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Why some aren’t happy with CIR’s dismantling of Warren Hellman’s vision

Monday, June 24, 2013

Now that the Center for Investigative Reporting has folded The Bay Citizen and California Watch and moved on largely to national and foreign reporting subjects, not everyone is happy with the way the legacy of (and all that money generated by) the late philanthropist Warren Hellman (pictured) turned out. Hellman, of course, founded The Bay Citizen in 2010 as an alternative to the Chronicle, which barely a year before was bleeding money so profusely that Hearst threatened to shutter it. After his death in 2011, CIR took over The Bay Citizen (along with the cash pile Hellman and wealthy donor friends helped amass) and proceeded to dismantle it. No one accuses CIR of not doing solid journalism, but it’s neither focused on the Bay Area nor California.

Now some Hellman era donors—including Dede Wilsey, who pledged $1 million—are expressing discontent to recently-retired (from UC’s J-school) Robert B. Gunnison, who writes about it for Calbuzz.

An excerpt:

For some of Hellman’s friends and supporters, this is not the way they imagined his vision being fulfilled.

“When Warren got sick, everything changed. Warren was the single unifying factor – and our belief in him,” Dede Wilsey, a philanthropist, art collector and Hellman friend and business partner, who pledged $1 million to the Bay Citizen and had a seat on the board.

“I don’t think that he ever saw that this investment was ever going to take this turn,” Wilsey told Calbuzz.

“I don’t think Warren’s vision has survived,” said Jim Schachter, formerly an editor with The New York Times, which published Bay Citizen stories for distribution in Northern California two days a week. “CIR had no interest in continuing a relationship with The New York Times.”

Image: UC Berkeley News Center

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