A virtual fundraising event in August raised over $70,000 to help finance the printing and distribution of the San Quentin News.
An online flyer touted the event as “our opportunity to celebrate the transformative impact California’s oldest prison publication has had on the men and women incarcerated in the state and raise money to help the San Quentin News continue to further its mission.”
SQ News supporters from the Bay Area and across the country bid and donated during the online gala. The Reva & David Logan Foundation made a generous matching contribution. The online auction included sporting and theater tickets, art, books, and restaurant gift certificates.
The event was put on by Friends of SQ News (FoSQN), the non-profit that facilitates outside financial support for the newspaper. Also helping was Amanda Weitman, a volunteer who is teaching News staff about philanthropy. “It was awesome,” she said. “Everybody was bidding away.”
San Quentin News raises funds because the state does not pay for printing and distribution of the monthly newspaper or for its website management. Hundreds of individuals and organizations support the operation with grants and donations.
Originally the Gala was scheduled at a local venue, but due to COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings, the event went virtual. The auction broadcast via a special live stream on the auction website, as well as on Facebook and YouTube. Video messages from news staff, advisers, and supporters explained the importance of the San Quentin News to the community.
Participants listened online to the newspaper’s recent history: “Since its reinstatement over a decade ago, San Quentin News has become the foremost prison newspaper in the United States. The incarcerated journalists have produced award-winning reporting about criminal justice and mass incarceration, with the newspaper now distributed to all 36 [sic] California prisons as well as thousands of readers across the country.”
A featured speaker was Miguel Quezada, policy director at UnCommon Law. He previously was managing editor of the newspaper. Quezada explained how working in the newsroom prepared him for reentry and success in his current position.
At one time San Quentin News printed only about 5,000 copies in the prison’s print shop, all for distribution within San Quentin. But in 2010 the prison’s print shop closed due to budget constraints. Adviser Steve McNamara then arranged for printing by an outside shop. The outside printer publishes the paper at his cost.
Later, the distribution of the paper expanded to all of California’s state prisons. Today 35,000 copies are printed and distributed. Much of the current financing for the increased circulation comes from the Reva & David Logan Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Rotary Clubs of Mission San Rafael, Novato, and Oakland.
Financial support also comes from numerous individual and business donors. One such donor, Catherine Roach of Hamtramck, Mich., posted the following comment: “I look forward to getting my San Quentin News every month. The writing is excellent and the stories are very informative. I am happy to support such talent and hard work.”
Between 2011 and September 2019, San Quentin News’ fundraising efforts have generated just over $1 million.
Much of the support for the newspaper is non-financial. Dozens of journalists and other professional advisers, paroled San Quentin News staff, the prison’s administration, and a myriad of volunteers facilitate publication of the newspaper in many ways.