Friday, June 01, 2007

We, as Bay Area news consumers, are completely screwed

From Grade the News:

Sixty more newsroom positions – almost one in four -- are to be eliminated at the San Jose Mercury News this summer after a layoff moratorium negotiated with the local Newspaper Guild expires, Grade the News has learned.

John Bowman, executive editor at the San Mateo County Times until last week, said the staff reductions were discussed at an April meeting he attended at the Mercury News along with top editors of MediaNews, which now owns every paid daily newspaper around the San Francisco Bay but the San Francisco Chronicle. The proposed cuts would affect 24% of the 250 member Mercury News staff.

Mr. Bowman said he disclosed the layoff plan and resigned as executive editor of the Times because he was fed up with MediaNews' policies of trying to run newspapers short-handed.

"They're way past the point of diminishing returns, of penny-wise, pound-foolish," Mr. Bowman said of MediaNews' operations in the Bay Area.


MediaNews' cuts at The Oakland Tribune have deprived citizens of an effective champion against city corruption and mismanagement.

"The Tribune is actually doing a pretty good job of covering things that are important to me, but there are some really important things that aren't being covered right now," (Mercury News business reporter Elise Ackerman) explained. Among those are corruption in city hall and a soaring crime rate. The FBI is investigating a "pay to play" atmosphere in city government, she said, but not the newspaper.

"The Tribune reporters are good and hardworking, but this stuff doesn't get covered in the newspapers because they don't have the staff."

"When a newspaper becomes so weak it's not an effective counterbalance to the incredible arrogance of some public officials, it can't play watchdog for the public," Ms. Ackerman added. "I'm afraid the same thing will happen in San Jose."

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