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Monday, September 8, 2014

Bay Area Journalists Circulate Ad In Search Of Better Newspaper Owners

Posted By on Mon, Sep 8, 2014 at 2:47 PM

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This is what happens when newspapers breed disgruntled journalists: 

As part of a national campaign, staffers over at the Bay Area News Group have taken out Want Ads seeking new owners for their community papers, including the San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, and Contra Costa Times. 

Specifically, journalists and their union, The Newspaper Guild-CWA, are looking for someone who can save the newspapers from runaway cost-cutting, crappy pay (that explains the attire), and even crappier benefits. In hopes of finding the right person/people, union reps have placed Want Ads on social media sites and in the classified section of competing papers, in search of new owners. 

True to form, the ads are both factual and cynical. 
Here's how one Bay Are ad reads:
WANTED: NEW OWNER. Employees of your community’s newspaper want a new attitude respecting quality jobs & quality journalism on the part of ownership. And if the attitude won’t change, maybe the ownership should.
And another ad from the Star Tribune in Minnesota which was actually printed in the newspaper: 

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Digital First, which owns BANG-East Bay, the Mercury News and more than 60 other news organizations in the Media News Group empire is partially funded by Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund and mega media investor. But ever since Digital First bought the Bay Area papers about three years ago, the investment in journalism has rapidly declined, reporters say.

According to MediaNews/Digital First employees, the news organizations “operate in the black but benefit little from the revenues they generate.” Rather than investing in better journalism, owner Alden Global Capital “has sold off presses, offices and properties, extracting the proceeds.”

Alden reportedly made $30.5 million from the sale of the San Jose Mercury News property alone. And that's only one of 67 newspaper properties the company has sold off. Meanwhile, editorial staff continues to shrink in Monterey, San Jose, Walnut Creek, San Mateo, Oakland, etc.

To put all this into perspective: Staffing in the Bay Area News Group has declined to one-quarter what it was 14 years ago, while employees have gone six years without a raise. On top of all that, the staff was hit with salary, benefits, and vacation cuts.  

The end result: mediocre journalism, at best (have you noticed?)

“We, who remain committed to our profession and our communities, are making this appeal in coordination with frustrated colleagues at other newspapers across the country owned by Alden, the union said in a statement. "We believe that an innovative, forward-thinking buyer will realize the need to invest in the coverage and services – both digital and print – that our communities require and deserve. We sincerely hope interested investors will step forward and partner with us in helping revive a healthy and robust press for our communities."

We did try to contact Digital First owners to get their response on these new ads. No word back yet. 

If you've got a boatload of money and you're a nice person who cares about keeping it real, contact the Pacific Media Workers Guild at (415) 421-6833.



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About The Author

Erin Sherbert

Erin Sherbert

Bio:
Erin Sherbert was the Online News Editor for SF Weekly from 2010 to 2015. She's a Texas native and has a closet full of cowboy boots to prove it.

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