I’d like to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to send a shout out to my former colleagues at the Oakland Tribune and its sister papers in the East Bay. By the end of today, each and every one of them must decide whether to take a buyout that could effectively end their journalism career here in the Bay Area. (Folks at the San Jose Mercury News aren’t being given a buyout option: They’re being told to wait by their phones for word of layoffs on Friday.) Times are grim in the newspaper business, and the papers’ owners – who, incidentally, with a small band of cronies, recently took a $25 million dividend payout from the company – have been slashing jobs and consolidating papers all over the state. The owner, a Denver-based corporation called MediaNews, overextended itself buying up papers all over the place (it owns just about every daily in the Bay Area that isn’t called Chronicle, including the Alameda Journal and the Times-Star), and now its credit is going through the floor. So it has been frantically been selling property, quitting leases – and laying off reporters. What this means to you is even less of the local news coverage you need to help keep your community moving forward. And what it means to me is a rotten deal for a lot of folks I hold dear. If you’re interested in more information on the situation, check out the workers’ website at http://www.onebigbang.org/.