The SF Guardian is running a story saying that entrepreneur Warren Hellman is partnering with KQED, UCBerkeley, others to launch $5MM Bay area nonprofit newsroom that will have 24 journalists.The operating budget for this small, scrappy enterprise will be roughly $5 a year (!!). The service will ask for money from foundations, government and anyone else willing to pony up.
I like the idea of not letting there be a news monopoly in the Bay area, but I hate the idea that big entities can suck the air–and perhaps the funding–from smaller more grassroots efforts.
The SFAppeal should not suffer a loss in support because of Hellman’s largess; and neither should the soon to be launched Oakland Local or other less well-funded non corporate efforts.
On the other hand, Hellman’s big, expensive effort may just be another proof point that there isn’t enough money in advertising to float $5MM annual budgets for news online beyond the year or two that a benefactor shells out, and that well-funded newsrooms don’t equal community or civic engagement.
And yet, I have to believe that this is a good thing for Bay area news, not a bad one. As much as I worry that Hellman’s project will suck $$ from my own little project and other wonderful smaller sites I see emerging, the Hellman project feels ,more like a replacement for something we’ve lost–the big (bloated?) newsrooms of the corporate papers–not the local sites that are close to their community. But truth, we don’t really yet know.