Two years after its launch as a new online news organization covering the San Francisco region, the Bay Citizen is reconsidering its mission and editorial focus under new management. As of May 1, it merged operations with the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting, one of the granddaddies of the nonprofit news world, and ended its editorial partnership with the New York Times. The combined newsroom now marshals a staff of 70 and an annual budget of $11 million for news reporting from the San Francisco Bay Area. But differences between the news organizations’ editorial priorities and funding structures point to many challenges ahead, according to journalists from both the Bay Citizen and CIR. The Bay Citizen, which was founded and launched in 2010 by the late San Francisco philanthropist Warren Hellman, focused on timely news about Bay Area communities and tried to compete with other local news outlets to break stories.
Matchmaking requires openness, compatibility, shared goals and maintaining a strong sense of identity. That’s the advice for public broadcasters looking to merge, as well as for doe-eyed sweethearts. CET in Cincinnati and ThinkTV in Dayton made the leap nearly three years ago, and by most accounts their union looks strong. The two stations, just 50 miles apart in separate southwestern Ohio media markets, are now incorporated as Public Media Connect and serve a region of 1.4 million households and more than 3.5 million people. Together they showed an operating deficit last year, as did many stations, but the budget gap has been shrinking and is projected to go positive this year.
Cindy Browne never promised them a rose garden. In fact, the founding executive director of Iowa Public Radio repeatedly promised the network’s 50-some staffers a long passage through anger, grief and confusion, before things would get the least bit rosy. Over the past three years, events delivered some of the expected benefits of combining the public radio operations at Iowa’s three big state universities, as well as the promised discomforts for both listeners and staffers. The next steps are up to a new set of executives. In coming months, IPR will hire, besides an executive director, a content director, a music director, a development director and a Cedar Rapids reporter.