Friday, April 28, 2017

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Your Local Newspaper Is Hurting

The New York Times  Mike McPhate CALIFORNIA TODAY APRIL 26, 2017 

East Bay Times reporters, from left, Matthias Gafni, Thomas Peele, Harry Harris, Erin Baldassari and David Debolt reacted as they learned of their Pulitzer Prize in their Oakland office this month. Credit Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group 

This month the East Bay Times was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36 people.

The publication’s win was evidence that even after years of economic free-fall in the news business, local journalism was alive and kicking.

Then, days later, word came that as many as 20 newsroom jobs would be eliminated in a cost-cutting effort, according to labor negotiators.

“It’s a punch in the gut,” said Carl Hall, executive officer at the Pacific Media Workers Guild, which represents East Bay Times staff. “You cannot say this is not a high quality work force.”

Neil Chase, executive editor of Bay Area News Group, which oversees the Times, said newspapers had not yet figured out how to counter slumping ad revenue. “Nobody is happy about this,” he said of the cuts. “I’m certainly not.”

Since 2001, American newspapers have shed more than half of their work force. Evidence of the culling in California is everywhere:

A labor survey found that newsrooms in the East Bay and South Bay shrank by more than a third in the last five years.

— With fewer than 500 newsroom employees, The Los Angeles Times is now less than half of what it was in 2000.

— According to a Pew survey in 2014, the number of newspaper reporters assigned to the statehouse, 24, had fallen by a third from a decade earlier.

“It’s been ugly,” said Gabriel Kahn, a journalism professor at U.S.C.

There have been some bright spots. Nonprofit journalism start-ups have expanded in California over the past decade.

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