SF Chronicle: Chronicle to cut 25% of jobs in newsroom “That’s not just trimming fat, that’s an amputation. That’s losing a limb,” said (Tom) Rosenstiel (director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington), who grew up in the Bay Area.
When Hearst bought the Chronicle years ago, it pledged to keep all the employees from the old Chronicle. Then it brought the SF Examiner employees along, and had what can only be called a bloated staff.
But the paper did improve — wow, did it improve.
The city always deserved a vastly better paper than it had. It still deserves a better paper, but the positive change has been incredible since the Hearst buyout.
Yet that didn’t translate to subscribers — circulation kept dropping, in part due to deliberate corporate decisions, and advertising didn’t recover after the burst of the tech bubble and the increasing inroads from classified-ad competitors that work better for buyers and sellers. The newspaper was said to be losing $1 million a week a year ago, an amazing number. I’ve heard that the losses were slowing, but obviously not enough to matter. (For the record, we get the Chronicle — and several other papers — delivered to our door each morning when we’re home.)
The Chronicle’s website has been among the most progressive anywhere, and it reflects the dilemma many publishers face. The site is free, with no registration requirements. There are ads, but not enough revenue to make up for the whacks to the print advertising that are hard to stop. The archives are also free and open — which I have to believe is on balance a revenue booster over the paywalled archives at most other local papers.
The Chronicle’s story about the impending cutbacks makes several glaring errors. Consider this sentence:
While an increasing number of people get news from online aggregators such as Google News and Yahoo, those stories are most often originally reported by print journalists.
In fact, they’re still getting their news from the originators of that print journalism. Google posts only headlines and a portion of the first paragraph of stories, and then sends interested readers to the original news organization’s own website. Yahoo does the same. When Yahoo publishes an entire story in certain cases, it does so under a contract with the publisher where, presumably, money changes hands from Yahoo to the publisher.
Then there’s this howler, albeit attributed to Rosenstiel:
He said the effect, even for people who don’t read the paper, “is that 25 percent of what goes on in the Bay Area won’t be covered. It will happen in the dark. … Our research shows that there is a lot of information that appears in a daily newspaper that doesn’t get covered by TV stations or citizen journalists or bloggers when a newspaper’s staff is cut.”
The premise here is that the Chronicle is actually reporting 100 percent of what goes on in the Bay Area now. I suspect Rosenstiel was either misquoted or was being ironic. He’s too smart and knowledgeable to believe this.
(Photo from New York State Library)