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So long Oakland Trib, CoCo Times; Hello East Bay Tribune, The Times

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Come November 2, you can kiss the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times goodbye. Their imagenames are vanishing under a “rebranding” scheme announced today by Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group subsidiary, Bay Area News Group.

The changes are being sold as improvements, of course. But sift through the specifics and you quickly see that they’re cosmetics masking yet another downsizing. Here’s Graph 15 of the news story/press release:

The streamlining of its print operations will also result in a reduction of approximately 120 jobs - primarily in the production and editorial divisions - out of a local workforce of 1,500 employees.

Under the new scheme, the Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Daily Review, Argus and West County Times will be rebranded as the East Bay Tribune. The Contra Costa Times, Valley Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald, San Joaquin Herald and East County Times will be branded as The Times. On the Peninsula, the San Mateo County Times masthead also disappears. But at least those folks will recognize what they get instead: the San Jose Mercury News.

While trashing more than a century of brand identification at the Oakland Tribune and six-decades worth at the Contra Costa Times, the move further diminishes any sense of place among communities where a BANG product is the de facto local newspaper. (The Oakland Tribune name has been around since 1874; the late Dean Lesher founded the Contra Costa Times in 1947.)

Now for the fun part: “All newspapers will have a separate, stand-alone Local News section, seven days a week, thereby giving more prominence to local coverage.” (italics mine)

In other words, we’re not giving you more. But we hope you think we are. Never mind that if you live in, say, Walnut Creek, all that stuff in “The Times’” new consolidated local news section from Pleasanton and beyond you won’t give a rat’s patootie about anyway. In food parlance, this is called hamburger helper.

Add: On the positive side, the BANG papers will dump the clunky “Morning Report” in favor of a regular A Section, restoring a dependable place to disseminate the more important news of the day. Yeah, we know. What a concept, huh?

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