Happy birthday to us! Cake — and candle — courtesy of Jolene Almendarez

ITHACA, N.Y. — Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the Ithaca Voice. We launched the site on June 15, 2014, with little more than a shoe-string budget, rickety WordPress blog and a bevy of ideas for how to improve local news.

We now have a staff of three full-time employees, a loyal readership and even — miracle of miracles — an office space beyond the local coffee shop. I’m proud to say that we have found a niche in this community, and that we’re here to stay.

Happy birthday to us! Cake and candle courtesy of Ithaca Voice reporter Jolene Almendarez

New website, 10-part series launch, Cortland Voice

As you may have noticed, we have launched a new website for our one-year anniversary.

The redesigned homepage is sleeker and allows us to publish more stories to the top of the homepage than the old one. The news pages are less cluttered and more professional. Our new site also offers a redesigned page for the Ithaca Voice People Project that makes it easier to learn about the personalities in our community.

Overall, we’re optimistic that the new IthacaVoice.com offers readers a better user experience. But if you have questions or suggestions for the new site, feel free to reach me anytime at jstein@ithacavoice.com.

I’ll also take this opportunity to note two other major developments at the Ithaca Voice: 1) The launch of “Hope on the Homefront,” a 10-part Solutions Journalism series about Ithaca area veterans written for the Ithaca Voice by former UK Telegraph journalist Melissa Whitworth; and 2) The Cortland Voice, an Ithaca Voice partner devoted to bringing free, independent, online-only news to Cortland County.

5 highlights from one year of the Ithaca Voice

In honor of our one-year anniversary, we’d also like to look back at just 5 highlights in the 365 days since we started IthacaVoice.com:

1 — Informal, personal writing strips away barriers

Local reporters sometimes write as if they alone have access to the truth, as if they alone have the ability to proclaim THE DAY’S NEWS from a mountain on high.

This is a myth. In fact, newspapers have never had a monopoly on the truth, even if we once had the sole means of widely disseminating it.

The Internet has blown up this fiction, On the Web, and on Facebook in particular, every individual suddenly has a platform from which to declare his or her views.

If news organizations are going to survive, they must be up front in recognizing that journalists are no more than people who are circumscribed, as we all are, to do their best to make sense of the information with which we are provided.

Recognizing those limitations — and using that knowledge to speak frankly — has been a hallmark of the Ithaca Voice since we began.

Here are a few of those stories that meet this description; I hope to write many more of them in the weeks and months ahead:

— What I learned riding with the Ithaca police for a night

— Editorial: Ignore graffiti; New Ithaca-Cornell gorge trail still really epic

Outrage over rents at new Ithaca lofts misses the point

— Opinion: Video about Cornell dean and ISIS is wildly misleading and dumb

2 — Disaster coverage keeps readers immediately informed 

Five days after the Ithaca Voice launched, a truck barreled through Simeon’s Restaurant on the Commons and killed a pregnant young mother.

The Ithaca Voice was among the first news agencies on the scene. By the end of the day, our coverage was being picked up on Syracuse.com, WSYR, the New York Daily News and Good Morning America.

Our coverage of breaking news of this kind has been tailored to meet the demands of digital journalism: fast, free and comprehensive.

For weeks after the Simeon’s crash, we provided in-depth analyses of the records of the truck company, the lawsuits filed in local courts and the grief felt by the affected families.

3 — Videos give local advertisers new value

The central business innovation of the Ithaca Voice is to provide local businesses greater value in the form of video advertisements, which we write, direct, produce, film and edit in conjunction with our sponsors.

Ithaca Voice Advertising Director Mike Blaney has already created several high-quality productions for some beloved local institutions, including the following:

— TCAT bus:

— The Downtown Ithaca Alliance:

— Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services:

4 — Balanced coverage of Ithaca area police

Not long after the Ithaca Voice began, we broke the news of a controversial incident in which two teens had a weapon pulled on them by an Ithaca police sergeant.

The story led to much criticism of the Ithaca Police Department and a rally at City Hall, on which we reported. But it also provided an opening for greater discussion about the complicated challenges of IPD and the often neglected and misunderstood bravery exhibited by its officers everyday.

We’ve continued to do this kind of balanced reporting — allowing critics to have their say but also highlighting officers’ terrific work — in the months since that August incident. (You can now read several stories celebrating the work of IPD on our People Project profiles page.)

The Voice will remain committed to this balanced reporting about local policing issues.

For example, this June we broke a story about the city and IPD’s refusal to turn over its policy on use of tasers on suspects. Later this week, we will also report on the Kiwanis Club’s awards ceremony to celebrate Ithaca area law enforcement.

5 — Development guru finds niche

One of the most surprising success stories of the Ithaca Voice has been the runaway popularity of Brian Crandall, whose eagle-eyed reporting on local housing news has drawn a wide following.

Building off of his success at the blog Ithacating, Crandall has become a development guru of sorts — analyzing IDA reports, discovering major new building projects and crafting highly-detailed yet accessible accounts of the wonky topics like affordable housing.

We can’t wait to see what stories he can write — and what graphs he can produce — in year two of working with the Ithaca Voice.

Room to improve in year 2

We’ve had a blast in 12 months of reporting on the Ithaca and Tompkins County communities, and there’s no indication that there’s any shortage of stories around the corner.

But we know we have room to improve as well. As we grow, the Ithaca Voice will seek to continue to uncover new ways to provide the news in the 21st Century — and to give you the kind of hard-hitting, in-depth stories you’ve come to expect.

— Jeff Stein | Editor

— Mike Blaney | Advertising Director

— Jolene Almendarez | Reporter

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.