It was the end yesterday for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Oakland Tribune - and the beginning, too.

The 118-year-old, financially strapped newspaper put out its last edition published by Robert Maynard, and ended its life as the nation's only black-owned major daily.

But it's to return today, under the aegis of the Alameda Newspaper Group (ANG).

"Pound for pound, it's the best paper in the Bay Area - the best people," city editor Paul Raess told staffers at a post-deadline party Sunday night. "No place I go will ever measure up to this place."

The Alameda Newspaper Group bought the paper last month for an undisclosed sum. The new paper will have less than half the employees and share some pages with the ANG's four smaller San Francisco Bay Area dailies.

The new owner will keep the reporting staff in Oakland but will move administration and production to Hayward.

Some of the more than 100 past and present employees at the party praised the cash-strapped paper and the city it served.

"Someone said to me, `We were fighting the good fight.' And it's true. We lost but we fought," said Ruth MacKay, a former Tribune copy editor who now works for the San Jose Mercury News.

Staffers said the Tribune drew an odd mix of dedicated old-timers and idealistic young reporters, who often worked for low pay and always knew the paper's future was shaky at best.

"There's a closeness," said 25-year veteran Norman Golds. "Maybe it has to do with the fact that we've been beleaguered for so long, waiting for this to happen."

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