Media Downsizings To Set New Record

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 10, 2009 - 12:11:00 PM

With the year only two-thirds over, American journalism has already lost nearly as many jobs as in all of last year. 

Bay Area papers may be hit even harder as downsizings continue in the area, with the San Francisco Chronicle engaged in a new round of layoffs as two major national papers prepare to launch local editions. 

MediaNews, the Bay Area’s largest newspaper publisher, has had more layoffs as well, even closing the editorial offices of one of its papers, the Fremont Argus. 

MediaNews workers at the chain’s East Bay unit were also forced to take unpaid days off as one of the conditions for winning a union contract. 

More bad news for local print publishers came in an announcement in Saturday’s New York Times, stating that “Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are planning to introduce San Francisco Bay Area editions.” 

Times staff writer Richard Pérez-Peña reported that, by offering coverage of local stories in a bid to capture advertisers and new readers, the new editions could represent “the first glimpse at a new strategy by national newspapers to capitalize on the contraction of regional papers.”  

So far in 2009, U.S. papers have laid off at least 13,533 workers, compared to 15,977 in all of 2008—itself a record year—according to the blog Paper Cuts, which charts press downsizings. 

The blog reported that, in the last seven months, 2,112 newspaper jobs vanished. 

Converting those figures to a monthly basis, papers lost 302 jobs a month in 2007, 1,331 in 2008 and 1,640 a month so far this year. 

Layoffs haven’t been restricted to print, with television also engaged in downsizings—for example at KTTV-11, the Fox News station in Los Angeles, which has laid off 117 newsroom employees in the last two months, according to media-watching blog L.A. Observed. 

The station is a dominant player in one of the nation’s two leading media markets. 

The blog reprinted a letter sent by station Senior Editor Mark Suddock to Fox owner Rupert Murdoch lamenting that “The best of the best are being furloughed. ... The cuts are so severe that virtually no one remains on-site to technically maintain the facility.” 

Layoffs have hit Bay Area stations as well. 

According to Mother Jones magazine, “In the first half of 2009, 123 TV news shows were canceled, 106 newspapers folded, 110 bureaus closed, 556 magazines died, and 12,000 journalists lost their jobs. These numbers are likely to get much worse.”