Yahoo and other tech companies are squeezing the Chronicle’s newsroom

Pub date July 30, 2013
SectionPolitics Blog

With high demand for office space in San Francisco these days — thanks largely to the latest technology bubble, Mayor Ed Lee’s economic development focus, and its amplification by the San Francisco Chronicle — Hearst Corp., which owns both the paper and the Chronicle Building, seems to be more focused on property management than journalism these days.

Following up on blogs that broke the story, Chronicle Technology Columnist James Temple today reported that Yahoo is negotiating with Hearst to move its headquarters into the Chronicle Building at 5th and Mission streets. What Temple didn’t say — and what sources at the Chronicle confirmed to the Guardian, despite the fact that it hasn’t yet been announced to Chronicle staff — is that the third floor newsroom will soon be relocated while the space undergoes a renovation.

It’s not clear whether the two pieces of news are related, and we’re still waiting for a response to our questions on the subject from Chronicle Editor Ward Bushee. But it certainly seems true that Hearst and the Chronicle are doing everything they can to profit from the commercial real estate market that they have helped to heat up while operating a newspaper that has struggled to become profitable in recent years.

Valued at more than $30 million and covering nearly a full city block in the heart of the city, the Chronicle Building has been steadily taken over by outside companies in recent years, many of them technology corporations such as Square, the online payment company. The newsroom that used to occupy the second and third floors has already been squeezed onto the third, and now even that space is getting an overhaul.

Meanwhile, Hearst has been working with Forest City and Strada Investment Group on a plan to redevelop the property, reportedly replacing the old Hearst headquarters and other buildings that share the block with an office and residential tower and trying to win historic landmark status for the Chronicle Building itself.

Chronicle staffers tell the Guardian that they were surprised to hear about the newsroom relocation last week and they don’t have many details, except that they will remain in the building. And given how valuable it has become, they say they’re just happy to not be totally squeezed out by the tech boom.