Monday, Bloody Monday, As Axe Swings At SF Chronicle

The first of 100 job cuts took place at the SF Chronicle on Monday. About 20 managers were the first to receive news they no longer have a job.

Some had worked there for decades, some are among the top practitioners of their profession earning the respect of colleagues across the industry. Some have serious health issues within their families and now face a future without healthcare.

Next in line are 80 reporters. By the end of the summer the SF Chronicle will have made one of the largest newsroom cuts of any major newspaper.

It’s an extremely unpleasant 80-20 rule. Hopefully the management measured twice to cut just once.

Gathering Tempest 

It was a somber scene Monday evening at The Tempest, the bar that serves as a favorite watering hole for the SF Chron workers. Editorial teams that had worked together for years gathered to say goodbye to some, while many were still awaiting their own fates.

The Tempest is an ironic name for a bar catering to our local media. It’s very descriptive of how quickly change is happening in our industry.

At no other time in our lives will we be witness to such massive, disruptive changes in the media industry. And as media professionals, at no other time in our lives will we be part of such historic, disruptive changes.

Such times will deliver great opportunities for some, and great challenges for all.

I am confident that we will see rise from the ashes a soaring, roaring phoenix. Journalism will once again become a valued profession. And we will see a new elightenment, a new Venice. New media, in its many-media forms, will usher in new age of reason and logic. We will leave behind the dark thinking of religious fundamentalism, and dark ignorance, here in the US and abroad.

300 

The movie “300” reminded me that a few people can make a big difference. The Greeks, representing the roots of our civilization, were defeated in that battle. Yet their culture of reason and logic won out over time.

And so our culture of professional journalism, in the service of reason and logic, will win out over time. And time is now highly compressed, it won’t take hundreds or thousands of years.

After the cuts there will be 300 editorial staff remaining at the SF Chronicle.

What happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk?

Media is how society solves its problems and it requires a professional media class. A fragmented and generally lower quality media will not help us figure out our problems—and we have some big ones to solve.

I’m confident we will get to the new Venice, but the next few years will be scary, painful, and dramatic. Because the economic model that supported the media industry is being torn apart and the new economic models are still being formed. They cannot support the cost structure of the “oldstream media” with its printing presses, pension plans, delivery trucks, administrators, office buildings. The new media business models can barely support a blogger journalist, with a notebook, sitting in a bedroom.