Newspapers struggle to stay afloat

February 26, 2009 7:16:13 PM PST
The San Francisco Chronicle continued emergency talks with its labor unions Thursday, trying to find a way to prevent the paper from being sold or closed. At the same time, other major Bay Area papers are taking drastic measures to survive as they watch papers across the country go out of business.

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Neither side is talking about what is on the table but former Chronicle editor Alan Mutter's Newsasaur blog says by his calculations, half of the paper's 1,500 employees would have to be cut to make up the $50 million deficit from last year.

The Hearst Corporation says without enough cost savings and increased revenue, it will have to sell or close the paper.

News like that is not a surprise but no less painful for other newspapers. Last month, workers at the Contra Costa Times, the West County Times, the Oakland Tribune and San Jose Mercury News all agreed to five day unpaid furlough in order to save jobs.

Karl Fischer is a reporter at the West County Times, where there were two rounds of layoffs last year.

"Here at the newspaper there is kind of a constant sense of dread among employees I think, because it's never really clear how long this patch of stability will last and if there's going to be further job loss," Fischer said.

Kevin Keane is a vice president at Bay Area News Group East Bay, which owns the Contra Costa Times, the Oakland Tribune and 14 other Bay Area papers. He says the five day furlough is not delaying inevitable layoffs or closure.

"I hate to say there is anything inevitable, I still believe in a strong future for newspapers, I think we're going to find the right mix of both online content and online revenue and print content and print revenue and that we are going to be able to sustain ourselves in the long run long run," Keane said.

Nationally, the latest newspaper casualty is Colorado's oldest paper. The Rocky Mountain News announced Thursday it will close its doors Friday, after failing to find a buyer to save it.

"It's a terrible tragedy for the paper and everybody involved and it's a very sad day for Denver as well," E.W. Scripps Company CEO Rich Boehne said.

The San Antonio Express is cutting more than a 100 jobs, as is the Sacramento Bee.

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