San Jose State professor John McManus has posted an interview with former San Mateo County Times executive editor John Bowman (pictured), who quit two weeks ago over budget cuts that have reduced local news coverage by that MediaNews paper.
“They’re way past the point of diminishing returns, of penny-wise and pound-foolish,” Bowman says of MediaNews, the chain headed by Dean Singleton.
Points Bowman makes include:
- • In 2004, the Times had four editors and 12 full-time reporters. Now it has three editors and eight reporters. San Mateo County has 21 cities and 700,000 residents.
• On weekends and holidays, the Oakland Tribune, Hayward Daily Review, Tri-Valley Herald, Fremont Argus and San Mateo County Times each have one reporter working, Bowman said. A single editor is on duty for all five MediaNews papers.
• MediaNews has shifted the copy-editing of many of its newspapers to a centralized newsroom in Plesanton to save money. Bowman says that the copy editors there are “are just as dedicated and serious about doing journalism as I am” but because they’re short-handed, they’re making embarrassing errors. He cites two instances where they put the wrong city’s name in the headline for a local story. “One day there was a blank space on the front page where a photo was supposed to go. What concerned me was that there was no noticeable alarm that this had occurred. [Because the copy desk is in Pleasanton] there’s no connection to the community, so why be embarrassed by anything?” McManus quotes Kevin Keane, the editor in charge of most of MediaNews’ Bay Area newspapers, as saying, “There’s no question that the one copy desk has had some problems, but it’s a solid operation.”
• Keane said MediaNews is moving toward a centralized copy desk next year that will serve all of its papers in the region, including the Mercury News.
• Editorials at the San Mateo County Times and apparently other MediaNews papers are being written by news editors, not editorial writers. McManus says that creates a conflict between those who gather the news and those who comment on it. Keane says that while it would be ideal to have such a separation, it is common practice at smaller papers to combine the two jobs.
The inteview concludes with this quote from Bowman: “The newspaper business I got involved in, some say it’s dying. I say it’s dead. The last 10 years of my career has been hospice care.” [Previous coverage: Press Club, June 1 — Bowman resigns] (Photo credit: Grade the News)