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As Hellman Project Details Emerge, KALW Launches A Local News Website

The San Francisco Bay Area may soon sport an embarrassment of riches, comparatively speaking, in the number and variety of local news organizations competing to fill the void created by waves of cutbacks at the San Francisco Chronicle by the Hearst Corporation over the past couple of years.

Over the weekend, BNET Media confirmed that negotiations are continuing between the fledgling "Bay Area News Project" -- funded by billionaire Warren Hellman -- and former Industry Standard editor Jonathan Weber, despite the withdrawal of major partner KQED over what one source describes as "structural, not editorial" issues.

The deal to land Weber as editor-in-chief is expected to be finalized within a week. He is expected to be tasked not only with "re-inventing the metro news model," according to one knowledgeable source, but to pursue "enterprise reporting," as well as relationships with "local bloggers" and citizen journalists.

Sources indicate that the project will initially have an annual budget of some $15 million, which is certainly large enough to have an impact, particularly with an editor of Weber's caliber at the helm.

The San Francisco Business Times is reporting today that now KQED and its building are no longer part of the equation, the Hellman project is seeking to rent office space in downtown San Francisco.

Meanwhile, KQED's smaller public radio sister station KALW announced today that it, too, is expanding its local reporting efforts with the launch of a new "digital news magazine."
"The Bay Area is a region of interconnected communities. Many of us live in one city and work in another, go to school in yet another," said KALW News Director Holly Kernan. "The site reflects that: You can get both regional and hyper-local news here and choose how you want to view it," through interactive maps and pages tailored to different geographic regions.

Kernan was recently named "Journalist of the Year" by the Society of Professional Journalists' Northern California Chapter for her "creativity and determination" in expanding local news coverage "as others recede" from the market.