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Bay Citizen, CIR announce intent to merge

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

imageThe memo of understanding announced this afternoon calls for management of The Bay Citizen to be handed over to Berkeley’s Center for Investigative Reporting within 30 days. Ex-Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein will become executive chairman of the combined enterprise; Robert J. Rosenthal, CIR’s executive director, will retain his title. As a formality, the merger won’t become final until the respective boards formally sign off at the end of the 30 days, intended to give the non-profit news organizations time to figure out how to merge their staffs. Bay Citizen story; CIR story

Left unannounced is what the merger means in terms of layoffs, what will happen to TBC’s role as the NYT’s provider of Bay Area coverage, and what the new entity is to be called. Also left unsaid was who will lead the combined editorial teams, although, judging from the CIR piece, it seems likely that will be Mark Katches, editorial director for CIR and California Watch. Come Thursday, Steve Fainaru’s last day on the job, the Bay Citizen will be without an editor in chief. Excerpt from the TBC piece:

Together, the two organizations have more than 70 employees. In a presentation to The Bay Citizen’s board in late January, Bronstein identified “economies of at least $1 million in operational expenses and $900,000 in duplicative personnel.”

Representatives of the two groups declined to talk about the timing or extent of the expected layoffs.

Noted: It’s being called a merger of equals. However, the TBC post by managing editor Peter Lewis includes this observation: “While the two units have roughly equal personnel, their finances are starkly different. According to tax documents, The Bay Citizen ended 2010 – the most recent year for which records are available – with a net assets of $7.7 million, while CIR ended the year having spent nearly $2.2 million more than it brought in.”

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