SPJ’s Northern California Chapter Calls MediaNews Out on Staff Cuts

By: E&P Staff

The Society of Professional Journalists? Northern California Chapter today expressed concerns about the latest round of staff cuts by MediaNews Group at the San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, and the 26 other regional newspapers controlled by the company ? and called for more accountability on the company?s part for the effect the cuts will have on newsgathering.

?Reports from chapter members signal to us that we can no longer stand on the sidelines when it comes to scrutinizing the effects of these cutbacks on the breadth and quality of news coverage,? board President Linda Jue said in a statement. ?We aren’t simply talking about saving jobs. We’re talking about how business decisions are narrowing the choices reporters and editors make about which stories to pursue. This is of special concern during an election year, when keeping the public informed about fast-changing economic, political and social issues is essential to the democratic process.”

These staff reductions, which will be made in the next few days, come on the heels of two additional staff cuts in 2007.

While the board is mindful of the economic challenges facing newspapers, it is calling on MediaNews to reconsider its business strategy and recall its stated commitment to quality journalism. The board pointed out that these new cuts are being made just after MediaNews reported a 33.9% increase in quarterly net income.

In a release, SPJ stated that it is ?dedicated to the perpetuation of high journalistic standards that keep citizens well informed on matters affecting their lives and their communities. Therefore, the chapter has a professional obligation to monitor the impact of this series of cutbacks on the free flow of reliable information to residents living in communities served by MediaNews.

?The NorCal chapter will work with its membership to collect data documenting the effects of the cutbacks on San Francisco Bay Area news coverage,? the organization added. ?Chapter representatives will seek direct discussions with senior management of MediaNews as well as journalists, union representatives, media analysts, academics, community leaders, and other interested parties. The board plans to share its findings with the public and with concerned governmental officials.?

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