A bi-coastal food fight is brewing today between the San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times after the Times published a report with anonymous sources that claims the Chronicle will merge its standalone food section with other sections in the paper.

The New York Times reported today
that the Chronicle “is planning to elminate its stand-alone food section and integrate it into a single lifestyle section — tentatively titled “Artisan” — with material from the other parts of the newspaper, including the home section, according to employees who have been told of the plans.” The change would take place in February, according to anonymous sources.

It’s another sign of the newspaper industry’s slow, painful death—or could it be a power play by the Times looking to gain leverage in the San Francisco market?

Chronicle Managing Editor Audrey Cooper responded on SFGate.com responded this afternoon, calling the report inaccurate and an attempt to compete with the newspaper:

“We’re disappointed by recent inaccurate reports in the New York Times, which has attempted to compete with us in this arena.

Instead of cutting, as our competitor asserts, we are increasing our investment in terms of digital and print offerings.

We are reinvesting in this coverage, exploring ways to have it more deeply permeate the entire newspaper while making all newspaper sections even more modern and relevant.”

However, Cooper acknowledges change is on the way: “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. ”

[Photo Credit: http://seismo.berkeley.edu/~rallen/press/]