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By Gina Channell Wilcox

We believe local is better

Uploaded: Mar 8, 2016

Bay Area News Group has announced it is merging five of its newspapers, including the Tri-Valley Times (formerly known as the Tri-Valley Herald), The Valley Times and The Contra Costa Times. These titles will no longer be published; instead readers will receive a regional daily, the East Bay Times, beginning in April.

Sharon Ryan, the group's publisher, tried her best to put a positive spin on it, but it missed the mark.

"Readers have been quite clear with us about how much they like their newspapers and what they want more of, and we're changing to serve them better," Ryan said in a story last week.

I empathize with Ryan. Running a print media operation has challenges like no other industry. The Internet changed the business model and all newspaper publishers here and across the nation have had to make drastic, undesirable and unpopular changes just to remain in print.

It's Ryan's statement that the group is "changing to serve (readers) better" that I take issue with. Maybe changing to continue serving readers, but better? This was a cost cutting measure - a necessary and understandable one. But providing regional news as opposed to local news is not serving readers better. Reducing the number of journalists covering local government is not serving readers better.

Our staff has had to make changes, too - everything from reducing office space to centralizing our production at our headquarters on the Peninsula. We continue to receive support from readers through Support Local Journalism and by implementing a "pay meter" on our websites. We also ask that readers support our advertisers and acknowledge their participation in keeping local media alive and well.

Unlike most newspapers, which have cut back on the breadth of their local news coverage, we have taken steps to maintain the level of professional reporting readers have come to expect. Coverage of local government and local issues specific to the communities we cover is at the heart of quality journalism, and quality journalism is imperative to an effective democracy.