Monday, January 12, 2009

What's next for the Chronicle?

With Hearst's decision to put its Seattle Post-Intelligencer up for sale (a first step toward shutting it down), all eyes are turning to the money-losing San Francisco Chronicle. As former Chron city editor Alan Mutter put it:
    Given that Hearst Corp. has plowed more than $1 billion into the San Francisco Chronicle without seeing a dime of profit, it’s a fair bet that something is bound to change at my hometown newspaper. The only questions are: What? And when?
Jim Hopkins, the SF-based publisher of the Gannett Blog, does the math a little differently. He says the losses have averaged $800,000 a week since mid-2000. Some 440 weeks later, that would put Hearst's losses in SF at $352 million, not $1 billion. Either way, it's a lot of money.

Hopkins doubts the Chron will go fully digital because it is scheduled to outsource its printing later this year to a new production plant in Fremont being built by non-union Canadian printer Transcontinental.
    Even so, I've wondered whether San Francisco would be the first major U.S. city to go web-only. And maybe it still will: The Gannett-controlled Detroit Media Partnership took only a partial step in that direction last month, saying it would end home delivery on all but three days of the week, probably starting this spring. Chronicle publisher Vega knows Detroit well. ... Vega surprised Gannett a year ago by luring away Bushee, who was then top editor at The Arizona Republic. Vega and Bushee have been tinkering on the paper ever since -- with plenty of help from old Gannett acquaintances. (Wink!)

2 comments:

Robert B. Livingston said...

Anti-trust waivers and blaming Craigslist seem to be just the ticket for the Hearst family to keep their foot in the San Francisco news biz.

(And I was going to ridiculously suggest that by printing facts and eschewing propaganda, the Chronicle would gain a competitive advantage over every other newspaper in the country!)

jim dlifford said...

Re San Francisco as possibly the firs major city to "go web-only": Fine, as long as the staff moves to the web instead of the unemployment line. The impoortant part of newspaper is NEWS. First things first and that would be making people pay for the news. Otherwise, we are headed for the day when we live off government handouts for news - literally and figuratively.