Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bad News at the San Francisco Chronicle

Ever since the Hearst Corporation brought in Frank Vega as the new publisher for the San Francisco Chronicle, newspaper employees have been fearful of huge staff cuts. Vega is the former head of the Detroit Newspaper Agency, and took a tough stance against employees of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press in a protracted labor battle.

Now it looks like the Chronicle wants to eliminate 10% of its staff because of years of losses, according to Editor and Publisher. The paper was short $63 million in 2004.

“More than 10% of the 900 Newspaper Guild jobs at the San Francisco Chronicle could be lost when a new contract is completed, guild officials told E&P as negotiations continue, less than one month before the current agreement expires.

Doug Cuthbertson, executive officer for the Northern California Media Workers Guild Local 39521, said the job losses are likely following a guild review of Chronicle finances, which found the Hearst-owned paper had lost at least $62 million in 2004 and had also previous losses in 2002 and 2003.

"If we look at the size of our workforce, that is a ballpark estimate," Cuthbertson said about the 10% figure. "At this point, I don’t have a number on it, but that is my personal estimate."

Of the 900 guild members employed by the paper, 460 are editorial staffers.”

I worked at the Mercury News during labor negotiations. I was there in 1994 when Chronicle reporters went on strike and produced their own newspaper. It makes the atmosphere ugly. The truth is that media companies have long enjoyed high profits – Knight-Ridder is used to 20% growth a year – and the managers no longer consider newspapers a public trust to treat delicately. (via Romenesko)

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