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Bay Citizen, CIR merge — breaking news coverage to end, NY Times deal in limbo

The nonprofit website The Bay Citizen is getting out of the breaking news business now that it has merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley. Instead the combined news organization will focus on investigative reporting.

“There’s so much information, there’s so much newsgathering, there’s so much out there, and there’s so much clutter out there,” CIR executive director Robert Rosenthal told Adrienne LaFrance of NiemanLab. “Someone may have it first, but there’s almost no such thing as first anymore. News is a commodity. Information is a commodity.”

When The Bay Citizen was started in 2010 it had hoped to become an alternative source of news for the Bay Area at a time when Hearst was openly discussing the idea of closing the Chronicle.

Rosenthal also said CIR is currently re-evaluating The Bay Citizen’s relationship with The New York Times, noting that the deal carries an agreement of “exclusivity” that raises “concerns.” The Bay Citizen’s reporting currently appears twice weekly in the Bay Area section of The Times.

CIR is headed by Rosenthal, former managing editor of the Chronicle, and its board is chaired by former Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein.

“While technically a merger, a similar deal in the corporate world would be termed an acquisition, with Berkeley-based CIR assuming a dominant role on the board and in the management of the combined organization. No one from The Bay Citizen’s current senior editorial or technology management teams will have a leadership role in the expanded organization,” wrote The Bay Citizen’s Dan Fost.

Fost points out that the combined organization will have a budget of $10.5 million and staff of approximately 70, making it what CIR called the nation’s largest nonprofit focused on investigative and watchdog reporting.

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