Bay Area News Group today announced plans to increase its collaboration with the public by opening Community Media Labs centered on the theme: Listen. Engage. Learn. Share.

The main lab will open in the Oakland Tribune's new downtown offices as part of an innovative, open-to-the community newsroom in early 2012. On November 1, 2011, the newspaper will open a satellite center in Oakland and begin engaging with the community.

While the first media lab will open in Oakland, the company plans to create others in the region in coming months.

"After carefully considering the feedback we received after we announced our plan to rebrand our newspapers, we decided to embrace a strategy that maintains the majority of our current mastheads and includes bringing the community into the newsroom," said Mac Tully, president of Bay Area News Group.

"We are now moving in a direction that will combine the strengths of our newspapers with a multimedia platform that will best serve our readers and advertisers while opening our doors to the community."

The Community Media Labs will feature computers, space for community meetings, blogging stations, Wi-Fi access as well as classes taught by the public and news staff, among many other offerings. Martin G. Reynolds, editor of the Oakland Tribune, has been named senior editor for community engagement for BANG and will oversee the new Community Media Labs. "Although we will begin this new open-newsroom initiative in Oakland, it will be expanded to include BANG newsrooms across the region," said Reynolds. "The Bay Area is a diverse and dynamic place. This new approach will enable us to connect to these communities and help them connect with each other physically as well as virtually."

The Community Media Labs are one element of the Bay Area News Group and its parent company's plan to emphasize social and participatory media focused on the local news that readers seek out.

"This strategy is in the forefront of the newspaper industry's transition from print-centric businesses to a locally focused provider of news and information across multiple platforms," said John Paton, who was recently named Chief Executive of Digital First Media, and CEO of MediaNews Group, the parent company of BANG. "I am very excited about working with the BANG team on encouraging members of the public into the newsroom to contribute to the news."

Tully said that as part of the new plan, instead of rebranding the Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Daily Review, Argus and West County Times as the East Bay Tribune, those titles will be retained and more in-depth coverage of local issues will be featured both in print and online. The Alameda Times-Star will be combined into the Oakland Tribune but the masthead will still be printed under the Oakland Tribune title. The three Valley newspapers including the Tri-Valley Herald, Valley Times, and San Joaquin Herald, will be rebranded the Tri-Valley Times.

The Monday home-delivered edition of the Oakland Tribune/Alameda Times Star, Fremont Argus, and Hayward Daily Review will be discontinued in early November; however, they will be available as single-copy sales in their respective areas and an exact replica edition will be available to all subscribers electronically. These efficiencies will enable BANG to provide additional value to readers and advertisers including:

-- More ways for community members to access news and information on their digital devices and desktops. BANG is expanding the number of community portals and city pages on the web and adding new features to deliver more local news and information, including local blogs, event listings and business directories and daily deals. They will also create mobile sites and offer mobile apps that deliver news to smartphones and tablets.

These enhancements start appearing Nov. 2 at OaklandTribune.com, DailyReviewOnline.com, TheArgusOnline.com, MercuryNews.com, SanMateoCountyTimes.com, ContraCostaTimes.com, SanRamonValleyTimes.com, TheWestCountyTimes.com, TheEastCountyTimes.com, and TheTriValleyTimes.com

-- Ongoing enhancements of the TapIn Bay Area iPad application, which shows users what is going on in their neighborhood and across the Bay Area.

-- More news on the Bay Area News iPad app, which focuses on the best news in the region; the Bay Area News iPhone app, which focuses on breaking news and sports; and the SV2020 iPhone app, which focuses on tech in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

-- An expanded blog network that includes community bloggers.

-- All newspapers will have a separate, stand-alone Local News section, 7 days a week, thereby giving more prominence to local coverage.

-- The papers will gain a separate business section with enhanced coverage.

-- The Contra Costa Times, West County Times, East County Times, San Ramon Valley Times, and the Tri-Valley Times will each gain a technology section.

-- The line-up of comics, which has varied from paper to paper, will become more uniform and will contain the most popular comics as determined by a recent poll of readers.

-- Two weekly newspapers were launched in early September, joining several others published by BANG and its affiliates in towns across the region. The new papers include the Valley Journal, serving Alamo, Danville and San Ramon; and the Times-Herald, serving Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and Sunol.

While the first media lab will open in Oakland, the company hopes to create others in the region in coming months, according to Tully. The public is invited to share their feedback by emailing feedback@bayareanewsgroup.com and inquiries about blogging and other opportunities can be sent to mymedialab@bayareanewsgroup.com.

------- About Bay Area News Group

Bay Area News Group is a division of the California Newspapers Partnership (CNP), majority owned by MediaNews Group along with partners Stephens Media and Gannett, Inc. CNP is the largest publisher of daily newspapers in California, with a combined circulation of more than 1.1 million. CNP publishes 34 daily newspapers and over 50 weekly publications in California. Its newspapers include the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, and Oakland Tribune in the Bay Area, as well as the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, San Bernardino Sun, and San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group in Southern California. MediaNews Group publishes the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press Telegram and Torrance Daily Breeze in the Los Angeles area.