As advertising plays a diminishing role in the media business, a growing number of news outlets are trying to get by on some blend of paywalls, donations and auxiliary revenue.
San Jose Spotlight, the prolific hyperlocal website launched last month by former Merc reporter Ramona Giwargis, took the non-profit route. With help from her husband, Josh Barousse, she cobbled together support from a union-aligned cast, including Santa Clara County deputy county exec Steve Preminger and South Bay Labor Council’s Ben Field, Working Partnerships USA executive Derecka Mehrens and former WPUSAer Bob Brownstein.
Just this week, another local watchdog unveiled a newsgathering project bankrolled by a wealthy patron with mutual enemies and an ax to grind.
Susan Bassi—whose bitter divorce battle turned her into one of the fiercest critics of the judicial branch writ large and District Attorney Jeff Rosen in particular—announced this week that she’s teaming up with businessman Clyde Berg on a journalism venture focused on investigating the local family courts and the cottage industry that feeds off of Silicon Valley’s notoriously contentious divorce cases.
Berg’s interest in Bassi’s mission stems from his own foray into the legal system when the centi-millionaire’s much-younger ex-wife accused him of sex crimes involving guns, golf putters and dog collars. By the time a judge deemed her claims an elaborate hoax, the ordeal cost Berg millions in legal fees, two years defending against criminal prosecution and irreparable harm to his otherwise uneventful reputation.
In her press release unveiling Berg’s patronage, Bassi promised to dive deep into California’s “family courts and law enforcement agencies dealing with intimate partner violence, sexual assault and false claims made during divorce and custody cases.”
Why? Because Silicon Valley can afford to pay for journalism, she wrote, and because “justice is never served when the media isn’t watching.”