by Rachel Swan
A lot of hand-wringing followed last week's announcement that The Bay Citizen had entered merger talks with the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Berkeley-based nonprofit run by former San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein. Launched by the late San Francisco philanthropist Warren Hellman as a potential replacement for the money-losing Chronicle, The Bay Citizen had been poised to become the daily paper of note in San Francisco. Yet it was crippled not only by Hellman's death in December, but also by the departure of several top employees, including interim editor-in-chief Steve Fainaru and founding chief executive Lisa Frazier. Its contract with the New York Times, which currently runs Bay Area news on a weekly basis, was apparently not sufficient to halt the merge, announced this afternoon.
Bronstein will become the executive chairman of the combined organizations, and he may cut $2 million worth of jobs upon arrival — in a presentation to the board in January, Bronstein pointed to “economies of at least $1 million in operational expenses and $900,000 in duplicative personnel," wrote Bay Citizen reporter Peter Lewis.
Long known both for its investigative coverage and its commitment to paying journalists a fair wage, The Bay Citizen garnered criticism from BeyondChron editor Randy Shaw, both for its editorial choices and its bulky staff. Shaw wrote a fairly brutal commentary on the merge, in which he blamed Bay Citizen for sealing its own fate.