Nine newspaper nameplates in the Bay Area will disappear under a consolidation plan announced yesterday by the Bay Area News Group, which owns the San Jose Mercury News.
Mercury News Publisher and BANG president Mac Tully told the San Francisco Chronicle — the region’s only major daily not owned by BANG — that it’s “still under discussion” whether the Mercury News will drop “San Jose” from its name. If that occurred, San Jose would join Phoenix, Arizona, as the second of the U.S.’s ten largest cities without a major daily newspaper named after it. (The Arizona Republic is published in Phoenix.)
“After many months of research and planning, we are taking a strategy of re-branding,” Tully told the Chronicle. “We are trying to gain efficiencies through streamlining.”
The Oakland Tribune will retire its 137-year-old nameplate and merge with BANG’s Alameda, Hayward, Fremont and West County titles. The multi-city regional daily will be known as the “East Bay Tribune” after Nov. 1. The Contra Costa Times will be combined with the Tri-Valley Herald and four other publications as “The Times.”
On the Peninsula, San Mateo County Times will be folded into the Mercury News. The San Mateo publication’s online content is already served online under the Mercury News’ URL: mercurynews.com/san-mateo-county . The San Mateo newspaper was published as the San Mateo Times for 106 years before its 1996 purchase by MediaNews, the Denver company that owns BANG. The family-owned, independent newspaper had 180 employees at the time of the asset sale to MediaNews.
BANG will cut 120 of its 1,500 employees and close its Walnut Creek printing facility. Most of the layoffs are related to the plant closure, though 48 editorial positions will be lost, according to the Pacific Media Workers Guild.
BANG is owned by the MediaNews Group of Denver, Colorado, one of the nation’s largest daily newspaper publishers. Media News underwent a bankruptcy restructuring last year in which Chairman William Dean Singleton and his longtime investors lost control of the company to a Bank of America-led group of lenders. The new owners received 89 percent of of the holding company’s stock in the transaction.
“It’s shocking to contemplate any change of this scale,” Pacific Media Workers Guild executive officer Carl Hall told KQED. “You’re talking about the loss of jobs on a mass scale and nobody knows whose job exactly is going to be cut, so everybody is trying to figure out what’s going to happen to my job, my bureau, my newspaper. ...I don’t know how long this chaos and consolidation and layoff is going to last. We were hoping maybe by now we’d be in a recovery, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening. I can’t just point the finger at MediaNews and say well they’re corporate ogres and they’re only cutting costs. I think they’re trying to find a strategy that will allow them to succeed, but right now we’re in this transition period that’s just devastating”
Tully was unavailable for comment Wednesday morning.
THE BAY AREA NEWS GROUP’S PRESS RELEASE:
August 23, 2011 02:55 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Bay Area News Group Rebranding Plan Signals Strong Commitment to Bay Area Market
Strategic Plan includes Multimedia Platform and Other Enhancements
SAN JOSE, Calif.—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Bay Area News Group (BANG) today announced a rebranding of many of its newspapers to better reflect the scope of its regional coverage. The changes – which include a streamlining of its print operations – primarily involve its East Bay newspapers, and will result in greater emphasis on providing high-impact, regional and local coverage.
Mac Tully, president of BANG, said all of the existing newspapers titles will continue to be published after the changes take effect on November 2, 2011, but under two consolidated mastheads. The Contra Costa Times, Valley Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald, and East County Times will now be branded under The Times masthead, while the Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Daily Review, Argus and West County Times will be rebranded as the East Bay Tribune.
The rebranding includes numerous enhancements plus an emphasis on multimedia content delivery that will continue to enlighten and entertain readers while providing new opportunities for advertisers to engage readers.
“We’re taking these actions to strengthen the company for the future and to offer additional value to readers and advertisers,” Tully said. “With these changes, we will continue to serve our communities with high quality daily and weekly newspapers featuring extensive local coverage. The continuing integration of the newspapers with digital products will allow readers to access timely news and information when, where, and how they want it.”
The San Mateo County Times will be branded under the Mercury News masthead and will continue to carry local news of the San Mateo area.
According to Tully, this consolidation of titles will result in a number of enhancements in the various publications, including:
- All newspapers will have a separate, stand-alone Local News section, 7 days a week, thereby giving more prominence to local coverage.
- Top local, national and international news will appear in the Main News or “A” section.
- The Morning Report section will be discontinued.
- The East Bay papers will have a stand-alone Business section every day that will include business news from across the region.
- A section focusing on Technology will be added to the East Bay papers on Mondays.
- The sports section in the East Bay papers will be expanded to include more pro and collegiate news.
- The line-up of comics, which has varied from paper to paper, will become more uniform and will contain the most popular comics as determined by a recent poll of readers.
- Two weekly newspapers will be launched, joining several others published by BANG and its affiliates in towns across the region. The new papers include the Valley Journal, serving Alamo, Danville and San Ramon; and the Times-Herald, serving Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and Sunol.
As part of this streamlining, Tully said that BANG will consolidate production operations into its three existing plants located in Concord, Hayward and San Jose. This consolidation is made possible in part because BANG recently increased production capacity at its Hayward and Concord facilities. He further explained that these efficiencies will enable BANG to utilize a smaller facility than the one currently operating in Walnut Creek, therefore the organization will be closing the current facility to move to a smaller one in Contra Costa County.
The streamlining of its print operations will also result in a reduction of approximately 95 jobs – primarily in the production and editorial divisions – out of a local workforce of 1,500 employees.
“These are challenging times for the newspaper industry,” Tully said. “These adjustments, some of them very difficult position us to execute our strategic plan to maintain and grow our position as the leading multi-media company in the Bay Area,” Tully said. “We will continue to be the largest newsgathering and newspaper publisher in the Bay Area. We remain committed to embracing emerging digital technologies to buttress our existing products and services.”
Regarding new digital initiatives, Tully pointed to the recent launch of the TapIn Bay Area iPad application, which easily shows users what is going on in their neighborhood and across the Bay Area, including events, restaurants, deals, a business directory, and local news.
That app joins the Bay Area News iPad app, which focuses on the best news in the region; the Bay Area News iPhone app, which focuses on breaking news and sports; and the SV2020 iPhone app, which focuses on tech in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. These are among a number of new digital products, including a digital ad agency that will offer customers a comprehensive range of advertising possibilities.
Tully also said the newspapers’ various web sites including http://www.MercuryNews.com; http://www.ContraCostaTimes.com; http://www.SiliconValley.com; and http://www.InsideBayArea.com will continue to offer new and expanded coverage and services.
Recently, Jeff DeBalko, whose background is in digital media, was appointed to the new position of senior vice president and chief revenue officer. Tully said DeBalko will help BANG continue its transformation.
About Bay Area News Group
Headquartered in San Jose, California, Bay Area News Group is a division of the privately-owned MediaNews Group http://www.medianewsgroup.com, one of the largest newspaper companies in the United States situated throughout California, the Rocky Mountain region and the Northeast. MediaNews Group operates nearly 60 daily newspapers in 13 states with combined daily and Sunday circulation of approximately 2.6 million and 2.9 million, respectively. Bay Area News Group has the largest newsgathering operation in the Bay Area. http://www.MercuryNews.com; http://www.ContraCostaTimes.com; http://www.SiliconValley.com; and http://www.InsideBayArea.com.