Friday, March 07, 2008

Mercury News Layoffs -- New Proof that Media News is Short-sighted

The Mercury News lost some of its best reporters today as its new owner, Media News, continued its desperate slash of costs. Twenty-three reporters and editors are leaving, most involuntarily, although some took a buyout. Look for a much thinner paper and many more unnoticed shenanigans.

I haven’t worked at the Mercury in nine years so I don’t know all those who are leaving, but there are a few who were let go whose work has consistently been outstanding.

Barry Witt, for example, broke more hard-hitting stories than most everyone, including the news that Alameda County had vastly overpaid to lure the Raiders to Oakland.

Carolyn Jung has been a food writer and the food section editor and consistently made the section interesting.

Lisa Chung was a columnist, metro reporter, and editor and a visible face of the paper.

Sue Hutchinson’s column held prime real estate in the paper for years. She was nimble with words and wrote about an astonishing variety of topics.

A few veterans took buyouts, including Steve Wright, the editorial page editor (and my former editor) and Rebecca Salner, the assistant managing editor of business. They both had been at the paper for almost 20 years.

These people were assets to the newsroom. It’s a crime they will no longer be part of this news-gathering operation. In protest, Charles Matthews, a former Merc reporter, cancelled his subscription to the paper today. Read his reasons.

Here’s the list:


Lisa Chung, Metro feature writer, ex-columnist

Steve Chae, Library

Katherine Conrad, commercial real estate reporter

Barbara Egbert, copy editor

Barb Feder, medical writer

Dennis Georgatos, 49ers beat writer

Elizabeth Goodspeed, features designer

Joanne HoYoung Lee, photographer

Carolyn Jung, food columnist

Dave Kiefer, sports writer

Thu Ly, photographer

Mike Martinez, travel writer

Erik Olvera, Metro reporter

Connie Skipitares, metro reporter

Barry Witt, Metro reporter


Alvie Lindsay, state bureau chief

Matt Mansfield, deputy managing editor

Pam Moreland , features editor

Rebecca Salner, AME of Business

Steve Wright, head of editorial pages

Voluntary departures

Sue Hutchison, features columnist

Julie Kaufmann, food editor

Levi Sumagaysay, assistant Business editor


ed said...

Frances: In observing how very talented editors and reporters are being sent to the backyard to be shot without explanation, while young digital pups remain relatively clueless about what's going on, I am likewise observing these developments with considerable alarm. I'm particularly troubled by blogging developments. Newspaper bloggers SHOULD be journalists and should make calls and pound the pavement, but they choose to be link aggregators instead. Which is not to disparage link aggregation, as it is to show that journalism proper is dying as we speak. I'm doing my best to atone with the podcasts, Frances. But I'm telling you, nobody wants hard-hitting journalism anymore in the newspapers. Which is not to dismiss bloggers. But this is a goddam shame. Because we need people questioning every aspect of life.

Frances said...

I half agree with you Ed. While I don't think nobody wants hard-hitting journalism, I think fewer and fewer outlets do. I see a time in the next few years where the country has just a handful of good papers, Like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal and the rest are just thin sheets that serve as wrapping for ads.

Of course that leaves room for much more malfeasance on the part of elected officials.

The blogs newspaper reporters now write are meant to compliment, not replace, the articles they write for the paper. That's why they don't contain much substance. But as a former reporter turned blogger, I don't see the Web picking up the slack. It's hard work to dig up information and most bloggers work for free.

Your podcasts are full of content and are great. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Bye, bye Barry Wittless....good riddance

Dave said...

I was talking to my neighbor last week about how thin the Merc had become, and now this. It's just a death spiral for what used to be a very good paper. Sue Hutchinson was one of the few reasons to still pick up the newspaper and I appreciated the work Carolyn Jung had done in the Food section. I'd say I'm going to cancel my subscription, but that happened during the last round...