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Monday, June 11, 2007

Newspaper Layoffs: The Daily Planet is Melting

Are our Bay Area daily newspapers grinding to a halt the same way that arctic glaciers are melting just out of our sight?

I had breakfast with a friend who reports for the San Jose Mercury News and he said that they are bracing for a 25% reduction in their 250 person news team. Last October they negotiated a temporary reprieve from any layoffs and as of July the pink slips can start tumbling off the printing press. Time flies when you're running around investigating and writing stories to inform the public.

Three weeks ago at the San Francisco Chronicle, they announced a similar 25% reduction that has already begun. Both papers have closed down their Peninsula Bureaus (tho the Chronicle did it a few years ago). John Curley, a Chronicle editor who spent 25 years there and is a sophisticated Web 2.0 guy, was one of the ones who was pushed out. You'd think they'd be promoting the folks who can blaze the path for the paper to prosper with web services.

It's unclear whether any execs at these papers have a plan other than the tried and true corporate cost cutting scenario of recent decades. (I've never understood how mass layoffs actually work in any industry assuming that most employees were working hard at something the company produces to stay competitive.) At a newspaper, will it translate into something like The Weekly Reader, that we got in grade school? Will the Merc and Chron end up merging somewhere down the line into a regional McNewspaper? Who's going to want to major in journalism anymore, let alone practice it? What am I going to put under my cereal bowl that simultaneously keeps me informed, entertained, and out of trouble for making a mess on the table?

John McManus seems to have an inside track on these events in his blog at Grade the News.

photo credit: dickie at

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