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Newspapers Gear Up to Boost Circulation if Oakland Tribune Folds

August 9, 1991

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ San Francisco Bay area newspapers will try to boost their circulations if the embattled Oakland Tribune goes out of business -leaving the city as the nation’s largest without a daily newspaper - but they hope it doesn’t come to that.

Competitors and government officials promised Friday to try and save the 117-year-old newspaper that says it will have to close its doors next week unless it gets financial help.

″We hope that the Oakland Tribune stays alive,″ said Clay Haswell, managing editor of the Tribune’s major rival, the Contra Costa Times. ″I don’t think anyone benefits from a major metropolitan paper having this kind of difficulty.″

On Thursday, Tribune publisher Robert Maynard said the paper, with a daily circulation of 121,000, would go out of business Wednesday unless it can strike a deal with Gannett Co. Inc. to accept $2.5 million for a $31.5 million debt.

Large dailies including the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times plan to put out more papers in Oakland if the Tribune shuts down.

But the timing isn’t necessarily good, Haswell said.

″We have a lot on our plate now in keeping up with the growth in our own area, so we don’t really want to expand into Oakland right now,″ he said.

Alameda County Supervisor Don Perata, chairman of the county’s Economic Development Board, on Friday sent a letter to Gannett, seeking to mediate a deal between the media giant and Maynard.

″I know it sounds a little presumptuous, but if the Tribune closes it could be an irreversible blow to the reputation and business in Oakland and the county,″ Perata said. ″We just want the two sides talking.″

John Reidy, an industry analyst with Smith, Barney, Harris, Upham & Co. in New York, said if the Tribune does go under he doubts any company has the money to take over.

″The newspaper industry is in one of the worst recessions that anyone can remember,″ said Reidy, adding that advertising revenue is down 10 percent to 15 percent across the country. ″This is the toughest of times and they won’t get better for a little while yet.″

Arlington, Va.-based Gannett, which in 1983 lent Maynard and his wife, Nancy, $22 million to buy the Tribune, has refused Maynard’s offer, saying he didn’t provide details, including the name of the $2.5 million investor.

Maynard and Gannett officials didn’t comment on the dispute Friday.

The two sides have discussed restructuring the debt, which is growing by $300,000 a month, since 1987.

The Tribune last year won concessions from its labor unions and pay cuts in an attempt to keep the paper operating, lowering labor costs by almost 25 percent through the first six months of this year.

About 375,000 people live in Oakland. When the Maynards took over, the Tribune became the only large daily owned and operated by a black family.

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