So Long, Farewell, We Say Goodbye With an Obit

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Okay, so this is a little strange. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Executive Editor Phil Bronstein is writing short, eloquent posts remembering former colleagues let go because of the paper’s downsizing.

The paper announced this spring they were laying off 25 percent of the newsroom by end of the Summer, and readers can now learn tidbits about folks who were let go. For example, one former Style editor was a “renaissance guy with broad knowledge of jazz, literature and other subjects,” and one editor was able to deconstruct complicated stories and reassemble them as mini-masterpieces every day.

What’s odd is that the blurbs say things like “Her departure after 32 years of faithful, professional service represents an irreplaceable loss,” which sounds more like an obit. But sensitive remembrances don’t make good on the fact that many talented journalists are going jobless. As the Project for Excellence in Journalism points out in its 2007 State of the News Media report, two important journalistic pursuits — monitoring of local governments and regional issues — are losing out to newsroom downsizing. (Other Bay Area news staff reductions get frequent updates here, and MoJo’s “Breaking the News” investigation digs even deeper.)

If news companies do not assert their own vision and take risks, the PEJ report argues, their future will be defined by those less invested in and passionate about news than the heroes being eulogized by Bronstein.

–Gary Moskowitz

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