Shining a Light

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new - Scott Hays during the interview with Will and Cary Singleton, founders of the Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship_courtesy of OC World-Edit
OC World co-founder Scott Hays (right) during an interview with Will and Cary Singleton, founders of the Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship, at the Singleton Classics automotive museum in Costa Mesa | Photo by OC World

Media nonprofit OC World, a PBS SoCal affiliate co-founded by Lagunan Scott Hays, delves into important issues in Orange County.

By Sharon Stello

 

With community newspapers shuttering in many cities around Orange County—and across the nation—Laguna Beach resident Scott Hays decided to do something to help fill the gap in local news. Nearly three years ago, he and Manuel N. Gómez, vice chancellor of student affairs emeritus at UC Irvine, co-founded OC World, a nonprofit media organization and a PBS SoCal affiliate, covering in-depth stories about the county and its residents.

The organization’s show, which shares the same name as the nonprofit, broadcasts at 5 p.m. Mondays on KLCS-PBS to more than 15 million households from Santa Barbara to San Diego. The segments are also available on OC World’s YouTube channel; these videos have amassed a combined total of more than 100,000 views.

“ ‘OC World’ is a weekly, nonprofit, 30-minute public affairs show that produces deep-dive on-camera and in-studio interviews, documentary shorts and on-location stories that reflect the county’s diverse cultures and cities,” Hays explains. “We cover education and the arts, business and health, politics and people.”

The effort has been well-received, gaining recognition and quite a following. Last year, the team’s “Hope Dies Last” documentary, about the impact of Alzheimer’s disease, won a Golden Mike Award from the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California for the best long-form program. The team also received the Real O.C. Award, presented by the OC Press Club, for a short documentary, “Coastal Crisis: California’s Vanishing Beaches.” This award recognizes the “story, review, feature, column, photo or broadcast video that best captures something special, surprising, telling or essential about Orange County.”

In addition to Alzheimer’s disease and the erosion of SoCal beaches, OC World has explored relationship violence and other serious topics, and has conducted interviews with leaders of agencies like the Orange County Power Authority and CalOptima Health, the largest Medi-Cal health insurer in OC, as well as local creatives like giant-screen filmmaker Greg MacGillivray.

Hays, who serves as OC World’s executive producer, formerly produced “Inside OC” and “SoCal Insider” with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Reiff. Hays also teaches part-time at several community colleges in the region and has written or co-written roughly a dozen, mostly nonfiction books. Additionally, Hays produced and hosted the show “OC Caravan” for Laguna radio station KX FM and Cox Channel 3 on TV and has served as executive producer of short documentaries for several nonprofits.

OC World co-founders Scott Hays and Manuel Gomez_courtesy of OC World
Hays (left) and Manuel N. Gómez started OC World, a nonprofit media organization and PBS SoCal affiliate. | Photo by OC World

OC World is fiscally sponsored by nonprofit incubator Charitable Ventures and supported by the Orange County Community Foundation; the Keith and Judy Swayne Family Foundation and Marisla Foundation, both based in Laguna; Wells Fargo Bank; Farmers & Merchants Bank; UCI; and Santiago Canyon College.

Hays is passionate about OC partly because this is his lifelong home, having grown up in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, then eventually settling in Laguna, falling in love with its local restaurants, arts and culture scene.

One of the most rewarding projects he spearheaded in Laguna was creating a music CD titled “Shelter Me” in 2008. Featuring performances by homeless musicians, the album raised money for the Friendship Shelter in town and aimed to debunk the sometimes negative perceptions that people have about homeless individuals.

Here, Hays talks about why he’s committed to highlighting local issues.

Laguna Beach Magazine: Why did you decide to start OC World?

Scott Hays: We launched in 2021 when the decline of local print coverage hit Orange County and its 3.1 million residents particularly hard. Living in the shadow of the massive Los Angeles market, in effect, Orange County became one of the largest “news deserts” in the country. With support from local philanthropic leaders, we stepped into the void. A report by Northwestern University’s School of Journalism soon after found … “signs of hope” for communities with diminishing local news …coverage—the nonprofit media model.

 

LBM: What is your mission?

SH: Our mission at OC World is to inform, inspire and engage the community by delivering high-quality journalism and diverse perspectives on issues, events and people shaping Orange County. With a commitment to integrity, transparency and inclusivity, OC World aims to become a trusted source of information and stimulate meaningful dialogue.

 

LBM: Why is it important to you to shine a light on issues affecting us locally?

SH: It’s important because of declining local print and digital news coverage. Our local communities are mostly subjected to nationalized news, which is often divisive and polarized. We are the only PBS TV multimedia public affairs organization focused on Orange County. Through our inclusive stories, we represent the rich diversity of this county and report on the significant triumphs and tragedies that face OC residents.

 

LBM: What are you currently working on?

SH: At the moment, we’re working on stories about the upcoming Southern California wildfire season, the historic transformation of the Irvine Ranch, the power and awe of music, and the new Orange County media landscape. We will never run out of story ideas.

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