SAN JOSE – On March 1, the publisher and top managers at the Mercury News and Bay Area News Group delivered sobering news to staff that as much as 20 percent of existing newsroom jobs will be eliminated by mid-April, through a combination of voluntary buyouts and layoffs. Adding to the deep downsizing of the local newspaper chain that has already suffered years of cuts, publisher Sharon Ryan announced the venerable 142-year-old Oakland Tribune will cease publishing as a daily newspaper in a matter of weeks.
Although few hard numbers or targets were described, there are roughly 200 newsroom employees throughout BANG, and the force reduction of buyouts and lay-offs combined could cause between 15 and 20 percent of current employees to lose their jobs in the coming weeks. Although columnists and editors are not eligible for the buy-outs, a total of five reporter buy-outs will be accepted. Others targeted include photographers, copy editors, designers and production staff. There were no specifics on where the lay-offs would strike once the 45-day buyout period closes, but company officials made clear that copy-editing – a key element of any quality news product – would be central to the downsizing.
Adding insult to dedicated staff who have remained and produced more than ever despite years of pay cuts, unpaid furloughs, downsizing and benefit loss, the company news was framed by management as a “rebranding” and streamlining to better serve readers.
In a story that was not staff-written but posted to the website Tuesday afternoon, publisher Sharon Ryan was quoted as saying:
“Readers have been quite clear with us about how much they like their newspapers and what they want more of, and we’re changing to serve them better.”