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Watch Your Back, Tribbies



There may be a hurricane on the East Coast, but a journalistic earthquake struck the Bay area on Tuesday when MediaNews Group (the company that owns The Salt Lake Tribune) announced it was merging most of its daily papers in the Bay area to save money on print to generate more online and mobile dollars. ---

According to news accounts, about a dozen East Bay local newspapers will lose their individual monikers and operate under one of two new mastheads: the East Bay Tribune or The Times.

Staff cuts represent one of the more immediate cost savings: The Bay Area News Group, the division of MediaNews that operates the newspapers, will cut about 120 positions out of 1,500 (around 40 of them editorial) and will close a Walnut Creek, Calif., office. Also gone will be the name: The Oakland Tribune, a move lamented by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson here.

Back in the day, those in Salt Lake City who appreciate and celebrate locally owned businesses derided the Pac-Man approach of MediaNews co-founder Dean Singleton in acquiring and "clustering" papers. Through MediaNews' ownership of 57 major newspapers, including The Salt Lake Tribune and the Denver Post, the Denver-based company boasts the second-largest newspaper circulation in the country.

After suffering the effects of the recession, the company, carrying a mountain of debt, was forced to file a prepackaged bankruptcy earlier this year; it's now owned by banks and a hedge fund. While other company executives have moved on, Singleton remains, serving as executive chairman of the board. Why? Is it an honorary title, or to ensure he continues to do what he does best: finesse the ongoing consolidation and "clusterization" of MediaNews newspapers? (former MediaNews publisher Martin Langeveld speculates the company is embarking on a massive newspaper consolidation effort here.)

Best keep an eye out, Tribune employees. You might become a future employee of the Rocky Mountain Post-Tribune—Salt Lake/Park City edition, of course. That is, if you make the cut and your job isn't outsourced to India or Barbados.