This is one of those moves that is not only fiscally sound (merging two organizations each having annual budgets of over $3.4MM would surely result in economies of scale), it's editorially wise, since The Bay Citizen's problems all along have had to do with finding a unique voice and making good use of all their resources and people, and California Watch's issues have been not around a voice or content (they have some terrific editors), but around distribution.
Further, the story goes that folks like Bronstein and CIR's director, Robert Rosenthal, were instrumental in helping Warren Hellman shape his thinking before The Bay Citizen was launched, and that in fact, there was some surprise that Hellman formed the organization without CIR.
There's also the important cash flow fact, which is that while CIR has done a brilliant job raising money from both national and local foundations to support California Watch, some of its largest funders are now pulling back, both because o f a change in direction and because it is rare for a foundation to supply large funding for more than 3 years.
One interesting question is--what would the merge look like? With two organizations that both have reporting teams of more than 13 people each, a "reduction in force" would seem inevitable, even as efficiencies of scale would be valued.
I'd love to see this happen--there are some terrific people at both organizations--and the Bay area could use a broadly focused digital news voice that had the funds to do deep-dive investigative reporting--and partner with organizations like Oakland Local for more local coverage.