The San Jose Mercury News and Oakland Tribune printed their last editions Monday, marking the end of an era for Bay Area newspapers.
The Trib will absorb the Contra Costa Times, the Hayward Daily Review and the Fremont Argus under a new nameplate, the East Bay Times. In the South Bay, San Jose’s flagship daily newspaper will merge with the peninsula’s San Mateo Times under the newly abbreviated masthead Mercury News.
— SVCN-Bay Area News (@jacqramseyer) April 4, 2016
Digital First Media, the New York-based publishing corporation that owns the newspaper’s parent company Bay Area News Group, called the move a means to survival. The Oakland Tribune nearly lost its name in the 1980s, when then-owner Gannett Company came close to rechristening it the East Bay Today.
Though the Tribune will live on as a weekly insert in the East Bay Times, the consolidation leaves Oakland without a daily newspaper. The 142-year-old Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for photography in 1950 and again in 1989 for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake.
The San Jose Mercury News has been rebranded before, too, but never without the city’s name. The San Jose Weekly Visitor ran its first issue in 1851 and the San Jose News in 1883. During WWII, the Mercury bought the News and published one in the morning and the other at night until combining the two papers in 1983 as the San Jose Mercury News.
The Merc won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986 for reporting on political corruption in the Philippines and in 1990 for in-depth coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake the year before. More recently, former assistant managing editor David Yarnold was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2004 for editorial writing on a local corruption scandal.
Five years ago, BANG tried to merge the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune but reversed the decision because of backlash from readers. There had been talk of dropping San Jose from the masthead at that time as well.
In announcing the changes last month, BANG called the move a transformation to better serve readers by bolstering regional coverage. Buried in the March 1 article was a passing mention of the human toll. About 20 percent of BANG’s newsroom staff will get cut, with buyouts offered to employees 60 and older or employees with at least 20 years tenure.
Contra Costa Times columnist Daniel Borenstein and the paper’s features editor, Lisa Wrenn, said they welcome the change if it keeps the company financially stable.
“We don’t relish losing the unique daily mastheads,” they wrote in a March 4 column. “They evoke lots of memories for us and undoubtedly for longtime readers. But the 1980s, when we cut our professional teeth, are long gone.”
Tribune alumni held a wake for the newspaper Monday. They met in the iconic Tribune tower, which the newspaper left in 2007 and just so happened to change hands this week when the court seized control of the property from its beleaguered owner.
— John D’Anna (@azgreenday) April 4, 2016
The shakeup at BANG coincides with massive layoffs at local radio news station KGO. Last week, the station’s parent company, Cumulus Media, announced it was trimming about 30 newsroom employees at KGO and six full-time DJs at sister station KFOG.
Veteran morning talk show host Ronn Owens was about to be transferred to KSFO until Cumulus changed its mind because of “listener outcry,” according to the Mercury News.
— Mercury News (@mercnews) April 4, 2016