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Mercury News Downsizes Again — Will Smaller Be Better?

By Robert Haugh

The biggest local newspaper is getting smaller.

Earlier this month, the Bay Area News Group (BANG) offered buyouts to employees and is preparing another round of layoffs.  BANG is the regional media organization that includes the Mercury News and the East Bay Express.

MercuryNews

There’s some dispute about how many are leaving and how many will remain. Stephen Perez of Metro News tried to get to the bottom line in a story a few days ago.

According to one report, 28 writers, editors, photographers and other senior staffers took the buyout. Another report says 15 took the golden handshake and 12 were laid off.

BANG Executive Editor Neil Chase won’t say what the real number is. We’re not sure why this should be top secret. But Chase wrote in an email to staff: “After the reductions, we’ll have more than 150 people covering the Bay Area.”

We asked some knowledgeable people what’s the significance of the number. Here’s what we heard:

  • 150 is a small number for a major paper, especially since it includes both the Merc and the Express.
  • The newsroom was between 450-500 people during its peak from 1999-2000.
  • The number of reporters is closer to 39, with a lot of production staff at the sister media organization in Anaheim, the Southern California Newspaper Group.

We noticed that editorial page editor Barbara Marshman took the buyout and has now left the paper. We’ll always appreciate her for responding to our questions. Although, Marshman may have wished she hadn’t on one occasion when she threw her former boss under the bus.

If the Merc replaces Marshman, we hope the editorial pages finds someone who isn’t so biased toward San Jose, as she showed again in her final column.

We know the Merc is based in downtown San Jose and even got free parking from the city worth $864,000. That “contribution” was pushed by Mayor Sam Liccardo who was a councilman at the time.

And the Merc has never showed it understood the other smaller cities in the area, especially Santa Clara. Last year, they even wrote editorials on the curfew and audit that completely contradicted their very own past positions.

But we can hope that maybe as our biggest newspaper gets smaller, they will get better at something.

 

4 replies »

  1. Thank you, Robert, for your article. I agree with comments posted above about bias in the Merc’s reporting (which echo many of the comments in Metro), and the co-mingling of editorial content in news articles. It was the lack of objectivity in the reporting – and the errors in reporting – that ultimately caused our household to cancel our decades-long 7 days/week subscription to the Merc.
    Reading about yet another round of downsizing at the Merc reminded me of a 2009 article by Mike Cassidy (another former Merc reporter) who sounded a warning about the financial challenges facing the newspaper industry. Readers responded with suggestions and complaints about bias:
    https://www.mercurynews.com/2009/09/27/cassidy-we-heard-you-readers/
    I was struck then by the Merc’s tone deafness to reader complaints of bias in Merc reporting.
    Yes, the internet has changed access to news and print media has strongly felt the effects – but people who were loyal paid subscribers for years finally had enough of the lack of objectivity in reporting and stopped paying for the Merc.

  2. The demise of the SJMerc is a result of its blatant bias. It allowed reporters to run ramshod with fake news. Too bad. Other papers should be paying attention. Like The Weekly.

  3. The Mercury News has been getting progressively less informative, comprehensive and relevant to not only Santa Clara but the entire Silicon Valley region in general. There are even days that there are no op-ed columns, editorial articles or letters to the editor included in this sad excuse for a newspaper! It is disheartening to see competent editors, newspeople and columnists like Rob Elder, Scott Herhold, Tim Kawakami, and Ramona Gingwaris disappear (even if I didn’t always agree with them); they took their jobs seriously and were the heart of the paper’s content. The Bay Area News Group might as well shut down and start tweeting once or twice a week – since they took over Knight Ridder, there has been continual erosion of quality writers, editors, content and integrity at this once-great news source.

  4. It is true that the internet took a toll on the Mercury. I think, however, those who stopped receiving the Mercury, including myself, thought the reporting was incredibly biased and subjective. I had personal knowledge of some of the “news” articles that were published, and how wildly inaccurate and biased was the content. The editorials were always so predictable and also incredibly biased. The Mercury simply lost credibility and journalistic integrity.

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