San Francisco Chronicle coming to an end?

Bambi Francisco Roizen · February 24, 2009 · Short URL:

Hearst says if cost-cutting measures don't work, it may be forced to sell or shut down the paper

 In a way, the staffers at the Chronicle had to have known this was coming.

The Hearst Corp delivered some harsh words to the staff at its San Francisco Chronicle paper, which has been around since 1865. First the media company said it planned on significant reductions in the number of the Chronicle employees. Then it said if savings could not be accomplished, the paper may have to shut down.

It's not fun working at a newspaper these days.

Here's the release:

Hearst Corporation announced today that its San Francisco Chronicle newspaper is undertaking critical cost-saving measures including a significant reduction in the number of its unionized and nonunion employees. If these savings cannot be accomplished within weeks, Hearst said, the Company will be forced to sell or close the newspaper.

Hearst said that the Chronicle lost more than $50 million last year and that this year’s losses to date are worse. The Chronicle has had major losses each year since 2001.“Because of the sea change newspapers everywhere are undergoing and these dire economic times, it is essential that our management and the local union leadership work together to implement the changes necessary to bring the cost of producing the Chronicle into line with available revenue,” said Frank A. Bennack, Jr., vice chairman and chief executive officer, Hearst Corporation, and Steven R. Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers.

They added, “Given the losses the Chronicle continues to sustain, the time to implement these changes cannot be long. These changes are designed to give the Chronicle the best possible chance to survive and continue to serve the people of the Bay Area with distinction, as it has since 1865.  Survival is the outcome we all want to achieve. But without the specific changes we are seeking across the entire Chronicle organization, we will have no choice but to quickly seek a buyer for the Chronicle or, should a buyer not be found, to shut the newspaper down.”

Hearst noted that these cost reductions are part of a broad effort to restore the Chronicle to financial health. The Chronicle has been asking its readers to pay more for the product through home delivery and single-copy price increases.  In June, the Chronicle expects to begin printing on new presses owned and operated by Transcontinental Inc., which will give the Chronicle industry-leading color reproduction capabilities.

Now, while Hearst may shut down the paper edition, it doesn't say anything about shutting down Phew! Good thing. 

Where would I get my local movie information from if it didn't exist? And, who's going to tell me if a movie is worth watching? I'd sure miss that cartoon reviewer who claps his hands or jumps out of his seat.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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