I reached for the old puzzle piece analogy to describe what’s going on with the Bay Area News Project these days, but for that to work you actually need to have a sense of what the puzzle should be like when it’s finished. That’s not the case from the outside looking in at the ambitious nonprofit project funded by Bay Area businessman Warren Hellman, which already has lost founding partner KQED — the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is still on board — and could wind up being with a CEO who has no direct media experience. At the same time, paidContent has confirmed that New West Publisher Jonathan Weber is in the process of finalizing an agreement to head editorial and that there is no final deal yet to produce pages for The New York Times.
– CEO on board?: Numerous reports, starting with with David Weir at BNET, say Lisa Frazier, the McKinsey & Co. partner hired by Hellman to find a CEO, will get the job.(Note: The San Franciscio Business Journal says it first reported Frazier; Weir broke the news about Weber.) We have confirmed Frazier’s appointment as well. That isn’t too unusual but Frazier’s own corporate background is more in chemicals than media or fundraising and it looks like she’ll be learning on the job as a CEO. A very well-paid CEO if the reports are on the money about her compensation, pegged at $400,000-plus. But her focus at McKinsey is media and entertainment, with an emphasis, according to a conference bio from 2008, on growth, strategy, marketing and sales. Neil Henry, the dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, told Poynter that the announcement of an “outstanding CEO and an extraordinary editor in chief.”
– Weber’s plans: It looks like Hellman is counting on Weber, the co-founder of The Industry Standard, to provide the journalism grounding. A source familiar with the situation tells paidContent that once he’s on board, barring last-minute details, Weber hopes to hire 12-15 journalists with plans to launch by the end of Q2. If Weber leaves New West, his own experiment in for-profit entrepreneurial journalism, he takes the founder, publisher, CEO and editor-in-chief with him — all roles he holds. Expect Co-Founder and longtime editor Courtney Lowery to step up and take charge there.
– What happened to KQED?: Talk to three people and you’ll get four stories. KQED was supposed to be a founding partner with the UC-Berkeley graduate school of journalism but the public broadcaster mysteriously dropped out last week. The joint statement from KQED and BANP tried to spin it in a joint statement that said “the new media organization … was always conceived as an independent entity.” But just three months ago, one of the PR people now identifying himself only as speaking for KQED, e-mailed me to protest my comments about the project’s plans to use student journalists. Scott Walton described himself then as the PR person for the project, and wrote about partnering with UC Berkeley School of Journalism.
KQED and the project probably will still work together editorially down the line, our sources say, but the public broadcaster will not have a formal role in running it.
– NYT’s role: Also not 100 percent, an anticipated deal for BANP to produce content for the New York Times Bay Area edition. The NYT is already working with the Chicago News Cooperative to produce its Chicago content. That’s up in and running in the amount of time it’s taken for BNAP to get close to announcing a CEO.