Non-Profit Online News Operation to Launch in Bay Area in Collaboration With KQED, University of California Berkeley Journalism School
Cohn & Wolfe
New Entity Aims to Pioneer Sustainable, Non-Profit Model with Multiple Distribution Channels
San Francisco, CA, Sept. 25, 2009—KQED Public Media, the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (J-School), and San Francisco business leader Warren Hellman today announced their collaboration in launching a non-profit news organization to provide high-quality, original coverage of Bay Area civic and community news.
The Hellman Family Foundation intends to provide a gift of $5 million as initial seed money for the project. The new entity intends to seek tax-exempt 501(c)3 status as an organization supported in large part by public donations. The operating name, Web address, and key staff of the project will be announced in the near future.
The locally produced, professional news organization plans to leverage broad collaborations and new digital technologies to provide Bay Area news that reflects the region’s dynamic social and cultural diversity. At the heart of the enterprise will be a professional staff of experienced journalists who, in collaboration with KQED and the J-School, will generate original, in-depth Bay Area news content focused on local topics increasingly underserved by commercial media outlets. Coverage will include government and public policy, education, the arts and cultural affairs, the environment, as well as food and wine and neighborhood news.
Original content from the new entity’s team of reporters, as well as from KQED and the J-School, will be distributed through multiple channels. The primary channels will be online and mobile, with public radio and television distribution planned through KQED. The new non-profit is also in discussions with The New York Times to disseminate its content in new Bay Area pages being launched by The Times.
In response to the decline of local news coverage, nonprofit news ventures are developing around the country to fill the void being created by newsroom layoffs at newspapers and broadcast outlets. The new Bay Area venture, designed to serve one of the world’s most sophisticated markets, will be unique in the breadth of its institutional collaborations, the reporting quality and editorial depth of its news operations, the significance of its startup funds, and its potential for distribution through multiple outlets.
Innovative approaches are clearly needed to maintain the quality and quantity of news coverage. In the Bay Area, local newspapers have collectively reduced their newsrooms by nearly 50% during the last five years.1 The impact is seen in the number of original, professionally written stories about the Bay Area, which at one major regional newspaper has declined from 100 to 40 stories per day.2
“The Bay Area has a voracious appetite for news and is one of the most engaged and community-minded regions in the nation,” said Hellman. “We are confident that this is an ideal place to create a new economic model that will sustain original, local, quality journalism, and we believe that the Bay Area will step up to support these efforts.”
KQED brings a 55-year history of award-winning news, including radio, television, and interactive programming. Its original programming, including “The California Report”, “Forum”, and “This Week in Northern California”, already provides in-depth coverage of regional issues. KQED and its parent corporation, Northern California Public Broadcasting, are home to the nation’s most listened-to public radio station3, two of the most watched public television stations, and one of the most highly-trafficked public media websites.
“For more than a year, KQED has been discussing how to increase our local news coverage to better serve those we currently reach with our editorial content and programming,” said Jeff Clarke, President and CEO of KQED/Northern California Public Broadcasting. “Our members have urged us to take an active role in providing expanded news and public affairs coverage.”
"News about our cities and towns and their residents is critically important to our community and to an informed citizenry,” added Noelle Leca, chair of the KQED/NCPB Board of Directors. “We look forward to developing a strong collaboration to discover more ways to engage and inspire our community.”
U.C. Berkeley journalism faculty and graduate students will form an integral part of the enterprise through the J-School’s innovations in news technology. The School publishes “hyper-local” online neighborhood news projects (including www.missionlocal.org and www.oaklandnorth.net), and is a nationally recognized leader in journalism education, ethics, and new media skills training. The J-School will also seek to collaborate with Berkeley's Engineering, Business, and Information Schools in support of greater innovations in this emerging field.
“As the only school of journalism in the U.C. system, we feel an especially compelling duty to serve the public interest at a time of crisis in local journalism. There’s no question that journalism plays a critical watchdog role in our communities,” said Neil Henry, professor and dean. “We are excited to be working to generate a new model for journalism that will foster civic dialogue and participation.”
The genesis of the new organization originated in a series of conversations between Hellman and local journalists. Inspired by these discussions, Hellman convened a group of business, financial, legal, and journalism experts who conducted extensive research to create the framework for a sustainable nonprofit news model.
”I am grateful to the numerous contributors, especially the enthusiastic support of Carl Hall, former San Francisco Chronicle reporter and current local representative of the California Media Workers Guild, for their aid in bringing this exciting plan to life,” said Hellman.
Investment banking firm Greenhill & Co., law firm Jones Day, and philanthropic advisory firm Hirsch & Associates, LLC advised the parties on the formation of the new entity.
For more information, please visit www.bayareanewsproject.org.
About The Hellman Family Foundation The Hellman Family Foundation was started in 1983 by F. Warren and Patricia Hellman and their family to provide charitable support in the Bay Area and throughout the United States. The Hellman Family has a long history of philanthropic giving in San Francisco over many generations.
About KQED/NCPB KQED, a service of Northern California Public Broadcasting, Inc. (NCPB) includes the nation’s most-listened-to public radio broadcaster and one the most-watched public television stations in the country. NCPB owns and operates public television stations KQED 9 (San Francisco), KTEH 54 (San Jose), and KQET 25 (Watsonville/Monterey); public radio stations KQED 88.5FM (San Francisco) and KQEI 89.3FM (Sacramento); KQED's Education Network (EdNet); and the Interactive platforms KQED.org and KTEH.org. KQED’s news and public affairs original programming includes “Forum”, “The California Report”, “QUEST”, “Climate Watch”, “California Money”, “This Week in Northern California”, “Health Dialogues” and more. Audiences and users can also access NCPB content through digital television channels KQED HD, KQED World, KQED Life, KQED Kids, KQED PBS Kids Sprout and can stream or download available content on kqed.org.
About The Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley The Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, established in 1967, is one of the nation’s premier journalism training facilities. In the past two years, the school has become an increasingly important supplier of news for Bay Area residents though its local news websites. Approximately 110 students are enrolled in the two-year program that offers intensive training in multimedia, television, radio, documentary film, and traditional print reporting. The School has a permanent faculty of 15 plus a wide array of lecturers, many of them working journalists, who bring the experience of daily journalism to the classroom. The faculty, students, and alumni have been accorded the highest honors in the field, including George S. Polk and Pulitzer Prizes, for their work.
1. Source: interviews, press releases, Factiva
2. Based on Factiva search of stories on the second Wednesday of each month for a Bay Area regional newspaper from May 12, 1999 to May 6, 2009; excludes wire stories
3. Arbitron, PPM MSA markets, 14-bk average (July 08 – July 09), CUME, P6+, M-Su 6a-12m