Public Comment

Chronicle Should Heed Local Advice

By Rio Bauce
Thursday April 16, 2009 - 06:42:00 PM

The San Francisco Chronicle is here to stay! As a lifelong reader of the San Francisco Chronicle, I am pleased to hear the news that Northern California’s largest newspaper will not shut down.  

A treasure of the Bay Area’s largest city, the Chronicle has been around since 1865. A well-established newspaper, which focuses on national, state, and local news coverage, the Chronicle employs reporters and photographers who have won Pulitzer Prizes. The economic downfall of October 2008 has hurt the newspaper business. In addition, according to a 2005 Knight Foundation study, the number of nonwhite employees at the Chronicle has decreased. In my own investigation on, in the last seven days, the Chronicle had only published 10 articles specifically about events in Berkeley. When 55 percent of national journalists believe that the economic concern is the largest problem that faces the journalism business, the newspaper business must try to cater to different demographics through expanding its local news coverage. 

As an undergraduate college student taking a course in microeconomics and a lifetime resident of Berkeley, I believe that, in order to be profitable, the Chronicle needs to pay more attention to the demographics it is serving: a group of diverse people who want to hear more about their own communities. Since the rise of the Internet, more people are turning toward the World Wide Web to get their news. In fact, 37 percent of the respondents in the Pew survey reported that they get their news online at least three times a week. While the Chronicle has created an interactive website with breaking news and blog opportunities, the local news blog has not been updated since December 2008. A Newspaper Association of America survey conducted from 1998-2007 reported that the more education you have, the more likely you are to regularly read a newspaper. In addition, according to the Pew Research Center, newspapers are typically read by the older generation, and the online portion is typically read by the younger generation. All this demographic data suggests that the Chronicle would benefit from expanding its coverage of issues that cater to all types of people. One way to attract more people to your newspaper is to concentrate on issues of local importance. A 2008 Project for Excellence in Journalism survey of newspaper editors found that 94 percent of respondents thought that local news was the most essential element of the newspaper. Because many citizens want to be informed of issues in their area, a newspaper that concentrates on local news that caters to many different demographics will improve business.  

A recent 2009 Rasmussen Reports survey concluded that 58 percent of adults think that it is very important for a community to have a local newspaper. Today there are many local newspapers, such as the Berkeley Daily Planet, that enjoy high levels of readership in the community, because of their coverage of a variety of local news topics, such as education, crime, development, and housing issues. Al-though the San Francisco Chronicle provides some coverage of the greater Bay Area, it is mostly centered on state and national news. In this economic climate, I find it more interesting to read about news that is closest to where I live, because it directly impacts my daily life. The San Francisco Chronicle would benefit from incorporating the elements of the in-depth local news coverage that the Berkeley Daily Planet provides into its business model. Because people prefer local news, the Chronicle should devote more space to in-depth articles on local news in the big cities, such as San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland. If it captures the readership from other local papers, such as the San Francisco Examiner or the Oakland Tribune, the paper will be more profitable in the future. It would be beneficial for the Chronicle to capture the 23 percent of people who turn to television and the Internet as their main news source. Local news is an important component of the success of community newspapers. While people who read newspapers for leisure enjoy local news, those who read for business also enjoy local news coverage. 

Congressional leaders, for example, benefit from and enjoy local news coverage. Oftentimes, local newspapers and news stations, such as the Oakland Tribune, are more sympathetic to leaders than a larger news organization, such as the New York Times. With less bias and more objectivity, these less politically motivated newspapers write more descriptive articles. If they are successful in projecting their message, congressional leaders can more easily highlight the significance of legislative policies in local communities. If the newspaper can improve rapport with members of Congress through the expansion of detailed local news coverage, its readership and donations would go up, lifting it farther out of economic trouble. 

Local news is the way of the future. If print media can expand their local news coverage, they may be able to stop falling subscriptions and advertisements. If these publications continue to use AP and Reuters wire news, they are not going to be able to distinguish themselves from both online and broadcast media. The San Francisco Chronicle should heed this advice in order to maintain its status as Northern California’s largest newspaper. 


Berkeley High School graduate Rio Bauce is a student at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.