Center For Investigative Reporting, The Bay Citizen agree to merge

BERKELEY and SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – March 27, 2012 – The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and The Bay Area News Project (BANP), which operates The Bay Citizen, today agreed to merge operations, pending a review by the California attorney general.

The merger of the two award-winning news forces will create the nation’s largest nonprofit organization focused on investigative and accountability reporting and one of the largest data and technology teams in journalism.

“We are bringing together two Bay Area enterprises with very complementary strengths,” said Phil Bronstein, who will serve as executive board chairman of the unified operation. “They are both devoted to protecting justice and democracy through great, engaging journalism.”

Jeff Ubben, current chairman of The Bay Citizen board of directors, and the family of The Bay Citizen founder Warren Hellman will together commit more than $4 million to the merged entity. 

The expanded Center for Investigative Reporting will be made up of three unique editorial brands: The Bay Citizen (local enterprise and investigative reporting focused on the San Francisco Bay Area), California Watch (investigative reporting on major issues and topics affecting the entire state) and CIR (targeted investigative and explanatory reporting on issues of national and international significance). 

The integrated, multi-platform newsroom will produce high-quality, unique stories that engage and connect communities from the local to the global. Content will be distributed through media partners around the Bay Area, California, nationwide and internationally. The Bay Citizen website, baycitizen.org, will remain a lively source of local daily content.

“This is a special moment,” said Robert J. Rosenthal, executive director of CIR, who will continue to serve in that capacity. “We’re confident that the merged organization will create energy and innovation around unique storytelling, audience engagement and sustainability. Our goal is to evolve a successful model for ourselves and for journalism.”

Over the past three years, CIR has undergone substantial growth and change, transforming from a small nonprofit into one of the largest investigative reporting teams in the country. With a staff of reporters, editors, data analysts, engineers, and video, radio and multimedia producers, it is playing an increasing role in filling the gap in in-depth reporting left by the decline of legacy media. CIR recently won the 2012 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, the 2011 George Polk Award and the 2011 Scripps Howard Award for public service.

The Bay Citizen was founded in 2010 to serve the Bay Area with high-quality, independent civic and cultural journalism that informs and engages residents. It is nationally recognized as a new model for journalism. Recent awards for The Bay Citizen include the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and the James Madison Freedom of Information Award. Its strong business infrastructure has enabled The Bay Citizen to raise $17.5 million from diverse sources, including major donors, members, corporations and foundations. The Bay Citizen's reporting can be found on its website and in print in The New York Times Bay Area report on Fridays and Sundays.

“Warren Hellman founded The Bay Citizen because he believed that quality reporting could foster civic engagement. This merger will allow his vision to thrive, creating a more sustainable public service news organization in one of the most diverse and dynamic areas in the country,” said Ubben, who will join the merged board, along with other Bay Citizen directors. 

“Our dad felt strongly that democracy only works if there is a vibrant press, and that local journalism in particular needed strong community support in order to survive and fulfill its essential mission," said Mick Hellman, Warren's son. “That’s why he started The Bay Citizen. Our family agrees with that point of view. We feel that the merger with CIR offers the opportunity to renew leadership, add strength to the reporting staff, and diversify revenue models and content distribution channels."

The organization will have a budget of $10.5 million in 2012 and a staff of about 70. Mark Katches will serve as editorial director, Sharon Tiller will lead the digital team, and Chase Davis will oversee the expanded news technology team. A chief strategy officer, in charge of new revenue streams, products and network strategy, will be named soon. Operations of the two organizations will remain independent until the merger is finalized.

For more information, visit cironline.org and baycitizen.org.

About the Center for Investigative Reporting

Founded in 1977, the Center for Investigative Reporting is the nation's oldest nonprofit investigative news organization, producing unique, high-quality reporting that has impact and is relevant to people's lives. CIR’s newest venture, California Watch, is the largest investigative team in the state. The organization’s stories appear in hundreds of news outlets, including NPR News, PBS Frontline, PBS NewsHour, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Sacramento Bee, The Daily Beast, MinnPost and American Public Media’s Marketplace. Its reports have sparked state and federal hearings and legislation, public interest lawsuits, changes in corporate policies and a United Nations resolution. For more information, visit cironline.org and californiawatch.org.

About The Bay Citizen

The Bay Citizen is a nonprofit, nonpartisan member-supported news organization that provides in-depth original reporting on Bay Area issues, including public policy, education, the arts and cultural affairs, health and science, the environment, and more. The Bay Citizen's news can be found online at www.baycitizen.org, as well as in print in The New York Times Bay Area report on Fridays and Sundays. For more information, please visit baycitizen.org.

Media contact:

Marlene Saritzky
marlene@mssassociates.com
415-713-1241