Mercury News Buys Out Veteran Journalists to Finish Black April

April has been a black flag month for local media. First there was the bloodbath at KGO radio, where roughly 30 people in the station’s news department were shown the door. Then there was KFOG, where a half-dozen longtime disc jockeys were replaced with machines. South Bay news station KLIV followed a week later, announcing its entire newsroom—about a dozen staffers—would be replaced in a format change to “classic country,” which we guess is more Garth Brooks than Chris Gaines. But the hits keep coming. Last Friday, word leaked that the San Jose-less Mercury News would eliminate copy editing for most stories and use software to check grammar. A memo from managing editor Bert Robinson landed on Jim Romenesko’s media blog, framing the situation in blunt terms. The reality is that reporters in most newsrooms have been writing their own headlines and fact-checking their stories for a while. Fly has since learned that the exits also include Pulitzer Prize-winner Pete Carey, Harvard Nieman Fellow Joe Rodriguez and longtime editor David Early. It seems like little coincidence that the news came right after parent company Bay Area News Group named Neil Chase its new editor in chief. A journalist turned marketer, Chase will lead the “digital restructuring,” a euphemism for ageism, where experienced professionals are replaced with younger and cheaper content processors—except in one respect: personalities. Merc sports columnist Mark Purdy was supposedly one interested party in taking a buyout but the paper only allowed reporters over the age of 60 with 20 years experience to accept severance packages. Robinson confirmed that columnists were not offered buy-outs, adding that it would be “news to me” if any columnists wanted out. Merc newsroom staff has dropped from about 400 in 1999 to roughly half of that today. Losing a familiar face like Purdy’s would mostly rile print subscribers, however many there still are, but insiders say the story to watch is how Robinson gets on with Chase, who starts at the end of this month.

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17 Comments

      • Yeah, Internet news is ever so reliable. Any nut can post a “news” story that is completely incorrect or biased without any accountability. Ever notice how Internet media providers never retract incorrect facts and report absurd “news” stories lacking credibility. Maybe that is why the two front runners in the presidential race are even deemed capable of being presidential. They’re basically cartoon figures at best. Oh well! Good luck to the Internet nerds. Good luck America!

        • Agree with Nerds Unite! Internet news is unreliable and anybody or anything with a keyboard can create it. When you pay for news, there’s a better chance it will be real, Newspaper money pays for reporters, the guys who turn over the rocks and find actual information. Sad to see the Merc go as I have friends there.

        • Interesting Mr Nerd, I’ve been making the same complaints about the Murky News for 40 years. Can’t get the story straight, I was there when it happened, that’s not what I saw, repeating the same thing over and over to fill a page. Bla, Bla, Bla.

          I cancelled my subscription 30 years ago, twice after I thought things changed.
          When you keep getting it wrong, passing your opinion off as news rather than an editorial people people tend to vote with their feet.
          Today they only tweet!

    • That is exactly what they are trying to do, move their operations to the internet where the older reporters would have a harder time adapting.

  1. It’s really imponderable what’s going to become of the traditional news business.

    For all it’s obnoxious liberal bias, I enjoy spending three minutes a day skimming through the news and sports capsules, checking the Fry’s adds, and seeing what’s on the sports broadcast agenda.

    What happens when no one is gathering and distributing “local” news”? It’s hard to think of a business model that will pay for the process and ensure integrity and quality.

    If there is no local news, the lizards and reptiles at city hall can run amok, unnoticed and unsupervised.

    Maybe the future is: The Almaden Times, The Almaden Resident and — ulp — the Metro.

    But, then again, I have no idea what’s going on in Milpitas, Hayward, Newark, Gilroy, Salinas, etc. etc. — and don’t seem to miss any of it.

    Certainly, the Drudge Report is not the ultimate answer. Drudge is a news aggregator, but he needs to have something to aggregate.

    Who knows?

      • > I always find it amusing when SJW’s assert their intellectual credentials by citing the things they never read and the commentators they never watch or listen to.

        The less informed, the more opinionated.

  2. I felt, that there was something amiss at the Murky Noos. The tip off was Scott Herhold, writing columns after columns, about Mike Honda’s so called nap. I went back to read the colorful obituaries, after Herhold compared Ro Kahanna, to our Great Warriors. Scott is ready for the Metro He and Josh, could do articles in tandum, about Mike Honda, and his snoozes!. Jennifer Wadsworth, is a good read at the Metro, as is Willy Brown, of the SF Chron., on Sundays.
    At least the metro is Free. The Murky, should be at about a quarter!

  3. I’m surprised that the Mercury has lasted this long. The ‘corporate’ mentality has dictated an ever increasing ROI, while the actual newspaper has become an afterthought, like the tail wagging the dog.

  4. Sorry to see D. Early, P Carey, and J. Rodriguez take the hit. They had their peculiarities, but were mostly honest and accurate.

    To bad that the narcissists known as neo-supremacist SJWs T. Kaplan, S. Noguchi, and M. Quinn stay on with their agenda driven reportage.

  5. Not sure if count as an insider yet, but I can report that Robinson and Chase are getting along very well so far.

    I don’t start until Monday, but I visited the newsrooms last week and I’m impressed by people I met and the innovation I saw. Much of that innovation is led by veteran journalists, and I don’t expect to hire “content processors.” We have to deliver smart, aggressive local journalism, in print and in many digital and mobile formats, with fewer people than we had in the print-only days when advertising revenue was much higher. It’s not easy, but I wouldn’t take this job if I didn’t believe this team could do it well.

    I’m always happy to hear from people who care about journalism and our communities. My email address and phone number will be in the paper and online starting next week, and I look forward to an ongoing conversation. Thanks.

    • Here’s hoping that your demise comes much quicker & unexpectedly than that of the San Jose Mercury News & it’s long term employees …

  6. Today’s Merc reminds me of the old joke repeated by Woody Allen about the two old ladies at the summer resort. “The food here is terrible!” says one. “Yes, and such small portions!” replies the other. The Merc offers poorly written, biased news, and not much of it. I’m frankly impressed that they’ve held onto their copyeditors this long; now we can expect the writing level to sink even lower. Thanks, BANG.

  7. So what was the buyout package? What do Carey, Early, Rodriguez, etc. think about it? SanJoseInsight, do your work!