Matier & Ross report that the $5 million in seed money Bay Citizen got from philanthropist Warren Hellman is only expected to last for a year. That’s forced the nonprofit to hire a half-dozen paid fundraisers to hit the streets to find new members at $50 a pop.

“Of course, we want to be sustainable and rely on a variety of funding sources, and one of the most crucial is memberships,” Bay Citizen membership director Rose Roll told M&R.

Roll wouldn’t say how many people have signed up to become members.

Where did the money go? M&R said a chuck of it went to hiring top executives. In January, the SF Weekly reported that Bay Citizen CEO Lisa Frazier would be paid $400,000 a year.

Bay Area Media News


  1. Wow, this is depressing considering I'm trying to start a print weekly in the East Bay. I don't have millions or thousands; it's just me and a few laid off journalists trying to fill a void in community news.
    Can we succeed? Something tells me will. Why? Because we don't believe in failure. And also because we believe in quality community journalism.

  2. You need to drill down into this story. Bay Citizen isn't going to last more than a year, but the WHY behind the story will explain why the nonprofit newsgathering model will never succeed.

  3. The Bay Citizen was as tone-deaf as those executives from UC now demanding higher six-figure pensions as the state faces a $28 billion deficit.

    Bay Citizen execs rented expensive downtown SF office space and paid their top person $400K, which was 8 percent of their entire budget for one year.

    It's a burn rate not seen since the days of

  4. Folks, good journalism costs money – plain and simple. For the size of their staff (which I believe is well over 20 people) $5 mil isn't that much. And while sites like Oakland Local are doing a lot to connect with people, they're mostly opinion and activism. If you want serious news journalism, it's going to cost money. People only volunteer their time if they are allowed to stand on a soapbox (i.e. bloggers)

  5. I think it was KQED's decision not to partner with Bay Citizen, not the other way around. KQED was going through quite an upheaval at the time. There was also the feeling that KQED might do a better job on its own rather than working with a partner. And, in fact, right after Bay Citizen started, KQED expanded its radio newsroom and website.

  6. This is a travesty. I see little meaningful work coming from Bay Citizen. Compare that to the barely funded Oakland Local that kicks out quality stuff every day (No…I have no affiliation with them).
    There are hyper local news projects happening all over…most with budgets ranging from nothing to maybe $100k year. And there are some really good ones. Not saying local projects shouldn't pay folks, but $5 million in one year?? Come on. Could have seeded dozens of projects for that!
    Sign me, a midwesterner who often looks to California folks for good ideas.

  7. The Bay Citizen, while producing some good work, made a huge mistake when they decided against partnering with KQED. That organization went on to enhance their own local reporting, their website has much more interesting content, and their reach is so much larger. The public trusts them, as well, while Bay Citizen has not yet made a case for public trust.

  8. "Memberships" sold by those annoying street fundraisers who pester people just trying to walk down the sidewalk are a form of begging. "Hi, do you have a minute to talk about quality journalism? What's your credit card number?" These people are a small step above panhandlers. Disgusting. So the whole Bay Citizen thing was just a scam meant to enrich a few cronies at the top. $400K a year for what? Is she the city manager of Bell? Warren Hellman got taken.

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