Publisher consolidates Bay Area newspapers

by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Louis LaVenture,
News and Sports Editor

Bay Area residents better get ready for a makeover to their local newspapers.

On Tuesday, Bay Area News Group President and Publisher, Sharon Ryan, announced some major shake ups to all of their publications, beginning on April 5.

In an open letter to BANG readers, Ryan announced plans to merge the Contra Costa Times, East County Times, West County Times, Tri Valley Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Oakland Tribune, The Daily Review and The Argus to create one publication called the East Bay Times. Ryan also said the San Jose Mercury News and the San Mateo County Times would merge to form The Mercury News.

Ryan said the changes were prompted by, “a desire to sharpen our content offerings,” in a BANG conducted survey last fall that asked readers what they wanted in their paper. The response explained that readers wanted a focus on “regional news that impacts their daily lives.”

BANG issued a survey online and in its publications to gauge its readers wants and needs in 2015, which is the basis for the changes, according to Ryan.

The Oakland Tribune, The Daily Review and The Argus, will all be converted into weekly publications that will be delivered to subscribers in Oakland, Hayward and Fremont on Friday’s.

Ryan would not confirm or deny if any of the publications on the list were losing money for the BANG corporation, however, along with the consolidation Ryan said roughly 40 of BANG’s 200 newsroom employees would be laid off or bought out of their contracts. Dan Smith, BANG’s vice president of audience, said that 23 contract buyouts would be offered to newsroom employees 60 or older who have also been with their publication for at least 20 years. However, only 30 BANG newsroom employees met these requirements and just five of the contract buyouts would be offered to reporters, according to Smith’s statement.

Former San Jose Mercury News reporter and current freelance journalist Mike Rosenberg took to Twitter to express his displeasure with the situation.

“Sad day for my former colleagues at San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune & Contra Costa Times – and for journalism,” Rosenberg said. “Newspapers need big changes but not sure I agree with ditching 2 historic, household brand names in Oakland Tribune & Contra Costa Times.”

The Oakland Tribune has been a Bay Area staple for 142 years since its inception on Feb. 21, 1874.The Contra Costa Times has was founded in 1947 giving it a rich 69-year history for the publication.

BANG is the largest publisher of daily and weekly newspapers in the Bay Area, which is also a subsidiary Denver, Colorado’s MediaNews Group. The former ANG (Alameda News Group), changed to Bay Area News Group in 2006 after the MediaNews Group bought the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times.

BANG also announced that they would add newsroom employees to three key areas of interest to readers, identified by the 2015 surveys, environment, transportation and local businesses coverage.