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No Tears for the Chronicle?

Ethnic Media and Observers Mixed on Newspaper's Loss

New America Media, News Analysis//Video, NAM Editors Posted: Feb 26, 2009

Editors Note: The San Francisco Chronicle is teetering on the brink of collapse, if it cannot find a buyer or further slash its staff and operating costs. Bought by the Hearst Corp. in 2000, the newspaper lost more than $50 million last year and its readership has steadily declined. NAM editors asked ethnic media journalists and media observers what life would be like without the citys major daily.

VIDEO: NAM writers, editors and associates react to the Chronicle story.

NAM Staff Comments on News of Possible Closure of SF Chron from New America Media on Vimeo.

Jim Bettinger, director, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship, Stanford University

Its almost incomprehensible. To imagine San Francisco without the Chronicle is mind-boggling. On the other hand, if you look at everything thats happened in the newspaper business, it's not surprising. One question on my mind is what is really going on. Is this a negotiating tactic? It's one way to force the union to consider cuts they otherwise wouldn't agree to.

There's a role for a unifying newspaper in addition to narrower audience publications. There's something a major mass market paper can do in terms of just providing common terms for discussion.

The forces of media for at least 30 years, since the 1980s, is that of a fragmented audience. It's hard to see a unifying institution stepping in in place of what the Chronicle has done, however badly it's done it.

Let's say the Chronicle folds. It could also mean that papers like the New York Times will sell well in San Francisco. There are several hundred thousands people here in the Bay Area who would like to read a newspaper still. Or the Media News might move in.

What does it mean for the for the Knight [journalism] Fellowship? Not much. We've made changes. We're less organized with daily papers. This year we have a record of 166 applicants compared to last year, with 88.

Bina Murarka, editor, India West, San Leandro, Calif.

We do get story ideas from the Chronicle, particular businesses coming out with products or Web sites, interesting developments. Sometimes well find out about Indian Americans launching products or Web sites of interest. Thats pretty much it. We have our reporters and we cover the community more than the Chronicle would. It will not impact us as far as our community. Theyve scaled back coverage of ethnic communities, especially the Indian community. In that sense, it paves the way for us to do more stories, because there will be that gap.

Mara Antonieta Meja, managing editor, El Mensajero Newspaper, San Francisco, Calif.

We don't have a business relationship with the Chronicle, but as a journalist it's the big reference we have in this city and in the Bay Area. I think the closing would be a loss for me as a professional. As a journalist, you consume news from different sources, and the Chronicle is a valuable source of information.

Fortunately, we don't depend on the news produced by the Chronicle because we serve a very focused community, the Latino community, and the stories we write are produced ourselves in the community.

I don't think Spanish-language newspapers have been as hard hit as English-language newspapers. We have smaller staffs so we don't take as big a hit as a big newsroom. And we have a market, a readership, focused on the Latino community. We are from the community, producing news for the community, and we'd like to think that the community is going to look to us, not the Chronicle, to get their news.

Neil Henry, dean, School of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley

I think it's a tragedy. The Chronicle has been in dire trouble for a number of years. While we know the day is coming, it's still shocking and very sad.

A city of this size deserves quality journalism and the Chronicle is the oldest and largest in the Bay Area.

The criticism against it is partially true. The economic crisis has forced the Chronicle to continue to cut its economic enterprise, and fewer and fewer stories that are important and that represent the full diversity of the region were produced.

But that said, I think its absence will be severely felt. Not only by readers, but local media will be affected. Local TV and radio stations rely on the Chronicle's coverage to do their news as well.

Kwang Min Choi, editor-in-chief, Korea Daily, San Francisco, Calif.

My staff and I deeply sympathize with the predicament of the San Francisco Chronicle, and we feel as if it were our own tragedy. Like it has been for readership, the newspaper has been a valuable source of information to us. As a newsroom with very limited resources, we often used the articles in the newspaper as a tool to develop news story ideas. Its a sad day for everyone.

Ling-chi Wang, professor emeritus of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley

It would not be missed at all. The paper has been so bad. For someone who reads other newspapersI read every day, delivered to my home, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and then two Chinese papers, one from China and the other from San Francisco, the World Journal. I read these six dailies. And the worse was the Chronicle.

The reason I read it is that maybe it will inform us about news in San Francisco. For international and national news, I dont read the Chronicle they take all of their coverage from wire services. Theres hardly any original investigative reporting. Thats the problem in a city with no competition and one newspaper dominating.

If I want California news, I go to Los Angeles Times. But the L.A. Times, within the last year or so, has been going down the tube as well, going down the last four or five years, steadily. So California news is going to become harder and harder to get.

That means people will become less informed and make our government less accessible and accountable. Democracy functions on a basis of an informed citizenry.

Kang Kyu Lee, editor-in-chief, Korea Times, San Francisco, Calif.

A business arrangement between the Chronicle and The Korea Times San Francisco made it possible for our subscribers to get a home delivery of the Chronicle. This subscriber service will stop. More importantly, peoples right to information would be restricted by the closure of the Chronicle, which has been a major source of information for the areas residents. The development is also an indicator evidently proving the decline of print media.

Cindy Liu, reporter, China Press, San Francisco, Calif.

The San Francisco Chronicle has been playing an important role for a long time, and has full respect from the Chinese media. I remember two years ago, the Chronicle was the first media outlet to disclose the scandal of Mayor Gavin
Newsom. The in-depth reports always focus on peoples daily life.

I think the White House and the Congress should not only save the profitable enterprises, but also raise public funds for media. Public radio, television and press, which are independent from government management, seem to be the last defense for the freedom of the press. If they are not able to survive, how can people freely speak out and be heard?

Joseph Leung, editor-in-chief, Sing Tao Daily, San Francisco, Calif.

The Chronicle is our reliable source of local government news. The paper has a strong team of political writers and reporters. Local officials are more willing to respond to them than to ethnic media's reporters. We have a good working relationship with the Chronicle, and we always support each other whenever there is a need for a picture or checking on some news leads, especially on Chinese American issues. I think it will be a great and irreplaceable loss for us and also for the whole community.

Louis Freedberg, director, California Media Collaborative, and former San Francisco Chronicle reporter and correspondent from 1991 to 2007.

The number of people turning to the Chronicle for news and information is at an all-time high www.sfgate.com is the fifth or sixth most popular newspaper Web site in the country.

People are getting their news in different ways. It is up against huge structural problemsthe Bay Area is so wiredthat certainly accounts for why fewer and fewer people need to buy the paper.

A number of us are trying to come up with an alternative. We will have to. Hopefully, something creative will come out of this -- new forms of journalism that speak more directly to peoples needs and interests.

Pedro Rojas, executive editor, La Opinin, Los Angeles, Calif.

We have a correspondent in Sacramento, but we didn't have a relationship with the San Francisco Chronicle.

In reality, this isn't the first paper and it won't be the last. The Washington Post announced that its earnings had dropped by 77 percent, the San Antonio Express-News is cutting its staff by 15 percent, the Hartford Courant is cutting 100 jobs, and this wasn't in the last month -- This was just today.

I think it damages the larger community. If there isn't a good newspaper, people won't get decent information.

It's the same for Spanish-language newspapers. Everyone has had to make adjustments. Hispanics represent 15 percent of the population, but Hispanic media only gets 1 percent of the advertising.

Amelia Ashley-Ward, publisher, Sun-Reporter, San Francisco, Calif.

I certainly have gone to some meetings with [the San Francisco Chronicle] editors when they wanted to work within the community in terms of reporting. Some years ago, when I heard that they were having trouble, I thought, Wow. If they are struggling, what does that mean for the newspaper business?

In times like these, you dont want to see anyone close down.

We are hopeful that they survive because it gives smaller papers hope to continue the economy is so bad now and the black press is so necessary because we tell our own stories.

Sharon Rosenhause, former managing editor, San Francisco Examiner, former editor Chronicle PM and Florida Sun Sentinel

Last year was the year of job cuts for journalists. This year is the year when the newspapers die. After the Chronicle, I fear the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is next and even the L.A. Times is shaky.

There was no way the papers could have gained young readers no matter what they did, but there was a sizeable readership that liked newspapers the old fashion way and that population was willing to continue to buy papers. But the slash and burn destroyed that readership as well. They could have supported many papers for another 10 years. But the papers got thinner and less and less interesting. I know many editors who left rather than be the ones to let go of their staff. I'm one of them.

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