BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
Leadership Long Beach, a nonprofit organization that initiates programs to improve the quality of life in the city, has agreed to pay Gazette Newspapers several thousand dollars for two pages of North Long Beach news articles. The agreement covers the purchase of the pages twice a month for a year beginning in about two weeks. A Gazette spokesperson said that typically in a yearlong contract, the two pages would cost $1240 each time they run.
The money Gazette Newspapers is receiving originally came from the Knight Foundation but was channeled through the Long Beach Community Foundation. On Monday afternoon, Jim Worsham, president and CEO of the Foundation; Sandy VandenBerge, the Foundation’s communications and outreach manager; Eighth District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich; and Carina Cristiano Leoni, Connected Corridor project director, met with Neena Strichart, publisher of the Signal Tribune and this reporter to discuss how the agreement with Gazette Newspapers came about. Worsham explained that he has been involved in the Long Beach Community Foundation since it was founded in 1996 and from the beginning, much of its funding came from the Knight Foundation. According to Worsham, the way the funds were transferred from Knight and the criteria for awarding grants to local organizations changed several times during the Long Beach Foundation’s first decade of existence. “The Knight Foundation appointed us as their grant maker last year and they recently renewed it for this year and next year,” Worsham said.
He noted that a few years ago, the Knight Foundation developed a new “transformational initiative” that once again changed the criteria for awarding grants. “They wanted to fund projects that would involve citizens in the future of their community,” he said. “So our board sort of conceived this Atlantic corridor rehabilitation project.”
Worsham added that normally the Long Beach Community Foundation has a staff of only three people and could not manage such a large project, so the Foundation’s board of directors decided to delegate management of the corridor project to Leadership Long Beach with funding from the Foundation. Soon afterwards Cristiano Leoni was hired as project director.
“The whole project for the Atlantic corridor will be completed by June 30, 2010,” Worsham said. “Our hope is that by the end of this project we will have a blueprint that will let us take this same concept to other major corridors of Long Beach.”
Worsham noted that early in the process of helping residents and organizations connect with each other in North Long Beach, several people mentioned that they wished they had a community newspaper. “We wanted to do something that would have a continuing impact in that part of the city,” he noted. “We decided that a newspaper would be a good way to help them out.”
He explained, however, that the Foundation cannot give grants to profit-making companies, so the money had to be channeled through Leadership Long Beach.
When Strichart asked why the Signal Tribune was not considered for the project, he made it clear that only newspapers based in Long Beach were considered. (The Signal Tribune’s office is in Signal Hill.) Worsham also noted that the Foundation was looking for a “credible” newspaper. “We looked at the likely candidates and, to us, it was a no-brainer to select the Gazette Newspapers, because they had the capital to make the investment and they already delivered the newspaper to the Bixby Knolls area,” he said.
Worsham acknowledged that he had a years-long friendship with the Gazette’s executive editor, Harry Saltzgaver, and other Gazette staff, but he insisted those relationships were not the deciding factor.
Worsham stressed that after looking at several newspapers, the Foundation board decided that the Gazette was the publication best equipped to undertake the project. “This was not a competitive grant,” he said. “We are just paying for services and they agreed to put up the resources to make it happen.”
He added that the Foundation also makes it a point to support businesses and organizations that are based in Long Beach. “It’s our money and it’s our rules,” he said, adding that Gazette Newspapers has a long history of helping philanthropic causes in Long Beach.
After tentatively selecting the Gazette, a meeting was held during which Worsham and Leadership Long Beach officials asked the Gazette leadership what it would take to have a special edition for North Long Beach. Shortly after the first meeting, according to Worsham, the agreement was reached, which included Leadership Long Beach paying for two pages and the Gazette making a significant investment of its own money to launch a special edition dubbed the Uptown Gazette, which would extend into North Long Beach.
According to Peter Bostic, executive director of Leadership Long Beach, 16,000 copies of the Uptown Gazette will be delivered to North Long Beach homes and businesses twice a month starting on October 13.
Worsham went on to explain that the Foundation gave Leadership Long Beach $60,000 for the project and more than half of that grant money will go to the purchase of the two pages in the Uptown Gazette. The remainder will go to the YMCA to work with a group that will develop a website containing North Long Beach news. “The material that they put into this website will also be converted to become two pages in the Uptown Gazette two weeks a month,” Worsham said.
Worsham said that he believed the Gazette’s expansion would accelerate the progress that had already been made in helping organizations on the Atlantic corridor work together.
Cristiano Leoni said the project was fostering new relationships and new opportunities for people and groups to collaborate. “Organizations that might have been considered opposing or competing organizations are now finding ways to work with one another,” she said.
“The success of the project so far is beyond our wildest dreams,” Worsham added.
At that point, Gabelich said that she still understood very little about the Atlantic Avenue Corridor Project and expressed her concerns over how decisions were made with regard to how grant money was spent. She also asked for a specific example of organizations that were working together.
“Already it’s bridging from phase one to phase two,” VandenBerge said, noting that community leaders from North Long Beach attended the recent “Meet and Greet” at Baja Sonora in order to meet and work with community leaders from the Bixby Knolls area. “And grant recipients in phase one are actively involved in their community up there,” she added.