KQED, the nation’s most listened-to public radio station, today launched an innovative partnership with Berkeleyside and three other local online news sites. KQED is working with Berkeleyside, Oakland Local, NeighborWebSJ and SF Public Press to bring both more depth and greater coverage of local stories to the station and its website. The local sites, in turn, benefit from greater exposure of their work.

“Emerging news organizations such as Berkeleyside are vital to the information needs of the Bay Area,” said Bruce Koon, News Director, KQED Public Radio. “It’s important for KQED News to support pioneering journalism efforts. Equally as important is what they can teach us about different communities and their issues and new approaches to news reporting.”

Readers may have already heard some Berkeleyside stories on KQED, including interviews with Berkeleyside reporters. The station’s main focus is news that has wide regional implications, and this, of course, could have its origins in Berkeley. There will be some Berkeley-specific stories that will also interest KQED.

“We are a leading news source for Berkeley and the partnership with KQED gives us an opportunity to reach an even larger audience for some stories,” said Frances Dinkelspiel, co-founder of Berkeleyside.

In addition to using stories from the local partners, KQED is doing training in radio production and encouraging collaboration between the sites.

“That will mean that our partners can do even more effective reporting in their communities, and be able to sustain themselves, despite a tough economy and limited resources,” said Molly Samuel, KQED Community News Coordinator. “More and better journalism can only be a good thing, not just for KQED News listeners and readers, but for the Bay Area in general.”

The collaboration is the latest result of Networked Journalism, a national project founded by J Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Networked Journalism aims to establish relationships between online-only media and more traditional news organizations. Other Networked Journalism projects are led by The Oregonian, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and The Seattle Times newspapers.

“We are enthusiastic about working with the Networked Journalism initiative,” said Jo Anne Wallace, Vice President and General Manager, KQED Public Radio.  “And we’re excited about this opportunity to work with local news groups and organizations across the Bay Area to present a more diverse, more in-depth news service for our respective online news readers and radio listeners.”

Berkeleyside has existing content partnerships with the San Francisco Chronicle and The Bay Citizen.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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18 Comments

  1. It is a credit to Berkeleyside’s tolerance that they indulge this type of nonsense. Dante must have a circle for these obnoxious attention addicts with “angels-on-pin head/ density” fascinations.

  2. It will be interesting to see how this works. For the record, I think you guys have a lot more to teach the prim traditionalists at KQED and Knight than vice versa. Congrats.

  3. KQED is excited to be working with Berkeleyside on this project, which will help provide the Bay Area with more in-depth and vital local news coverage. Thanks to all for their good wishes.

  4. I’m serious.

    Suppose that it wasn’t Berkeleyside.  Suppose that KQED had paid a small stipend to Fox and, in the future, would be running Fox stories as news content and giving exposure to the Fox brand.   In fact, KQED would even be paying  to train Fox broadcasters for this purpose.

    That’d be a pretty sad day for public broadcasting, right?

    Now, some might say “Yeah, but that’s just because it’s, you know, Fox.”  My view is that it would be just as bad if instead of Fox it were MSNBC or the Village Voice or the Weekly Shopper or … Berkeleyside.   The problem is not the  perceived quality or bias of the commercial partner — its the loss of independence from commercial reporting.   It’s the concentration of editorial decision making.  It’s the questions this raises for me about the appropriateness of non-profit status, donations, and public subsidy for carrying and promoting commercial content. 

  5. Isn’t this the exact same kind of tiresome ranting and criticism of the site that got “dasht” banned from Berkeleyside not all that long ago?

    Wasn’t that person allowed to come back using a different screen name on the condition that they not engage in that sort of hostile negativity?

    I appreciate that you’re willing to engage with your readers and answer questions, but you shouldn’t feel beholden to answer to cynical criticism and speculation from someone who is known to have a professional relationship with a semi-hostile competitor.

  6. As a partial, quick response:

    You say that you don’t see how this arrangement corrupts the ideal of what public broadcasting is about.

    The KQED web site “about” page says something about the ideal:

    “KQED serves the people of Northern California with a community-supported alternative
    to commercial media.”

    Berkeleyside is commercial media.   To the extent that KQED content comes from Berkeleyside or any other commercial outlet, the ideal is corrupted — KQED fails to be an alternative to commercial media, instead it becomes dependent upon and a publisher of commercial media.

    You said yourself:

    they’re taking the occasional story from us,

    Well, the money they get is supposed to be for them to develop original content as an alternative to commercial media.  You are saying they are taking and rebroadcasting commercial media content.

    And you also write:

    In return, we get the exposure that KQED offers and a small — emphasis on small — one-time stipend.

    I’m not concerned about the one-time stipend.  The exposure on the other hand seems like the barter exchange:   KQED is not developing alternative content to non-commercial media — they are selling their bandwidth in exchange for “exposure” — brand affiliation.

    You make it sound as though you have basically purchased brand mentions in exchange for licensing of commercial news content. 

  7. Speaking from the heart of the nexus of power, Bruce, I think your speculation is going to a pretty wild extreme. 

    The arrangement with KQED is simple: they’re taking the occasional story from us, they’re also going to use us on air every once in a while when a story really strikes a chord for them. In return, we get the exposure that KQED offers and a small — emphasis on small — one-time stipend. Given the scale of Berkeleyside’s finances at the moment, the stipend is welcome, but it’s very far from transformative. Also, that stipend didn’t come from KQED’s coffers, but it was a specific condition of the grant from J-Lab/Knight Foundation. 

    Perhaps you think that’s corrupting in one way or another. I just don’t see it. 

    Our arrangements with Bay Citizen and the Chronicle are similarly modest. We hope they generate traffic for us, which makes advertising on Berkeleyside even more attractive (we hope). 

  8. I’m sorry, Robert, but….

    Let’s suppose *hypothetically* that the Berkeleyside partnership corrupts the ideals of the public radio institution.  It doesn’t redeem the deal if other partners also corrupt the ideals.   We can dismiss any argument that says “Yeah, but other news outlets are doing it too.”

    Also, you cite the Chronicle.  Well, the relation (and content sharing) between the Chronicle and Berkeleyside runs pretty deep.   It’s hard to regard their respective partnerships with KQED as truly separate, absent a transparent account of the details.

    You mention Bay Citizen.   Of course, it’s board of directors includes local bluegrass hero Warren Hellman, cousin as far as I know to Berkeleyside’s Frances D.

    So, we have apparently one nexus of power here on the commercial side, various tentacles of which are in a “partnership” with public radio, as vaguely reported by these same outlets.  I’m simply asking for much more transparency because of the questions this configuration raises.

    You write: “Business models in journalism are blurring, mutating and overlapping as the conventional media industry collapses”  Yes.  That is not free license to obscurely have commercial outlets bartering for de facto content slots on public radio.

    You write: “These new arrangements are a good thing — or at least a very necessary one.”  That is a bold and unsubstantiated assertion.

  9. Berkeleyside’s new deal with KQED shouldn’t be cause for cynical speculation. As the article mentions, Berkeleyside also has an alliance with the S.F. Chronicle, another for-profit enterprise owned by “a handful of powerful rich people,” and Bay Citizen, which is a foundation-funded nonprofit. Business models in journalism are blurring, mutating and overlapping as the conventional media industry collapses. These new arrangements are a good thing — or at least a very necessary one.

  10. Will Berkeleyside please transparently reveal the details of this deal?   The above article says little specific and nothing clearly good about what the arrangement actually is between a publicly subsidized news charity and the for-profit or at least self-funded venture by a handful of powerful rich people.   A cynical interpretation is that KQED has found a way to effectively barter content slots with Berkeleyside (and other firms).  I hope and suspect it is not that bad but unless we know the specifics – it’s a reasonable fear.

    It’s a bit bothersome to me to suspect that, now, with KQED “supporting” Berkeleyside — Berkeleyside is now taxpayer and public-radio/tv-donor funded in some substantial sense.   I doubt Berkeleyside as entity (and what kind of legal entity is it, btw) is literally paying cash for placement on public radio but this report makes it sound like an in-kind exchange at the very least.  Restore my faith, please, if you will and can.