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Our mission is to provide in-depth news, views and events coverage for the inland areas in San Diego County, reflecting the broad diversity of people and issues in our region, particularly those under-represented in other media. As nonprofit media, we reflect the public interest—not special interests, with a strong commitment to covering social justice issues, diverse and mulicultural voices,community concerns, environmental/land use issues, and nonpartisan political stories in our region's urban, rural, mountain and desert communities. We also celebrate our region's attractions and rich cultural heritage, with special sites such as Best of East County, Tribal Beat, People Power, Refugee Voices, Arts and Music, and more.
East County Magazine is a dba of the nonprofit 501c3 Heartland Coalition in San Diego. East County Magazine also founded and operates East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts, keeping people safe and informed throughout San Diego County via e-mail and Twitter alerts. In addition we produce the East County Magazine radio show on KNSJ 89.1 FM.
East County Magazine (www.EastCountyMagazine.org) is an award-winning nonpartisan community news organization sustained through two nonprofit organizations/
Publisher: Our award-winning news site and wildfire /emergency alerts are published by the nonprofit 501(c)3 Heartland Coalition ( Tax ID # 33-0792600). As independent community media, we make our own editorial decisions, rely on community support for our funds, and we reflect your interest--the public interest--not special interests.
Financial support: Fundraising to sustain East County Magazine is through our sister nonprofit organization, East County Media (Tax ID # 83-1108634). You can donate at www.EastCountyMedia.org to sustain our public interest reporting and wildfire/emergency alerts. East County Media's mission is to create and support independent public interest news, wildfire and emergency alerts, and community events--keeping people safe and informed on vital issues across San Diego's vast and diverse inland region.
We update news on our website daily and also send a weekly e-newsletter to subscribers with each week’s top news and events. Subscriptions to our weekly e-newsletter and our wildfire/emergency alerts are free public services. You can sign up here.
OUR NEWS SITE (www.EastCountyMagazine.org)
Our site includes many specialty sections and is ever-expanding. In addition to Top News, we have sections to reflect diverse voices (Tribal Beat, Latino Voices, People Power, Refugee Voices, Reader’s Editorials), news and features topics (such as Best of East County, Business and Labor, Crime Beat, Education, Green Scene, Food & Wine, Health, Homes Politics, Roundup, Sports, Wildfire News, and World Watch), cultural and events (Arts and Music, Bookshelf, Calendar, Festivals of the Month) and more.
We empower citizens to take action through our nonpartisan Citizens Action Center (which includes documents such as the Brown Act and a look-up feature to find one's elected officials), Sound Off (links to contact elected representatives), and Readers' Editorials sections.
We further encourage reader participation through our Photos of the Week, Best Videos, and our active comments section on each story.
We provide nonpartisan tools for voters such as in-depth interviews with candidates, videos of debates, fact-checking of claims, links to other information sources and more to help you be informed citizens.
We also have special resource sections include our guide to local farms, our local restaurant guide, backcountry hidden pleasures (local travel guide), and our COVID-19 local resources center.
Our radio section includes an archive of our East County Magazine radio shows and podcasts of highlighted interviews.
East County Magazine was launched in September 2008 out of the ashes of the 2007 and 2003 firestorms, the worst in California history at that time, to fill a news void for our inland region, where many towns did not have a newspaper, and to provide real-time news during wildfires. During the 2007 firestorms our editor, then a reporter for another publication, received midnight e-mails from people trapped in a backcountry town, desperately seeking information on safe evacuation routes after their phone lines and cell phone towers burned down.
We wrote a successful grant funded by San Diego Foundation for Change to launch the magazine and secured sponsorship to launch our wildfire alerts from Viejas. More recently the wildfire alerts are sponsored by the Grossmont Healthcare District and San Dego Regional Fire Foundation, as well as our wildfire alert subscribers individual donations.
We’ve been growing ever since! In 2013, we expanded onto the airways, launching the East County Magazine radio show on the nonprofit public radio station KNSJ 89.1 FM, reaching listeners during prime-time drive-time across our region on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 to 6 p.m.,
In 2018, on our 10-year anniversary, our founder established a new nonprofit, www.EastCountyMedia.org to sustain and support our efforts over the long-term. East County Media has its own board of directors and raises funds to sustain our local community reporting and alerts.
Our site now averages 10 million hits a month and an average of 250,000 visitors a month (per AW stats), making us the most widely read East County news site and second most widely read news site in San Diego County. During the pandemic, our readership has doubled as more people come to value reliable local news. According to Alexa, we have more online readers than Voice of San Diego, CityBeat, KOGO, and all East County newspapers. Our traffic is on par with 10 News, one of our official news partners.
OUR AWARDS: STORIES MAKING A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE
East County Magazine has won 126 major journalism awards. San Diego Press Club named our site the best general interest website and second best news site in San Diego County for 2009. We’ve racked up awards each year since then, including many special awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. Our team of writers has won major prizes for investigative reporting, news, features, multi-cultural coverage, environmental reporting and more.
We received the 2012 Media Award from the League of Women Voters in San Diego for our coverage of developers' efforts to abolish community planning Our Editor, Miriam Raftery, received the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) San Diego 2012 James Julian Memorial Award for best community reporting series. The award honored our investigative reports which resulted in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) retracting its demand for local wildfire victims to return disaster funds.
In 2013, we won two special awards from SPJ San Diego, including the Sol Price Award for Responsible Journalism and the James Julian Award for the second year in a row, both for reporting on issues involving the Ocotillo wind energy project's impacts on residents and the environment. A judge in the James Julian category remarked, "Hard-hitting and thorough, it's heartwarming to see this kind of old-fashioned investigative reporting still lives..." The Sol Price Award is presented to journalists whose work not only meets ethical standards but also shows uncommon sensitivity to issues. He or she pursued truth in the face of such obstacles as unpopularity, economic retribution or physical harm.A judge in the Sol Price awards stated that our reporting team, led by Miriam Raftery, should be "commended," adding, "It goes to show that even the greenest of projects can be an environmental hazard if not undertaken in good faith."
In 2014, we picked up an international award for our environmental reporting from the World Council for Nature in Spain. Also in 2014, we won 11 awards from San Diego Press Club and 10 awards from SPJ.. Our radio special report, “Out of the Ashes” on the 10-year anniversary of the Cedar Fire, won a first place radio award from SPJ and second place from the Press Club. Our editor picked up yet another James Julian award for her coverage on the lack of veterans’ services in rural East County – coverage which resulted in the County bringing veteran’s services to rural libraries.
In 2015, SPJ honored our radio show coverage of local Chaldean Christians' efforts to halt genocide in Iraq and our interview with a local Kurdish woman on how the ISIS invasion impacted her famliy. We also received an award for our online news site's investigation into an industrial solar project proposed in Boulevard and a conflict of interest issue. Also in 2015, San Diego Press Club presented our editor with two first place awards, one for multicultural reporting in covering local Iraqis' efforts to save Iraqi Christians being killed by ISIS, and the other for public service/consumer advoacy for coverage of Lakeside residents' efforts to stop a sand mine in a scenic valley. She also won second place in environmental reporting for a story that led to county cleanup of illegal dirt dumping by county road crews in Cleveland National Forest and second place in health reporting for an investigative report on changes in ambulance services that put public safety at risk. ECM also won a photography award from the Press Club. In addition, our editor was honored with a Woman in Leadership award from the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce.
In 2016, Miriam Raftery and Janis Mork shared the First Amendment prize from SPJ for their articles that resulted in our county dropping efforts to suppress free speech. San Diego Press Club presented ECM with its "Wildcard" category award for reporting on border issues, in recognition of our coverage of the Border Fire and issues over authorities' responses. Other awards included first place in multicultural for our coverage of local Iraqis' efforts to free relatives held in an immigration detention private prison at Otay, second place in political reporting for exposing a conflict of interest by a supervisor, third place in environmnetal reporting for issues involving a paramilitary shooting range inside Cleveland National Forest, and honorable mentions for our coverage of rising anti-Semitism and issues with local ambulance services. We were also honored with a "Heroes" award from the Alpine-Moutain Empire Chamber of Commerce.
In 2017, Society of Professional Journalists awarded four members of ECM's team. Miriam Raftery received her fourth James Julian award for community ser
vice reporting for her article on the County whitewashing concerns of residents during the Border Fire. Rachel Williams took a first place news photography award for her haunting image of Syrian refugee children in El Cajon. A second place award for breaking news coverage was shared by reporters Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson and Jonathan Goetz, photographer Robert Gehr, and reporter/editor Miriam Raftery for coverage of the shooting of Alfred Olango, an African-American man, by a white El Cajon Police Officer and the ensuing civil unrest . Our broadcast of the Helix Water District candidate forum on the East County Magazine Show on KNSJ radio also won a second place audio award for community service programming. The forum was moderated by ECM editor Miriam Raftery.
In 2018, Miriam Raftery and Paul Kruze received the prestigious Gloria Penner Award from SPJ-San Diego for their reporting in the face of harassment and threats by Councilman Ben Kalasho. SPJ also presented ECM with an award for our Media Watch column, an arts and entertainment award for coverage of efforts to reopen the East County Performing Arts Center, and a award for Raftery's essay on the 10-year anniversary of the Harris Fire, titled, "A reporter's reflections on the firestorms of 2007." San Diego Press Club in 2018 awarded Jonathan Goetz a first-place travel writing award for coverage of Borrego Springs in our "Weekend Getaways-Backcountry Treasures" series. Press Club also presented Kruze with a first place business reporting award for his coverage of controversy over a crematorium proposed in El Cajon. Kruze and Raftery shared a political reporting award for coverage of a SLAPP suit involving Councilman Kalasho.
In 2019, San Diego Press Club presented first place awards in breaking news and political/government reporting to Raftery for coverage of the West Fire in Alpine and legal action against Councilman Kalasho for alleged sexual misconduct, fraud, and more. Kruze and Raftery also shared a third place award for coverage of the Kalasho scandals. Raftery also won SPJ- San Diego's 2019 third place award for her series on the West Fire in Alpine.
In 2020, ECM's Miriam Raftery and Paul Kruze won first place for political/governmental reporting from SPJ-San Diego for "Disgraced Councilman Kalasho Resigns, Settles Suit with Beauty Queens, but Another Defamation Case Remains Pending." The article culminated nearly two years of investigative reporting on the Kalasho scandals, during which our reporters endured harassment and threats. “Insane work. Way to stay on it despite the threats,” one SPJ judge commented. In the Education category, ECM took second place for “Cajon Valley School District Spends Over a Half Million Dollars on Promotional Videos." ECM also won seven awards in 2020 from San Diego Press Club. including first place in the breaking news category for our coverage of the La Mesa riot, “Night of Terror in La Mesa.” Other awards include two photograher's accounts of their coverage of the La Mesa protest and riot. ECM won a first place education reporting award for coverage of Cajon Vallley's video spending controversy, as well as third place for an article on Cajon Valley's challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ECM also received honorable mentions in the history category for coverage of the railway's centennial in Campo and in the columns category for "Advancing Healthy Communities."
In 2021, ECM received 11 awards from San Diego Press Club. These included two first-place radio awards: Grossmont Hospital healthcare heroes reflect on pandemic (specialty reporting) and Interview with Congresswoman Sara Jacobs on capitol attack, impeachment, COVID relief and more (interviews). For online and daily news, we received three breaking news awards: 2nd place, Henri Migala, Man arrested for battery of protesters in La Mesa; ECM photographer also attacked, 3rd place, Miriam Raftery, Violent insurrectionists take over Capitol, and Honorable mention, Briana Gomez, Tuesday protest in La Mesa stays peaceful; man briefly detained after displaying pepper spray at protesters. Other awards included 1st place in Criminal Justice for Raftery's LMPD officer in trolley stop incident leaves force; questions of accountability and transparency remain, 3rd place in election coverage for In lively forum, five candidates shared diverse views in El Cajon City Council District 2 race, 2nd place for political/government for El Cajon Council votes to oust planning commissioner Humbert Cabrera by Raftery and Briana Gomez, honorable mention for Environmental reporting for Migala's Hundreds march to save El Monte Valley, 2nd place real estate story by Helen Horvath High prices, low inventory put squeeze on low income and first-time homebuyers during pandemic, and honorable mentions for serious columns by David Shorey and Paul Levikow, Advancing Healthy Communities.
In 2022, ECM picked up 3 awards from SPJ San Diego. These include second place in the education category for an article by Henri Migala and Miriam Raftery on protests over school vaccine and mask mandates, which included an interview with a top doctor at Rady Children’s Hospital addressing risks of COVID-19 to children. Read article. Elijah McKee received a third place award in the multicultural reporting category for his article on efforts to help newly arrived Afghan refugees in El Cajon. Migala and Raftery also earned a third place award for their series on community members’ successful effort to block placement of sexually violent predators in their neighborhood. Read the five-part series: 1 2 3 4 5
DONATE TO SUPPORT OUR WORK
Support award-winnning local journalism! Our reporting reflects the public interest, not special interests. You can help assure coverage of important local issues by making a donation or a sustaining monthly gift at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.
We have received broad community support, drawing praise and testimonials from a wide range of community leaders. We have also attracted many sponsors and underwriters, most notably a $100,000 Facebook Journalism Project grant in 2020. We extend special thanks to our major grantors and sponsors including the Facebook Journalism Project, Grossmont Healthcare District, San Diego Foundation for Change, the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce, the East County Wellness Center, the County of San Diego, Vineyard Grant James, San Pasqual Winery, SDG&E, Heritage of the Americas Museum, Cuyamaca College, Visionary Dance Theatre. We also have support from many individual donors as well as small businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout the communities that we serve.
We have organized many community events, such as SummerFest, Celebrate East County, Celebrate Our Roots, Outstanding Citizen Awards, Wild West Fest, Party with the Press, nonpartisan local candidate forums, our 10th anniversary celebration at Mission Trails, and our Community Champions Awards at Jamul Casino's rooftop venue. In 2020, we moved our "East County Movers, Shakers and Movers event series and candidate forums/debates into virtual formats due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also host East County Dining Club events. helping to support both our media's nonprofit efforts as well as help local restaurants emerging from the pandemic.
We provide in-depth, nonpartisan information for voters as well as a Citizens Action Center to make it easy for readers to learn who their elected officials are and reach them via e-mail links and other contact information. We provide fact-checking on debates and interview all candidates running for key offices in our region.
OUR EDITOR AND FOUNDER
Miriam Raftery has over 35 years experience as a journalist and editor. She has won more than 400 major journalism awards, including the American Society of Journalists & Authors’ national Arlene Award for community journalism and San Diego Press Club’s Best of Show award prior to founding ECM.
She has covered major news stories including the California wildfires, Congressional and presidential elections, and Hurricane Katrina, as well as topics ranging from politics and election integrity to health, nutrition, homes and gardens.
A former columnist and freelance writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, she has also worked as an editor of a national nutrition journal and a literary magazine as well as senior national investigative reporter for RawStory.com. Her works have appeared in many national and regional publications, from Woman’s Day to Arizona Highways. An East County native, she takes pride in exploring East County’s back roads and byways, leaving no stone unturned in the quest for news and feature stories.
ECM's team is as diverse as our readers incuding individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, iimmigrants, women and men, youths and seniors, LGBTQ, rural and urban residents from communities across our geographically vast region.
ECM has published works by numerous award-winning writers and photographers including Nadin Abbott, Mike Allen, J.W. August, E.A. Barrera, Ariele Brooke, Gayle Early, Richard Darvas, Jonathan Goetz, Briana Gomez, Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson, Paul Kruze, Ron Logan, Jeremy Los, Elijah McKee, Henri Migala, Jamie Reno, Joseph Rocha, Miriam Raftery, and many others. Our team includes professional journalists as well as freelance writers, columnists, community volunteers, college interns, award-winning photographers and videographers, sound editors and radio broadcasters.
We are also grateful to the many citizens, community groups and emergency workers who provide photos to help make East County Magazine the most comprehensive media start-up in San Diego’s eastern region. In addition, we thank our talented webmaster, Mike Tentor at DiegoNet, as well as our many subscribers, donors, and community sponsors. Finally, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to Grossmont Healthcare District for helping to underwrite our East County Wildfire & Emergency Alert Service.
OUR EAST COUNTY WILDFIRE AND EMERGENCY ALERTS
Many people are not aware that during a wildfire, phone lines and cell phone towers may burn down, but e-mail service may continue to be available. Our founder, Miriam Raftery, wrote a grant to establish ECM after receiving e-mails in the middle of the night from panic-stricken backcountry residents who had lost phone service during the Harris Fire and needed information on safe evacuation routes.
Our East County Wildfire and Emergency Alerts include wildfires as well as flash flooding, severe weather alerts, major traffic and law enforcement emergencies impacting our region, as well missing persons alerts in our area.
We thank the Grossmont Healthcare District and the San Diego Regional Fire Foundation for their generous support of our alerts.
FREE SUBSCRIPTIONS TO OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
If you are not yet a subscriber, we invite you to sign up for our free services before the next emergency strikes.
You can obtain free e-mail alerts of emergencies and also get brief text alerts by following EastCountyAlert on Twitter and breaking news with EastCountyMag on Twitter.
You can also subscribe to receive our free weekly newsletter, the most comprehensive and timely source of news and events in our region. Finally, rest assured that we value your privacy, so we never share your contact information with anyone else.
SUPPORT COMMUNITY NEWS
East County Magazine was started with a small grant from San Diego Foundation for Change. We are now self-sustaining through a combination of readers' donations, community sponsors, other modest grant funds, and events. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we also received a generous grant from the Facebook Journalism Project.
Donations of all amounts are welcome! Just click the donate button at the top of our site and be sure to check off the East County Magazine option on our publisher, Heartland Foundation's list of options. Join the East County Club with a quarterly pledge of $25 or more ($100 a year) or a monthly pledge of $10 or more to become a member of our Editor's Club and receive discounts on East County Magazine events.
OUR FUTURE GOALS—AND HOW YOU CAN HELP
With your help, we recently launched community sections dedicated to each of the major regions and cities in East County. We need additional funds for reporting to cover the many public meetings, as donations are not enough to be at every meeting in the many comunities we cover.
You can help by making a donation or sustaining pledge to support our community reporting. To donate online or via check, click here.
We also need community volunteers, interns, and citizen journalists. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to “be the media!”
East County Magazine is supported by the nonprofit East County Media Learn more: view a slideshow.