by Stephen Buel
The Oakland Tribune unveiled a new format on Tuesday, combining local and national news into one single section and unveiling a standalone daily business section. The changes appear to herald a greater emphasis on local, regional, and business news and a reduction in the space and prominence of the paper's national and world news coverage. As goals, it's hard to fault those priorities, but if the scant attention the Trib paid to global economic uncertainty in Tuesday's edition is indicative of the paper's new direction, the editors should reconsider their priorities.
In an editor's note in Tuesday's paper, Bay Area Newspaper Group Vice President for News Kevin G. Keane touted the changes as a way to increase the space devoted to local, regional, and business news. Since the Trib doesn't appear to be staffing up, what Keane's note suggested is that the paper will now devote more space to stories from its sister papers in Southern Alameda County, Contra Costa County, the Peninsula and San Jose. Smart integration of news from all its many papers has always been the promised upside of the vast merger deal that left Dean Singleton's BANG in possession of virtually every Bay Area daily not named Chronicle. And anything that can be done to beef up the Trib's long-anemic business coverage is certainly welcome.
The model here is clearly the Contra Costa Times, which has long been the most reliable purveyor of local news coverage anywhere in the Bay Area. The Times boasts a single section dedicated to local and national news that is clearly the model for the Trib's new sectioning.
Two days' track record is perhaps too little time to give the paper before evaluating the success of its changes. But it was certainly unfortunate that the very day the paper chose to emphasize its local news coverage was the day in which global stock markets plunged in response to US economic uncertainty. The paper shunted its coverage to the business section, and left us instead to contemplate some slow-news-day piffle about an MLK Day shoreline cleanup. By Wednesday, the front page was almost entirely national in focus, so perhaps Tuesday's cover was just a hiccup.
So how do you like the changes? And, by the way, did BANG make the same changes in the papers in Hayward, Fremont and the Tri-Valley?