Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 2:21am
SURROUNDED BY SINGLETON
[SOURCE: American Journalism Review, AUTHOR: Charles Layton]
Most major newspapers came of age in big cities, surrounded by smaller papers in the suburbs and outlying towns. These rivals may have nipped at their heels and cut into their circulation, but they never threatened the big papers' market dominance. But now, in the San Francisco Bay Area, a cluster of suburban papers is rising up to challenge, and perhaps one day overshadow, the San Francisco Chronicle. This summer, a series of newspaper sales involving six media companies â€” Knight Ridder, McClatchy, Hearst, Gannett, Stephens Media Group and MediaNews Group â€” will reshape the newspaper business in the Bay Area. Unless those transactions are blocked by government antitrust action, one group of local papers, owned by MediaNews, will more than double its circulation overnight, becoming larger and more potent economically than its big-city rival, the Chronicle. What this means for advertisers, readers and the newspapers' employees remains to be seen. The one certainty is that plenty of people are worried. The architect behind the new juggernaut is William Dean Singleton, the innovative, somewhat flamboyant 54-year-old chief executive of MediaNews, a Denver-based company that presently owns 51 dailies in 13 states. Singleton began preparing the ground for this little revolution in 1985, when he bought three small family-owned dailies in the towns of Hayward, Fremont and Pleasanton, in Alameda County just across the bay from San Francisco. Later, he bought more small papers in that area, and by 2002 he had stitched nine of them together into what he calls the Alameda Newspaper Group, or ANG. Because they are close together, six of these papers share newsgathering, production, distribution, accounting and administrative facilities, a strategy known as clustering. They also offer combination advertising deals. It is possible to think of them, in fact, as one big paper with six zoned editions. Their news coverage is heavily local.
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