Update 03/1/16: This article has been updated to reflect new information from Dan Smith, vice president of audience for BANG.
Multiple Bay Area News Group, or BANG, newspapers will consolidate come April 5, resulting in staff reductions and the loss of the daily Oakland Tribune, among other papers.
In the consolidation — reported by the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday — the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Daily Review and the Argus will merge into the new East Bay Times. According to Dan Smith, vice president of audience for BANG, the transition will be seamless.
“Our journalism has an audience of millions of readers in print and online, and we remain committed to enhancing the quality of that journalism,” Smith said. “In order to do so, we need to maintain an economic model that ensures a thriving Bay Area News Group so that we can continue to serve a well-informed Bay Area community.”
Subscribers of the original East Bay publications will automatically receive a subscription to the new East Bay Times and a weekly version of either the Oakland Tribune, Daily Review or the Argus, depending on their location.
Outside the East Bay, the San Jose Mercury News — BANG’s flagship publication — and the San Mateo County Times will become the Mercury News.
According to Smith, the consolidation is less a result of declining circulation levels and ad revenue, and more closely related to the findings of a print-reader survey conducted by BANG in the fall.
While the changes will result in staff reductions in newspaper production and content creation, other areas are expected to expand in response to preferences indicated in the reader survey — specifically environmental, local business and transportation reporting, Smith said.
Tom Barnidge, a former sports editor and metro columnist at the Contra Costa Times, said in an email that he was concerned about BANG’s future coverage of local communities as a result of the consolidation.
“If the goal is more East Bay stories in the East Bay Times and more South Bay stories in the Mercury News, then it’ll be a boon for readers,” he said in the email. “But common sense makes me question how the newspaper can hope to improve its local coverage by reducing its staff size.”
Smith, however, said the targeted weekly publications would still include reports on neighborhood news.
“Our research said that, in particular, our East Bay readers wanted more news about the East Bay,” he said. “By focusing on two regional brands instead of the large group of newspapers … we will better achieve that mission.”