The Bay Area News Group announced Tuesday it will consolidate its 11 daily papers in the East Bay under two mastheads and add new sections to them.
The company is making the changes to emphasize its regional approach to news coverage and free up resources to funnel into its digital initiatives. The move to streamline the group's East Bay operations will help to reduce expenses as print advertising revenue continues to be under pressure.
As part of the changes, the Contra Costa Times, San Ramon Valley Times, East County Times, Tri-Valley Herald and San Joaquin Herald will be renamed The Times.
The Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Hayward Daily Review, Fremont Argus and West County Times will be renamed the East Bay Tribune.
The company said it would close its Walnut Creek facility and other offices, and that the consolidation would lead to the elimination of 120 jobs, or 8 percent of the group's workforce.
"We're taking these actions to strengthen the company for the future and to offer additional value for readers and advertisers," said Mac Tully, president of Bay Area News Group, or BANG.
The principal owner of BANG is Denver-based MediaNews Group.
The changes take effect Nov. 2, and Tully emphasized they will allow BANG "to add a number of new features to the East Bay papers."
The staff reductions include a cutback in the East Bay newsrooms of about 40 positions, or 17 percent of that organization's 230 jobs.
"These are challenging times for the newspaper industry," Tully said. "These adjustments, some of them very difficult, position us to execute our strategic plan to maintain and grow our position as the leading multimedia company in the Bay Area."
BANG will close and put up for sale its newspaper complex in the Shadelands business district of Walnut Creek. That includes the shutdown of the Walnut Creek printing plant. BANG printing operations will be handled in San Jose, Hayward and Concord.
Walnut Creek employees will be shifted to other, as-yet-undetermined locations in the East Bay.
BANG will also move its existing Oakland newsroom, currently near the city's international airport, to Oakland's downtown.
"MediaNews is right on a strategic level to combine advertising, delivery, production and the newsroom," said Ken Doctor, an analyst with Burlingame-based Outsell, a consulting firm for publishers and information providers.
The initiative poses risks, though, he warned.
"You have to wonder how much damage they are doing to their franchises at the same time they are undertaking what they believe is prudent consolidation of their regional operations," Doctor said.
BANG hopes to make its papers more relevant to readers and advertisers, Tully said.
"The more we can reach out and touch them in their lives where they feel they have a connection to the newspaper, the more valuable we can be," Tully said.
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at Twitter.com/george_avalos.