Local Millionaire Promises $5 Million to Save the News

Investor doesn't know better than to throw good money after bad structural problems with business models

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    NEWSLETTERS

    andy54321 / Flickr
    As long as the new venture doesn't make the mistake of actually printing newspapers, it should be at least less non-profitable.

    Local investor Warren Hellman has pledged $5 million for a new journalism project for the Bay Area, with the help of KQED and the University of California at Berkeley.

    The project was started after Hellman convened a discussion group on how to save the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle.

    While Hellman admits that a competing news service would only make the Chronicle's failure more likely, "I think that demise might be inevitable, anyway," he told the New York Times.

    "This might put journalism, broadly defined, on a much more stable foundation," Hellman argues.

    However, with only $5 million and no revenue model other than possible reader support, that seems unlikely.

    Graduate students from Cal's journalism school will contribute, essentially paying the school to work for free for the new venture, as they are doing at hyperlocal news site Oakland North.

    But where will they work once they graduate?

    The project is estimated to employ a few dozen journalists at best, about the size of a single graduating class form Cal.

    They could work for the Times, but the site also wants to contribute reporting to a San Francisco edition of the Gray Lady, possibly contributing free content to a for-profit corporation.

    In which case, why would the Times bother to buy the journalist cow when it can get milk from the teat of a wealthy financier and publicly-funded institutions for free?

    Photo by Flickr user andy54321.

    Jackson West is getting bored with discussing the future of journalism, but hey, he needs a paycheck, too.