Union Floats Proposal to Buy San Francisco Chronicle

When Hearst was still smiling
The union representing employees at the financially troubled San Francisco Chronicle has asked the newspaper's owner, Hearst Corp., for the chance to purchase the Chronicle if it is put up for sale.

The request was made in a written set of suggestions for keeping the paper alive that the California Media Workers Guild submitted to Hearst earlier this week. "It is our intention to form a public-labor partnership to explore the possibility of acquiring the Chronicle should the paper be offered for sale," the Guild proposal states. "If necessary, we will keep the paper going on borrowed funds and volunteer labor."

Hearst announced last week that it would close the Chronicle or put it up for sale if it could not achieve massive cost reductions in coming weeks; sources privy to negotiations have said the company may lay off up to half of the Chronicle's 275-person newsroom.

However, Carl Hall, a Chronicle reporter and local union representative, said Guild officials have yet to be convinced that the Hearst-proposed cuts can restore the paper to fiscal health. "I think we are deeply skeptical that this package is going to save the Chronicle," Hall said.

The idea of employee ownership was also floated in a paid ad in today's San Francisco Examiner. The ad, bought by Chronicle reporter Delfin Vigil, stated that Hearst's suggestion of closing the paper was "unacceptable, unforgivable and even un-American."

Among the Guild's other proposals to Hearst were a "joint subscriber campaign" aimed at boosting readership -- Hall said the paper must increase its revenue, rather than cut costs, to stay afloat -- multimedia training courses for reporters, and a program to help reporters who lose their jobs make the transition to new work.

Read the Guild's full set of proposals here:
Guild Joint Proposals to Chronicle.doc

Photo by Alan Light.
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