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Website Seeks to Build Support for Mercury News

Times Staff Writer

Employees of the San Jose Mercury News, fearing that the planned sale of their newspaper will lead to staffing and coverage cutbacks, launched a website Thursday that asks readers to push for a new owner committed to high-quality journalism.

Www.savethemerc.com appeared just four days after McClatchy Co. said it intended to sell the Mercury News and 11 other papers around the country as part of its $4.5-billion acquisition of Knight Ridder Inc., a San Jose-based chain that owns 32 daily papers.

The website asks readers, community leaders and advertisers in Silicon Valley -- the heart of the 155-year-old Mercury News’ coverage area -- “to insist that any prospective owner meet the community’s equally high expectations.” It invites them to sign a statement of support saying that the sale of the Mercury News should not “lead to a smaller, less ambitious newspaper.”

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“We wanted to make sure everyone understands what the stakes are,” said Mike Cassidy, a columnist who has written for the paper for 20 years. “It is important to let prospective owners know how concerned employees and readers are about what will happen with this paper.”

According to the website, several local notables, such as former San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer and Stanford University professor David M. Kennedy, have signed the statement.

Another signer, state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), whose district encompasses much of Silicon Valley said: “The Mercury is a paper that has played an important role in informed debate over the years. We take our newspapers for granted, and our quality newspapers in particular.”

Executives at Sacramento-based McClatchy didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

McClatchy’s announcement that it would sell the newspapers has prompted interest from a variety of potential buyers, although solid bids have yet to surface. The Newspaper GuildCommunications Workers of America, which represents workers at several of the Knight Ridder papers that are for sale, has teamed with Los Angeles investor Ron Burkle in an effort to bid on some or all of the papers, including the Mercury News, the Monterey County Herald and the Contra Costa Times.

MediaNews Group Co. is expected to bid on at least some of the papers. But the company, which owns 30 California publications, including the Daily News in Woodland Hills, has a reputation for cutting expenses instead of investing in news gathering.

Becky Bartindale, the president of the San Jose Newspaper Guild, said the website would send the message that “there is a certain level of expectation by the readers that the paper remain high quality.”

Still, the newspaper’s executive editor, Susan Goldberg, cautioned that although she appreciated the support, the situation wasn’t so dire. “We intend to continue doing great journalism.”


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