What follows is an item from the (Phil) Matier and (Andy) Ross column on SFGate earlier this week. It’s about the Bay Citizen, which, according to @jayrosen_nyu, (who attributes this to Bay Citizen Editor Jonathan Weber) was funded to the tune of $14 million, with $5 million coming from San Francisco philanthropist Warren Hellman, but is now out looking for public funding.
I applaud all efforts to commit quality Journalism, and the Bay Citizen certainly is that. The future of quality journalism will ultimately depend on it being built as a business and not a charitable enterprise. Independence is critical. Bay Citizen is smart to diversity funding, but we can’t lose sight of the need to have quality journalism support itself.
Here’s the item:
“Can you spare a dime? Move over, Street Sheet – now the New York Times-affiliated Bay Citizen is hustling donations on the corner.
“One of our readers ran across two of the online publication’s hired guns trying to scrape up donations last week over on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland. They weren’t offering free papers, but those who pledged were eligible to receive a free Dave Eggers poster and an editor’s newsletter.
“So what happened to the $5 million in seed money that the 6-month-old Bay Citizen got from San Francisco philanthropist Warren Hellman for an experiment in local nonprofit journalism?
“Bay Citizen membership director Rose Roll tells us that money – a chunk of which went to hiring top executives – is expected to last for only about a year.
“‘Of course, we want to be sustainable and rely on a variety of funding sources, and one of the most crucial is memberships,’ Roll said.
“So the online paper – some of whose content runs in the Times – launched a fundraising drive, with a half dozen paid professionals trolling the streets in hopes of landing new members at a minimum $50 a pop.
“Roll wouldn’t reveal how many people have signed up, but said, ‘Our goal by the end of the year is to have between 1,500 and 2,000 members.’