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California Watch was a nonprofit investigative news organization that focused on public affairs issues in California. Its work has been subsumed under that of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, which founded it.
California Watch was founded in 2009 and is based in Berkeley, Calif. In March 2012, CIR merged with the Bay Area nonprofit news site The Bay Citizen under the auspices of CIR. The new organization had a combined staff of 70, of which about 40 had been CIR staff, and a 2012 budget of $10.5 million. CIR’s staff works out of offices in Berkeley, Sacramento, and Orange County and focuses on local, state, and national investigative projects.
Nearly all of California Watch’s initial $2.1 million annual budget was provided by three foundations, which funded the organization with $3.7 million in startup grants. Since then, it has worked to broaden its funding base and has increased its annual budget to a projected $4.8 million in 2011. It hopes to eventually develop a model that’s also based on individual memberships, sponsorship, and licensing.
Through California Watch, CIR charged a small per-story fee to provide its stories to other news outlets. The Watch had a regularly updated website, though its primary focus is on collaborating with other California news outlets. Its editors referred to it as a “boutique wire service,” and they often edited various versions of an investigative report to personalize it to each news outlet, including several translated versions for local ethnic media.
The organization used unorthodox methods of publicizing its stories, including distributing coloring books and offering lead testing at events.
The San Francisco Chronicle is a daily newspaper owned by Hearst Corp. The Chronicle was founded in 1865 by the de Young family, which owned it until 2000, when it was bought for $660 million by Hearst, which owned the San Francisco Examiner and had run a joint operating agency between the two papers since 1965. Hearst…