a News Article). Put simply, NewsOS makes it easy to Connect.

As we prepare for a full-scale launch in the fall, some of California Local’s features are still in what Silicon Valley types call “beta” mode—a term used for software that has been released early so users can help debug it. We would like you to become one of those users, and help us with a crucial piece of California Local: In the section we call Voices, we plan to host discussions and forums, conduct surveys and polls, and encourage members to share their opinions on local issues.

In this section and throughout the site, our commitment to equity and representation will be apparent. We are reaching out to various individuals and organzations throughout the state to ensure that the voices you find on California Local include those from communities that have been historically underrepresented in the media. As our community grows, we believe this will be one of the most powerful elements of our product.

Our mission is to bring together engaged citizens, help them find information they can trust, and empower them to participate in the social and political life of their communities. 

There is no fee to join; there will be no paywall to traverse. Those who join will use their real names as proud members of our community—but we will never, ever, sell or give away those names or any other information.

To find out more, click either one of the buttons below. Together we can build a better California, one local at a time. 

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