Monday, March 16, 2009

The Future of the San Francisco Chronicle is up for Debate

The Newspaper Guild agreed over the weekend to deep cuts in benefits and other giveaways in an attempt to save the San Francisco Chronicle from closing.

By agreeing to only take three, instead of four, weeks of paid vacation and waiving seniority rules for firing, the guild will save about 100 editorial jobs. Now the Hearst Corporation will only lay off 150 reporters and editors and other workers instead of 225.

I do not know how the Chronicle will continue to publish. It currently has about 250 editorial employees. The proposed layoffs mean Hearst plans to put out a major metropolitan newspaper with only 100 reporters and such.

If you thought your Chronicle was short on news before, just wait.

There will be a number of public discussions this week about the future of the Chronicle. The UC Berkeley School of Journalism is hosting one tonight, March 16, at 6 pm at Northgate Hall on the UC campus. This is sort of a curious one for it features geographer and author Grey Brechin, journalist Lowell Bergman and “San Francisco civic leader” Clint Reilly, the man who sued Media News for creating a monopoly and got a column in exchange.

The northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is hosting a meeting Tuesday at 5:30 pm at the Main Library in San Francisco to discuss the same topic. Also a curious mix: Bruce Brugmann, the owner of the Bay Guardian, Louis Freedberg, a former Chronicle columnist who has started a non-profit media foundation called the California Media Collaborative, Martin Reynolds, the editor of the Oakland Tribune, David Weir, an investigative journalist formerly associated with Wired magazine and the Center for Investigative Reporting. (These are the people who have RSVP'd to the event of Facebook)

What’s missing from both these gatherings is representatives from the Hearst Corporation and people who actually work for the Chronicle. Perhaps they don’t want their attendance broadcast publicly and will just show up instead.

Still, there clearly is concern in the community about the fate of the paper and a willingness to stave off its demise.

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