In Bay Area media news today, the Bay Citizen and Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting have announced what the inside media superfans have been whispering about for months now: That they totally intend to join forces to create the greatest nonprofit news organization the San Francisco Bay Area has ever seen. (Pending approval by both their board of directors, of course.)
As the Bay Citizen itself reports this afternoon, the deal is just a memorandum of understanding at this point. The two organizations have to go through some prenuptial negotiations first and each board of directors will have to independently approve the deal at the end of 30 days, but to hear their board members talk about it, one would think the deal is already done.
Phil Bronstein, the former Chronicle Editor-at-Large who was recently named Chairman of the Board at the CIR (and is just an all-around enviable human being), will take over the CEO job from interim chief Brian Kelley at the end of the 30 day period. Bronstein was reportedly Hellman's original pick to take over as CEO of the Bay Citizen, but would only take the post if the two agreed to merge and name him
Supreme Chancellor of Bay Area Journalism Chief Executive. In a presentation to the Bay Citizen's board last month, Bronstein said that combining the two operations would create "an unprecedented level of accountability reporting for the Bay Area" and "leverage the complimentary strengths of the two organizations for greater depth, reach and efficiency."
Speaking of efficiency: neither side has mentioned the inevitable layoffs, but Bronstein and company have already identified around $1 million in operational expenses and $900,000 of duplicative personnel between the two organizations' budgets and 70-plus employees.
The two journalism nonprofits have apparently been flirting with the idea of getting together for some time now, starting sometime around when founding editor-in-chief Jonathan Weber left the Bay Citizen back in September. Merger talks were obviously complicated by Warren Hellman's passing in December.
The Center for Investigative Reporting was founded in 1977 by a group of reporters. It currently distributes stories directly through other media outlets has a boatload of journalism awards under it's belt. The Bay Citizen, meanwhile, distributes theirs through BayCitizen.org, a twitter feed and a couple of pages a week in the New York Times.