Rockefellerization of the News

Saturday morning, May 16

Host: Martin Reynolds, The VOICES Project, Bay Area News Group

Attending: Michael Stoll, SF Public Press

Reynolds: Will explore the acquisition of profitable legacy media outlets by nonprofits. We’ll focus on newspapers in this instance but there could be other opportunities. Get a sense of the research out there. What might be a property ripe for this? It could be big or small.

Planning by June 15 a convening call of interested participants from Pocantico gathering. In the meantime, we’ll research past proposals for acquisitions by Media Workers Guild and others:

*Speak to key sources who can provide context and director before call:

  • Community foundations
  • Media finance consultants
  • Union people
  • Tax professionals
  • Large donors

This is really about assessing the viability of this approach.

Outcomes: Improve the quality of local news by changing the mission from just making money to enrich for-profit companies … to supporting and sustaining journalism and community information.

Reynolds: In a specific market that I’m very familiar with, the organization has continued to be profitable even though there have been year-over-year declines. My experience has been with a number of these markets, there is still great opportunity there for viable business if you embrace some of what we’re talking about. There is some real potential there.

Michael Stoll: There is the possibility of foundations making program-related investments that would and could be involved in buying a profitable business.   This has been talked about at different properties. It would be good to survey them to find out why they did not work. Smart people thought about making it almost work and it didn’t.

Taking the lead on this will be Martin Reynolds, Senior Editor – Community Engagement, The VOICES Project, Bay Area News Group; and Michael Stoll, Executive Director and Editor, San Francisco Public Press

The Pocantico participants Kevin Davis, formerly of Investigative News Network, Craig Aaron of FreePress and Ricardo Sandoval-Palos of the Fund for Investigative Journalism pledged to help with this. Michelle Garcia, freelance journalist and filmmaker, also agreed to assist where she could in some of the research. There is a nice collective group to explore this.

Who Does What by When?  

Action Steps:

  1. James Head – East Bay Community Foundation – Michael Stoll
  2. Chris McKay – Ownership Associates – Finance consultant for media – Martin Reynolds
  3. Carl Hall – Martin Reynolds
  4. Mark Carter – Get contact from Bain Capital
  5. Clint Riley – Sued the Chronicle twice
    1. Molly de Aguiar, from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation will talk to folks at the Silicon Valley Foundation on our behalf.