Bay Area nonprofit news organizations discussing merger

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Two prominent nonprofit news organizations, The Bay Citizen, based in San Francisco, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, based in nearby Berkeley, are in merger talks, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The paper quoted Robert Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting,as saying, “There’s been no decisions made and it’s unclear where the conversations will lead, if anywhere.”

The Bay Citizen produces news for its own website, but also provides San Francisco-area coverage for The New York Times. The Center for Investigative Reporting partners with major news media outlets, including public broadcasters such as Frontline and NPR.

The merger discussions follow the December death of Warren Hellman, the San Francisco investor and philanthropist who originally donated $5 million to launch the two-year-old Bay Citizen and continued to play a role in its development. The Journal also reported that the news site’s chief executive, Lisa Frazier, and its interim editor-in-chief, Steve Fainaru, would be leaving next week. No reasons were cited for the departures.

Citing unnamed sources, the Journal said it was unclear whether the two nonprofits would continue to operate as separate brands in the event of a merger. Sources also told the paper that Phil Bronstein, the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and current president of the Center for Investigative Reporting’s board, has been in talks about taking an “editorial leadership position” in any combined organization.