MediaNews Group, which has been on the ropes financially as it struggles with debt, will take drastic action in its Bay Area stronghold, consolidating 11 local newspapers in the East Bay into two regional newspapers and laying off 120 people, or 8% of its staff. About 40 editors and 80 production people are expected to be let go.
Beginning on November 2, the Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Daily Review, The Argus and the West County Times will be consolidated under the name East Bay Tribune.
Six other titles – the Contra Costa Times, Valley Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald, San Joaquin Herald and East County Times will be rebranded as simply the Times. The San Mateo County Times will be merged into the San Jose Mercury News. The Bay Area News Group, which is a subsidiary of MediaNews, will also start two weekly newspapers.
The most visible casualty of the cost-cutting move is the Oakland Tribune, a daily that has been published since 1874. The most recent circulation figures we could find listed its daily circulation at nearly 93,000 in 2009. It has been the only daily newspaper in Oakland since 1950. The Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for photography in 1950 and 1989. The other major daily title to be closed is the Contra Costa Times, which was founded in 1947. It has a daily circulation of 168,000.
While the move might appear to be counter to the trend toward hyper local news coverage, MediaNews is maintaining some exclusive local content. All newspapers will have a standalone local news section daily.
The company’s press release puts a predictably cheery front on the news. The result of all the closures and layoffs will be “greater emphasis on providing high-impact, regional and local coverage.”
In contrast, the editor of the Oakland Tribune told Columbia Journalism Review, “We’ve already gotten pretty lean. It’s impossible to expect us to be doing all that we did before.”
Ken Doctor has a poignant and thoughtful obituary on Nieman Journalism Lab. He brings home the impact of a business decision on the community residents who had relied on their local newspapers for years to represent their interests.
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 25th, 2011 at 4:08 pm and is filed under Business News, Local news, R.I.P.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.