Monday, Bloody Monday, As Axe Swings At SF Chronicle
By Tom Foremski
The first of 100 job cuts took place at the SF Chronicle on Monday. About 20 managers were the first to receive news they no longer have a job.
Some had worked there for decades, some are among the top practitioners of their profession earning the respect of colleagues across the industry. Some have serious health issues within their families and now face a bleak future without healthcare.
Next in line are 80 reporters. By the end of the summer the SF Chronicle will have made one of the largest newsroom cuts of any major newspaper.
It's an extremely unpleasant 80-20 rule. Hopefully the management measured twice to cut once.
It was a somber scene Monday evening at The Tempest, the bar that serves as a favorite watering hole for the SF Chron workers. Editorial teams that had worked together for years gathered to say goodbye to some, while many were still awaiting their own fates.
The Tempest is an ironic name for a bar catering to our local media. It's very descriptive of how quickly change is happening in our industry.
At no other time in our lives will we be witness to such massive, disruptive changes in the media industry. And as media professionals, at no other time in our lives will we be part of such historic, disruptive changes.
Such times will deliver great opportunities for some, and great challenges for all.
I am confident that we will see rise from the ashes a soaring, roaring phoenix. Journalism will once again become a valued profession. And we will see a new enlightenment, a new Venice. New media, in its many-media forms, will usher in new age of reason and logic. We will leave behind the dark thinking of religious fundamentalism, and dark ignorance, here in the US and abroad.
The movie "300" reminded me that a few people can make a big difference. The Greeks, representing the roots of our civilization, were defeated in that battle. Yet their culture of reason and logic won out over time.
And so our culture of professional journalism, in the service of reason and logic, will win out over time. And time is now highly compressed, it won't take hundreds or thousands of years.
After the cuts there will be 300 editorial staff remaining at the SF Chronicle.
What happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk?
Media is how society solves its problems and it requires a professional media class. A fragmented and generally lower quality media will not help us figure out our problems--and we have some big ones ahead of us.
I'm confident we will get to the new Venice, but the next few years will be scary, painful, and dramatic. Because the economic models that supported the media industry are being torn apart and the new economic models are still being formed.
The new business models can't support the cost structure of the "oldstream media" with its printing presses, pension plans, delivery trucks, administrators, office buildings...
The new media business models can barely support a blogger journalist, with a notebook, sitting in a bedroom.
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The San Francisco Chronicle, reported to be losing as much as $1m per week, is to cut 25% of newsroom staff by the end of this summer.
"This is one of the biggest one-time hits we've heard about anywhere in the country," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, in Washington.
Eighty reporters, photographers, copy editors and others, as well as 20 employees in management positions are expected to be laid off by end of the summer.
And from SVW - September 2005:A report from New York city . . .
Whenever I'm in New York I feel like I'm in the coolest city in the world...this time it also felt like the hottest and most humid city in the world.
The warm, moist air stirred up by hurricane Katrina, made me melt into a walking puddle, especially when drenched by occasional torrential downpours.
New York is very cool partly because of its large media industry. The largest news and magazine companies have a heavy presence in midtown where I was staying. You can't avoid seeing their ticker tape news headlines whirl around their buildings, and their giant logos at night.
My alma mater, the Financial Times US HQ is there, and so are large offices of Reuters, CNN, Time-Warner, Hearst, etc.
But it's a shame that the center of the media industry has moved to Silicon Valley and nobody told New York :-)
I should write Mayor Bloomberg a letter about that. It would point out that many Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Yahoo, and EBay, are in fact media companies. They are technology enabled media companies.
They publish digital rather than paper pages but they carry content and advertising just like a newspaper or magazine paper page.
And our media industry is growing like gangbusters while New York's is not. Our media industry is hiring like crazy (Yahoo has 700 new positions to fill, Google a similar number) while New York's media industry continues to cut jobs and budgets.