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Thursday, May 28, 2009

San Jose Mercury News Design and Copy Desks On the Chopping Block

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2009 at 4:40 PM

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On Facebook.com yesterday, a reporter who will remain nameless declared it, "The Day the Merc Died." Another reporter replied, "You mean the San Jose Bureau of BANG?"

By that, the reporter meant that the San Jose Mercury News, once a shining beacon of tech reporting and news design with two Pulitzers to its name, has become just another gutted carcass of the Bay Area News Group.

The reporters were reacting to a new contract that a bargaining committee from the Media Workers' Guild negotiated with MediaNews Group Inc., the Denver-based company that purchased the paper a year and half ago and has since laid off more than a third of the editorial staff. The new contract, which has yet to be ratified by union members, allows for cuts in pay and vacation time for many employees. It also allows MediaNews to consolidate the design and copy desks with those of its other papers in the East Bay.

Although Merc designers and copy editors would get preference for the jobs that the consolidation will create in Walnut Creek, there are no guarantees -- and their pay would decrease. The potential loss of the Merc's design desk is particularly troubling to many at the paper, as the Merc was named one of the five best-designed newspapers in the world by the Society for News Design in 2001.

"We tried," said California Media Worker negotiator Carl Hall. The goal, he said, was to preserve as much editorial quality and as many jobs as possible, and to secure extra severance for those whose jobs could not be saved.

Key aspects of the new contract are published on the Guild's Web site, which also informs us that the newspaper industry isn't doing so hot. Thanks for the newsflash.

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Ashley Harrell

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