Hearst's Chronicle Building (Image Source: sfgate.com)

From the San Francisco Chronicle itself:

The Hearst Corp. today announced an effort to reverse the deepening operating losses of its San Francisco Chronicle by seeking near-term cost savings that would include “significant” cuts to both union and non-union staff.

In a posted statement, Hearst said if the savings cannot be accomplished “quickly” the company will seek a buyer, and if none comes forward, it will close the Chronicle. The Chronicle lost more than $50 million in 2008 and is on a pace to lose more than that this year, Hearst said.

And yes, we almost quoted Bloomberg instead. Now about those 3.9 acres of Mid-Market/SoMa land (not to mention readers’ designs)…

68 thoughts on “Hearst Close To Calling It Quits With The San Francisco Chronicle?”
  1. I always found the Chronicle to be very refreshing — supple and absorbent! If they stop printing I’ll have to switch to Charmin.

  2. No!! As much as I love to hate the Comical, it is simply unthinkable for San Francisco to lose it’s own newspaper. No Chip Johnson calling out Ron Dellums for his tragic ineffectiveness? No Matier and Ross providing us with a diary of Gav and Jen’s travels? Willie! Save Willie Brown!!!

  3. No big loss IMO. The Chomicle is worthless – not even worth the $19.95 intro rate that we got when we moved to Tiburon (6 mos., wednesday-sunday delivery). Even the Marin IJ is better. In fact, I think there was more content in the Sierra Star that I read last week when I was around Yosemite.
    Liberal ideology doesn’t sell in newspapers (or on radio). I’m holding out a very faint sliver of hope that The New York Slimes goes BK as well – or at least wipe out the trust holdings of the Sulzberger clan – and force a change in control 🙂

  4. C’mon gang, the paper isn’t that bad. Aside from their great work showcasing the seemingly boundless stupidity of our city government (i.e. the “clown show” series), I would also miss Morford’s rants and musings. Bauer is a great restaurant critic. The Stienstra guy (sp?) has great outdoor/local travel suggestions.
    Sure, you can get the national news anywhere. But there’s a lot of local flavor that would disappear without the Chronicle. Speaking of liberal ideology…do any of you want to live in a city where The Examiner is considered your local paper? It would be a tragedy if the Chronicle closed. It’s a part of the city’s history and identity (Herb Caen, anyone?), much more so than some rotting North Beach theater or failing jazz club on Filmore.
    Then again, the only ones to blame are those of us who read sfgate instead of the print version, which includes me. Sigh.

  5. Liberal ideology has been selling papers for years. Giving away the same content for free on the internet does not particularly sell papers very well.

  6. We have been long time subscribers to home delivery of the Chronicle. The combination of recent changes in format,smaller type size, and a 50% increase in rates led me to cancel this week. I can read The Mayor’s column on SF Gate.

  7. Liberal ideology doesn’t sell in newspapers (or on radio). I’m holding out a very faint sliver of hope that The New York Slimes goes BK as well – or at least wipe out the trust holdings of the Sulzberger clan – and force a change in control 🙂
    Showing your true colors, there.
    It has nothing to do with “liberal” or conservative. Unfortunately newspapers are a dying business. Seems like people are more interested in reading opinions that reinforce their own beliefs rather than something that challenges them. (Not that the Chronicle was in that category, but the NYT certainly is).

  8. SF should give up its pretension of trying to have a newspaper that deals in national news. SF is too small, and has too much uniformity of opinion and apparently not a broad enough base who reads. A Washington bureau for Chomicle staff writers, lol.
    After this dinosaur goes poof, it will clear the decks for a local flavor tabloid to emerge. Perhaps two, and they can play to different audiences like The Daily Snooze (Daily News) and The New York Post used to.

  9. MBPioneer,
    actually I did the opposite when the Chron changed their layout a few weeks ago. It looked too much like the LA Times in its older version. I think the new format has a lot going for it but it’s a question of personal taste. NY Times is fine too, but the lack of local news was a big drag for me. I was happy to re-discover the Chronicle and found it to have a lot of good content. That’s what will ultimately decide on who survives and who tanks.

  10. The SF Chronicle is one of those things that you love to hate.
    It was only a week ago that with changes in Philadelphia, the SF Chronicel and the NYT were the ONLY newspapers left that had a stand alone book review section. I guess I can go to Yelp from now on for stuff like that.

  11. “In a posted statement, Hearst said if the savings cannot be accomplished “quickly” the company will seek a buyer, and if none comes forward, it will close the Chronicle.”
    This sounds like a bluff to me as an aid in union salary negotiations.

  12. Just wait until he calls their bluff, closes the paper and then who’ll be sorry? Not Hearst, I bet.

  13. er, maybe its the other way around. Whatever. Its not unthinkable that the old-style newspapers go the way of the buggy-whip. Then all we’ll have is the Onion and Metro. If they have that here. I forget.
    All boilerplate Reuters articles will be written in Mumbai and twitter’d around the world to anyone who cares, or something.

  14. OMFG, can you say Cinnamon Stillwell?! It is too that bad. I’d rather read the Sacramento Bee or the freakin OC register than that thing. Thank god, some good news at last!

  15. All of you who say “I’ll just get my news on sfgate.com” — who do you think publishes sfgate? If the Chronicle goes down, sfgate goes with it.
    All that new has to come from somewhere, and there has to be an economic model that pays for it.
    Nobody will be writing Reuters or AP articles either if there isn’t an economic model that pays for them. I’m not interested in getting my news from blogs or other online sources that don’t even make an attempt to avoid bias.
    I don’t think the Chronicle is the world’s greatest newspaper, but it’s not bad, and it’s the only place I can get a good mix of local, international, and national news in one daily package. Unlike a computer, I can use it while eating breakfast or riding MUNI and it doesn’t matter if I spill coffee on it.
    If the Chronicle went away, I’d have to move to a city that still has a viable newspaper, if there still is such a thing.

  16. Thanks, Dave. I was starting to think I was the only Chronicle fan on the board (and I’m not even a liberal).
    Not that any of you care, but the Chronicle is nearly 150 years old, having been started by the de Young brothers, and has won 5 pulitzers. It’s a piece of the city’s legacy, regardless of current editorial bias or financial situation. Hopefully this is just posturing and the paper survives in some form.
    If not, though, I would hope that sfgate somehow does. Gotta be cheaper to run a website than a full, publishing newspaper.

  17. Count me in as another person who will be bummed if the Chron goes under. I’m an old-fashioned actual paper reader. I don’t really like reading online (except for SS), and the comments on SFgate are snarky and stupid.

  18. In this economy of genuine, value-added business — it needs to perform better to survive and it doesn’t. Even for California (sorry), it’s weak on many levels. The odd fall-apart no-substance Sunday paper is plainly weird (altho I will miss All Over Coffee). I keep thinking my paper is missing the News sections. Not so, there just is very very little. It’s almost a local USA Today with much dated, filler commodity stuff coming from the wires.
    The Chron has lost touch w/the community it serves. The website doesn’t compete with other papers. National/intl is far better covered in the Guardian, FT, Independent and the Times. It seems devoid of leadership and a journalistic voice.
    I don’t know what options there are for good local reporting and coverage.

  19. It will be a sad day if the Chron goes away. The Mercury-News used to be a decent paper too, even just a few years ago, but the gutting of the last five years or so have turned it into a complete rag. McClatchy, even though partially financed by the Gates Foundation with the specific intention of worrying more about news that straight up profit, sucks a fat one on providing unbiased news or investigative journalism.
    A friend of mine is the McClatchy Africa bureau. He’s one guy. And the whole bureau. (McClatchy owns more than 30 papers, including plenty of biggies).

  20. Liberals, as LRMIM suggests, do not have a winning model when it comes to garbage talk radio, fox news, etc.
    Liberalism tends to not be that jingoistic and trash-oriented. Thus it doesn’t get the kind of popular attention.
    Unfortunately, reading is not very profitable. So they may very well go broke.
    Who cares? There’s always DailyKos.

  21. I think the loss of the Chronicle also is telling about the changing demographics of “the city”. Local foreign language papers are not having any trouble attracting subscribers or advertising dollars.

  22. Maybe Hearst should spin the paper off as a separate corporate entity and then declare bankruptcy. Then he can cancel all union contracts, lower pay for others and start over with a lower cost basis. The Chronicle gets a lot of revenue from its ads. Just take a look at all the Sunday inserts and Macy ads running daily. I can’t believe that this paper can’t make money if it restructures.
    Next, the City should declare bankruptcy, restructure all union contracts, rewrite the retiree benefits and cut taxes in half. Oh, now I’m really dreaming.

  23. I would also miss Morford’s rants and musings.
    @Dude: Morford is only available on-line
    I think the loss of the Chronicle also is telling about the changing demographics of “the city”. Local foreign language papers are not having any trouble attracting subscribers or advertising dollars.
    @Morgan: AsianWeek recently ceased production of its paper version
    I won’t miss the Chronicle. They are too ingrained with the politics of the city to report anything more serious that slaps on the wrist.

  24. “Liberal ideology doesn’t sell in newspapers (or on radio).”
    Yep, that is why the more conservative ideology paper in SF, The Examiner sells better then the Chronicle and can charge a premium over the Chronicle. Why don’t you stick to austrian monetary theories LMRIM, cause when you veer into politics and ideology you no longer sound so brilliant.

  25. All this hyperbole! (“we all lose”) The press isn’t faililng. The clowns running the Chronicle are failing. It’s wonderfully ironic that a paper that champions unions for corporate America is now having to battle its own.
    Let it fail. It hasn’t been profitable since it was purchased in 2000 by Hearst (lol, didn’t Hearst pay the Fangs to take the Examiner off its hands, so it could then legally turn around and throw its $650M+ away on the Chronicle?). Last year it lost $1M per week, and it’s even worse this year!
    Once it’s gone and out of the way, there will be room for a good paper to spring up in the marketplace. The few good reporters and columnists at the Chronicle now will move on to the new paper (presumably at a lower salary – hey, welcome to deflation), and the scrubs will hit the bread lines and look for handouts from the government whose virtues they championed so much.

  26. Love it or hate it, in the City The Examiner now beats the Chron in circulation and is based on the Euro model of a free daily. Also helps to be owned by Phil Anschutes.

  27. Circulation?
    You mean the plastic bags with wet moldy paper inside that always litter my street actually count as circulation?

  28. LRMIM, I don’t agree with you. It’s political views have NOTHING to do with its failure. You may consider it poetic justice that they are failing because of their liberal ideology…but the truth is, that has no relevancy.
    Newspapers are going out demographically, and people use them mostly because of habits.

  29. Chomicle could learn a lesson or two from this site. Timely, relevant content and engaging the audience. At the very least, they could do a better job of managing and shaping the comments section online like the editor here 🙂

  30. People on this board actually take the Examiner seriously?
    The daily newspaper model is outdated and in trouble. It has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative.
    Personally, I am disappointed with the Chronicle and, always have been. I wish it was more like the NYT or Washington Post. Then, I would subscribe…

  31. Even Murdoch is having trouble making newspapers pay.

    The company recently took $8.4 billion in write-downs, including $3 billion on its newspaper unit, which includes The Journal’s publisher, Dow Jones & Company. Meanwhile, the News Corporation’s stock price has fallen by two-thirds in the last year, a sharper decline than at media conglomerate peers like Time Warner and Viacom.

    It’s nice to blame libruls for everything, keeps you from having to think.

  32. LMRiM,
    You’re seriously blaming the Chronicle failing on quality issues? I don’t care for most of the Chronicle, but perhaps you may have noticed some hard times at other papers around the US? I’m not saying that we necessarily need to fret about “saving” the Chronicle, but I think it’s pie-in-the-sky thinking that some other paper will come along and take its place. The newspaper industry is becoming less and less viable every day, everywhere.

  33. Biased liberal rag should have closed down when Herb Caen stopped writing. The paper is a joke, just a bully pulpit for leftist nuts like Mark Morford. Whoever said above that the Marin IJ has better content is absolutely correct. Like GM going BK, is it really a surprise to anyone?

  34. Personally at this point I hope the Chronicle goes under as I am starting to get really po’d at their sports coverage. Yesterday and today they had articles about the A’s on the front page of the Sports section while the articles on the Giants were buried in the back of the section. Last time I checked they were the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants, if I want info on an Oakland team on the front page of the sports section I’ll go read an Oakland paper.

  35. Somehow I equate people who refuse the PAY a subscription for their news source, printed or on-line, with house flippers and other evolutionary deadends that expect everything to come to them for free.
    Most of the comments here only take pot shots at the perceived inadequacies of the SF Chronicle and ignore that this is merely a local example of a national problem. Remeber, Hearst also has the Seattle Post Intelligencer on the chopping block, and you can even hear a lot of talk that the venerable New York Times may be in its last year.

  36. “and you can even hear a lot of talk that the venerable New York Times may be in its last year”
    From your keyboard to God’s ear, please let it be so….
    BTW, I have been a paying subscriber of the Chomicle for much of the past 7 years. Just recently, after our move to Tiburon, we got 6 months of wednesday-sunday delivery for $19.95 total. Our subscription just ended but they are still delivering it for free (we would never give a rag like that the ability to auto-charge a card). We won’t be renewing.

  37. The one thing that I keep sensing from reading comments on sites like this is the negativey, hateful, spiteful sniping that more and more people are doing. Are you all so angry at your own failures that you have to bring everyone down? Or are you absolutely sure that there’s only one political viewpoint that has any validity, whether right or left? People, have you no tolerance? Is every thing you do so perfect that you can’t accept the fact that you’re not going to agree with everything that occurs in this world? It all sounds like arrogant, condensending, elitist crap. Shame on all of you for being so hateful.

  38. This is an opportunity for the LA Times to expand its local bureau and start a local edition. I am wondering if it can just buy the name and suscriber list from Hearst without buying anything else. I would prefer the New York Times, but it would require a greater customization effort.

  39. Anyone who thinks it wouldn’t matter if The Chronicle went under should be ashamed. Sure, you can love to hate the big mean newspaper that you sometimes disagree with. But if you think that any other media outlet has reporters (who get paid basically NOTHING for fielding all your nasty e-mails and self-important calls) watching government, police, etc — well, you’re wrong.
    That news you get from AP? This site? NYT’s SF stories? Radio? TV? Most all of it starts with something in the Chronicle and regurgitated elsewhere. Those stories won’t be replaced if the Chron goes under — it will just disappear. I’m sure City Hall would be thrilled.
    Shame on you if you don’t subscribe. It’s part of your duty as an American to support a free press. And by that I don’t mean financially free.

  40. I agree with KS. A big city needs a big city newspaper. It’s also a matter of civic pride. As liberal as most of you think this paper is, it has editorizlized against the policies of the ultra liberal supervisors many times. However you may not have noticed since by your own admission, most of you complainers don’t read the paper.

  41. I would generally say that the editorial page of the Chronicle is less liberal than the electorate of San Francisco, simply because the Chronicle’s readership hails from other counties more than SF these days.
    Even so, to say that a paper in the Bay Area is failing because it’s “too liberal” is preposterous. It’s like saying that a paper in the South is failing because it talks about God and guns too much.

  42. “most of you complainers don’t read the paper.”
    I do read the paper and that is why I complain about it.
    From today’s front page of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sporting Green, there are three articles, the first one a story about a mother from Oakland and her son who played for Oakland Tech and is now a member of the Buffalo Bills.
    The next is a story about Josh Outman trying to land a job as the 5th starter for the Oakland A’s. The other article which dominates the center of the page is about Tiger Woods and a golf tournament in Arizona.
    Then at the bottom there are three blurbs, one about the MLB Network which at least mentions that it will televise the Giants exhibition opener. But the other two are about the Oakland Raiders and the Oakland A’s.
    So of the six things on the front page of the San Francisco paper’s sports section we have four things about Oakland.

  43. (off tangent)
    I’ve never understood why conservatives like LMRiM are so dismissive of the NYT–I think this disregard for a free press is one of the most successful (dangerous) things the right wing noise machine has accomplished.
    Where are people going to get their news? From blogs? (And blogs don’t pay that well either so who knows how long they’ll be around).
    I think good news organizations are vital for democracy, but, alas, people have been brainwashed into thinking that if they read something they don’t agree with, it must be wrong.

  44. LOL, you libs crack me up. NYT is unbiased? ROFL.
    As if the Republic is going to crack because the New York Slimes goes out of business or the Chomicle completes its drain circling exercise!
    Bias is fine in media. The Founders lived in a system like that, and made no attempt to try to stop it (in fact, they set up a system in which it could flourish). Partisanship is what made America great – not all this feel-good “let’s all not be mean and hateful” (of course, only now that The One has been immaculated on January 20 – before then, partisanship was juuuuuussssst fine). Now, you can’t even make a reference to the chimp that was shot (probably the biggest story of the US) for fear of the PC police.
    Media should be upfront about their biases. WSJ, for instance, is very upfront, and makes no claim to be unbiased. The Chomicle is laughably biased, and its pretension to being a neutral and objective purveyor of news is being met with ridicule by the marketplace. Say goodbye, and good riddance.
    Again, have some faith in the Bay Area! Something better and more viable will spring up, if the population is “worthy”. Remember Ben Franklin’s famous admonition, “A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it”.

  45. Why do conservatives revel in other people’s misery? I don’t understand.
    I don’t make fun of a morbidly obese drug addict that they all listen to.

  46. I think this model is what’s next for journalism.
    The old paid subscription model is as dead as the Dodo and good riddance. News as we know it has always had a liberal slant and the Chron beat the Devil on that one. The net is a great way to balance the information available and allow varifiable debate. I still have to tip my hat to LMRiM for stearing me towards mises.org and Rothbard.

  47. “The Chomicle is laughably biased, and its pretension to being a neutral and objective purveyor of news is being met with ridicule by the marketplace.”
    This is silly. Newspapers in general are dying on the vine, everywhere. It’s because of the internet and cable news. You certainly come by whatever pent-up anger you have honestly, being a neocon in Marin and all.

  48. “Just recently, after our move to Tiburon, we got 6 months of wednesday-sunday delivery for $19.95 total. Our subscription just ended but they are still delivering it for free (we would never give a rag like that the ability to auto-charge a card). We won’t be renewing.”
    LMRiM – You need to call them, or better send them a registered letter, stating you want to cancel. I went through exactly your experience. They kept delivering after my promotional subscription ended. After an extended while, they sent me a bill for a large amount, which they threatened to send to collection. I just paid it and vowed never to subscribe again. This is akin to a forced sale. It was many years back, so I forgot about it, but an organization that resorts to such marketing practices merits its demise.

  49. Under Obama’s retooling of American industry, he’s planning on injecting $180 million to bailout & convert the Chron to a toilet paper manufacturing co.
    Though some would argue it’s operated as such for the past 15 years already.
    Go WSJ/NYT, where content lives.

  50. “Go WSJ/NYT, where content lives.”
    The London Economist, which I have cheerfully subscribed to for 20 years and my only regret is that I don’t have enough hours in the week to read it all.

  51. The ownership should focus on monetizing sfgate. Distributing daily content via hardcopy is sadly from a bygone era. It’s kinda wasteful too.
    Chronicle lofts here we come!

  52. That land is virtually worthless. Metreon is closing — the area is pretty rough — much more desirable property is distressed. Why would anything replace the business there today in the next 20 years?
    For comparisons, see Detroit.

  53. Metreon may be closing, but there is a huge difference between those two blocks. A lovely greenspace is only one enormous difference. Think foot traffic too. Not an apt comparison.

  54. The Metreon is not closing, people. WTF are you talking about? The theater inside the Metreon has some of the most heavily used screens in the country. The retail space at the Metreon was always poorly designed, but the Sony store closing does not equal an empty or closed building. Please.
    [Editor’s Note: Not only not closing but being refaced to boot.]

  55. The Chron won’t fold, The Fangs will buy it!
    In all seriousness, they brought this on themselves. If the rest of the paper is as poorly run as their classified advertising (Open House) Department, I can understand why they are tanking.

  56. Rillion said:
    > Why don’t you stick to austrian monetary
    > theories LMRIM, cause when you veer into
    > politics and ideology you no longer sound
    > so brilliant.
    The liberal bias is not the only reason that the Chron is having problems, but LMRiM is correct that liberals are not big readers or talk radio listners. No one wants to pay for ads on talk radio when no one is listening or pay for ads in a paper when a lot of the “readers” just get the paper to see sports scores (since they don’t have internet access in their Canal Area apartments)…

  57. Yep, libruls cause all the problems. As noted above, even Murdoch is having trouble making papers pay.
    About talk radio, I remember hearing a report a while back that claimed that the rise of talk radio was related to the lengthening commutes (Joe sixpack listening to talk radio for hours while stuck in traffic commuting to the exurbs).
    In any case, libruls can afford FM radios and iPods, that’s they they don’t listen to Rush.

  58. San Francisco’s population of around 800K (and falling). Sorry, that’s not a big city population. That’s even less than half the population of Manhattan.
    I think Kotkin has it right. Northern California thinks it’s bigger (and better) than it really is. it’s time to look at our selves in the mirror to realize we live in a trash-filled, urine-smelling town with crappy bus service. Let’s stop talking about legacies and pulitzers — we don’t deserve this legacy the way we’ve driven this down into the ground. Gentry Liberals, indeed.
    The Comical can’t be a world class paper for such a small-minded tiny town of our size.
    By the way, Morford is an idiot. A third-grader can write better than him.

  59. ““San Francisco,” says historian Kevin Starr, a native of the city, “is a cross between Carmel and Calcutta.”
    Thanks for turning me on to Joel Kotkin “Usually Named”. His opinions about Northern California are creative and interesting.

  60. Two months ago there were all sorts of posts about the city’s actually much larger than 800K. Too funny.

  61. The US Census Bureau estimated that SF’s population in 2007 was 799,183. The California Department of Finance estimated that on 1/1/08 SF’s population was 824,525. Both the Census Bureau and the State report that SF has been increasing in population since the recovery from the dot com bust of 2001. The State of California estimates that SF’s population grew by 1.5% in 2007.
    While the SF population may decline somewhat in the current economic hard times, I doubt we’ll see the the same outflow we did in 2001. In 2001, SF’s employment contracted more than almost anywhere else, as dot com employment was concentrated here. Now, the economy is bad almost everywhere. It’s much less likely that people will be able to move to find employment elsewhere than it was in 2001.

  62. “It’s much less likely that people will be able to move to find employment elsewhere than it was in 2001.”
    But it’s absolutely certain that they’ll be able to find a cheaper place to live.

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