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SF Newspaper Editor 'Quits' Rather Than Cut Staff — and Other Lowlights of Local Reporting's Demise

A couple of San Francisco stories over the last week have served to highlight the major obstacles facing local news coverage. First, the saga of the San Francisco Bay Guardian that kept the city's chattering class, well, chattering.

A short summary won't do it justice, but I'll try. Longtime editor-in-chief Tim Redmond, who had shepherded the paper from former owner Bruce Brugmann to the new Canadian syndicate that also owns the SF Examiner and SF Weekly, "resigned" without much notice. He left a notice on a new Blogger blog that he left the paper, and not much else. After a bit of explanation, we learned through a long article from SFBG editors Steven T Jones and Rebecca Bowe that Redmond was under pressure to fire several reporters, possibly even three of the seven staff that the Guardian had on its roster. In the end, Redmond was either pushed out or walked out, depending on how you see it. But the cuts are moving forward without him.

The other story of note was a great article about the "merger" of the Bay Citizen into the Center for Investigative Reporting that appears in today's CalBuzz. I highly recommend that you read the whole thing, as it is an interesting warning/notice about what the future of journalism could look like if we rely solely on philanthropic ventures. The trouble is that if you lose the visionary behind the project, it is very hard to stay true to the vision. In the case of the Bay Citizen, that has meant the end of the local reporting that it was launched to provide:

A year and a half later, Hellman was dead at age 77, and the board of the Bay Citizen, whose members were handpicked by Hellman, quickly decided to hand control to the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting.

Now, three years later, the vision of the Bay Citizen is gone, its staff enveloped by the growing empire of the CIR, one of the nation's oldest nonprofit news organizations, and its mission of providing local daily news coverage vanished. Along the way, CIR also has shuttered California Watch, which it started in January 2010 with foundation support to specialize in coverage of California news and issues. (Robert B. Gunnison / CalBuzz)

What does that mean for local reporting, and even state based reporting? Unfortunately, it is more than clear that journalism is now transitioning from the good old days to something new. New media presents tremendous opportunities for publishers (you are reading this, right?), but the challenges have just been too much to provide the same level of professional coverage that we once got on a consistent basis. Maybe semi-professional sites can fill in some of the gaps, but we are still facing a big journalistic hole. When there is no one on the scene to cover the stories, what will bloggers be able disseminate into the world wide web and all the eyeballs that genuinely care about the stories that matter on a local level?

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