Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bay Area News Project Editor's Meet And Greet: The New Breadline

Cassidy Friedman
SF Appeal

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/sets/72157623504906886/show/


When Jonathan Weber took the job of editor-in-chief of the Bay Area News Project a few weeks ago, 200 resumes lay waiting for him. I'm sure that some of the more than one hundred job-starved journalists crammed into the "meet Jonathan Weber" event held Wednesday night at the World Affairs Council had resumes on that pile -- I know mine's there -- and there was more naked desperation in that room than at a match.com gathering.

Weber's only getting around to answering his applicants now, sifting through them to find 15 hires, half of whom will be reporting for the news org. Those 7.5 people will be a mix of junior and senior reporters, covering enterprise, big stories, daily news, traditional civic beats, cops and courts, environment and healthcare.

He admits it's impossible to truly cover all those beats with such a small staff and that some reporters will have to wear multiple hats, but that he hopes to triple their numbers over the next four years.

Other staff will be editors who are "outwardly focused," coordinating paid contributors, bloggers, and citizen journalists, while editing 40-50 stories per week. A third group will focus on delivery, "productizing" the news through Web and mobile. Weber is also setting aside a "significant budget" for freelancers. And he'll hire some paid interns.

Management-wise, they've just hired Brian Kelley as the chief technology officer (and announced it via twitter, how 3.0).

During Q & A, older journalists' questions showed anxiety that they wouldn't be hired because they were too old and not tech-savvy enough. Many younger reporters' remarks seemed designed to demonstrate that they're Very Serious About Journalism, betraying a lack of experience.

As for partnerships, you already know that the New York Times is in -- starting in June, BANP will produce two of pages twice/week for the Bay Area edition. And KQED is out, after "discussions (that) did not result in an agreement." AWKward.

While temporarily housed in space provided by a law firm at 555 Mission, BANP is looking for permanent digs somewhere downtown. The $5 million initiative, now under his direction (and allegedly no longer that of its principal funder, Warren Hellman), is slated to launch in late spring of this year. It's also hoping to lock down a permanent name that doesn't ruffle the feathers of the 200 locally-based news organizations with San Francisco in their name.

Slideshow from the event: Steve Rhodes

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