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In recent years there's been no shortage of praise for online investigative news site Voice of San Diego. The non-profit news organization has been featured in papers such as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.

And while there has been an abundance of praise, the news site saw a shortage of revenue in 2011.

Tax forms recently posted on Voice's website provides more information on the need for a new business model and obstacles that all news organizations have regardless whether they depend on advertising revenue, subscriptions, or charitable contributions as in the case of the Voice of San Diego.

According to the Voice's Internal Revenue Service 990 filing, dated this May 16 and covering calendar year 2011, the organization's revenue fell from $1,165,903 to $1,068,813. Contributions and grants fell from $1,103,922 to $974,609, though there was a slight uptick in so-called program service revenue, from $62,191 to $91,227.

$51,825 of that was listed as being "syndication income," with the balance of $39,452 derived from advertising.

Membership dues brought in $236,640, with $737,969 coming from other contributions, gifts, and grants.

And while revenues decreased, expenses increased by $178,485. Salaries and other compensation at the news operation climbed significantly, from $747,283 to $925,768.

That increase helped boost total expenses from $1,058,479 in 2010 to $1,241,292 last year.

The non-profit reported it ended the year with revenues minus expenses of negative $172,479, with total assets dropping from $337,060 to $164,579.

Responding to the shortage of revenues, in December 2011 Voice of San Diego's CEO Scott Lewis announced the organization was laying off reporters Emily Alpert and Adrian Florido and staff photographer Sam Hodgson. Lewis explained the layoffs and the need to trim $200,000 from the budget in an April 4 Reader article written by Elizabeth Salaam. During the interview Lewis said the publication planned to focus more on membership, not readership.

That new membership program allows big-money donors to "plug" their favorite cause, or business, in a monthly magazine or in the Morning Report. Those donors, wishing to give more than $1,001, are also invited to dinners and other social outings with VOSD staff.

In an email, Lewis said the online news site "began building a new and much more sophisticated revenue system last year and it's paying dividends this year."

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Dorian Hargrove Aug. 18, 2012 @ 2:20 p.m.

The list of donors is on the link where the IRS forms are. The specific amounts are not listed. Instead the donors are placed into categories; $5,000 and over, $1,000 and over, et cetera.


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