Monday, February 20, 2012

Chicago News Coop is second indie site in disarray

The online not-for-profit cooperative was one of a handful started in recent years to test whether independent local news start-ups could prosper.

But Editor and CEO James O'Shea told readers in a letter today that the site, which supplies Chicago news coverage to The New York Times, will go dormant -- a sign of the financial struggles faced by this next generation of publishers.

"Unlike similar start-up efforts like the Texas Tribune in Austin, the Bay Citizen in San Francisco and ProPublica in New York," O'Shea wrote, "we never recruited the kind of seven figure donations from people of means concerned about the declining quality of news coverage around the country. As a result, CNC never raised the resources to make investments in the business side of our operation that would have generated the revenue we needed to achieve our original goal -- a self-sustaining news operation within 5 years."

He continued: "CNC always has been an experiment in trying to figure out a way to finance accountability journalism, the kind of reporting that many news organizations are abandoning as they struggle with a deteriorating business model and financial problems. This is a very difficult problem especially in major cities and carries ominous implications for a democracy. An organization dedicated to public service journalism is an indispensable civic asset, and we remain committed to finding some possible answers."

The Bay Citizen, started in 2010, last week announced plans to merge with the older, more established Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley, Calif. That deal followed the December death of the Bay Citizen's founder and chief benefactor, Warren Hellman.

Also, its CEO, editor in chief and managing editor -- the start-up's original three employees -- have all left in the past few months.

The Bay Citizen supplies news to the NYT as well.

Earlier: In San Francisco, Gannett's The Bold Italic entertainment site starts print version.

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