October 5, 2012

St. Louis Public Radio and nonprofit news site the St. Louis Beacon signed a letter of intent to explore “options for strengthening regional news reporting by using their individual assets in combination,” the organizations say in a press release.

The two news organizations already partner on coverage from Washington, D.C., where the Beacon has a bureau. This announcement indicates a willingness to take the partnership a lot further, and though it doesn’t use the word “merger,” Beacon Editor Margaret Wolf Freivogel is quoted in the release as saying, “By combining talents and resources, our organizations will again make this region a national leader in journalism that serves the community.”

So what’s the difference between a partnership and an alliance? Freivogel and St. Louis Public Radio General Manager Tim Eby say what their organizations are discussing could be “a model for communities across the country that are searching for new ways to expand the flow of high-quality reporting and thoughtful discussion in the digital age.”

In New Orleans this summer, public radio station WWNO announced plans to create a news nonprofit called NewOrleansReporter.org modeled on sites like the Beacon, with the New Orleans news nonprofit The Lens as a “content partner.” It later retooled that ambition and announced it would instead forge a deep alliance with The Lens, which will do much of the twinned organizations’ hard news reporting, some of which will end up on the air.

The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Bay Citizen, both California news nonprofits, began exploring a merger this February and tied the knot at the end of March. CIR’s executive director Robert Rosenthal told Poynter at the time sustainability is “the big question” for all news nonprofits.

Freivogel and Eby “expect exploratory discussions to conclude by the beginning of 2013,” according to the release.

Related: Barroom meetings on way St. Louis Beacon engages people where they really are

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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