Jet lag journalism

The local newspaper we subscribe, the San Jose Mercury News, has seen its circulation and profits dropping in the past few years, like many other newspapers. It’s been trying to boost up circulation by revamping and tweaking its format. But even after a few months, I’m not used to the changes.

Even though I know when and where to expect different sections of the paper, I’m still disoriented by them. To me, it feels like the newspaper has jetlag; that sections don’t appear when they should, but too early or too late, like a traveller who can only go to sleep at 3 AM, and can’t get out of bed until noon, when sleeping hours should be between midnight and 8 AM.

It took me long enough to adjust to the Mercury’s format, after having been a subscriber of the SF Chronicle since Herb Caen was dot dot dotting his away across from Macy’s.

In the Mercury’s current incarnation, the weekly calendar for local events is now a Monday! insert. The weekly entertainment section used to appear on Friday, but now comes out Thursday. The Sunday comics and the colorful retailer inserts come with the Saturday paper, rendering Sunday’s newspaper startlingly emaciated, but perhaps a relief for the newspaper deliveryperson. Lighter is easier to throw.

The only saving grace is that the food section still appears on Wednesdays. I guess that’s a universal precedent that wasn’t worth mucking around with.

The newspaper has had other woes. Shareholder pressure forced Knight Ridder to sell to McClatchy, which promptly turned around and sold it to MediaNews. This whole process has been about a year, and I feel for all the employees at Mercury News, who’ve had to work under such uncertainty about their jobs.


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