Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News among publications affected in newspaper consolidation

- Big changes are the way for local print media outlets as half a dozen newspapers are going to be consolidated into two publications next month.

The decision was announced Tuesday by the Bay Area News Group.

Among the changes, the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, The Daily Review in Hayward, and The Argus in Fremont, will dissolve into a publication called the East Bay Times. In the South Bay, the San Mateo County Times and the San Jose Mercury News publications will merge to become The Mercury News.

Subscribers of the Oakland Tribune, The Daily Review in Hayward and The Argus in Fremont will soon receive weekly publications. In addition, an East-Bay focused website called the www.eastbaytimes.com will replace www.insidebayarea.com and www.contracostatimes.com.

The rebranding took many employees by surprise and comes as print media newsrooms are already working with skeletal staffs.

“It is a sad thought that the daily Oakland Tribune will cease to exist, but it appears to be a sign of the times,” said Cecily Burt, Assistant Metro Editor for the Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times.

The mergers will take effect on Tuesday, April 5. 

About 40 jobs will be lost beginning with buyouts of veteran employees. 

"All of these newspapers have a history of being locally owned by people who cared about those communities," Alan Mutter of U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism told KTVU. "There are going to be fewer resources available to go deep on local stories. And when there are fewer people, fewer feet on the street, they're just not going to come across the stories," declared Mutter, who was once an executive editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times have more than 200 years of publishing between them.

Combining as the East Bay Times is the culmination of cuts and consolidations that began five years ago.

Ironically the downsizing come as this year's Best Picture Oscar went to the film "Spotlight", which chronicled how the Boston Globe unraveled the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church.

"We're all sitting around and saying, 'Who's going to do that in the future, because there's nobody left to do it," said Mutter. "Those things take time, they take people, they take patience."

"I grew up a paper boy for the Contra Costa Times, so this is sad news," Steven T. Jones told KTVU.

Jones was the executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian when it folded due to financial pressures last year.

"Newspapers are an important town square that sets the issues of the day that we can all debate," observed Jones, "and when newspapers go down we lose something in our civic discourse."

But the median age of a newspaper reader is 60, and many younger people have never picked up the habit, preferring digital media for their information.

Research shows only 11 percent of Americans say they are willing to pay anything for online newspaper access.

By comparison, 1 million people subscribe online to the New York Times, while 75 million subscribe to Netflix.

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