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.
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.