Will Bay Citizen-CIR merger affect partnership with New York Times?

Recent stories about the pending merger between The Bay Citizen and the Center for Investigative Reporting in California have raised the question of whether the merged group would continue to work with The New York Times. The Bay Citizen produces stories for the Times edition in the Bay Area, similar to arrangements between the Times and the Chicago News Cooperative and The Texas Tribune.

Describing Phil Bronstein’s presentation to The Bay Citizen’s board in January, Peter H. Lewis wrote:

Conspicuously absent from his presentation was the Bay Citizen’s contractual agreement to provide The New York Times with Bay Area news each week. Bronstein said the agreement could possibly conflict with partnerships that CIR has with dozens of other print partners.

And Ashwin Seshagiri speculated in a MediaShift post that the merger could give The Bay Citizen the opportunity to be more experimental and foster its own voice — one different than it has in the Times.

But he also quoted CIR’s Robert Rosenthal as saying that the group could make the relationship work. “We have to be sensitive and considerate to the people we’re already working with.

I asked the Times’ Jim Schachter, who as associate managing editor oversees The Bay Citizen’s relationship with the Times, if the paper has weighed in on the merger.

He told me by email: “We are and have been in close contact with all the parties to these discussions. … We’re looking forward to continuing our discussions about the new structure in the Bay Area.”

He also praised the work that The Bay Citizen has done so far:

The Bay Citizen provides a local news report for our readers in the Bay Area that we are proud to publish. This relationship … [has] made vital, enterprising journalism about public affairs possible in places where the troubled economics of news have cut deeply into reporting muscle.

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