SF Bay Area Editors Say They're Not Threatened by 'NYT' Local Coverage -- Which Begins Today

By: Joe Strupp Today's launch of a New York Times local section in San Francisco does not seem to scare newspaper editors in the area, who tell E&P they welcome the competition and don't consider the Times' 10-person staff there a threat.

"They have 10 people covering a very large, competitive area. We have a full staff much larger than that covering the area," said Editor Ward Bushee of the San Francisco Chronicle. "All it means to us is that there is a lot more competition, which is a good thing. I welcome it."

The Times today launched a local section for its San Francisco readers, who have in the past received only the national edition. The plans call for the staff to provide content for local Bay Area coverage several days per week to start.

The first-day coverage, according to the new Bay Area Report on the Times Web site, includes at least these four stories: a profile of Oakland's new police chief; a story on property tax assessments; a report on rising bridge tolls; and a look at local restaurant wine lists.

Bushee said that his circulation department estimates 57% of Times readers in the Bay Area also buy the Chronicle. He does not believe the Chronicle will lose many of those readers or others. "I don't see that changing with a few days of coverage by the Times," Bushee said. "We have our plan to do what we need to do for our readers."

New York Times Spokeswoman Diane McNulty said the Times has a daily circulation of 40,080 in the Bay Area and 57, 514 on Sunday.

James Pimentel, executive editor of the San Francisco Examiner, which is now a free tabloid daily focused on the city, also did not believe his paper would lose much readership to the Times. "I think newspaper readers will be happy to have another option," he said. "But the Examiner is going to continue to excel in covering local news. We will continue to provide the best local news. We concentrate on local news."

The Bay Area News Group, meanwhile, remains the only other major daily news competition in the area. With 14 daily papers, including the Oakland Tribune and San Jose Mercury News, it remains the largest newspaper chain there. But it has no San Francisco product.

Because of that, BANG Vice President Mac Tully sees little impact by the Times new offering. "I wouldn't say it is a threat," he told E&P. "But this is a competitive market and this will elevate the level of competition. It just makes everyone work harder. You have to."

But he did admit the Times initial plans do not provide a major impact on his readers. "They have such a small slice of the pie here," he said. "They are around 60,000 circulation and we are around 600,000."


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