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Gate Keepers 

Wednesday, Jul 25 2007
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The job cuts — and the going-away parties — at the San Francisco Chronicle appear to be done with for now. Executive Editor Phil Bronstein says things could change, but he's optimistic that the paper has negotiated enough buyouts with the news staff to avoid forced layoffs. "We're hopeful at this point we don't [have to lay off anyone]," Bronstein says.

Earlier in the year, the Hearst-owned paper announced it planned to cut its newsroom by 25 percent by shedding 20 editors and managers and 80 union-protected reporters and columnists. The Philster refused to say how many Chron reporters have taken the buyouts. But science writer Carl Hall, a shop steward at the paper, says management has come close to eliminating the 80 union positions through buyouts and a few resignations.

As you might expect, those who still have their jobs are relieved, but reporters like Hall still worry about where things are headed at the Chron, and the news business in general. "Getting rid of all these people, I can't see how it's going to help us," Hall says. He adds, "This management has yet to articulate anything that could be confused with a winning strategy to push the paper forward."

Bronstein believes the Internet will play a critical role in the Chron's future success. To that end, last week he announced that he was promoting Eve Batey — the blogging boss of the Chron's Web site, SFGate.com — to the newly created position of deputy managing editor for online. In her new job, Batey says she will be tasked with integrating SFGate and the Chron's newsroom into one cohesive news juggernaut.

Batey doesn't have what you might call a news background. She came over to SFGate last October after serving as editor of SFist.com, a sassy local blog. Asked if he thought there would be grumbling about the promotion of a non-newsie to the masthead, Bronstein said, "This wouldn't be a newsroom if there wasn't grumbling."

Batey wanted to clarify that she did have some news experience: She was editor of her middle-school newspaper in Indiana and she was ousted from her high school newspaper after writing an exposé about faculty members smoking in the bathrooms. Well, she may not be Bob Woodward, but at least she does have a sense of humor.

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Will Harper

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