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Bay Area newspaper chain announces major consolidation

Parent company of San Jose Mercury News, Daily News to combine newspapers, reduce staff

The parent company of San Jose Mercury News, the Daily News, the Oakland Tribune and more than two dozen community newspapers around East Bay and South Bay has announced a major consolidation plan, a move that will rebrand the company's two major daily papers and impact dozens of editorial jobs.

The company's daily papers in East Bay, Silicon Valley and on the Peninsula will be combined into two publications: the East Bay Times and The Mercury News, according to a Tuesday announcement from the company. In the South Bay, this will mean a consolidation of the San Jose Mercury News and San Mateo County Times into the new Mercury News, effective April 5, according to the company.

The Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times will combine to become the East Bay Times, and a new East Bay-focused website, eastbaytimes.com, will replace contracostatimes.com and insidebayarea.com, according to the Bay Area News Group's announcement.

In describing the reason for the changes, Bay Area News Group Publisher Sharon Ryan pointed to reader surveys that were conducted last fall.

"Readers have been quite clear with us about how much they like their newspapers and what they want more of, and we're changing to serve them better," Ryan said in the announcement.

The company said it is bolstering regional news reporting in the East Bay, adding coverage of transportation, the environment and local business, and placing new reporting and editing resources in Alameda County news bureaus.

The consolidation is not expected to directly affect the Daily News on the Peninsula, according to Mario Dianda, the newspaper's publisher. The weekly newspaper will "continue to cover the same area in the same format," he said in an email.

The Bay Area News Group's announcement notes that the new initiative includes "a new video team" and a "technology overhaul" that will make the company's websites "simpler and faster loading." It will also, however, include a "modest reduction in staffing in certain areas, some of it through buyouts in the newsroom, and expansion in others."

While the company did not elaborate on the staffing cuts, the San Francisco Chronicle (which on Monday broke the news based on a leaked memo) reported that about 20 percent of the Bay Area News Group's roughly 200 newsroom employees are expected to lose their jobs, some through buyouts and others through layoffs.

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