Huge and hugely bad news over at the Chron today: sometime early next year, the paper's much-acclaimed food section will be going dark, merging with the rest of the paper's home content in a new section to tentatively be titled Artisan. As the New York Times reports, the food staff will not be laid off, but will be required to abandon their much-envied separate building (nicknamed the Tower of Bauer), which features a test kitchen, wine cellar, kitchen garden, and apiary. Additionally, there will be no more recipe testing. The Chron's current president, Joanne Bradford, apparently told staffers this month that the special treatment was not "sustainable" (though she won't be overseeing the transition, as she's leaving to join Pinterest next month).
Though the closure of newspaper food sections has become sadly common in recent years, this one is particularly notable given the Bay Area's prominence in the national food scene, the section's contributions to the paper's overall popularity, and its track record of James Beard Awards for best newspaper food coverage. We'll have more on what the closure means for the Chron and its staffers as the story develops.
Update, 1:27 pm: The Chron's managing editor, Audrey Cooper, has fired back at the Times in an op-ed claiming that the reports were inaccurate: "The newsroom has been studying several ways to build on the foundation created by our award-winning staff. We're disappointed by recent inaccurate reports in the New York Times, which has attempted to compete with us in this arena...I'd love to tell everyone right now what we're going to do. The truth is that we haven't decided it yet. But I can tell everyone unequivocally that our top priority is to continue doing the nation's best coverage of Northern California food and wine coverage." See her full statement.