Where are Hearst and the Chronicle? The conglomerate cometh

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Yet another signal on what is happening to daily newspaper competition in San Francisco and the Bay Area:

The Contra Costa Times, now a MediaNews/Singleton paper, ran some minimalist stories Friday by George Avalos on the new developments in the new conglomerate that is poised to destroy local newspaper competition, according to a Singleton filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission inWashington.

Among other things, the story disclosed that Hearst made a $299 million equity investment in MediaNews and that MediaNews had “obtained a financing package from a syndicate of lenders that enables the newspaper company to borrow up to $597 million to help finance its acquisitions…The syndicate of lenders includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, General Electric Capital Corp and several financial and other organizations.” Not a word in the Friday Chronicle. And only skimpy details in the CCTimes and Oakland Tribune coverage. Why? The conglomerate cometh.

More troubling signals:

+Serious newsroom cuts are coming: In an accompanying article, Avalos reported “some pain looms.” He quoted Kevin Keane, the new vice president/new for the new partnership north, as saying that “Some tough choices are going to have to be made.”

+And there are the stock ludicrous statements about “competition.” “We want to take it to the Chronicle,” says Chris Lopez, editor of the Contra Costa Times. “This puts us on a path to attack them in areas where they have strength.” Then he writes without gulping that “MediaNews officials say they believe the combined resources of the papers, along with a readership clout that surpasses the Chronicle, will help in the newspaper wars.” And then he quotes John Armstrong, who heads MediaNews operations in the East Bay, as saying, “We are winning the battle against the Chronicle. This will hasten the inevitable.” Did he or anybody else on any of the conglomerate papers ever call an outside expert, a journalism or law school professor, for some independent comment on this market allocation scheme? Or are they already under the shackles?

I suggest all staffers on all the McClatchy/Singleton/Hearst/Gannett/Stephens conglomerate papers take a look at the complete Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust filings in federal court and the SEC filings. And I hope they follow the story along as it develops. The emerging one newspaper company for the Bay Area is there for all to see. B3