SF Chronicle Trims Business Section; The Best Are Gone

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We all knew big layoffs were coming at the San Francisco Chronicle, but I had hoped that they’d try to keep at least one of the business/tech writers that is responsible for my occasional purchase of a copy of the paper. No luck.

The paper that is losing $1 million per week could fire every journalist it has on staff and still not break even. But that hasn’t stopped them from trying. 80 reporters, photographers and copy editors plus 20 in management will be gone by end of summer.

And the best reporters aren’t waiting around to see who gets laid off. They are walking out the door, into better jobs.

Jessica Guynn and Dan Fost are gone. They the reporters who were regularly attending events, talking to tech execs and developers and generally gunning for the interesting stories. Both resigned. Fost is freelancing. Guynn got a raise and a new job at the L.A. Times covering silicon valley.

Ellen Lee, Ryan Kim, Verne Kopytoff and Tom Abate remain to cover business and technology. They are fine writers, but the loss of Guynn and Fost is a serious blow to the newspaper. I found that when I was reading an interesting story in the Chronicle, it was usually written by one of them.

One bit of good news. David Lazarus, the brilliant strategist who suggested that only newspapers are qualified to do “real” journalism, is among those who’ve left. I’ll miss his occasional rants, but his blog-hate wasn’t helping the newspaper.

Al Saracevic, who’s taken an occasional public shot at TechCrunch, was promoted to Business Editor – he now controls the entire business section of the paper. Al is an incredibly nice guy but, like Lazarus, he’s firmly in the “does’t get new media” camp.

These losses may have made the bottom line look marginally better for this fast sinking ship. But losing the talent isn’t going to make people want to read the paper. They should have done everything they could to have kept Fost and Guynn.

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