|City manager Kevin Duggan says it was only a few years ago that three newspapers regularly covered City Hall: the San Jose Mercury News, the Palo Alto Daily News and the Voice. But these days, he says, there's really only one.
"We seemed to get a lot more calls from the Daily a few years ago," he said, adding that the city "used to have a dedicated Mercury News reporter -- we don't at this point to my knowledge."
The Daily was recently purchased, along with the Mercury News, by Dean Singleton's MediaNews -- a company notorious for slashing newsrooms.
That's troubling to Duggan, who believes that efficiency is important in city functions, but not without the "democratic environment" that is bolstered by a healthy press. Since it was purchased by MediaNews, the Daily has continued to decrease its coverage of Mountain View and local politics, sometimes going for weeks without a story on Mountain View.
Today, the two papers -- once competitors -- share stories. In fact, so that the papers don't waste time reporting on the same stories, every morning the Mercury News uploads a list of the stories it's working on to Daily News editors, according to a former Daily News reporter who wished to remain anonymous.
"If you look closely at the last year or so, you'll see MediaNews papers haven't scooped each other on a story yet," he said. "I'm concerned because in some cities, there is just one reporter covering a beat. That's not enough."
The reporter continued, "The Bay Area is a terrible place to run a big newspaper. There's been a meltdown in the advertising and classifieds market here due to Craigslist, Monster, CareerBuilder, etc. The only way to survive is to cut. And more cuts are on the way. They're steadily consolidating all their common operations: ad sales, phone centers, printing centers, distribution centers, etc. Some of that stuff is simply eliminating redundancies. The company really feels that the only way to stay afloat is to consolidate."
With ad revenue and classified ads migrating to the Internet, and newspapers all over failing to make money online, the future of these local newspapers remains uncertain.
"What it means for us is we just need to work harder to communicate with the public through our newsletter and the Web site," Duggan said. "If it wasn't for the Voice, the public would really lose a lot in keeping track of what's going on in the city."
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