Life is rough over at the Chronicle

If you run the San Francisco Chronicle and you’re watching your ad revenue rapidly dwindle away, how embarrassing is it when you can’t even attract advertising from your own reporters?

That’s exactly what happened last week when Chron reporter Delfin Vigil ran a full-page ad in the San Francisco Examiner.

Vigil dug into his own pocket — which is apparently lined with gold — to rail against his masters at the Hearst Company (http://sfppc.blogspot.com/2009/03/chronicle-seeks-to-cut-150-to-225-jobs.html and http://mediaworkers.org/pdf/delad.pdf).

It cost Vigil a tidy sum to rage against the dying of journalism’s light in print — especially for someone on a reporter’s salary.

According to an advertising representative I contacted at the Examiner this week, here’s what it costs to run a full page ad similar to Vigil’s:

Monday-Friday Street Edition – San Francisco Zone, circ 68,000 $1,404

Monday-Friday Street Edition – full run, circ 80,000 $1,685

Thursday Home edition – full run, San Francisco and San Mateo Counties circ 200,000 $3,492

Thursday home Edition – San Francisco Zone circ 120,000 $2,492

Considering the fact that Vigil’s union recently agreed to take the shaft from management (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/15/BA0L16FGNH.DTL&hw=chronicle+guild&sn=001&sc=1000) I wonder if he’s rethinking how he spent his time and money?

Maybe less of Vigil’s effort and cash should have been spent on that pretty ad and a little more should have been spent on getting his best clips together, updating his resume and making sure his finances are squared away to brace for impending layoffs at the Chron.

At least 150 people are going to be shown the door thanks to the union’s agreement with management. Sadly, this is an improvement over management’s pre-deal threat to lay off 225 people.

Vigil may learn the hard way that having an extra $1,404 in the bank can come in handy when you’re unemployed and hunting for a job in one of the worst economies in history.

Other highlights of the agreement: Seniority rights are history, vacation/maternity/sick leave will all be cut, the work week is going from 37.5 hours to 40 and the company can now turn to subcontractors for any work.

Despite all that, union honcho Carl Hall is all fired up: “This is the start of the real battle. We have to find a solution, a real solution, to save what we really care about here – quality journalism and quality jobs.”

I’ll go out on a limb and boldly venture a guess that in the next “battle” the union’s “real solution” will be to take the shaft from management one more time.

Unfortunately, the situation at the Chron is hardly unique.

Newspaper unions around the nation are being forced to take a sharp stick in the eye from management just to cut potential layoffs from an obscenely large number to a not-quite-as-obscenely-large number.

But a stick in the eye certainly beats watching your paper go out of business like the Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

If Vigil is lucky his idealistic passion for his craft won’t be rewarded with a pink slip, but it’s easy to see the bosses at the Chron using the union-approved opportunity to lay off more than 150 people as a perfect time to cut loose a young features writer with a public gripe against ownership.

Let’s face it, how tough would it be for the Chron to find a freelancer to interview Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/15/PKGL16A7J6.DTL&hw=Delfin+Vigil&sn=004&sc=697) and Teri Hatcher (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/02/27/MVNF1652C0.DTL&hw=Delfin+Vigil&sn=010&sc=159) or just run wire copy for a fraction of what Vigil costs in salary and benefits and headaches?

If the Chron ultimately decides to take Vigil’s job away from him maybe he can sleep well at night knowing that no one can ever take his long-winded, high-priced ad in an irrelevant free tabloid away from him.

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