SF Weekly’s Matt Smith reports on a new project that’s well worth watching—one that will investigate the impact of the decline of newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

David Weir, a Bay Area journalist who co-founded the Center for Investigative Reporting, and a team of seven other journalists are pitching this eight-part project on Spot.us.

Smith:

But the Weir team is right to lament the passing of a thriving Chronicle newsroom that once boasted 575 staffers and is now down to 175, according to the spot.us pitch. And that’s not even mentioning the once-ambitious Examiner.

For a sense of what we’ve lost during the past 15 years, it’s useful to peruse old copies of the Chron and Ex in the San Francisco Public Library film archives. Seeing a facsimile of the physical papers — rather than individual articles retrieved from web archives — provides a sense of how richly served San Francisco used to be when compared to the present.

A typical front page — of both publications — had multiple local exposes that might involve weeks of work, sometimes from several reporters. Likewise, the local sections were filled with hard news that took intense reporting to produce.

“How do you measure what no longer exists?” Weir says. “It’s like losing diversity in your ecosystem. When you lose a species, you simply lose a species.”

Go donate some money to help this get off the ground. They’re almost to the goal, which is just $3,000.

— The Washington Post has a good piece on Democratic Representative Maxine Waters’s meddling to get a bailout for a friend’s bank—one in which her husband owned a lot of stock and on whose board he had served.

The interesting thing here is not just the Waters corruption angle, it’s also that the Bush administration knew of her connections and went along with it anyway. This email references Kevin Cohee, OneUnited Bank’s CEO:

Inside the FDIC, however, officials immediately connected Paulson’s decision with Waters’s family ties to the bank. “Evidently Kevin has called Maxine Waters. … (Is it her husband who is on the board?) … to complain about our mistreatment of the bank,” Doreen Eberly, then regional director, wrote to Boston area director Daniel Frye on Sept. 9. “Yes, husband of Maxine,” replied Frye.

And:

The chairman of OneUnited Bank, a friend of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), had rendered it insolvent through lavish spending and bad investments, according to the examiners’ written accounts. But by the end of that year, after Waters arranged a key Treasury Department meeting for the bank, it had won a bailout loan and a unique exemption from the FDIC’s accounting rules.

“There are some really good people expressing very strong opinions regarding what they view as a travesty of justice regarding the special treatment this institution is receiving,” acting regional director John M. Lane warned in a March 2009 e-mail to Christopher J. Spoth, a senior FDIC consumer protection official.

Here’s how the sausage is made:

One e-mail dated Sept. 29 (2008) makes clear that top FDIC officials believed that members of the Congressional Black Caucus would try to stymie the administration’s Troubled Asset Relief Program bill authorizing a broad bailout of many financial institutions if it lacked a provision specifically helping OneUnited.

Alas, the Post doesn’t link to the emails. Boo.

— Blogger Ed Morrissey of Hot Air gets it wrong on Sarah Palin, the press, and inflation.

What a surprise! Who could have predicted this? Well, Sarah Palin for one, who predicted it last fall and got a round of laughter from the media for her insight. Palin warned that the weakening of the dollar through the Fed’s second round of quantitative easing would create an inflationary pressure that would hit families hardest.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.