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Six historic daily newspapers from throughout the San Francisco Bay Area will be combined into two main titles in April, owner Digital First Media of Denver said earlier this month.

The Oakland Tribune, Daily Review of Hayward and Argus of Fremont will be combined with the Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek to become the East Bay Times, while the San Mateo Times will combine with the San Jose Mercury News to become the Mercury News, effective April 5, the company said.

Digital First said that with the combination, about 20 percent of the company's newsroom staff in the Bay Area would be cut -- roughly 40 people. The San Francisco Chronicle reported March 1, that 23 buyouts would be offered to those 60 or older and 10-20 employees would be fired.

Digital First executives cited a 2015 readership survey as the rationale for the combinations.

The 150-year-old Tribune -- which was saved from certain closure in 1992 by Digital First predecessor company MediaNews Group following the death of owner Robert Maynard -- will see its last issue published April 4. Before Maynard, the Tribune was owned by Gannett Co. Inc., which acquired it when it bought Combined Communications Corp. in 1979. Combined Communications bought the paper from the Knowland family in 1977, after 62 years of ownership.

The Hayward and Fremont papers had been owned by Floyd Sparks for more than 50 years when he sold them to Garden State Newspapers in 1985. Garden State became MediaNews in the 1990s.

The Walnut Creek paper was founded in 1947 by Dean Lesher and became part of Knight Ridder two years following his death in 1993. The Mercury News was formed in 1983 following the merger of the San Jose Mercury and the San Jose News and those predecessor titles date back to the 1850s. The Ridder family bought the Mercury and News in 1952 and Ridder merged with Knight Newspapers in 1974.

Those two Knight Ridder papers were acquired by MediaNews in 2006 when The McClatchy Co. merged with Knight Ridder. The San Mateo paper, owned by the Amphlett family, was acquired by MediaNews in 1996.

All of these titles were slated to be combined in a similar manner in late 2011 but the public outcry was so strong that MediaNews elected to keep the titles separate. Many days the front page of the Times, the Tribune, the Review and the Argus are exactly the same, just with different nameplates (the same is also true of the San Jose and San Mateo papers).

When I was a boy growing up in the East Bay, we took three papers a day -- the morning Chronicle and in the afternoons, the Tribune and the late Richmond Independent (the latter folded in 1978). So while I have a certain degree of nostalgia regarding the Trib, the cold hard facts are that the paper has been gone for many years, stuffed with leftover content from the Times and the Mercury News. This appears to be a shell game in which DFM attains some rationale for getting rid of 40 journalists.

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Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Mar 14, 2016
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