Bill Wallace, CSUEB 
Member since Sep 28, 2009


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Re: “UC Berkeley Threatens Bay Area Journalism

First of all, let's understand what we are talking about here. The Bay Area News Project isn't some sleazy conspiracy by the University of California to put local newspapers out of business. It is an initiative started by past and present SF Chronicle employees in an effort to insure some level of responsible local news coverage.

Claiming that it is an end-around the local newspapers that threatens their continued existence is a lot of conspiratorial twaddle. It is no more true of the Bay Area News Project than it is of the Chauncey Bailey project, which is a non-profit organization hosted and supported by San Jose State University.

Having set the record straight, I am afraid that I don't see how this effort threatens professional news organizations in the slightest. The fact is, professional news organizations are already under a considerable threat as a direct result of their own corporate structure and greed and their utter lack of interest in serving the public in any sort of useful way.

Don't kid yourself that local daily newspapers are getting rid of professional staff because they can't compete with students working for free. They are getting rid of professional staff because they have to pay them and provide them with minimal benefits. That cuts into the bottom line and that is all the local commercial news organizations are interested in.

The largest news organization in the Bay Area is the Bay Area News Group which has cut its staff to the bone and palms off virtually the same weak editorial product in every community it ostensibly serves. The Chronicle, my old newspaper, has also decimated its staff, eliminated its award-winning investigative reporting team and slashed its bureau system.

Despite these cuts, the news hole of both organizations continues to disappear. Neither regularly staffs most local government agencies and when they do the coverage is sporadic and superficial.

These things didn't happen because BANG and the Chronicle were threatened by non-profits or couldn't compete with cheap student labor. In fact, both take advantage of student copy whenever possible, and an increasing amount of the editorial material run by both consists of items by non-staff freelancers. As the risk of seeming boorish, unless things have changed markedly since I was a freelancer, the paychecks received by local freelancers -- including many who write for the Bay Guardian, the SF Weekly and, yes, the East Bay Express -- is merely nominal, and none, to my knowledge, receive any benefits.

If the Express wants to push for better local news coverage, instead of bemoaning the Bay Area News Project's effort to provide some, why doesn't it cut back on its voluminous entertainment listings and run more serious local coverage of the various city councils, planning boards and regional authorities in the Bay Area? That is what we are not getting from the dailies these days.

Bill Wallace
Communication lecturer,
Cal State East Bay

Posted by Bill Wallace on 09/28/2009 at 2:38 PM

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