Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hearst, MediaNews: you can invent the future in San Francisco


TO: Steven Swartz (CEO, Hearst Newspapers) and Dean Singleton (CEO, MediaNews Group)

ggbridgeSee that bridge? When finished in 1937, it was not an incremental step. It was a leap into the future.

Wouldn’t it be a terrific idea to search for the boldest, most imaginative solution to your problems in California?

Mr. Swartz, you’ve let it be known that Hearst will shut down the 339,000-circulation San Francisco Chronicle unless it is able to sell the paper or extract major concessions from its unions. Mr. Singleton, MediaNews owns just about every daily paper surrounding San Francisco, but revenue declines have forced you to impose mandatory furloughs on employees.

As Alan Mutter, the Newsosaur, suggests as part of a detailed analysis of the situation, and has suggested previously as well, MediaNews could be part of the solution. Antitrust issues are unlikely to get in the way of a combination of some kind. Major staff cuts are simply inevitable. But there is an opportunity to go far beyond a simple consolidation of operations.

I’ve suggested this before but, you might have missed it. So I’m going to repeat myself somewhat.

Mr. Swartz and Mr. Singleton, the real opportunity for Hearst and MediaNews in the Bay Area is to plan now for a truly transformational step toward the news enterprise of the future, rather than another incremental set of staff cuts and tonnage reductions on the path to oblivion.

It’s time to reinvent, to define a whole new way of doing business. In the Bay Area, that does mean merging the MediaNews papers and the Chronicle into one regional operation, but not stopping there.

Continue reading this post at Nieman Journalism Lab.

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