Earlier this month, the staff of the East Bay Times won a Pulitzer Prize for their breaking news coverage of the Oakland Ghost Ship Fire. Last week, their editor informed them of coming newsroom layoffs.
“The timing’s unfortunate coming after the Pulitzers, but the alternative would be not to have told people as soon as we knew what the schedule would be,” said Neil Chase, executive editor of the Bay Area News Group, which includes the East Bay Times and The San Jose Mercury News.
Chase declined to say how many staffers are being laid off but said the change is coming as the Digital First Media-owned newsroom is consolidating design operations.
Digital First Media isn’t the first corporate news organization to consolidate its design and copy editing. Gannett, Gatehouse and McClatchy have all created centralized hubs for newspaper production in recent years. Earlier this year, The Dallas Morning News outsourced print production and cut 25 newsroom positions.
Two Pulitzer Prize winners from 2015 left journalism for jobs in public relations before receiving their awards. Rob Kuznia, who contributed to an education exposé for The Daily Breeze, departed the Los Angeles County newspaper for a job at the University of Southern California before he won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. Natalie Caula Hauff was already working as a media relations coordinator for Charleston County government when she received word that her old employer, the Charleston Post and Courier, won the Public Service Pulitzer for a story she helped with.
Chase hedged on the numbers because some new jobs are coming that might help offset the loss, he said.
“Is it a bad time for this? Sure,” he said. “Is there a good time for this? No.”
Kristen Hare covers local news innovation for the Poynter Institute. Her work for Poynter has earned her a Mirror Award nomination. Hare, a graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, spent 5 years as the Sunday features writer and an assistant editor at the St. Joseph (Missouri) News-Press, and five years as a staff writer covering race, immigration, the census and aging at the St. Louis Beacon. She also spent two years with the Peace Corps in Guyana, South America. Hare and her family live outside Tampa.