Election Section

New Layoffs Hit East Bay Papers

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

Last week brought both good and bad news for the 235 newly unionized reporters and editors of the Bay Area News Group-East Bay. 

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

The bad news, which came Friday, is that 12 percent of them will be laid off next week. 

The layoff announcement came from BANG-EB President John Armstrong, who said 29 Media Workers Guild staffers will be laid off on July 11. 

That downsizing comes on the heels of the layoffs of 11 managerial employees. 

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

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

Paper Cuts, a blog that tracks newspaper layoffs at http://graphicdesignr.net/papercuts, has recorded more than 5,597 layoffs so far this year, with three regional jobs—including two reporters—reported gone Tuesday at MediaNews-owned Santa Cruz Sentinel. 

The week also brought bad news for MediaNews journalists on the other side of the bay. The company’s Palo Alto Daily News—which is not part of BANG-EB—laid off six journalists Friday and killed the paper’s Monday edition. 

Alan Mutter, a former San Francisco Chronicle editor, reported in his blog Tuesday that of the 102,120 newspaper jobs downsized since 1990, nearly half—48.7 percent—have been lost in the last three years (see http://newsosaur.blogspot. com) 

For more news on BAG-EB’s tribulations, see the Media Guild’s watchdog blog 

at www.medianewsmonitor.org.