Apr 10, 2008

Things fall apart (updated)*

The niche publications were supposed to be safe, or safer, than the general interest newspapers. But now comes this news that the Los Angeles/San Francisco Daily Journal has amputated its entire copy desk as a cost-savings measure.

Marty Berg, the paper's editor, explains the situation in an e-mail to Kevin Roderick at LA Observed: I've had some tough days in the newspaper business and this is the toughest. The realities are that we are in difficult times and face hard choices. It sounds trite, but there are just no easy answers. The Daily Journal has an extraordinary staff. We're still committed to producing high-quality, ambitious journalism. It will take some adjustments, but we're going to find ways to continue to serve our community with the resources we have.

I went to work for the DJ early last year, covering Sacramento along with veteran reporter Linda Rapattoni. Even then, money was getting tighter and rumors abounded that the owners might want to sell. Still, the paper continued to hire writers to fill open slots and became a way station for ex-LANGers looking to stay in L.A. and make a living wage.

However, as a sign of the times, the DJ elected not to replace me and the Sacramento bureau is being moved from an office cater-corner to the state Capitol to an office a few blocks away used by the DJ's sister-paper, the Daily Recorder. The paper has also lost a succession of city editors and managers have come under increasing pressure to increase circulation, the legal paper's primary source of revenue, through outreach to law firms in San Francisco and Sacramento.

*Some points of confusion: The DJ hired three or four reporters in recent weeks, so how does eliminating a tiny copy desk (I think it's only two people) make any sense or save any money? Also, the Daily Journal Corporation has a help wanted ad on Journalism Jobs for a real estate reporter in Sacramento. Very curious.

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