Feb 26, 2009

Under reported

The story that the San Francisco Chronicle planned mass layoffs, and might even put itself up for sale, sparked heated speculation about what it all means for the newspaper industry, for Bay Area readers, for the workers, for Hearst Corp's various newspaper partners...

Indeed, there seemed to be a lot of room to speculate given all the questions left unanswered. David Cay Johnston, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, think he knows why - the Chronicle failed to do what it's supposed to do: cover the story.

Johnston lays out what went missing:
Not one word makes it into the paper from Chronicle unions, whose contracts Hearst CEO Frank Bennack wants to “quickly” rewrite with “significant” concessions under threat of closing the newspaper.

Not one word from others with an interest in whether the Chronicle dies after 144 years—say, interviews with the mayor, city supervisors, major advertisers, political scientists, or perhaps just a few scattered longtime readers.

Not one word from, say, an authoritative voice on Bay Area journalism like Alan D. Mutter, or from the Chronicle’s most severe critic, Bruce B. Brugmann, owner of the Bay Guardian.

And not one word about the changes in ownership of the Bay Area’s twenty-one newspapers, Hearst’s role in financing ownership changes in places like San Jose and the East Bay, and their meaning in the context of the demands for job cuts and, no doubt, reductions in wages and benefits and relaxation of work rules.

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