Can Bay Citizen and other news start-ups revive Bay Area journalism?
SF Public Press has pursued a model like Bay Citizen's for two years. But without millions of dollars in seed money, it's still hobbling along as basically a volunteer newsroom despite getting around $35,000 from San Francisco Foundation, another Hellman-funded enterprise. "It's an uncertain model. It's a leap of faith for the writers to get involved with this," said project manager Michael Stoll.
Yet Public Press is still moving forward with a newspaper (due out June 15) featuring content culled from a wide variety of local partners ranging from the Commonwealth Club and World Affairs Council to local public radio stations, local blogs, and The Bay Citizen. "We're calling it both a pilot and a prototype," Stoll said. "We want to get people's reactions."
Weber says he's also eager to see how people react to The Bay Citizen when it launches May 26, because it will need to quickly establish itself. At the rate The Bay Citizen is spending, Hellman's money won't last more than a couple of years, and the financier told us he may be willing to put in a bit more, but he's going to want to see a plan for financial stability that doesn't involve him underwriting operations forever. It's an experiment, but one most observers say is worth trying.
"We need to keep experimenting," Goebel said, "because not every experiment is going to work."