Local News: It’s up to us

BenitoLink's annual fundraiser has reached just under $20K in community donations. Pledges will be matched up to Dec. 31.

We’re making progress! BenitoLink’s Pledge of Champions fundraising campaign has reached $18,230. Pledge donations will be doubled until Dec. 31.

Talking with a friend today, it dawned on me that most of our readers don’t really know much about the BenitoLink staff. Sure, I’ve mentioned our crazy workload since COVID-19 and how tapped we are. But I just realized that I don’t usually get into how lean BenitoLink is and how much we get done with our small staff. How big should a newsroom be for a community our size?

BenitoLink Executive Director Leslie David. File photo.
BenitoLink Executive Director Leslie David. File photo.

BenitoLink has 3.5 employees. When I am visiting with community members, they tell me about stories we should write or encourage us to dig a little deeper. It takes paid, committed and qualified reporters, folks!

They jokingly chide us and say, “Why weren’t you at the planning meeting last night?” San Benito County is growing, and there’s so much happening that we could easily keep an additional five reporters busy.

What I am saying is that it takes community support to give you the powerful and professional journalism you crave.

Look, there are indiscretions, illegal activities, abuses of power in our county. Good journalism takes agonizing time and meticulous attention to detail. BenitoLink needs more qualified, experienced reporters to look into these issues and produce responsible, fact-based journalism.

Lean Staff

BenitoLink Content Manager Nicholas Preciado. Photo by Leslie David.
BenitoLink Content Manager Nicholas Preciado. Photo by Leslie David.

As the executive director, I have to figure out where the dollars are coming from to keep BenitoLink publishing stories and plan ahead on a budget that is largely grants and donations. We all wear lots of hats because there’s just a few of us.

Nick Preciado is our content manager. He also acts as assignment editor and occasional reporter. We also have Noe Magaña, our first staff reporter who officially joined the team last February. Noe is assigned to cover local government including the San Benito County Board of Supervisors, San Juan Bautista City Council, and COG, in addition to topics such as education, housing and more. He is spread too thin!

Finally, the .5 is our marketing department, a critical role for keeping BenitoLink funded! We have a new marketing team member in training and coming on soon.

Part-Time Saviors

All other reporting is done by around 10 crucial contract reporters, who work part-time. They are a godsend as they help us cover local news, writing whenever they can. This part of our team is made up of reporters who are also teachers, retirees, parents and professional photographers. They are giving all they can, but they have other things going on in their lives too.

BenitoLink board member Lois Locci left) talks with BenitoLink staff reporter Noe Magaña. Photo by Leslie David
BenitoLink board member Lois Locci talks with staff reporter Noe Magaña. Photo by Leslie David.

The point is, a staff of 3.5 full-time workers is not enough people for a county of 62,000 residents! Hollister, San Juan Bautista and the county have their own government meetings, committees and agencies. Then we have the numerous school districts and Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. That doesn’t take into account Aromas, Tres Pinos, Bitterwater and New Idria. Our county encompasses an area of 1,390 square miles and we aim to cover all of it.

You Can Help

It’s been a tough year for many, even for BenitoLink’s staff and freelance reporters. But in order to provide the local news you deserve, we need assistance from the community. Individual donations of $10 to $20 a month help us build out the newsroom San Benito County needs. Please consider joining in the Pledge of Champions before Dec. 31 and have your donation doubled.

Here are all Pledge of Champions donors to-date:

  • Anonymous
  • Micheal Hussey
  • Dianne Carman
  • Susan Logue
  • Joan Domingues
  • Shari Stevenson
  • Alan Clark
  • William Baker
  • Liz Smith
  • Leslie Schwabacher
  • Daniel Dungy
  • Dale Coke
  • Karson Klauer
  • Mary Margaret Lanning
  • Rebecca Salinas
  • Gary and Ria Byrne
  • Greg Pape
  • Sara Steiner
  • Carol Lenoir
  • Valerie Egland
  • Judy and Robert Steward
  • Elizabet McMahon
  • Theresa Lavagnino
  • Susan Schwabacher
  • Anne Caetano
  • Bob Reid
  • Dohn Larson
  • Margret Ellwanger
  • Beverly Meamber
  • John and Roberta Bessa
  • Geri Johnson and Gary Rocchi
  • Willis Pack
  • Dayna Lynd Pugh
  • James O’Donnell
  • Vivian Fisher
  • Denise Cauthen-Wright
  • Tami Aviles
  • Linda Ponzio
  • Cathy Sorensen
  • Maureen Sarafini
  • Carol Hawkins
  • Ann Marie Barragan
  • Mary Sue Davis
  • Phillip Walter Wilson
  • Gerry Wright
  • Lois Locci
  • Stuart Blakewood
  • Eugene Zanger
  • Nichole Anglin
  • Charlie and Lisa Tobias
  • Amelia Ryan
  • Joan Sattler
  • Karson Klauer (additional donation)
  • Trisha Green
  • Paul Hain
  • Linda Breslauer
  • Bob and Kathy Tiffany
  • Carol Berlutti
  • Roseanne Herzog
  • Thomas Walerius
  • Rohit Sharma
  • Dr. Parveen Sharma (in memory of George Ball)
  • Marianne Gennis
  • Jean Leirly
  • Chang So
  • Stephen Filseth
  • Barbara Rubio
  • Ed De Groot
  • Michael and Ashleigh Anderson

Be a Champion and join the effort!

Thanks to those of you who have contributed to supporting our own local news source. Together we can make a difference. Donate to the BenitoLink’s Pledge of Champions fundraising campaign before the end of the year and your gift will be doubled.


Leslie David

Leslie David is a Bay Area independent reporter/producer and is a BenitoLink founding board member. She has produced for radio, television, newspaper and magazines in both California and Wyoming. She was with KRON-TV News in San Francisco as camera-woman, editor and field producer, where she won the Commonwealth Club's Thomas Storke Award with Linda Yee for their series on the Aids Epidemic. She started as a small market news reporter shooting her own 16mm film at KEYT-TV Santa Barbara. Leslie lives on a ranch with her family in San Benito County.