Almost two years ago, we launched our new investigative team at California Watch, the largest investigative reporting team operating in the state.

We started with an office in the Bay Area, inside our mother ship at the Center for Investigative Reporting, and soon opened a Sacramento office across the street from the state Capitol. We always planned to open a Southern California bureau, believing we couldn’t really be California Watch if we were only “watching” the upper parts of the state.

The state has 58 counties and one county alone, Los Angeles, accounts for roughly 10 million people, about 25 percent of the state’s population. More than half of the state’s residents can be found in just six Southland counties – Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

Today, we are happy to announce that California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting will open a Southern California bureau next month.

Joanna Lin, one of our two health and welfare reporters, and Ashley Alvarado, our public engagement manager, will christen the new bureau inside the newsroom of The Orange County Register. To start, Lin and Alvarado will be based in Southern California. But we have room for visiting staffers and an intern, and we hope to expand our presence in Southern California at some point, perhaps as early as next year, with more reporting resources.

As traditional newsrooms have cut back, they have been left with vast stretches of open space inside their newsrooms or buildings. We are able to capitalize in a way that benefits our organization and our hosts.

We explored opportunities at the Los Angeles Times, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and The Register. But The Register offered a deal that made sense financially. Just as important, our presence in the middle of The Register’s newsroom, near its investigative and social media teams, will provide more opportunities for collaboration. The Register already is a member of our California Watch Media Network. And I have good relationships with many of the people who remain there, having worked at The Register for 10 years – longer than any other newsroom during my 25-year career.

I also am a big fan of the location in Santa Ana, one of the largest concentrations of Latino residents in the state. Situated right on the Golden State and Costa Mesa freeways, our staff in Southern California will be able to head into the Inland Empire, down to the border or into downtown Los Angeles. Granted, it won’t be easy access. Anyone who has lived or worked in Southern California knows there is really no such thing. But it will give our staff flexibility to move about the region to report stories and find new ways to engage readers and reach out to communities affected by our stories.

Our location dead center inside The Register’s newsroom also tells you something about how the media landscape is evolving. Rather than viewing us as competitors or a foreign species, The Register is welcoming us with open arms, treating us like we are part of the staff. And that’s how we prefer to be viewed by anyone who partners with us. The California Watch mission is to help news outlets around the state to generate high-impact investigative journalism. In an ideal world, our partners view us an extension of themselves.

Our new office at 625 N. Grand Ave. in Santa Ana opens for business officially on Aug 3. We’ll let you know the phone number when we arrive.

Stop by or give us a shout.

Mark Katches is a past editorial director for The Center for Investigative Reporting. He is currently editor of the Oregonian and vice president of content for the Oregonian Media Group. Previously, he built and ran investigative teams at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Orange County Register. Mark was the primary editor of Pulitzer Prize-winning projects in both 2008 and 2010 and edited or managed five other stories that were Pulitzer finalists. Projects he edited or directed also have won the George Polk Award, the IRE award and the Scripps-Howard National Journalism Award as well as the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, the Worth Bingham Prize, the Sigma Delta Chi Award and the National Headliner Award. Multiplatform projects produced by CIR staff under Mark's guidance won a national News & Documentary Emmy, two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, a George Foster Peabody Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award. He has overseen projects or websites that have won four Online Journalism Awards in the last decade, in addition to logging more than a dozen OJA finalists. In 2001, he was part of a reporting team that won the Gerald Loeb and IRE awards for a series of stories detailing the rising profits from the human tissue trade. He completed a Punch Sulzberger Fellowship at Columbia University in 2013 and has taught reporting classes as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford University. Mark served on the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors for four years and oversaw the IRE mentorship program for six years.