New Layoffs Hit East Bay Papers

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday June 28, 2008 - 07:13:00 AM

It’s been a good news/bad news week for the 235 newly unionized reporters and editors of the Bay Area News Group-East Bay. 

Journalists who work for the MediaNews Groups East Bay papers—which include the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Fremont Argus and others—won formal recognition for their union Wednesday. 

Then, on Friday, came the announcement by BANG-EB President John Armstrong Friday that 29 Media Workers Guild staffers will be laid off on July 11. 

In an email to staff, Armstrong said the layoffs were needed because of declining revenues and soaring newsprint prices. 

“We are forecasting a 10% drop in revenue over the next 12 months,” he wrote, on the heels of a 17% drop in the current fiscal year. 

One key culprit, he wrote, is the plunging real estate market, “its ripple effects on virtually all segments of the East Bay economy and the continuing migration of ad dollars to the Internet.” 

The new Media Guild chapter resulted from a June 13 vote at BANG-EB’s papers. Some of the company’s paper had been unionized, but MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton abolished the Guild chapter by merging the news operations of union shops with the non-union Contra Costa Times. 

Union members organized a new election and won a narrow recognition vote from members of the newly combined news operation 10 months later.