Welcome to the San Antonio Heron, a nonprofit news organization that believes local news should be free and beholden to the community. Nobody owns the Heron and we are not accountable to big-name movers and shakers. We’re accountable to you, the reader.
Downtown San Antonio, and the changes going on here, will be our focus. But we also want to chronicle how those changes are affecting the surrounding communities. We want to do this in a way that’s timely, thorough, and people-centric. In short, we want to tell the complete downtown story.
We will strive to become your go-to source for this kind of information. If we’re not, it’s because we haven’t worked hard enough to be essential to the community.
Tomorrow, we’ll share more about our coverage as we prepare for an official launch on Monday, June 18.
Today, we want to introduce ourselves.
I’m Jolene Almendarez. I grew up in a military family from the East Side of San Antonio and spent summers at my immigrant grandparents’ white and green house on the 1000 block of North Olive Street. I flew kites in an empty lot across the street where townhouses are now being sold for more than $200,000. My sophomore year of high school was spent at Fox Tech before we moved to the northeast side. But downtown remained a big part of my life. In college, I sometimes took three buses from the suburbs to San Antonio College, worked as a waitress and bartender along the River Walk for years, and briefly worked at the San Antonio Express-News as a crime reporter.
I’ve spent the last several years working in Upstate New York, helping to run a nonprofit news site called The Ithaca Voice. From that experience, I am most eager to bring community-minded events and youth outreach programs to this organization.
I will be a reporter and Director of Community Development for the Heron. I start full-time at the organization in mid-July.
The other co-founder is Ben Olivo, who has been a journalist in San Antonio for more than 20 years. When he was a child, during the summers, his grandmother would take him on the bus from her West Side home on Olga Street to “town” (downtown). Those jaunts helped ingrain in him a love for downtown that has never left him. He spent 19 years working at the San Antonio Express-News — nine of them as a downtown blogger. During this time, he lived at the Maverick and Brady buildings, near the Nix hospital on Navarro Street, where he was born. He’s now 39, and downtown San Antonio, as he puts it, is his rosebud.
His last gig was as managing editor of FoloMedia.org, a nonprofit backed by the H.E. Butt Family Foundation that exclusively reported on issues of inequity in San Antonio.
At the Heron, he’ll serve as editor.
Ben and I are launching the Heron using our own money. We are a registered nonprofit in Texas — The San Antonio Heron, Inc. — and are working to line up a fiscal sponsor soon. Over the next few weeks and months, with the help of several people willing to work as contractors on commission, we plan to raise our operating budget through fundraisers, sponsorships, grants and donations. Eventually, we plan to hire a business manager to handle financial operations on a day-to-day basis.
For now, we will serve on our board.
Also joining our team as the third board member is Irene Abrego, who taught journalism to both of us at San Antonio College’s student newspaper The Ranger. Abrego worked at the San Antonio Light and The New York Times from the late 1980s to 1995. Since then, she has taught at San Antonio College where she is a journalism instructor and has shaped the early careers of hundreds of regional and national journalists.
Ben and I agree that Abrego will help keep this news organization sharp, honest and on mission. It’s a pleasure to have her on board as the Heron prepares for publication.
As we prepare to launch on Monday, June 18, we hope you give us a read, send us some news tips, chat us up at a downtown happy hour, and consider supporting a news organization being run by two San Antonians who love this city as much as you do.
Photo by V. Finster / San Antonio Heron