Oakland Local to Suspend Publication as It Looks for New Management

Downtown Oakland (James Daisa/Flickr)

The nonprofit news site Oakland Local, which was in the forefront of trying to fill gaps in community news coverage at a time of financial stress among newspapers, says it will at least temporarily suspend publication as it seeks a new management team.

The site will continue updating through June 15, then remain static until a new editor and publisher can take over from Susan Mernit, who co-founded the site in 2009 and is leaving to devote more time to Hack the Hood, where she is the CEO and executive director. Hack the Hood trains young people of color for careers in the tech industry.

Oakland Local -- a news associate of KQED --  has put out a request for proposals to keep the site going.

"We’re not turning the site off," said Mernit. "But we are going to stop updating it as of June 15. I don’t think that we’ll have a new editor/publisher by June 15; I think what we’ll have ... hopefully are some great conversations with people who'd like to take it on. Many sites have suspended publication for a few weeks to a month without any penalty. We did it last September when we redesigned the site. I don’t think this necessarily means it’s shutting down, but part of that is really contingent on the response of the community."

Mernit said the hoped-for-transition to new management has less to do with finances and more to do with the time required for her other job. Associate Publisher Margaret Lucas and Managing Editor Latoya Tooles are also stepping down.

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The site's request for proposals says its operating budget is $50,000-$75,000 and that it averages 250,000 page views per month. It asks that prospective applicants commit to raising $75,000-$150,000. Current funding comes from a combination of individual donors, advertising and grants.

Mernit, who previously worked as an executive at AOL, Yahoo and other tech firms, said the public callout for proposals is in keeping with the spirit and history of the site.

"The alternative to putting up an announcement like this would be to have a lot of extensive private conversations with people ...  but we’ve always been such a crowdsourced community organization that it seemed more efficient to put the word out and then let people come to us."

She said the coverage she has been most proud of on the site is the extensive reporting on the killing of Oscar Grant and subsequent trial of BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, and a series on gentrification in Oakland. She especially cited a post titled "20 ways to not be a gentrifier in Oakland."

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"(That) has been reprinted, often without permission, about 40 times," Mernit said.

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