new editor-in-chief, Jonathan Weber, wasn't always a fan of nonprofit
news-gathering. In fact, just last year, Weber said that the idea that
nonprofits were the future of journalism was a "cop-out."
happens when saving journalism is no longer a cause of the moment?" he
wrote. "How can a news organization properly go about its business when
it's constantly on bended knee looking for funders?" And then
there's the kicker: "New business approaches will, ultimately, be a
better guarantor of quality journalism -- and democracy -- than sugar
daddies," Weber concluded. Now, of course, he's heading an organization
you took out some of the rhetorical lines, you could read that piece
as, 'What are some of the challenges of doing non-profit journalism?'"
he said. "I haven't exactly changed my mind about some of those things."
one major shift in his outlook is that he has seen how few investors
are willing to put their money into developing journalistic content.
That makes the non-profit model look a lot more attractive.
In last year's essay, "The Trouble with Non-Profit Journalism,"
Weber argued that it's healthy for news organizations to be held to the
"brutal discipline of the market," and wondered about the real
readership for a news publication dedicated to "sober, non-partisan"
"How many copies of the Warren Buffet Times"--or, in
his case, the Warren Hellman Times -- "would need to be sold to make that
$200 million-a-year newsroom worth the investment?" Weber asked. If the
non-profits couldn't really get readership numbers, he wondered, would
they, too, turn to covering Britney?
When we asked Weber to respond to his own question, he had a short answer: No Britney.
"I do think there are ways you can engage a broad-based audience
without chasing clicks for your own sake and without getting into a lot
of redundant coverage of, you know, Tiger Woods or whatever would be
the click-friendly story of the week. We're definitely not going to go
down that road," he said.
the same time, Weber told us, "We expect to have a broad-based
readership. This is not a narrow public policy wonk publication."
where will the Bay Area News Project fall in the spectrum between that
old-school catechism, "the reporter is objective," and straight-up
"There are sort of subtle questions of
style and voice, and I think that one of the things I'll be working
very hard on is developing that style and voice," Weber said.
will not necessarily adhere to the very traditional AP style, he
said/she said kind of reporting, but at the same time, I think it will
very much adhere to the classical standards of fairness and accuracy
and real reportage."
The New York Times is only one of the project's partners, and Times tone won't define the News Project's voice, Weber said. Contrary to what some people may still be assuming, he said, "The New York Times is not going to be the sole or even the primary outlet for our journalism."