The cause of death was not only a poor economy, but a shocking decline in relevance in the East Bay as well as an inability to transform itself amid a changing appetite for news.
News of holding company for MediaNews, the corportation that owns the Daily Review, San Jose Mercury, Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and other small newspapers in the area, filing for bankruptcy comes as little surprise to many in the field. The company announced it was restructuring debt last December. Taking the step towards bankruptcy belies the fact that not all its creditors have faith in MediaNews' chintzy chairman Dean Singleton.
Singleton said Friday newsrooms would not be affected by the bankruptcy since it was the holding company, not MediaNews, filing for financial protection, but it matters little as, in the end, there is little left to cut. The mere mention of Singleton among veteran journalists regularly elicits curse words and sneers for his cost-cutting of newsrooms across the country. The MediaNews papers in the Bay Area have all been consolidated into a leaner product which has led to a precipitous drop in quality of already dubious value.
Here at The Citizen we will watch what happens next for the MediaNews papers in the area with great attention. Readers of this site know our stance; the future of journalism lies with entrepreneurial reporters, not with corporations and this is a good thing. The business model for large newspapers is forever broken. There can never be another Rupert Murdoch, but you can make a very good living covering the local news. It seems not everyone sees the future so clearly.
In December, I spoke to, Jim Knowles, editor of the San Leandro Times, and told him about the coming newspaper apocalypse about to hit the Bay Area. He disagreed with me, but the fall of MediaNews is the beginning, and just the beginning, as the newspapers continue to fall prey to old business models of exlusivity, stories behind paywalls, and reliance of cheap to produce crime stories. The Wall Street Journal reported MediaNews is experimenting with various pay models in some markets. Do it and cease to exist. Nobody pays for news anymore, just as no one will pay for compact disc instead of singles at iTunes.
East Bay Express you're next, then the S.F. Weekly (but for different reasons), and after that the San Leandro Times. Sorry, but you're on life support unless you invest in producing 100 percent of your product online. In newspapers today, there is no corporation "too big to fail," instead you are all "too big to succeed."
When the bloodletting is done, all that will be left is the San Francisco Chronicle, by way of being the last man standing, as well as a loose coalition of hyperlocal sites like The Citizen. Believe me, it's going to be an exciting time.
-STEVEN TAVARESJOIN THE REVOLUTION! www.eastbaycitizen.com