California Media: Sites that are thriving without giant budgets

I was thrilled to hear about the CIR/Bay Citizen merge plans, but Ken Doctor’s post about it leaves out so many things I had to write my own post. You see, if you just read Ken’s post, you might think tat things today were just like in 1999, or maybe 2003, and that the only new news models to get excited about were the big ones, with budgets over $2MM (The Bay Citizen had a projected 2012 budget of $6.2MM before the merger; CIR’s was about $3.2MM).  In reality, local news entities can’t and shouldn’t aspire to budgets of this size unless they are a) in wealthy communities b) have friends with deep pockets  c) are doing a scale of work that requires 17 + reporters, a rarity for most news operations today).

What’s more viable–and not mentioned by Doctor’s post–are the smaller local news outlets bringing valuable news and discussion to their communities and making a go of it.  Not only is there the no-so-small Voice of San Diego, there is the Voice of Orange County, Noozhawk in Santa Barbara, Oakland Local, Berkeleyside, Sacramento Press, SF Appeal, SF Public Press, Natomas Buzz, Lake County News, YubaNet,  and all the local sites supported by local J-Schools, Mission Local and The Alhambra Source. And that’s far from a complete list.

Most of those sites are 1-8 person operations and they’re making it work–and the scale of the budgets are much more in line with sustainability.

One of the things I’d like to see come out of the CIR/Bay Citizen merger is a way for the new entity to work MUCH more effectively with smaller local news partners than Bay Citizen did in the past. These sites are the drumbeats of their communities, Ken, and they are another important piece of the media landscape of the future.

Update: Maybe some of us are “surviving”, as much as thriving. But let’s not be overlooked.