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More cuts at Bay Area newspapers

Posted on | February 20, 2008 | No Comments

On the heels of the AdAge report that stated the obvious, the Bay Area News Group announced it has asked virtually its entire staff of 1,100 for voluntary buyouts. This time it’s only partly about the old-media meltdown. In the Bay Area, the housing collapse is hammering ad sales.

“Almost without exception, real estate forecasters believe the Bay Area will be saddled with a housing slump for 12 to 18 months, and talk of a recession is now commonplace,” said John Armstrong, president and publisher of Bay Area News Group-East Bay.

Bay Area News Group is a three-newspaper partnership that runs 16 papers in the region, including the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune. Employees will have about two weeks to decide on accepting buyouts.
The cutbacks follow layoffs at the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
While accountants count beans in these instances, Steve Borris at The Future of News suggests a common sense approach to cuts that might actually help newspapers.

Those who simply shrug and say “Honey, I shrunk the newsroom,” will find they also shrunk the share price.

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No Responses to “More cuts at Bay Area newspapers”

  1. wretch
    February 20th, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

    Perhaps Boriss was posting too hastily, but his comments don’t have enough internal logic to hang together for me.

    Are “public service” and “meeting the reader’s needs” mutually exclusive?

    Is he suggesting that the majority of U.S. citizens don’t want to be informed, and therefore journalism no longer has any obligation to inform? That it’s time to get rid of journalists who think that’s their role?

    Seriously — is that what he’s saying?

    Because if newspaper journalism stops being about providing information — if its purpose is merely to entertain, to get the largest number of people to buy the paper, to deliver an audience to advertisers, then newspaper journalism is nothing more than commerce.

    So then what’s the justification for protecting freedom of the press?

  2. Steve
    February 21st, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

    Actually, you have my thoughts about right. I believe that there is a consumer market that is eternal called “news” and a practice designed to fulfill a subset of the news market called “journalism.”

    Many citizens want to be informed and many want to be entertained — it’s a free country and it is up to them as individuals. And among those who like being informed, it is not at all clear that the most important thing they want to be informed about is the workings of government, which is what journalism has evolved to in the absence of marketplace competition.

    Regarding “freedom of the press,” that is unfortunately misinterpreted to mean something it was not intended to mean. The First Amendment’s concern is about the government encroaching on individuals’ natural rights. It gave all of us, not just journalists (who did not exist then as we know them now) the freedom to speak (free speech) and the freedom to use a printing press (free press) to criticize government. Journalism is a commercial business that contributes, but non-commercial bloggers and others can do the same.

    Our country was not built upon the journalism we have today, and in fact it might survive better without it if we return to news that provides a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas.

  3. wretch
    February 21st, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

    That would be a dumb mess I hope we can avoid…

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