Startups Set Up Shop in Famed News Haven

Mass layoffs and buyouts mean newsroom being replaced by startups

By Jackson West
|  Wednesday, Dec 2, 2009  |  Updated 2:06 PM PDT
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The San Francisco Chronicle building may end up an incubator for the very technology startups that will spell the newspaper's doom.

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Innovation is coming to the San Francisco Chronicle! Well, the Chronicle building, anyway.

With so many employees gone, there's plenty of extra room in the building at 5th and Mission.

So Hearst, the company which owns the Chronicle, is signing deals to rent space to two technology startup incubators and one recently launched startup.

Ironically enough, one of the startups -- Square, which will offer software and hardware to process credit card transactions from smartphones -- was founded by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Twitter, along with Craigslist, bloggers, YouTube and other "new media" enterprises are largely blamed for declining newspaper and magazine readership and revenue.

So Hearst, known best as a media company, may end up just another real estate developer and landlord -- the company partnered with Cleveland-based Forest City to identify commercial rental and development opportunities at its floundering newspaper business sites around the country.

Meanwhile, the union which represents the Chronicle's newsroom employees, the Media Workers Guild, is letting folks know that the pension plan is running out of money, largely because there are so few employees still paying into the system.

And how are those laid-off employees doing? If those who took buyouts at the Los Angeles Times are any indication, not well.

Jackson West relishes the struggles of Hearst. His job prospects? Not so much.

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