Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Chronicle Keeps on Losing People

The Hearst Corporation is still keeping mum about the number and names of people who have taken a buyout from the San Francisco Chronicle, but a few more names have come out.

One of the paper’s top reporters, Seth Rosenfeld, who has produced stories that have garnered national attention, is leaving. Rosenfeld has written extensively about the secret doings of the University of California, and won awards for a 2002 series on how the FBI illegally gathered information at the university during the Cold War, and then tried to cover up its involvement.

Steve Rubenstein, who wrote column-like stories on quirky people and places around the Bay Area is departing.

Other departures include:

Ruthe Stein, who writes about the film world.

Tanya Schevitz, an education reporter.

Bill Burnett, real estate editor

Jennifer Thelen, a copy editor

Steve Hornbostel, a page designer

John Batteiger, a business wire editor

Rich Pestoric, an arts and graphics designer

Long time culture and arts reporter Steve Winn left recently as well.

UPDATE April 3, 2009:

Here are some additional names of reporters and editors leaving the Chronicle:

Elizabeth Fernandez, health and medicine reporter
George Raine, business reporter (advertising and marketing)
Gwen Knapp, sports columnist
Rico Mendez, page designer
Janet Fletcher, food reporter
Reyhan Harmanci, Datebook trends reporter
Glenn Schwarz, sports editor
Greg Ambrose, news and business copy editor
Rod Jones, news copy editor
Beth Hughes, news copy editor

The business side – advertising and classified – is also losing many employees.

Many of these reporters apparently were motivated to accept a buyout in order to preserve their pensions. The pension fund has lost about $25 million in value with the recent stock market dip. If reporters agreed to depart by April 3, 2009, they could get their pension paid out in a lump sum and retire by 55.

With the drop in the pension fund’s value, Hearst apparently plans to change its retirement rules, moving up the age of retirement to 65 and switching to an annuity, which pays out annually, rather than a lump sum retirement. For many reporters in their 50s, staying on under those circumstances just didn’t pencil out.

In response to all these departures, the Newspaper Guild is forming a new unit for freelancers. They are going to hold their first meeting Friday April 3 at noon at the California Media Workers building at 433 Natoma Street in San Francisco.

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