Dec 10, 2019

Google's next local news investment is in Oakland

Berkeleyside founders Lance Knobel, Frances Dinkelspiel and Tracey Taylor. Photo credit: Tippett Studio

A new Oakland, California-based journalism venture will launch next spring with $1.56 million in funding from the Google News Initiative (GNI), executives tell Axios. It has also raised $1.56 million from the American Journalism Project, a new, well-funded venture philanthropy nonprofit focused on local news.

Why it matters: It's the third local news organization that Google has funded this year as part of its larger $300 million effort to support journalism.

  • Unlike previous projects Google has previously backed, this initiative isn't serving a small town. Oakland has 425,000 residents and sits in Google's back yard.

Yes, but: Like many other cities across the country, Oakland finds itself reeling from the economic crisis in local news.

  • In 2016, the Bay Area News Group (BANG) merged six daily newspapers into 2 publications, leaving Oakland without its own daily newspaper. The Oakland Tribune became a part of the East Bay Times, along with several nearby local papers.
  • Bay Area News Group (BANG) is owned by Digital First Media, a local media conglomerate, which is owned by media hedge fund Alden Global Capital. Reports surfaced this year suggesting BANG was bracing for significant layoffs.

Details: The publication will launch as a website next spring with eight editorial staffers. The team plans to launch a newsletter and is exploring other mediums, like podcasts. Its name is to be determined.

  • It's being launched by the same leadership team behind Berkeleyside, a local news outlet in Oakland's neighbor town.
  • The site's editorial team will be led by editor-in-chief Tasneem Raja, a former senior editor at NPR and Mother Jones. She said she received written assurance that Google would have no input whatsoever into editorial decisions:
  • The business model will be a mix of non-profit donations, live experiences and underwriting from corporations.

The big picture: These news outlets are part of a trend in local media toward the non-profit model, which allows them to accept donations while still selling commercial sponsorships or advertising.

  • The move coincides with Berkeleyside’s conversion to a new nonprofit organization. The team is forming a new to-be-named umbrella non-profit organization, which will oversee both Berkeleyside and the new to-be-named Oakland property. The team has plans to expand this non-profit umbrella elsewhere.

Go deeper

A year of media upheaval

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

2019 was a transformative year for the U.S. news media industry, but it was also one of the most turbulent points in its history.

The big picture: There were enormous business challenges, which resulted in an unprecedented number of layoffs, desperate product maneuvers and fire-sale deals.

Go deeperArrowDec 21, 2019

Scoop: Emerson Collective initial launch partner for new NowThis division

NowThis, the millennial social video media outlet that's part of Group Nine Media, will announce Tuesday the launch of NowThis Impact, a new editorial division that covers social issues and is underwritten by non-profits and philanthropic organizations, including launch partner Emerson Collective.

Why it matters: Underwriting editorial content is becoming a bigger trend as more philanthropy and non-profit money floods into journalism.

Go deeperArrowJan 7, 2020

NBC News forms new election security team

NBC News

NBC News has created a new editorial team to report on issues related to U.S. election security and voting called "Vote Watch."

Why it matters: Most news organizations were caught off guard by the 2016 election manipulation attempts by foreign governments. Even though NBC News already invests heavily in investigative coverage on things like misinformation, cybersecurity and national security, the outlet wants to get ahead of these issues even more before 2020.

Go deeperArrowDec 19, 2019