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San Francisco businessman Warren Hellman’s foundation seeded the Bay Area News Project with $5 million in funding. Now it’s up to Lisa Frazier and Jonathan Weber to make it grow. Thursday’s announcement of Frazier’s appointment as CEO and Weber’s as editor-in-chief of the ambitious effort to create a sustainable non-profit to bolster shrinking Bay Area journalism coverage was a dot on the days of reports, including our own.
The two of them spoke with paidContent about their plans for the Bay Area News Project, or BANP, the agreement to produce the Bay Area pages for the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) — and what they bring to the party. Frazier also addressed the withdrawal of public broadcaster KQED as a partner in the project.
Weber is well known in journalism circles, as a co-founder of The Industry Standard and the founder of New West, a “new” media outlet in Montana that he spent the last five years building. But Frazier’s hiring caught people off guard, as was clear from the local coverage.
The McKinsey & Co. managing director has been involved in the project since spring, when Hellman brought her in to help define the need and a business plan. She has nearly nine years in media and business experience but her educational background was in chemical engineering and her resume starts with jobs in other fields. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Why is someone from your background the right person for this?
Lisa Frazier: I have almost nine years of experience in the media industry; that’s what my focus has been at McKinsey & Co., and as part of that I’ve had the opportunity to look at various types of different business models, in the online space, the news space, information, television, you name it. This is a true asset to the Bay Area News Project, because that’s what this is about. What we need to fill the unmet need here and support journalism — which I’m very passionate about — is to create new models. That’s what we