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Bakersfield Californian to close Capitol bureau

The Bakersfield Californian has joined the growing list of California newspapers shrinking coverage of Sacramento, announcing this week that the paper would close its Capitol bureau and lay off long-time reporter Vic Pollard.

Pollard, who has been with the Californian since 1994, has been covering the Capitol on and off - but mostly on - since 1973, when he first started working for Gannett News Service,

That's "back when Ronald Reagan was governor," Pollard recalled on Thursday.

The Californian is eliminating 40 positions, though a long hiring freeze limited the number of layoffs to 10, four of which come from the newsroom, including Pollard. The 40 positions represent a loss of 12.5 percent of the paper's entire staff, according to the paper's publisher.

"The people at the paper have been very nice about how hard it is to lay me off and close the bureau," Pollard said. "The Californian has had a bureau here since the 1960s. I believe it is one of the smallest papers that has had the Sacramento bureau for that long a time."

For now, Pollard says he plans to retire, though he wants to "keep my hand in (Sacramento politics) one way or another," perhaps writing an occasional column.

Pollard is best known for a pair political stories. In the early 1980s, Pollard detailed how Democratic Assemblyman Terry Goggin did legislative favors for his friends and campaign contributors. Goggin was voted out of office in 1984.

In 2000, Pollard detailed a previously undisclosed intimate relationship between powerful Bakersfield-area Rep. Bill Thomas and a major health care lobbyist. Both were married at the time. And Thomas was drafting an overhaul of Medicare.

"Sorry, I'm not that good at giving quotes," said Pollard when discussing his departure. "I'm better at getting them."

The departure of Pollard comes on the heels of the announcement that the San Francisco Chronicle's Capitol bureau has shrunk from seven members to two in six months and the San Jose Mercury News announcing more layoffs in

July, though it is unclear who in the Capitol Bureau, if anyone, will be affected.