Tuesday, February 28, 2006

KR bids due March 9; journo panel selected

Knight Ridder has set March 9 as the deadline for potential buyers to submit bids for the chain, and KR has selected three journalists for a panel to evaluate the "journalistic excellence" of a suitor. That's according to a story posted at 4:30 p.m. today (Feb. 28) on the Mercury News web site by reporter Pete Carey. Carey attributes his information to unnamed sources, and in the past his sources on this story have been solid. The lede of the story is old news however -- that Dean Singleton's Media News (owner of the Bay Area's ANG newspapers) and Gannett are preparing a joint bid, and that a second bid is likely to come from Sacramento Bee owner McClatchy. As for the panel of journalists, KR isn't saying who was chosen or why the panel consists of only three people. The company's articles of incorporation require a buyer to be scrutinized by a panel of journalists from outside the company but don't specify how many people should serve on that committee. A buyer needs to receive the votes of two-thirds of the company's shareholders for a sale to go through, unless the panel of journalists objects, then the buyer would need an 80% vote of approval. KR put itself on the block at the insistence of its three largest shareholders, who together hold 36% of the company's stock. The three are disappointed by KR's stock price, which lost 34% of its value from April 2004, falling to 52.42 in October 2005. Talk of a possible sale has lifted the stock. Today it closed at 60.02, down nearly 2% on the day. Locally, Knight Ridder owns the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Palo Alto Daily News group and Monterey Herald.

Northbay.com wins national web award

The National Newspaper Association says the Santa Rosa Press Democrat's Northbay.com is the nation's best entertainment web site produced by a newspaper with a circulation of between 50,000 and 100,000. The site's staff was honored Feb. 22 with a Digital Edge Award or "Edgy" at a conference in Orlando, Fla. Newspapers from across the country competed in various categories, and the PD was the only winner from the Bay Area. The judges said, "Graced with a pleasing design and a detailed navigation bar, Northbay.com helps area residents find the best entertainment options quickly and efficiently. The home page places “best bets” front and center, with direct links into the full calendar."

Tracy Press drops Monday edition

The daily Tracy Press has dropped its Monday edition and will print just five days a week instead of six, Tuesday through Saturday, due to what the paper described as "financial challenges." The family-owned, 9,800-circulation paper laid off about a dozen employees a month ago, including some in the newsroom, and is looking at other cost-cutting measures, according to publisher Bob Matthews. The paper is locked in a newspaper war with Dean Singleton's Tri-Valley Hearld and Dow Jones' Stockton Record. In June, it switched from paid circulation to free delivery to local homes. Matthews told the California Newspaper Publishers Association, "Tuesdays through Saturdays reflect our strongest news and strongest advertising days -- which pay the bills." The Tracy Press will continue to publish breaking news on its web site seven days a week and will publish a special online edition on Mondays. Matthews also called an end to the upside-down back-page Sports section experiment the newspaper began last year.

Newspaper asks -- Craigslist or Craigslust?

More problems for the SF-based Craigslist classified ad site founded by Craig Newmark (pictured). Last month, he was sued in Chicago for allowing racially biased housing ads. Now the Boston Herald reports that Craigslist has created a new way for prostitutes to market themselves.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Simerman wins deadline reporting prize

The American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) today (Feb. 27) named John Simerman of the Contra Costa Times the winner of the Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline News Reporting by an Individual for his account of the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. It was the Bay Area's only ASNE award this year. The prize carries a $10,000 cash award given in memory of a former Philadelphia news excutive, Jesse Laventhol. In a story last December, Simerman described the condemned man's reactions as he awaited death in the soundproof chamber: "As the drugs began to course through his veins, Williams lifted his head. He held it there, tilted slightly left. It fell back and he raised it again, refusing to lay still. His breathing hitched. His stomach convulsed, lurching upward. Light shone across his damp temples."

China talk show host departs SF station

Jay Stone Shih (left), host of KTSF Channel 26's nightly "China Crosstalk" for several years, has left the station, according to a press release. "After five years of successful and positive collaboration KTSF and Jay have each decided to pursue other program directions," KTSF General Manager Michael Sherman says in the release. "We appreciate all the contributions he has made to the station and the community." The program, at 11 p.m. on weeknights, had celebrities, commentators and academics as guests, but also segments where Shih conversed with callers in Mandarin Chinese. It received numerous awards over the years. The release didn't say what Shih, who got his start broadcasting in Taiwan, planned to do next. KTSF has launched a new Chinese call-in show at 11 p.m., "Talk Tonight," hosted by long-time KTSF anchor and reporter Orlando Shih (right).

Gore's SF-based TV network sued again

More trouble for San Francisco-based "Current," the twentysomething news network founded by former vice president Al Gore and legal services millionaire Joel Hyatt of Atherton. A month after it was sued by a Maryland Internet company for using the name "Current," it has been hit by a second lawsuit, this time from Minnesota Public Radio, which also claims it owns the name "Current." Meanwhile, a blog called NewsBusters (its slogan: "Exposing and Combating Liberal Media Bias") points out that the network has a "Tipper-shocking appetite for raunch," including one program during which "women loosened up by tequila suck on lollipops as they muse about their sex lives."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Should reporters ask the 'gay' question?

It's time that reporters start asking newsmakers whether they're gay. That's the opinion of Ed Hegedus, national president of the 1,300-member National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, who wrote an op-ed in today's (Feb. 26) Chronicle. He cites the case of Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir (pictured). Instead of reporters asking whether Weir was gay, they used every cliche they could think of to describe him, such as "flamboyant," "theatrical," "tinkerbelle" and "effeminate." Saying whether a newsmaker is gay, Hegedus writes, is "an important part of providing a full measure of an individual's life, one we should stop avoiding." (Photo by Kevork Djansezian of AP)

Public sides with IJ in seeking salary data

Taxpayers in Marin County are bristling over the county supervisors' decision to keep the salaries of most of the county government's employees secret, reporter Keri Brenner of the Marin Independent Journal reports today (Feb. 26). The newspaper has been trying to get salary data after a number of employees received a controversial pay raise. In today's edition, Brenner reports that the IJ did an informal survey of residents and heard comments including: "The Marin supervisors are sticking their heads in the sand and not listening to their constituents," "It is absolutely insane that some think the public, who pay the bills, have no right to know where their tax dollars go" and "They can keep their salaries paid with my tax dollars confidential if I can keep my income confidential from the Franchise Tax Board." One resident lit into the newspaper, saying, "It's part of the IJ's job to make sure this story stays in the public eye. The IJ has for too long been more lap dog than watch dog." [SIDEBAR: Peter Scheer of the California First Amendment Coalition says the county's payroll should be public.]

Ex's new White House reporter gets a scoop

The Examiner's new White House correspondent, Bill Sammon (left), has only been on the job two weeks and already has a big scoop -- an interview with the president and presidential adviser Karl Rove, each of whom say that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be tough to beat in the Democratic presidential primaries of 2008, but not in the general election. Actually, Sammon interviewed them for his new book that comes out Monday (Feb. 27) titled "Strategery." But the Examiner newspapers (here in SF and Washington, D.C.) are running excerpts in Monday's editions. According to the Drudge Report, Rove said Clinton's weaknesses are "her her personal philosophy and her brittleness about her.” The cover of "Strategery" says Sammon writes for the Washington Times, which indicates the book was printed before he jumped ship to the Examiner. The Examiner newspapers are owned by conservative billionaire Phil Anschutz of Denver, who plans to open another one in Baltimore in two months and has registered the name Examiner in about 200 cities.

Media should respect, understand religions

In the wake of international protests by Muslims over newspaper cartoons they found disrespectful, Vamsee Juluri (pictured), an associate professor of media studies at the University of San Francisco, says the media should "not assume that everyone who gets upset by a hurtful word or image is a religious fanatic." In an op-ed in today's (Feb. 26) Contra Costa Times, he argues that the media should strive to report the news with "respect and understanding" of different faiths. He says some guidelines for reporters and ad copywriters would be helpful to avoid saying things that would be inappropriate or even hurtful.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

SF Weekly loses Warfield Theater sign

The owners of San Francisco's historic Warfield Theater have succeeded in removing the "SF Weekly" from the theater's name and marquee. Bill Graham Presents (BGP), a unit of Clear Channel Communications, has leased the 84-year-old concert hall on Market Street since 1978. Last June, BGP renamed the theater the "SF Weekly Warfield" as part of a three-year promotional agreement with the newspaper. In October, the owners of the theater sued, saying they had the sole right to name the theater. Under a settlement, the SF Weekly's name and its sign on the marquee will be taken down, according to reports in the Chronicle and Bay Guardian. The SF Weekly is part of the Village Voice Media chain of alt weeklies, and the legal newspaper the San Francisco Daily Journal noted that the Warfield victory "has resonated in a city known for its anticorporate sentiment." (Photo by Josh Miller/www.jambase.com)

Deadline near for journalism contest

The Feb. 28 deadline is fast approaching to enter the Greater Bay Area Journalism Competition (see counter at right). The contest is open to newspaper, TV, radio, Internet and magazine journalists as well as public relations professionals. While many newsrooms have one person prepare entries for contests, individual journalists can enter their own work if they wish. The entry form gives the rules.

Friday, February 24, 2006

KR board member might be distracted

Knight Ridder's 10-member board of directors will decide within a couple of weeks whether to sell the company, but one of those directors might be a bit distracted during the decision-making process. KR director Mark Ernst (pictured) is also president and CEO of H&R Block, which is in trouble for -- of all things -- making a $32 million error on its own tax returns. Block's stock tumbled 9% yesterday.

Union's backer for KR opposes open records

Billionaire supermarket owner Ron Burkle (pictured), who has agreed to finance a union bid for nine Knight Ridder newspapers, wants to prevent the public and press from seeing certain records in California divorce cases.

In his own messy divorce, Burkle's lawyers convinced a judge to seal court records that describe his financial holdings. An appeals court overturned the ruling. Now, State Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, is quietly trying to rush a bill through the legislature that would seal financial information in all divorce cases, including Burkle's, according to a report today (Feb. 24) in the San Diego Union-Tribune by writer Bill Ainsworth.

Burkle's dissatisfaction with the media goes beyond his desire to seal court records. The San Diego paper reports that last year Burkle had his employees buy stacks of copies of the Los Angeles Business Journal to keep people from reading an article about his divorce. His spokesman said he was trying to protect his child.

On Feb. 16, Newspaper Guild President Linda Foley announced that Burkle's investment banking company, Yucaipa Companies, would help the union bid for nine unionized Knight Ridder papers including the San Jose Mercury News and the Monterey County Hearld. (The Contra Costa Times and Palo Alto Daily News Group are non-union KR papers.)

Burkle, a close friend of former President Clinton, owns grocery chains including Ralph's and Food4Less.

[Read the California Newspaper Publishers Association Legislative Bulletin warning about Burkle's attempts to seal court records]

Editor, China critic says home burglarized

The San Francisco editor of a newspaper that has been critical of the Chinese government says his home has been burglarized twice and another employee of the same newspaper was attacked by three men outside his home in Georgia, according to a report issued today (Feb. 23) by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Journalists for the Falun Gong-affiliated newspaper Epoch Times told CPJ that they believe they were targeted for criticizing the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party. Alex Ma, an executive and editor at the newspaper's San Francisco office, said unknown individuals broke into his house twice in 2005. After the first break-in, Ma said relatives in China told him that state security agents visited their homes and told them he needed to stop his "activities," according to CPJ. In Georgia on Feb. 8, Epoch Times chief technical officer Li Yuan told police he was attacked by three men, one with a gun and another with a knife. One spoke in Mandarin and asked where his safe was located, he said. "I was bleeding and I couldn't see," Li told CPJ. "They had duct tape on my eyes and mouth." [AP report]

Racial ads on Craigslist may be here to stay

Get used to seeing racially charged apartment ads on SF-based Craigslist that say things like "No minorities", "African Americans and Arabians tend to clash with me so that won't work out" or "Non-women of Color NEED NOT APPLY." Legal experts interviewed by the Associated Press say that it will be difficult to get a court to require Craig Newmark (pictured) of Craigslist to edit those ads before they are posted. The AP story is in response to a lawsuit filed by fair housing advocates in Chicago, who want online apartment sites to edit out racially offensive language before the ads are posted -- like newspapers are now required to do by federal law. Steve Outing, writing for Poynter online says the issue comes down to whether Craigslist is a publisher in the newspaper sense of the word or just a common carrier, like a phone company. Bloggers believe that the anti-discrimination laws that apply to newspapers shouldn't apply to the web. Craigslist has issued its own statement explaining what it is doing about the complaints. [SIDEBAR: Paul Harris of the Guardian of London attempts to answer the question: Who is Craig Newmark?]

Thursday, February 23, 2006

February 2006 Press Club board minutes

Minutes of the Feb. 22 meeting of the Peninsula Press Club Board of Directors.

Meeting was brought to order by Board President Micki Carter at 6:25 p.m.

Board members Ed Remitz, Jack Russell, John Kane, Dave Price, Jamie Casini, Jon Mays, Aimee Lewis and Executive Director Darryl Compton were present. Board member Peter Cleaveland was absent.

The minutes of the January meeting were approved.

The treasurer's report was approved.

Old business

2006 meeting dates planned so far: Second Wednesday of March, second Wednesday of April and the first Wednesday of May were noted.

Report on Bill Workman: He is able to stand and is readying for a move to Vallejo.

New business

Newspaper contest. The board voted to allow employees of the San Francisco Examiner Peninsula Bureau to submit entries to the annual newspaper contest under the "Peninsula Examiner" so they can compete in the under 75,000 category. Lewis said she will follow up with the Crowne Plaza Hotel to make sure the club's needs will be met at the annual awards dinner.

The deadline for the high school contest is March 31.

The new roster will be completed after the contest entries are collected.

Lewis said she will contact a member of the RTNDA about resurrecting Bench/Bar/media. Discussion on an April session took place.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:10 p.m. Minutes submitted by secretary Jon Mays.

SF politicians provide fodder for Fox News

SF writer Cinnamon Stillwell, in an sfgate.com column today, details the number of times San Francisco's politicians were featured on the Fox News Channel last week and concludes: "[I]t seems as if providing fodder for the talk-show circuit is the one area in which the city's leadership excels." [SF Supe Geraldo Sandoval, who said on Hannity & Colmes that he doesn't think the U.S. should have a military, writes on the Beyond Chron web site that the Chronicle has gone overboard in a feeding frenzy over his comments.]

Volunteers will keep 'Grade The News' alive

GradeTheNews.org, which critiqued Bay Area news operations, has run out of money — and there appears to be no white knight in sight to save it. But the project's two paid staffers, executive director John McManus and associate director Michael Stoll, say they will keep the web site going as volunteers, along with the help of three interns.

A tip to CEOs: Take David Lazarus to lunch

Chronicle consumer columnist David Lazarus (pictured) might be getting a lot of lunch invitations from corporate CEOs after they read a Q&A he did with PRWeek.com. Lazarus admits that he's most often criticized for being anti-business, but he says he's really "pro-accountability." And he says that face-to-face meetings with chief executives have helped improve his understanding of companies such as PG&E and Charles Schwab. Lazarus said he had lunch with PG&E's CEO Peter Darby at Darby's suggestion. "We had a nice chat. And we did it on the record, and I was fairly aggressive in my questioning of him. And since then we've had another lunch together. I haven't gone any easier on PG&E, but I would say that by opening up in that way and increasing my accessibility to the higher levels of the utility as opposed to just the flacks, who I normally deal with with some companies, I have a better insight and awareness of where these guys are coming from, and that can only benefit them." [Some of Lazarus' recent columns] [Grade The News profile of Lazarus from 2004]

Court photography issues prompt meeting

The Peninsula Press Club's board of directors on Wednesday (Feb. 22) decided to revive a forum that allows journalists, judges, lawyers and law enforcement officials discuss problems they may have with one another. The forum, called the San Mateo County Bench-Bar-Media, has existed on and off since the 1970s. But local TV news directors asked Darryl Compton, executive director of the Press Club, if the forum could be reactivated so that they could discuss problems with photography of court hearings at the San Mateo County Hall of Justice in Redwood City. The Press Club's board asked board member Aimee Lewis of Bay City News to speak with Superior Court Judge John Schwartz and set up a Bench-Bar-Media meeting. When a date and location is decided, it will be posted on the Press Club web site.

Singleton may get KR for a fire-sale price

Billy Dean Singleton (pictured) will probably be able to buy Knight Ridder at a "fire-sale price," Fortune Magazine writer Devin Leonard says in an article out today. Leonard says public companies like Gannett won't touch KR because it will trigger a shareholder backlash. Private equity companies won't bid for KR because tax rules will prevent them from selling off individual papers at a profit. And so that leaves Singleton, who already owns the Alameda Newspaper Group (Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, Marin Independent Journal, etc.). If Singleton acquires KR, and its Bay Area papers (Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Palo Alto Daily News group), he will pass the Chronicle in circulation.

Press Club board minutes available online

The Peninsula Press Club's board of directors meets once a month, and the minutes from the latest meeting on Wednesday (Feb. 22) have just been posted on our Web site. In addition, the PPC web site has minutes dating back to 2002. Board meetings are open to all members, and they usually take place at the San Mateo Daily News, 2600 El Camino Real, San Mateo, second floor conference room. Meetings are typically held on the second Wednesday of each month at 6:15 p.m., but sometimes the dates change. The dates for the next three board meetings are on the right side of this web site under "PPC dates."

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

'It's piracy' -- photog's claim against Merc

San Jose's alternative weekly Metro reports that the Mercury News has become embroiled in a copyright infringement lawsuit over a photograph it published in 2003 because the paper wouldn't pay what the photographer called a "very reasonable" fee. Chris Harris, a Tennessee college photojournalism professor who is suing the Merc for using a photo he shot that was printed in a book, wouldn't tell Metro how much he wanted, but "says was so small it wouldn't even cover the photocopying costs the newspaper's attorneys have probably incurred over two years of digging their heels in court." Harris has won a major victory in the case -- the Merc's summary judgment motion was thrown out of court -- and the suit is now headed to trial. Harris is seeking class action status, meaning that if he wins, other photographers may be eligible for payments from the newspaper as well.

No Bay Area affiliate for new Fox network

Fox Broadcasting parent News Corp. announced today (Feb. 22) that it will launch a new mini-network this fall called My Network TV that will supply programming to stations left without a network after the merger of UPN and WB. My Network TV's list of affiliates includes 10 major market stations, but no San Francisco affiliate so far. It remains to be seen whether KBWB Channel 20, which lost the WB network, will get the new network, or whether it will go to KRON Channel 4, which has been without a network since losing NBC three years ago, or possibly KICU Channel 36, sister station of Fox affiliate KTVU Channel 2. The network will be headed by Roger Ailes, who built the Fox News Channel into the top-rated cable news network. All the News Corp. properties will promote the new network, especially the popular MySpace.com web site the company recently bought.

Chron ran 2 stories by kidnapped reporter

The Chronicle notes in an editorial this morning (Feb. 22) that it published two stories by freelance journalist Jill Carroll before she was kidnapped in Baghdag. The editorial went on to urge U.S. authorities to explore "every possible avenue" to save her life short of acceding to the demands of the kidnappers. The kidnappers, a group calling itself the "Revenge Brigade," have demanded that the U.S. release all female Iraqi prisoners by Sunday or they will kill Carroll.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

SF station bumps O'Reilly to late night

Bill O'Reilly (pictured), who says the government shouldn't defend San Francisco from Al Qaeda and has frequently sparred with the city's leaders, has been bumped to late night by KNEW-AM 910. When it first went on the air in 2002, O'Reilly's "Radio Factor" aired in the mornings from 9 to 11, but was clobbered by KGO's Ronn Owens and KSFO's Rush Limbaugh. In late 2004, the station moved him to the 7-9 p.m. slot. Then, on Monday, KNEW bumped O'Reilly to the 9-11 p.m. position. O'Reilly, who remains the top-rated cable news host, made headlines last November when he said the federal government should stop defending San Francisco because the city's voters approved a resolution against military recruiting at high schools.

London editor to discuss future of papers

"Can Newspapers Survive and Serve the Public Interest" will be the topic of a discussion between Alan Rusbridger (right), editor of The Guardian newspaper in London, and UC Berkeley J-school dean Orville Schell (left) on March 6 at 7 p.m. at Sibley Auditorium on the Berkeley campus. See the school's web site for details. The event is free.

Analyst: Gannett won't overbid for KR

If you're one of the thousands of Knight Ridder employees in the Bay Area hoping that you'll get a premium price for your stock in the company, this isn't good news. Goldman Sachs says that Gannett won't get "aggressive" when it bids on KR, according to a report in Editor & Publisher. Translated, that means Gannett won't pay $70 a share for KR, which closed today (Feb. 21) at 61.55, down 1.05.

'Mr. Civic,' Roger Grossman, remembered

The Marin IJ's Tad Whitaker reports that several hundred business leaders, politicians and other Marin County residents gathered Monday (Feb. 20) to celebrate the life of former IJ publisher Roger Grossman, who died Jan. 26 from prostate cancer at age 59. One speaker called Grossman "Mr. Civic" while another said the publisher's style of dress and hair reminded him of Johnny Cash.

Cassidy: 'So, this is what doom feels like'

Longtime Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy has frequently covered companies that are for sale, seeking mergers or on the verge of closing. Now he knows what it feels like to work at such a place. He writes in this morning's (Feb. 21) edition that doom is in the air at the Mercury News now that the newspaper's owner, Knight Ridder, is up for sale. "I suspect I speak for many with whom I share this building when I say that I like the paycheck, but that the Mercury News is more than a job. When we came to work here we came with a mission. We wanted to shine light in dark corners and make the world a better place," Cassidy writes in this morning's Merc.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Guardian reporter wins George Polk Award

Adam Clay Thompson of the Bay Guardian today (Feb. 20) won a George Polk Award, one of the most coveted prizes in journalism, for his series "Forgotten City" on the deplorable condition of SF Housing Authority apartments. Thompson was one of 20 who were honored this year by Long Island University's School of Journalism, and he was the only Bay Area journalist so honored. The contest judges wrote: "The weekly newspaper's limited resources did not stop Thompson from generating a huge story which served as a catalyst for politicians, building and health inspectors and the media to take action, forcing the Housing Authority to repair all of the apartments cited in the story." [Here's a profile and photo of Thompson in Joe Donohoe's e-zine "species"]

KPIX puts historic local clips online

Dave McElhatton and Hank Plante

KPIX CBS 5 has uploaded some of its historic news clips to its website (where it says "top stories" toggle down to "Classic KPIX), including a riveting 39-minute tape of its coverage immediately after the 1989 earthquake, anchored by an unflappable Dave McElhatton who rolls through aftershocks at the news desk. McElhatton is pictured here getting a first-hand report from Hank Plante, who tells him that he saw "people shouting 'This is the big one.'"

Wayne Walker, Barbara Rodgers and Wendy Tokuda
During this 39-minute span, viewers see the first grainy pictures of the damaged Bay Bridge and the collapsed Nimitz Freeway. They also see in a live shot from Candlestick Park with Wayne Walker, Barbara Rodgers and Wendy Tokuda. Also seen on the tape are Kate Kelly and Dave Ryan.

At one point McElhatton reads a bulletin that the third-floor of Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo had collapsed. What he didn't say is that his daughter worked at that shopping center. She wasn't injured, but he didn't know that at the time. A few minutes later, however, he says, "People are going to be trying to call to find out if the people they love are OK, if they survived this. And I've got a couple calls I can't wait to make."

OTHER CLIPS: The "Classic KPIX" site also has a 1964 report by Rod Sherry on the crowd awaiting the arrival of the Beatles; Scott Miller's 1978 report on a car that was driving around in circles without a driver; a 1978 clip of then-sports anchor Wayne Walker trying to do the weather, and several other historic or hysterical reports. The KPIX site also has a profile of Wanda Ramey, the Bay Area's first woman anchor and only the second female news anchor in the country.

A cursory check of the other stations' web sites shows that KPIX is the first to offer video clips of historic footage. The only other station with detailed information about its past is KTVU Channel 2, which in 2004 posted photos and stories about favorite shows like "Creature Features," "The Jack Carney Show" and "The Moose Club."

Independent stations are hot -- except in SF

Broadcasting & Cable Magazine has a major story about how independent stations are having success challening network competitors in major markets. "One high-profile exception is Young Broadcasting's KRON San Francisco," writes Allison Romano of B&C. "After decades as a strong NBC outlet, the station lost its affiliation in 2001. As an indie, KRON beefed up to 81⁄2 hours of local news a day and bought Dr. Phil, but KRON's ratings are well below those of its days as an NBC outlet. And its share of market revenue has dropped from 21.8% in 2001 to 8.7% in 2004." The article points out that the number of indies will double this fall with the consolidation of the WB and UPN networks, leaving stations like SF's Channel 44 without a network.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Our blog item results in LA Times story

It's nice to know the Peninsula Press Club blog has an audience. Joseph Menn, a writer at the Los Angeles Times who covers the newspaper industry among other things, had a story Friday (Feb. 17) about how billionaire Phil Anschutz had registered the Internet web site name www.losangelesexaminer.com. Menn says the "the dot-com registration (was) first reported by a Bay Area blog ...," referring to this site, which broke this tidbit of news on Wednesday. Jim Romensko posted both the LA Times story and our item on his Romensko web site, which has a national following. A couple of other blogs picked up the LA Times item and elaborated on it, including LAvoice.org and MediaBistro.com.

Marin County retreats a bit on salary data

Marin Independent Journal reporter Keri Brenner reports that the Marin County Supervisors have backed down a bit from their decision to keep all county government salaries secret. They've decided to disclose their own salaries, those of their aides, department heads, assistant department heads and elected officials. But some 2,100 other salaries remain secret. County Counsel Patrick Faulkner claims there's a conflict in the law -- statutes require release of the salaries but at least one recent court decision seems to say that they should remain private -- and so he's recommending against additional disclosure. The IJ's Brenner points out that for decades the salaries of county government workers had been public. Supervisors Hal Brown and Charles McGlashan say the salaries should be public while Cynthia Murray, Susan Adams and Steve Kinsey voted for secrecy, saying they're deferring to the opinion of Faulkner. Also against disclosure are Auditor-Controller Richard Arrow, who is seeking reelection in June, and Human Services Director Laura Armor, an appointee.

Sherman starts selling Knight Ridder stock

Private Capital Management chief executive Bruce Sherman (pictured), who organized a group of shareholders that demanded Knight Ridder put itself on the market, has reduced his firm's stake in the company from 19% to 18%, according to a report by Pete Carey in the Mercury News. In the same story, analysts tell Carey that they doubt KR's stock will rise if the company is put on the market. A decision by the board of directors on whether to sell the company is due by mid-March. In related news, Editor & Publisher reports that Gannett might be more interested in buying KR now that a group of regional papers it wanted in the UK was pulled off the market.

Friday, February 17, 2006

SPJ NorCal to present 14 awards

The Society of Professional Journalists' Northern California chapter will present 14 awards this year including a career achievement award to the small-town publisher who took on the Synanon cult in the 1970s. Winners will be honored at a March 16 banquet in San Francisco emceed by KPIX-TV anchor Ken Bastida and Michael Krasny, host of KQED’s “Forum." Go to the SPJ NorCal site for details. Honorees include:
  • David Mitchell of the Point Reyes Light, whose battle with the Synanon cult resulted in the common law protections reporters enjoy to protect sources;

  • Paul Grabowicz, who directs the New Media Program at the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism;

  • the Center for Investigative Reporting;

  • sfgate.com cartoonist Mark Fiore;

  • Chronicle reporter Vanessa Hua, whose reporting about the misuse of state election funds led to the resignation of California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley’s doorstep;

  • the Chronicle's Tanya Schevitz and Todd Wallack, whose reporting uncovered irregularities in the UC system's hiring and compensation practices;

  • Barry Witt of the Mercury News, who uncovered a secret deal involving San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, City Manager Del Bergsdorf and a local garbage hauler;

  • Dion Nissenbaum of the Mercury News, who discovered that the California National Guard was tracking protesters at an anti-war rally;

  • Peter Scheer, the executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, who aggressively developed strategies to define and expand the scope of Proposition 59, California's landmark open-government initiative, which Scheer helped bring before the voters.

  • Marin Independent Journal, for a powerful series by reporter Keri Brenner explaining how Marin County's generous retirement system works.

  • KGO-TV, whose Dan Noyes, Beth Rimbey, Ken Miguel and the station's investigative unit uncovered serious problems with San Francisco’s emergency disaster plan and revealed that Oakland school officials traveled to a retreat at an exclusive resort while the district was in a financial crisis.

  • CNET News.com, which helped make the question of whether bloggers should be viewed as journalists a national political issue.

  • Benicia council member Elizabeth Patterson and Dr. Tom Campbell, a former councilmember, who helped create a Sunshine Committee that has grown into a movement for open government.

  • Alameda Newspaper Group, The Argus, reporter Barry Shatzman, attorney Duffy Carolan, for setting an example of how the media should act in the face of government secrecy.

Thinking mic was off, Wilson slams callers

KGO host Pete Wilson will probably be more careful in the future about what he says when he thinks his microphone has been turned off. During a heated discussion yesterday (Feb. 16) with callers about the Cheney shooting incident, Wilson vented his frustrations during a commercial break, Chron columnist Leah Garchick reports this morning. The only problem was that his microphone was still on. Garchick wrote: "Wilson riffed: 'That's right,' the veep was drunk or perhaps 'leaning up against a tree'' while 'blinking some woman'' or getting (an act unfit for a family newspaper but sometimes performed by White House interns). To a person who tuned in exactly at that moment, those comments may have sounded a teensy bit disrespectful to the second-in- commander-in-chief." Wilson later told Garchick that he was frustrated with the callers and was being "completely sarcastic."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Chronicle NFL writer Ira Miller retires

After nearly 29 years at the Chronicle, sportswriter and columnist Ira Miller announced in this morning's edition (Feb. 16) that he is retiring. "It has been a good run, made that largely by the intriguing characters who populated the pro football scene for the last three decades," Miller wrote. In this pod cast, Miller talks about the changes he's seen in the NFL during his careeer, especially covering the 49ers and Raiders. Miller didn't say in his final column what he plans to do now. He is the past president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He was the 1993 winner of the Dick McCann Memorial Award for his coverage of pro football and he has a plaque hanging in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Web site could complicate KR sale

Joshua Chaffin and James Politi of the Financial Times of London report that Knight Ridder's one-third interest in the recruiting Web site CareerBuilder.com could complicate a sale of the newspaper chain. CareerBuilder is owned by KR, Gannett and Tribune Co., and with revenues of $475 million last year (twice that of the Mercury News), it is considered to be a successful rival to Monster.com and Craigslist. However, the FT reports that the partnership agreement includes a change-of-control provision that gives the other partners the opportunity to buy out KR's interest in the event of a sale. Since CareerBuilder is growing, thanks to "help wanted" ads shifting from newspapers to the web, it's seen as a crucial part of KR. And without it, KR's sale price could be much lower -- bad news for local newspaper employees whose 401(k)s include a lot of KR stock.

John Roszak, KQED news producer, dies

John Roszak, a longtime producer of news and public affairs programs at KQED Channel 9 including the Friday night "This Week in California," has died at age 57 apparently due to complications from AIDS, the Chron reports. He had been at KQED since 1974, worked on several documentaries and also produced several segments on AIDS for the "McNeil-Lehrer News Hour." (Photo from KQED.)

Supermarket baron helps union bid for KR

An investment banking company headed by California supermarket baron Ron Burkle (pictured) will help finance a union attempt to buy nine unionized Knight Ridder newspapers including the San Jose Mercury News. (The Contra Costa Times and Palo Alto Daily News Group, KR's other major Bay Area assets, are nonunion.) Knight Ridder, under pressure by shareholders to sell its assets, has repeatedly said that it is not interested in selling the company in pieces because that would increase the taxes a buyer must pay. The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America would not say how much Burkle's Yucaipa Companies would give, but Guild President Linda Foley told the Mercury News, "Yucaipa can certainly put up enough money to finance a deal." Merc reporter Pete Carey described Burkle as a close friend of former President Bill Clinton who built a fortune through mergers and acquisitions of supermarket chains like Ralphs and Food4Less.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Want to buy a San Francisco TV station?

Now that it has lost its network affiliation, the owner of San Francisco's Channel 20 announced today it is putting the station up for sale. Granite Broadcasting Corp., which operates 20 stations in eight markets, had planned to sell KBWB Channel 20 to a private capital group and several of Granite's major shareholders. But on Jan. 24, CBS and Time Warner announced that they planned to close their respective UPN and WB networks and jointly launch the CW Network in September. Locally, CBS-owned KBHK 44 will become the CW affiliate, leaving Channel 20 without a network. Today (Feb. 15), Granite dropped plans to sell the station to the shareholder group and instead put KBWB on the market. The price is expected to be around $100 million. Granite bought the station from Jim Gabbert in 2000 for $170 million. Under Gabbert's ownership, Channel 20 was best known for its station IDs featuring pets of viewers.

Funds running out for 'Grade the News'

Don Kazak of the Palo Alto Weekly reports that the Grade The News project, which has been evaluating Bay Area newspapers and TV stations since 2000, is running out of money. John McManus, the former reporter who heads the program, says Grade The News will lose its home at San Jose State University at the end of the month unless somebody donates $180,000.

Anschutz's considering L.A.? Bakersfield?

Billionaire Phil Anschutz (pictured) made waves in November 2004 when he registered URLs for "Examiner" web sites in 70 ciites, prompting speculation that he would expand his chain of papers nationwide. In 2004, he bought the San Francisco Examiner, last year he started the Washington (D.C.) Examiner and this year he plans to open a Baltimore Examiner. In Indiana, the blog site Fort Wayne Observed has discovered that Anschutz's Clarity Media registered FortWayneExaminer.com just a few days ago, on Feb. 10, 2006. Your PPC Moderator went online and found that on Feb. 10, 2006, Clarity Media also registered LosAngelesExaminer.com and BakersfieldExaminer.com. In 2004, Clarity registered Examiner web sites for Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, Portland, Sacramento and Orange County. Somebody else got SeattleExaminer.com before him. Locally, MarinExaminer.com is still available, as is Palo Alto, San Mateo and Berkeley. (Trivia note: William Randolph Hearst founded the Los Angeles Examiner in 1922. In 1962, it merged with the Herald Express. The merged Los Angeles Herald Examiner survived until 1989.)

Ex hires Fox News analyst as W.H. reporter

Billionaire Phil Anschutz (photo at left) has moved a step forward in his quest to give San Francisco a conservative newspaper by hiring Washington Times writer and Fox News analyst Bill Sammon (right) as the Examiner chain's White House correspondent. The news release from the Examiner didn't say whether Sammon would be doing straight reporting, opinion columns or both. The left-wing Media Matters group has collected a number of articles and video clips where Sammon expresses his opinions, including one from Monday where he said the Cheney shooting incident was a "tempest in a teapot" spawned by a media "feeding frenzy." Sammon has been quoted as saying that Christian journalists bring “a basic moral compass” to their work “that the mainstream media possesses but just so often chooses to ignore. And if you bring that to your work, it will help you when you choose the stories you’re going to write about or broadcast ... That moral compass will allow you to connect with mainstream America in a way that the mainstream media is not doing right now.” [Memo from Jim Romenesko of Poynteronline.org]

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

NYT, McClatchy considered joint buy of KR

Business Week writer and blogger Jon Fine (pictured) says he's talked to "insiders" who say that McClatchy (publisher of the Sacramento Bee and other Bee newspapers) and the New York Times (publisher of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat) considered teaming up to buy Knight Ridder (publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, Walnut Creek Contra Costa Times and Palo Alto Daily News Group). He doesn't say whether the two companies will pursue the idea, although he says such a combination would result in a "happy ending" for KR.

FBI questions reporters about documents

The Sacramento Bee reports that three of its reporters have been questioned by the FBI, which wants to find out how they got sealed court documents about a federal probe into possible terrorist activity involving Lodi Muslims. The stories, which ran last July, were written by Dorothy Korber and Stephen Magagnini. FBI agents also questioned Denny Walsh, who has the federal courthouse beat in Sacramento. This investigation is reminiscent of last year's unsuccessful attempt by the FBI to find out how the SF Chronicle obtained federal grand jury testimony in the BALCO steroid case.

Bear Stearns: 60% chance of KR sale

Bear Stearns Analyst Alexia Quadrani says there's only a 60% chance that Knight Ridder will be sold because it's doubtful that any suitor would pay more than the current stock price, roughly $62 a share, according to Editor & Publisher Magazine online. Quadrani says that if KR's board rejects all offers, it should be prepared to immediately buy back the company's stock, or the price will fall to $50 to $55. For local KR employees whose retirement portfolio consists largely of company stock, that would be bad news.

Channel 44 to affiliate with new network

UPN44 confirms in a press release and FAQ that it will become the Bay Area affiliate of the new CW Network, which was formed through the merger of UPN and WB. The network will be owned by Time Warner (which owns the WB) and CBS (which owns UPN and Channel 44). The new network will air shows ranging from the sitcom "Reba" to the "Smackdown" wrestling program. The switch will occur after Labor Day, and it will leave KBWB-TV "WB20" without a network.

New Brown Act exemption proposed

The California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) is warning that a new exemption to the Brown Act (which restricts closed government meetings) is being considered by the Legislature. Assembly Bill 463, introduced by Orange County Republican Assemblyman Van Tran (pictured), would allow city councils, school boards and other public bodies to meet behind closed doors to discuss "a threat to private property or facilities that are open to the general public, including strategies and preventative measures relating to that threat." CNPA has written a letter that says the bill is flawed for a number of reasons including that the exemption invites abuse by allowing decisions about the distribution of police resources to be made behind closed doors, with no public accountability. Read the CNPA Legislative Bulletin.

Educators asked to rethink j-schools

All journalism educators are invited to a conference Feb. 25-26 titled "Rethinking Journalism Education: Preparing Journalists for the 21st Century." The conference, at the Inn at Morrow Bay, is sponsored by the Journalism Association of Community Colleges (JACC) and the California State University Institute on Teaching and Learning. Topics include "What Should Journalism Educators Teach?" and "The Future of Media." The summit precedes the annual Faculty Conference hosted by the JACC at the same location. Visit the JACC web site for details.

Jack Doughty, senior Examiner editor, dies

Jack Doughty, who held a series of top newsroom jobs at the SF Examiner in the 1960s and moved on to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in the 1970s, has died at age 91. The Seattle Times obit said of Doughty: "... he was a character straight out of the classic 1920s play "The Front Page" — hard-working, hard-drinking, crusty, competitive, eternally curious and ready to take risks." [Seattle Times obit] [SF Chron obit]

New real estate publication planned

The SF Chronicle's Carol Lloyd laments that the real estate industry doesn't get the same attention from the media as, say, the stock market. But she points out that there are a number of magazines that try to cover the industry, and another one is coming in April. Called "Equity," it will be published by San Jose Wonder Agents owner Henry Pham.

KGO-AM, KOIT, KDFC lead radio ratings

The San Francisco fall 2005 Arbitron radio ratings are out and while perennial leader KGO-AM was first, like usual, it was down from 6.4% to 6.1%. Moving up, however, was KOIT followed by classical KDFC. Ben Fong-Torres, in his monthly Chronicle column on radio, mentions the ratings, too. He also says radio stations have formed an alliance to ensure that all of the stations use the same system to deliver dlgital radio, which will mean clearer sound (no static) and additional channels. Fong-Torres answers other HD radio questions as well.

KR seeks panel of journalists to study buyer

Knight Ridder, which has put itself up for sale at the insistence of its largest shareholders, is now scrambling to assemble a panel of journalists from outside the company to evaluate a buyer of the chain, which includes the San Jose Mercury News, Palo Alto Daily News Group and Contra Costa Times. A recently discovered provision in Knight Ridder's articles of incorporation (10th article) mandates that unless the board of directors determines a new owner would continue the company's "journalistic excellence," the buyer must win 80 percent of shareholders' votes for a sale to be approved. The articles say that the board would make such a decision after hearing from a panel of journalists who have no relationship to KR or the buyer. A story this morning (Feb. 14) by Pete Carey of the Mercury News doesn't say who might be named to the panel, but quotes a number of experts on corporate governance, like one who said, "Linking board approval to a journalistic issue is unusual. I've never heard of that."