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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Newspaper Coverage in the Bay Area is Shrinking

The latest evidence of media consolidation in the Bay Area screamed out all over the front pages on Wednesday.

All of the major papers in the region prominently displayed the same story, the tale of a motorist who deliberately drove his black Honda Pilot into 14 pedestrians. He killed one man in Fremont and injured 13 others in San Francisco.

A month ago, the major papers – The San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, and the Oakland Tribune – would have sent out a slew of their own reporters to cover the event.

But Dean Singleton’s Media News acquired the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times less than a month ago, creating a newspaper chain that circles the San Francisco Bay. Media News already owned the Oakland Tribune, the Argus, the Hayward Daily Review, the Marin Independent Journal and the San Mateo Times.

On Wednesday, instead of four distinct stories on the region’s front pages, there were only two – one from the Chronicle and one from the Media News group. (Reporters from the Mercury News did the story).

That’s a huge loss for Bay Area readers. Competition improves news coverage. What will readers miss out on in the future? This was just a police story; imagine the impact when the big story deals with corruption or another important, but less easily reported, event. If fewer reporters are tracking the story, there will be fewer revelations.

The irony is that the Chronicle is owned by Hearst Corporation, one of the world’s leading media companies. Now it looks like an independent voice fighting against the near-monopoly of Media News. How times have changed.

1 comment:

Bruce B. Brugmann said...

Dear Frances,

You are right on target with your monopoly analysis. I even quoted you in my blog on this very issue, at http://www.sfbg.com/blogs/bruce/.

Keep it up!
Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)
editor and publisher, SF Bay Guardian