The San Francisco Chronicle has chosen Matthai Kuruvila, the paper's religion reporter, to be its new East Bay reporter, covering both Oakland and Berkeley city halls. I've known Kuruvila for a long time, and he's an outstanding reporter, and a great choice by Chron management. Besides covering religion, Kuruvila has reported on numerous topics for the paper and produced some of the best early coverage of the Chauncey Bailey murder case and Your Black Muslim Bakery. Before joining the Chronicle, he worked for many years in the San Jose Mercury News' Fremont bureau, covering everything from criminal justice to Fremont City Hall.
Kuruvila will be replacing both Oakland City Hall reporter Christopher Heredia, who is being laid off in the latest round of newspaper cutbacks, and Berkeley City Hall reporter Carolyn Jones, who is being transferred to the Chron's business section. Heredia is among several Chron journalists who were told recently they are going to be laid off in the next few months, but, for now, are still on the job. The Chron's other longtime Berkeley reporter, Charles Burress, took a buyout earlier this year. So in effect, Kuruvila, a longtime East Bay resident, will be replacing three people, while covering two cities with lots of interesting news. It's the state of newspapers these days, but if anyone can do it effectively, he can.
The Kuruvila news notwithstanding, a downside to all of this is that there are now no full-time religion reporters at any of the Bay Area's daily newspapers. Which is pretty amazing, and depressing, considering the region's incredible diversity and its rich spiritual tradition.