Investment banker and Wells Fargo heir F. Warren Hellman is teaming up with KQED and the UC-Berkeley J-school to create a nonprofit news organization to fill gaps in local news coverage left by the decline of the Chronicle and other daily papers. The Hellman Family Foundation is contributing $5 million to the Bay Area News Project, which is also in talks with The New York Times and other potential participants.

(Coverage: NYT, SF Business Times, Chronicle, AP and press release from Hellman.)

“We’ve lost a lot,” Hellman told the Chron. He bemoaned dwindling reporting on subjects like the San Francisco Ballet, local business openings and vetting of political candidates. “We’re going to be meeting an unmet need.”

“I was appalled by how much the Chronicle has shrunk, how thin the Examiner is, and how little coverage there is for local news,” he told AP. “I couldn’t help but believe that local politics will be affected. We will have even weaker candidates than we have now with less local coverage, and it seemed to me there was something we could do about it.”

Berkeley J-school dean Neil Henry told the AP that collaborating with Hellman makes sense both for the school and its 120 students, who already are producing stories for Web sites focused on seven San Francisco Bay area communities. Besides content for the new news venture, the journalism school expects to provide overall editorial guidance and possibly technological and fundraising expertise, Henry said.

Bay Area Media News,


  1. Sounds a lot like Bay Cities News. Why not invest in BCN, which could be much more than the tip service it is? There are many pink-slipped pros who would be glad to get aboard.

  2. I too am concerned when the venture is funded by weatlhy individuals who effectively have even more potential editorial control than corporate news media owners. Editors have learned at least a little about protecting the integrity of their operation from the business side. There is little experience with balancing the competing pressures in nonprofit enterprizes funded by single individuals.

    Nonprofits such as public broadcasting do a good job because they are beholding to a fairly broad audience which counteracts some of the pressure from their corporate donors.

    What is true is that a number of different models need to be tested in the coming years to prevent journalism from disppearing.

  3. Before this thing even begins, Hellman is deciding what they will cover. These efforts at nonprofit journalism are very suspicious. For instance, I'm struck at how ProPublica has done various stories about the financial meltdown, but has always danced around the role of its major benefactors, the Sandlers, who looted billions in the mortgage industry and then sold their company just before the market collapsed. How can their reporters keep avoiding this subject and call themselves ethical?

  4. Ha, ha, ha…too little coverage of ballet! Hey Warren while you're at it let's cover your horse barn in Bolinas and the horse head tatoo on your leg too. Looks like the wealthy have little idea of what news readers actually want.

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