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Center for Investigative Reporting to jettison The Bay Citizen, California Watch

Monday, May 20, 2013

As of May 29, California Watch and The Bay Citizen are officially going away. They’ll be re-branded under the Berkeley-based parent Center for Investigative Reporting, CIR executive director Robert J. Rosenthal blogs this morning. Just what that means for the California-centric coverage of California Watch, which CIR started in 2009, and the Bay Area focus that was once the province of The Bay Citizen remains to be seen.

CIR took over The Bay Citizen in 2012 after the death of billionaire benefactor Warren Hellman (and raked in millions of dollars that the philanthropist had helped to leverage into its coffers). It soon let The Bay Citizen go to seed, while maintaining a skeletal web presence. But the disappearance of the award-winning California Watch, which has become the gold standard for statewide online journalism, will undoubtedly prove to be more jarring. More importantly, the consolidation raises questions about whether CIR, whose portfolio includes national and international news, will shift away from its California (and to a lesser extent, Bay Area) emphasis once the two websites disappear. An excerpt from the Rosenthal announcement follows the jump:

Initially, the different brands separated our national and international, California and local San Francisco Bay Area reporting. Over the past year, we have found that more of our stories transcend geography. Our CIR, California Watch and Bay Citizen reporting has changed laws, saved lives, brought attention to critical problems that affect all of us and won prestigious journalism awards.

We know that as long as we are telling the right stories – the stories that no one else is covering, the stories that reveal deeply hidden information, the stories that actually make a difference in people’s lives – it doesn’t matter if they are about San Francisco or Sacramento or Washington, D.C. And if we apply a creative approach to finding and telling those stories – through animation, interactive data apps, video, radio, text, social media and reports in multiple languages – they will serve and engage you, our audience, no matter who and where you are.

There also are purely practical reasons for consolidating under one name – namely, saving staff time and money. We spend countless hours managing three websites and 12 social media accounts and publishing our stories with different branding depending on the partner outlet. As a nonprofit organization, resource allocation matters.


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