Wednesday, October 15, 2008

signs of the times

For sale signs, that is.

We heard rumors a few weeks ago, but now it's apparently official. The San Jose Mercury reports today that its longtime headquarters and surrounding land are up for sale. In the story, Merc publisher Mac Tully says that the newspaper could save money by moving to smaller offices. A relevant point, seeing as how the workforce has decreased exponentially since the paper was taken over by Denver-based MediaNews Group a few years back. Tully notes that an adjacent parcel of land -- to be converted into a big-box shopping site -- just sold for somewhere near $27 million.

One question is whether the money saved by the sale and proposed move to smaller digs would be used to rebuild the paper -- which almost shrinks as you hold it -- into a news organization that will again serve Silicon Valley as it once did. The other question, slightly scarier, is where those new digs might be. Tully acknowledges that the paper has not yet found a new location.

Coincidentally, my intro class just turned in an assignment in which they created their own blueprints for the news media of the future, with special consideration to the principles laid out in The Elements of Journalism, Kovach and Rosenstiel's treatise on the relationship of journalism and democracy. These j-kids represent the generation of fresh-thinking, techno-savvy future journalists who may one day lead the news media through these scary growing pains into something the old-timers have yet to imagine. Their blueprints reflect a certain amount of idealism and passion for all that journalism could be, something that has been drained away -- along with the money -- from so many daily newspapers today.

Maybe folks like Tully should pay attention. bk

p.s. More dismal news. The Boston Herald reported last week that Portland, Maine "could become one of the first American cities to lose its daily newspaper. The Portland Press Herald said in court papers last month that it is hemorrhaging so badly that it may have to be dismantled if it isn't sold."

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