The announcement that Warren Hellman is funding a new San Francisco-based nonprofit news organization is a huge shot in the arm for journalism and for the Bay Area. At the core of this new endeavor, according to key Hellman advisor Susan Hirsch, will be collaboration with news organizations large and small.
This could not be happening in a better place or at a better time. The Bay Area historically has been a breeding ground for innovation, risk taking and creativity. There is great opportunity here to put those qualities to work to develop new, sustainable journalism models.
As Hellman recognizes, the future of journalism will rely on collaborations, something we are championing here at the Center for Investigative Reporting, and especially with our new California Watch project. We look forward to working with the new group and its partners (and longtime CIR collaborators) KQED and the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley.
The business model for journalism has fallen apart in the last decade, a decline heightened by the recession. There are journalists throughout the country struggling to create new models that will fill the void created by downsized legacy media. Whether blogging or deploying reporting teams focused on specific communities or regions, they all need financial help.
Hellman, a substantial donor to CIR, joins other philanthropists who believe in the essential role that journalism plays in our democracy, including Buzz Wooley with the Voice of San Diego, Herb and Marion Sandler with Pro Publica, and John Thornton with the Texas Tribune.
The last decade has been brutal for those of us who have spent our careers working in traditional newsrooms, but there is now an excitement, energy and passion in these new models that reflects the start of a great new adventure. It is clear now that the Bay Area will play a big part in this.