Former Chron managing editor Robert Rosenthal (right) told a Commonwealth Club audience that downsizing in the news business has resulted in 400 to 500 fewer journalists in the Bay Area in the past five to six years. At the start of the 2000s, he estimated the region had about 1,000 to 1,200 journalists.
"Journalists, in a sense, are being eliminated," Rosenthal said, according to SFSU's Golden Gate Express Online.
Rosenthal, former KTVU anchor Leslie Griffith, KGO ABC7 News Director Kevin Keeshan and Merc Editorial Pages Editor Steve Wright spoke Thursday on the topic "The State of Journalism: Are Integrity and the Bottom Line Compatible?" The panel was co-sponsored by SPJ NorCal and the Commonweath Club of California.
Griffith (left), who left Channel 2 last year after 20 years at the station, said she was concerned by the trend of more entertainment programming on television news. “We were not hiring investigative reporters or doing more investigative reports,” said Griffith. “We were hiring more and more entertainment reporters, which is the trend nationwide.”
Wright said the Merc's newsroom has been cut from 400 people to 200 due mainly to a massive reducion in classified advertising revenue — from $120 million in 1998 and 1999 to about $14 million a year today.
“It’s advertising that pays for the journalists, that is then being shifted and is migrating, in huge amounts, onto the internet,” Wright said, according to the XPress Online report. “Newspapers are struggling with how do deal with that, especially the impact on revenue that has been taken away from our pages.”
“It’s not like we’re going away tomorrow, but we need to figure out how to make our internet sites also profitable," Wright said. "It’s going to take a while for our internet revenue to…catch up and help protect our core product, the newspaper."
Keeshan, the KGO-TV news director, said that while there may be more choices for viewers, the demand for professionally created content has not diminished. “People don’t watch TV but they do consume news and I still think that the journalist, as authenticator and learned authority who investigates…and verifies facts, is still the gold standard. It’s not going to be replaced by the masses…by viewer posts on blogs.”