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San Francisco Paper Whacks Jobs

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.

Bread LineAmputation sounds about right, and it’s a serious blow to local journalism. But in this case the move was plainly going to happen.

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

13 Comments on “San Francisco Paper Whacks Jobs”

  1. #1 Paul Andrews
    on May 19th, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Great report Dan…have you ever thought about being a journalist instead of just a blogger?

    I still think Google, Yahoo! and others will have to start ante-ing up. Or that a tech solution will emerge to pay for quality journalism. Ted Nelson’s dream lives on!

    But I wonder about the notion that ALL, or even nearly all, reporting from Google etc. has print at its root. The trend seems to me to be toward better original blogging, forums, video and so on that gets picked up by Google. In my Google news feeds I’m seeing more and more of that, where the root journalism is original (but non-print) reporting. Granted my search terms are not msm-oriented, but the fact remains that there’s increasingly more original reporting on the Web, even if the business model is not there yet.

    I don’t have to tell you of all people that journalism in the meantime is being redefined. E.g. if no one “reported” that Bush and Blair had dinner at the White House, or that a Baghdad market was like a Sunday stroll, would we be worse off? Or consider sports: If there were no MSM to give us the Phoenix-San Antonio basketball playoff score, does that mean we wouldn’t be able to find it out?

    That’s why I go back to the question, What is journalism for? In a world of no gatekeepers, where each reader decides the information important to him and her, how does “journalism” work? It’s a far different scenario than the print and broadcast models we’re so enthroned by.

  2. #2 Jon Garfunkel
    on May 19th, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    “have you ever thought about being a journalist instead of just a blogger?”

    Umm, Mr. Andrews, you probably should catch up Dan’s background.

    And knowing Dan, I think his answer would be that he’s both.

  3. #3 Dan Gillmor
    on May 19th, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Jon, I’ve known Paul for years — he was being ironic.

  4. #4 Delia
    on May 19th, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Paul, I’m curious what you think journalism is for (or *should* be)? As far as I see it, its basic function is to inform us of things we really *need* to know — this, and only this, is the loss of function that’s worth worrying about and (if needed) even worth being subsidized by the government… D.

  5. #5 Seth Finkelstein
    on May 19th, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    I think you’re being very hard on the article, Dan.

    “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.”

    Right, right, he means “While an increasing number of people use online aggregators such as Google News and Yahoo and never go past what’s offered at those sites, so they capture all the ad revenue, those stories are most often originally reported by print journalists at other sites.”.
    But that’s cumbersome.

    “is that 25 percent of what goes on in the Bay Area won’t be covered. ..
    should be:
    “is that there will be 25 percent less coverage of what goes on in the Bay Area . …”
    Yes, he did technically assume his coverage == 100%, but perhaps my standards have gotten so low for journalism that I wouldn’t bother fussing over that solecism.

  6. #6 Dan Gillmor
    on May 20th, 2007 at 7:21 am

    Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer some level of precision.

  7. #7 :: blog colectivo sobre convergencia periodística
    on May 20th, 2007 at 9:59 am

    […] escribe Dan Gillmor en el Center for Citizen Media, la razón obedece, sobre todo, a la elevada cuantía de las […]

  8. #8 Heart's SF Chron to Cut Newsroom by 25% « Screenwerk
    on May 20th, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    […] are reactions from Dan Gillmor and many others, as well as related discussion from Mark Potts about the industry more generally. […]

  9. #9 How to Save Newspaper Companies ~ Jake Ludington’s Digital Lifestyle
    on May 20th, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    […] provided by newspaper companies has tremendous value, which makes it troubling to see that newspapers are cutting the most important assets in their business; the people who write the news. According to Joe […]

  10. #10 phil shapiro
    on May 20th, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Newspapers continue making small changes and convince themselves that they’re innovating.

    Let’s hope there’s some newspaper out there bold enough to show the others what to do to survive.

  11. #11 Jon Garfunkel
    on May 20th, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    Ah. Silly me. I clicked on the link to and it came up dead. So I didn’t know.

  12. #12 » Blog Archive » El San Francisco Chronicle despide al 25% de la plantilla
    on May 22nd, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    […] Artículo completo en inglés por Dan Gillmor USBUniversal Serial Bus. Interfaz estándar que facilita la conexión de periféricos a un ordenador. Los dispositivos conectados son reconocidos automáticamente. MBEl Megabyte (MB) es una unidad de medida de cantidad de datos informáticos. Es un múltiplo binario del byte, que equivale a 220 (1 048 576) bytes, traducido a efectos prácticos como 106 (1 000 000) bytes. GBUnidad de medida de la capacidad de memoria y de dispositivos de almacenamiento informático. Un GB corresponde a 1.024 millones de bytes. HTMLEl HTML, acrónimo inglés de Hyper Text Markup Language (lenguaje de marcación de hipertexto), es un lenguaje de marcas diseñado para estructurar textos y presentarlos en forma de hipertexto, que es el formato estándar de las páginas web. Gracias a Internet y a los navegadores del tipo Explorer o Netscape, el HTML se ha convertido en uno de los formatos más populares que existen para la construcción de documentos. MySQLMy SQL es una de las bases de datos más populares desarrolladas bajo la filosofía de código abierto. [] PHPPHP (acrónimo recursivo de “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor”, originado inicialmente del nombre PHP Tools, o Personal Home Page Tools) es un lenguaje de programación interpretado. Aunque fue concebido en el tercer trimestre de 1994 por Rasmus Lerdorf no fue hasta el día 8 de Junio de 1995 que fue lanzada la versión 1.0. Se utiliza entre otras cosas para la programación de páginas web activas, y se destaca por su capacidad de mezclarse con el código HTML. [] PerlPerl (Practical Extraction and Report Language) es un lenguaje de programación desarrollado por Larry Wall (lwall at inspirado en otras herramientas de UNIX como son: sed, grep, awk, c-shell, para la administración de tareas propias de sistemas UNIX. [] FTPFTP es uno de los diversos protocolos de la red Internet, concretamente significa File Transfer Protocol (Protocolo de Transferencia de Archivos) y es el ideal para transferir datos por la red. [] RSSRSS es parte de la familia de los formatos XML desarrollado específicamente para sitios de noticias y weblogs que se actualizan con frecuencia y por medio del cual se puede compartir la información y usarla en otros sitios web o programas. A esto se le conoce como sindicación. [] ONULa Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) o Naciones Unidas, fundada el 24 de octubre de 1945 en San Francisco, (Estados Unidos), tras el fin de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, es la mayor organización internacional del mundo. [] AJAXAJAX, acrónimo de Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (en inglés «JavaScript y XML asíncronos»). Técnica de desarrollo web para crear aplicaciones interactivas mediante la combinación de tres lenguajes ya existentes: *HTML (o XHTML) y Hojas de Estilo en Cascada (CSS) para presentar la información;*Document Object Model (DOM) y JavaScript, para interactuar dinámicamente con los datos, y *XML y XSLT, para intercambiar y manipular datos de manera desincronizada con un servidor web CSSLas hojas de estilo en cascada (Cascading Style Sheets, CSS) son un lenguaje formal usado para definir la presentación de un documento estructurado escrito en HTML o XML (y por extensión en XHTML). El W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) es el encargado de formular la especificación de las hojas de estilo que servirá de estándar para los agentes de usuario o navegadores. [] DOMEl DOM o Document Object Model (en inglés, Modelo de Objetos de Documento) es una forma de representar documentos estructurados (tales como una página web HTML o un documento XML) que es independiente de cualquier lenguaje orientado a objetos. [] HTTPHTTP es el protocolo de la Web (WWW), usado en cada transacción. Las letras significan Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, es decir, protocolo de transferencia de hipertexto. El hipertexto es el contenido de las páginas web, y el protocolo de transferencia es el sistema mediante el cual se envían las peticiones de acceder a una página web, y la respuesta de esa web, remitiendo la información que se verá en pantalla. [] RAWRAW (en inglés crudo) es un formato de archivo de imágenes que, a diferencia del formato más popular, JPEG, no comprime los datos de la imagen al archivarla. Los ficheros RAW contienen la totalidad de los datos de la imagen tal como ha sido captada por el sensor digital de la cámara fotográfica [] postSe refiere a la publicación de un artículo o entrada nueva en un blog. Compartir […]

  13. #13 nerd-in-residence » The more things change...
    on May 22nd, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    […] rosier than its headline would lead you to believe. While this is happening with some outlets, as Dan Gillmor reported over the weekend, companies like Dow Jones are attracting very […]