Hearst may close San Francisco Chronicle unless union accepts cuts

The 144 year old San Francisco Chronicle may close within weeks if unions don’t accept broadscale cuts.

Owner Hearst Publishing said in a statement that the:

“San Francisco Chronicle newspaper is undertaking critical cost-saving measures including a significant reduction in the number of its unionized and nonunion employees. If these savings cannot be accomplished within weeks…the Company will be forced to sell or close the newspaper.”

“Because of the sea change newspapers everywhere are undergoing and these dire economic times, it is essential that our management and the local union leadership work together to implement the changes necessary to bring the cost of producing the Chronicle into line with available revenue.”

Given the losses the Chronicle continues to sustain, the time to implement these changes cannot be long. These changes are designed to give the Chronicle the best possible chance to survive and continue to serve the people of the Bay Area with distinction, as it has since 1865. Survival is the outcome we all want to achieve. But without the specific changes we are seeking across the entire Chronicle organization, we will have no choice but to quickly seek a buyer for the Chronicle or, should a buyer not be found, to shut the newspaper down.”

Hearst also said that the Chronicle lost more than $50 million last year and that this year’s losses are expected to be worse. The paper hasn’t been profitable since 2001.

The company did not specify the size of the staff reductions or the other cost-savings measures it planned. The Chronicle is the largest newspaper in Northern California, employing 275 workers. The paper has a daily circulation of 370,345 copies and 424,603 on weekends.

Given the current climate, the likelihood of a buyer stepping forward given the losses at the paper would be slim at best. There’s no response from unions yet, but if they do decide to take a stand against the cuts, expect the Chronicle to cease publication in March or April.