The Bay Area News Group (BANG), publisher of the West County Times announced that it will be consolidating eleven newspapers into just two starting in November. Subscribers to the West County Times will receive the “East Bay Tribune,” a combination of the Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Daily Review, Argus and West County Times.
I remember when Richmond had two daily newspapers, the Richmond Independent and the West County Times. The Times, then owned by Dean Lesher, put the Richmond Independent out of business by delivering its newspaper to residents free. When the Richmond Independent closed, the West County Times started charging.
The Contra Costa Times, Valley Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald, San Joaquin Herald, and East County Times will now be just The Times.
120 people are expected to lose their jobs.
What will this mean for Richmond? Undoubtedly, it will mean reduced coverage of local news. The role the E-FORUM and other blogs play in news dissemination will increase in importance.
The two surviving newspapers will focus on the I-80 and I-680 corridors, respectively.
The staffs of these newspapers will include some, but not all, of the journalists currently working in those various offices.
On Tuesday, BANG notified employees that it will eliminate about 120 jobs, including about 40 throughout the newsrooms. This approach cuts costs, both in terms of production and staffing.
These changes are done for business reasons, obviously. The restructuring and rebranding of the newspapers will hopefully help BANG more easily fight for advertising dollars. The business is unhealthy, and has been for years, but not as unhealthy as the newspaper would have you believe. The change will obviously be a departure from the previous, marginally local emphasis of the West County Times.
If you would like to communicate with the decision-makers, here is an email address: email@example.com.
The reporters at the West County Times are, to some extent, auditioning for their jobs. At the same time, they are trying to position the region to receive as much local coverage as we can, after the dust settles.
If you like what you have been getting in the West County Times and want to see more -- or if you just don’t want to see something less -- please tell BANG before it’s too late.
Following are some reporters who might disappear:
- Karl Fischer, who has covered Richmond crime and punishment for many years.
- Shelly Meron, who covers our West County discussions about school closures, budget cuts, campus safety concerns and other close-to-home issues in local school districts.
- Tom Lochner, who for years has written about San Pablo, Pinole and Hercules environmental issues, and is perhaps the most accomplished reporter writing about municipal issues in those areas.
- Chris Treadway, who works tirelessly to ensure that community events, fundraisers, good deeds and people of stature in our cities appear in the newspaper.
- Hannah Dreier, the new Richmond city hall reporter (what happened to Katherine Tam?) , who is 24 years old, new at the job, and already shows great promise as a journalist, IF she can outlast the current layoff threat.
Tell BANG newspaper what you think about the work of the West County Times and these specific reporters.
Tribune name change further erodes Oakland's clout
Friday, August 26, 2011
My head tells me the Oakland Tribune, the Chronicle's main competitor in the East Bay, will go on under a new name, but my heart tells a different story.
Starting in early November, the Oakland Tribune and four smaller daily newspapers will operate under a single flag: the East Bay Tribune.
The announcement, made Tuesday by the Bay Area News Group, which owns the Tribune, the San Jose Mercury News and 11 community papers in the Bay Area, closes an era in Oakland. The Oakland Tribune has been serving the residents of the community for 137 years.
The historic Tribune tower on 13th Street in downtown Oakland has been the most recognizable feature on the Oakland skyline for more than a century, an architectural icon as accurate as a GPS locator. The newspaper moved all operations out of the building in 2007.
The new, more generic name is a nod that Oakland is no longer the straw the stirs the drink in these parts and reflects the departure of residents, jobs and resources out of central cities and into the suburban enclaves that have sprung up all around them.
For Oakland residents, it's not the first time a major public institution has tried to bail out on us. The Raiders, of course, left town in a huff in 1982, but came back 13 years later.
In 2009, the Oakland A's abandoned plans to defect to Fremont - the East Bay A's? - after encountering opposition to a publicly funded baseball stadium proposal.
And just because I don't subscribe to conspiracy theories doesn't mean there isn't one going around. Some people are suspicious about the reasons behind the name change.
Oakland City CouncilmanIgnacio De La Fuente complained that the Tribune has not been a hometown newspaper since the death of former publisher Robert Maynard in 1993. It was sold to MediaNews Group, the nation's second-largest newspaper publisher, late in 1992. MediaNews owns the Bay Area News Group.
De La Fuente regards the name change as a blow to the city, equivalent to a downgrade in the city's status as the center of a metropolitan region.
"It's like the (losing) battle with the (Golden State) Warriors to change their name that went on for years," he said, a reference to city efforts to persuade the team to adopt Oakland, where the team plays its home games. "Now the newspaper is dropping the city's name."
But in retrospect, the veteran councilman speculated, the city's single-minded approach to issues such as crime, business and redevelopment may have played a role over the years. "Maybe it's our own doing," said De La Fuente, a 40-year resident.
No matter how you view it, "the message it sends to the community and the outside world is not a positive one," he added.
Investment in digital news
If disassociating with Oakland were the newspaper publishing company's only objective, it wouldn't be spending its time and money on marshaling its almost dozen other newspapers into two separate publications to serve East Bay readers.
The consolidation of East Bay newspapers into the East Bay Tribune and East Bay Times respectively will allow greater investment in digital applications such as the iPad, iPhone and whatever comes next, BANG officials told The Chronicle. The move will also result in an 8 percent workforce reduction, about 120 of it 1,500 employees.
Company officials said the reductions could include up to 40 editorial positions.
Consolidation and downsizing have been evolving at newspapers all over the country for the past 20 years. The events at The Chronicle in recent years are no different.
Fierce but friendly rivalry between local reporters in Oakland and San Francisco and cities all over the country is what inspired great journalism, served local communities and stood watch over local government for years. Whatever the next evolution in the news-gathering profession will be, it's paramount that journalism survive the transformation from the printed word of today to the high-resolution screen of tomorrow.
Chip Johnson's column appears Tuesday and Friday. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.