Top-Level Turnover  | American Journalism Review
 AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   April 2003

Top-Level Turnover   

John F. Oppedahl is out and Steven Falk is in as president and publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle.

By Kathryn S. Wenner
Kathryn S. Wenner, a former AJR associate editor, is a copy editor at the Washington Post.     


Two-and-a-half years after hiring John F. Oppedahl as publisher of its newly purchased San Francisco Chronicle, Hearst Corp. replaces him with Steven Falk, formerly associate publisher and chief operating officer. Falk, 48, who retains the title of president, spent 15 years with the San Francisco Newspaper Agency. Editorial staffers say Oppedahl, who did not respond to an interview request, never visited the newsroom. In contrast, many know Falk and describe him as personable and a straight shooter. He began by "preaching the gospel," as he calls it, stressing that the paper's effort to shore up its troubled financial situation "begins with great journalism." He says that over the last three years, the paper has lost 70 percent of its help-wanted revenue, which "may never return." Two weeks into the job, Falk told management staff and union leaders that at 2,400 employees, the Chronicle has "500 more employees than other newspapers our size." But, he tells AJR, the real cost burden is in production and distribution. Although there may be some reductions through attrition, Falk says, "there will not be significant changes in our newsroom staffing levels."

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