Paper trail - Page 2

Deep cuts at the Chronicle and the Mercury mean less journalism and accountability for the Bay Area
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Dianne Feinstein, who are only now attaining major leadership positions.

"I always knew it would mean extremely unpleasant belt-tightening," Sandalow told the Guardian, referring to the paper's hundreds of millions of dollars in losses since Hearst took it over in 2000. "I just didn't think it would be suffocation."

Bronstein apparently is unsure of how the Chron can even begin to change the course of its unique money-losing trajectory. Despite the industry being wounded by fleeing subscribers and competitive Web outlets, most newspapers are still making big profits, with the Chron being a fairly rare exception. Sources add that the job cuts might save just $8 million or so per year, not nearly enough to make up for the paper's staggering losses, for which no one had any reasonably good explanations.

"Something's not right with our structure," John Curley, a deputy managing editor who'd been at the paper for more than 20 years, told the Guardian. "There isn't another metropolitan daily that has a dominant position the way the Chronicle does that loses money."

Indeed, SFGate.com is among the most regularly visited newspaper sites in the country, and the model has greatly expanded the paper's readership. But Curley explained that local advertisers "don't necessarily want to reach someone in Zurich who might be interested in reading our political analysis." For most papers, online ads still generate remarkably little revenue.

The company initially announced in May that it was eliminating 100 newsroom employees out of its total of 400. We're told that some guild cuts were officially enacted last Friday, with more on the way, but no one's entirely sure who has accepted buyouts so far, and much uglier terminations could take place soon. "People are terrified," one source said. "Their phone rings, and they don't want to answer."

At the same time, nine members of the top brass, including two deputy managing editors, Curley and Leslie Guevarra, were sent packing. Bronstein worked hard to appear assured of the paper's future in Editor and Publisher, telling the journal recently that the Chron would be focusing more on local news as part of its strategy, with less of a "buffet-style," but he offered few specifics. He nonetheless told staffers during recent meetings that he doesn't really know what to do and invited them to offer their own solutions.

The mood's been decidedly glum at a modest SoMa dive known as the Tempest, where Chron staffers are known to commonly lurk and where some of the recent sendoffs for departing staffers have been held.

"Business has been very good for me this week," a bartender there said late at night on June 8. "But I know 25 percent of these people won't be coming back.

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