With the city’s newspaper operations in a shambles, a philanthropist, a graduate school of journalism and KQED are coming together to attempt to fill the void in local news reporting. The collaborators include KQED Public Media, the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism (J-School), and San Francisco business leader Warren Hellman.
Hellman is providing $5M in seed money to kick the program off. It will then apply for tax-exempt non-profit status and try to survive on donations going forward.
The project will have a name, a web presence and a staff, but at this point none of those things have so much as been named.
But the goal is clear: “The locally produced, professional news organization plans to leverage broad collaborations and new digital technologies to provide Bay Area news that reflects the region’s dynamic social and cultural diversity. At the heart of the enterprise will be a professional staff of experienced journalists who, in collaboration with KQED and the J-School, will generate original, in-depth Bay Area news content focused on local topics increasingly underserved by commercial media outlets. Coverage will include government and public policy, education, the arts and cultural affairs, the environment, as well as food and wine and neighborhood news.”
The news product will be aimed primarily at the web and at mobile devices, but noncommercial radio and television will also be able to tap in. KQED operates both an FM station and a television station.
“News about our cities and towns and their residents is critically important to our community and to an informed citizenry,” said Noelle Leca, chair of the KQED/ Northern California Public Broadcasting Board of Directors. “We look forward to developing a strong collaboration to discover more ways to engage and inspire our community.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Journalism right now is a public necessity in search of a viable business model. This is one possible answer, and we will probably see similar attempts made elsewhere.
But it is probably not a viable option for any except the largest markets. It does not resolve the need for a commercially-viable solution. The fact that such a solution doesn’t even seem to be on the horizon is what inspired this non-profit effort. But the hunt will go on, and sooner or later some media Einstein will come up with the journalistic equivalent of e = mc2 and put the news back into a profitable footing.