I worked at The San Francisco Chronicle for about 12 years in the ’80s and ’90s. It was good times: commuting to work on a cable car; dinner at the Washbag (AKA Washington Square Bar and Grill); good assignments (flying to London to interview Richard Branson); helping to publish an edition during the 1989 earthquake with a small backup generator; living in a studio on Nob Hill; and best of all, meeting and marrying Shannon and starting our life together (this time in a one-bedroom apartment with a fireplace and parking place, no less) on Telegraph Hill.
I revisited that Golden Era this week as most of my remaining friends and former colleagues at The Chronicle left after taking voluntary buyouts: Kathleen Pender, business columnist and former business editor; Peter Fimrite, the lead science writer whose dad, Ron, also worked at the paper, as well as Sports Illustrated; and Henry Schulman, the longtime Giants beat reporter (whom I’d see when I went to Spring Training in Scottsdale); among many others.
Like other businesses, The Chronicle is suffering in the COVID-19 era, and it is cutting back. As the newspaper reported in October: “Hearst, the owner of The Chronicle, offered employees voluntary buyouts Tuesday in an effort to cut its expenses as the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the outlook for many businesses remained unclear.”
This week on Facebook, we shared the memories and good times as those who accepted the buyout left. In today’s fashion, those who are leaving said their goodbyes on a Zoom videoconference.
The Chronicle is not alone in cutting back. “Here are the newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures caused by the coronavirus,” the media website Poynter.org reported, adding “We’re still updating the list.”
Poynter.org continued: “It’s getting hard to keep track of the bad news about the news right now. But we have to. Here’s our attempt to collect the layoffs, furloughs, and closures caused by the coronavirus’ critical blow to the economy and journalism in the United States. Please send tips. We’ll try to keep up.”
I thought about some of the stories I wrote when I was at The Chronicle. One example, from 1996: “Pacific Bell has struck a $50 million, 24-year agreement with the Giants to sponsor the new ballpark planned for China Basin, and it will be called Pacific Bell Park, The Chronicle has learned.”
Another was Kathleen Pender’s reporting on San Francisco-based Charles Schwab buying his firm back from Bank of America and taking it public in ’87. Later she interviewed him for the firm’s 40th anniversary.
I found some photos of Mr. Schwab from then and now. He’s aged well, I think, and he hasn’t lost his competitive spirit.
This fall, Kathleen wrote about Schwab closing on its deal to buy TD Ameritrade for $22 billion, its fourth acquisition this year alone. How’s that for coming full circle?