This past year has been so remarkable in so many ways.

The switch to nonprofit status has shown that Hawaii values the kind of journalism that takes people inside issues and seeks to hold public officials accountable to the citizens. We are humbled and grateful that so many of our readers have become supporters as well.

So the first and most important thing in this look ahead at the coming year is to say a heartfelt mahalo to everyone who has pitched in to support independent public affairs journalism in Hawaii.

We launched our first-ever year-end fundraising campaign on Black Friday with an ambitious goal of raising $50,000 in grassroots support. Led by a $10,000 matching grant from the EACH Foundation, we reached our goal in just a few weeks, prompting us to stretch our goal to $75,000 raised by year-end.

Thanks to the support from readers like you, Civil Beat surpassed our stretch goal, raising a total of $84,000. More than 1,000 Civil Beat readers made donations during our campaign.

This support from members and local foundations has led to some new initiatives that we’ll be continuing and building on in the coming year. That includes our year-long internship program, which this year has four young journalists working hard to develop their reporting, writing and analytical skills.

We also resurrected our federal government beat with an eye toward the shifting political landscape in Washington. Even now, reporter Kirstin Downey, photographer Cory Lum and videographer Anthony Quintano are back East to cover Friday’s inauguration of Donald Trump.

Our new “Offshore” podcast is getting great reviews from critics as well as listeners. By the time Season 1 wrapped up last month the podcast had been downloaded more than 350,000 times. The offshorepodcast.com website has been the scene of robust commentary and debate on race and multiculturalism in Hawaii, as well as nationally. Stay tuned for Season 2, which examines the clash of science and culture with Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope as the jumping off point.

We sent our journalists to the isolated Northern Mariana Islands to look more closely at the impact of the U.S. military buildup in the Asia-Pacific region, to Fiji to report on an important fisheries conference that involves one of our biggest industries, to the Arizona desert to see the hardship that is imposed on Hawaii families when they want to visit loved ones being held in a contract prison there, and to a frozen prairie in North Dakota as the Standing Rock Sioux tribe stood up against the federal government, and people from Hawaii and the world joined in the protests.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard answers a question shouted out from the gathering of veterans and media on a field near Cannonball, N Dakota. 4 dec 2016

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard answers a questions from a crowd of military veterans during her visit to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

No other Hawaii news organization deployed its reporters as extensively as we did. But then our place in this media landscape has always been to take on the issues — whether difficult or just inconvenient — that others are not covering.

To that end, in 2016 Civil Beat continued to lead the way on police accountability and reform efforts, an issue that has become squarely in the public interest with the federal corruption and conspiracy investigation in the Honolulu Police Department.

We dived deeply into how Hawaii’s prisoners are faring both here at home and on the mainland. We raised serious questions about visitor safety and whether the state and counties are doing an adequate job protecting tourists, especially at the beach. We examined Hawaii’s main utility company and the role it’s played in the islands’ history, as well as closely following the effort to sell it to a mainland owner.

The coming year is shaping up to be just as interesting and intense, not only when it comes to the news we can already see — the Trump administration, for instance — but for our organization as well.

Here’s what we have in the works so far, but remember — it’s only January.

HuffPost Hawaii

Our partnership with The Huffington Post comes to an end Jan. 30. It’s been an amazing three years.

In that time, Civil Beat staff has been providing content to The Huffington Post and the HuffPost Hawaii staffers have done tremendous work delivering Hawaii news and culture to Huffington Post readers worldwide.

However, HuffPost is reallocating its Hawaii resources, and two of our staffers are transitioning to HuffPost full time. Chris D’Angelo will soon be moving to Washington, D.C., as a reporter with the politics team, and Carla Herreria will continue as a Hawaii-based trends writer.

Pierre Omidyar and Arianna Huffington at the blessing that launched the HuffPost Hawaii partnership in 2013.

Gene Park/Civil Beat

Chloe Fox will continue to contribute to Civil Beat and remains a member of our editorial board. Landess Kearns will be joining our social media team as well as pioneering a new morning newsletter for us. More on that next month.

Arianna Huffington, who toured the islands in August 2013 as part of the launch, left The Huffington Post in August 2016 to start a new venture, Thrive Global.

Website Refresh

In the past few months we’ve had a couple of surveys and studies done about Civil Beat and in particular how people get to our website and what they do once they’re there. We learned that we need to make it a bit easier for people to navigate the site, especially when it’s being read on a mobile device. Smart phones and tablets now account for more than half our traffic, and that is growing rapidly.

We’re not drastically changing our look and feel, but we are tweaking some things to make a better user experience. The tweaks include getting more of our main news stories higher on the home page and revamping the article page to make it easier to find other content.

We plan to roll the changes out on Monday. Here’s a sneak peek:

Expanding Our Coverage

Reader surveys have also told us that you want more coverage on the neighbor islands. We’re not quite at the point where we can add full-time staff on the other islands, but we are moving ahead with columnists who can provide regular reports.

We recently contracted with Tad Bartimus, a veteran journalist who has made Hana her home for many years. She’s already started providing stories from Maui.

We are looking for a writer on Kauai and one on the Big Island who can commit to at least one story every two weeks. Weekly would be ideal. We are seeking excellent writers who will bring an intriguing perspective to local issues. Send resumes or suggestions to news@civilbeat.org.

We’re also hiring a veteran business and economy reporter to take a thoughtful look at Hawaii’s diverse business community and the important issues that taken altogether shape our growth and economic development. Things like the cost of living, the rail project, tourism, technology, the military, agriculture — we’re hoping to find someone who can weave their way through these sectors and come up with a systems approach to business coverage.

At the same time, we’ve asked Nathan Eagle and Anita Hofschneider to team up to bring more firepower to our environmental coverage. Nathan has been focusing on ocean issues for a few months now, including the fishing industry. Anita will continue her work with housing, development, agriculture and sustainability. Working together will allow them to do more in-depth reporting and spread out a little more geographically.

We’ll be expanding our social media and engagement effort, too, including adding more live events like our member coffees, Civil Cafes and Hawaii Storytellers. Our engagement editor, Anthony Quintano, has plans to expand our video production as well as bring you more events on Facebook Live.

And we’ll continue to take on the signature Civil Beat issues — police accountability, cost of living, homelessness, government transparency. Staff writers have pitched a number of in-depth projects, so watch for those as well.

The news business is an interesting and rewarding place to be these days, and Civil Beat is about as good as it gets for a journalist who wants to make a real difference in the world. We’re thrilled that you have embraced our efforts as a nonprofit and hope you continue to support us as we kick it up a notch in 2017.

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