Sunday, April 30, 2006

Supermarket magnate left holding the bag

It's been a lousy week for Beverly Hills supermarket magnate Ron Burkle (pictured), who doesn't have much affection for the press but would certainly like to own a newspaper or two. First, McClatchy Co. didn't even consider Burkle's bid for the Mercury News and other Knight Ridder newspapers it was selling in California and instead handed them off to Dean Singleton. And now Burkle's attempt to turn the tables on the New York Post's gossip column Page Six has flopped as well -- the columnist Burkle accused of extortion hasn't been arrested, and, as Variety columnist Peter Bart points out, now everybody in the newspaper business wants to do a critical story about Ron Burkle. Bart writes, "I trust you've learned a lesson from all of this: Life is like a supermarket, Ron. In the end, everyone ends up facing that lady at the register. And your tab is going to be steep." BTW, Burkle is still seeking the eight remaining KR papers up for sale including the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. But unlike the Mercury News, there's a lot more interest in those papers.

Rivals in Pleasanton soon to be allies

Tim Hunts, associate publisher of the Tri-Valley Herald in Pleasanton, made the following observations about the end of daily newspaper competition in his community. Dean Singleton's MediaNews already owns the Tri-Valley Herald and will soon acquire Knight Ridder's Valley Times.

    What a watershed week in Bay Area newspapering.

    The Herald's corporate parent, MediaNews, announced that it is purchasing our competitor of more than 30 years, the Valley Times. MediaNews bought the entire Times group as well as the San Jose Mercury News, giving it circulation dominance in the Bay Area for the first time. The deal is subject to regulator approval.

    For veterans of the Valley newspaper scene, its remarkable to think that our long-time competitors now will be our brothers and sisters. Only time will tell how things play out, but, for the moment, I can only imagine how the late dogged competitors Floyd Sparks (Sparks Newspapers now ANG Newspapers) and Dean Lesher (Lesher Communications) would feel about one of them owning the others properties.

MediaNews will have two newspapers in Plesanton, Alameda and San Mateo as a result of its acquisition of KR's Northern California assets. The company hasn't said whether it will keep two papers open in each town. [AP: Newspaper execs mull how to pull profit from online] [E&P: McClatchy isn't worried about legal issues in sale]

Monterey paper to keep local focus

Monterey Hearld Executive Editor Carolina Garcia (pictured) told readers in her column Sunday that her paper will remain locally focused despite its sale to Denver-based MediaNews headed by Dean Singleton. Singleton has been saying people are saturated with national and international news, and that newspapers need to emphasize local news if they are to succeed -- and Garcia said she agrees. Garcia points out that in the first 28 days of April, 60 percent of the Hearld's front page stories were locally produced as were two-thirds of its editorials. She says her goal is to have at least three local stories on page 1 each day. She also noted that editorial-page editor Royal Calkins, reporter Virginia Hennessey and photographer David Royal have been notified that they will receive awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

Nonprofits worry about loss of KR funds

Silicon Valley nonprofits and arts groups, which got about $2 million a year from San Jose-based Knight Ridder, are worried about how they'll meet their funding needs with the demise of the newspaper chain. Dean Singleton, chief executive of Media News which is acquiring KR's Northern California papers including the Mercury News, said he leaves philanthropic decisions up to the publishers of his individual newspapers, but he acknowledged that the loss of KR's corporate headquarters will be a blow to San Jose. "We'll be generous because we believe in that, but it won't match a corporate headquarters," Singleton was quoted by Mercury News as saying.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Rare alliance of broadcasters holds debate

What's described as a rare alliance of public and commercial broadcasters will sponsor a debate between Phil Angelides (left) and Steve Westly (right), who are vying for the Democratic nomination for governor. The hour debate will take place at the KPIX CBS 5 studio on May 10 at 7 p.m. and air live on Channel 5, KCBS-AM 740 and public radio's KQED-FM 88.5. KQED-TV 9 will replay the debate a number of times afterward. KDTV will translate the debate into Spanish and air it May 13 at 10 a.m. "The sponsoring entities have forged a rare alliance of public and commercial broadcasters in order to bring the debate to as many California voters as possible," said Greg Dalton, chief operating officer of the Commonwealth Club of California, which is sponsoring the debate along with the broadcast stations and the Chronicle.

Will the Chron and Merc be friends or foes?

The Chronicle attempted to set the record straight this morning on whether its parent company, Hearst Corp., and future Mercury News owner Media News will cooperate with one another in the Bay Area, or fight as "enemies." The answer, according to a story by Carolyn Said, is that they will cooperate when it is legal to do so -- such as possibly combining their circulation work force -- but will compete when it comes to scooping one another with news.

Sounds like we're back to the days of the Examiner-Chronicle JOA (Joint Operating Agreement), when one company ran the business, production and sales operations of the two papers but they each had separate, competitive newsrooms. This time around, Hearst and MediaNews will keep their sales operations separate. Like the JOA, which existed from 1965 to 1999, this arrangement requires the approval of antitrust regulators.

Said's story appears to clarify the conflict created Thursday when the Chron and Merc came out with different explanations of how the relationship between the two companies would work, now that MediaNews is acquiring the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times thanks in part to an assist from the Hearst Corp. Hearst is buying two other Knight Ridder papers (the Monterey Herald and St. Paul Pioneer Press) and then giving those papers to MediaNews in return for stock in MediaNews' operations outside the Bay Area. In Thursday's Merc, MediaNews chairman Dean Singleton was quoted as saying he wanted the Merc and CCTimes to treat the Chronicle like an "enemy," while the Chron said on its front page that the deal would usher in a new era of cooperation between the two companies. [Merc: In the clubby world of media companies, joint ventures between rivals are more common]

Friday, April 28, 2006

New publisher upsets, fascinates locals

Robert Plotkin, a 36-year-old former Monterey County deputy district attorney, has created a stir in the Marin County town of Point Reyes Station by purchasing the town's Pulitzer Prize-winning weekly newspaper. The Chronicle's Peter Fimrite writes, "Business owners, community leaders and ranchers from Point Reyes Station to Nicasio have pilloried him, mostly for perceived slights and his aggressive style." The story also mentions that Plotkin got a restraining order from the paper's former owner, David Mitchell, after the two were involved in a scuffle. Mitchell responded by suing Plotkin for terminating his contract and cutting off his access to newspaper archives, and for maliciously outing him as a manic-depressive in a column. In this photo, by the Chron's Chris Stewart, Plotkin passes awards on the newspaper's wall including a Pulitzer Prize earned in 1979 for work Mitchell did exposing the Synanon cult, which operated in West Marin.

Will Pruitt regret selling the CCTimes?

At the end of a story explaning the sale of Knight Ridder's Northern California newspapers to Dean Singleton's MediaNews, there was an interesting couple of sentences about what motivates two of the bigger figures in local publishing. The story was in the Hills Newspapers, a group of Knight Ridder weeklies in Alameda County that are an arm of the Contra Costa Times, which McClatchy chairman Gary Pruitt decided to sell. The story said:

    Both Singleton and John Armstrong, president of Contra Costa Newspapers and publisher of the Times and Hills, said McClatchy may have erred when it decided to jettison the Contra Costa Newspapers and the Mercury News.

    "I want to make McClatchy regret their decision that they didn't keep us," Armstrong said.

Guild asks for probe of MediaNews deal

The Newspaper Guild, whose bid for the 12 "orphan" Knight Ridder newspapers was rejected by McClatchy Co., is calling on state and federal regulators to investigate McClatchy's plans to sell the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other newspapers to MediaNews. McClatchy said it will get $1 billion, equal to 11.5 times the cashflow of the papers; the Guild didn't say what its offer was worth. Instead, the Guild's emphasis is on media consolidation. "The newspaper industry is already dominated by a small circle of ownership groups," E&P quoted Guild President Linda Foley as saying. "Yesterday's news drew that circle even smaller."

TV inventor's widow dies at age 97

Elma "Pem" Farnsworth, the wife of television inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, died Thursday in Bountiful, Utah, at age 97. Mrs. Farnsworth was on hand in San Francisco the night television was first demonstrated. Her image was one of the first transmitted by a cathode-ray tube, invented by her husband, who died in 1971.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Singleton keeps Ridder's son as publisher

Par Ridder (pictured), the 37-year-old son of Knight Ridder chairman Tony Ridder, will stay on as publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press as the paper changes hands from KR to Dean Singleton's MediaNews, according to E&P. Singleton has also made a point of saying that he plans to keep the management at the other Knight Ridder papers he is acquiring, including the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Par Ridder received compensation of $429,196 in 2006.

Somebody didn't get the memo

The Chronicle and Mercury News offered different explanations this morning about the future relationship between Hearst Corp. and MediaNews, now that Hearst is a shareholder of MediaNews. MediaNews chairman Dean Singleton was quoted by the Merc (the paper he's buying with Hearst's help) as saying, "... inside the Bay Area they're the enemy. They're the big Kahuna, the metro daily we all have to compete with." The Hearst-owned Chron, in a front page graphic, said: "The companies that are the dominant competitors in the Bay Area newspaper market now become partners. Antitrust laws limit the ways the companies will be able to cooperate locally, but the two sides could find ways to work together in some areas of their businesses. The moves could be an acknowledgement that a newspaper's fundamental competition is not other newspapers, but instead other media."

Guild calls meeting tonight over sale

The sale of the San Jose Mercury News has prompted San Jose Guild leader Luther Jackson to call an emergency meeting at 6 tonight (April 27) to review the ramifications of the deal. The Guild is concerned that one company will now control most of the newspapers in the Bay Area outside of San Francisco. The Guild's leadership is also upset that billionaire Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Companies -- which wanted to bid on the 12 Knight Ridder newspapers up for sale on behalf of the Guild -- did not get to examine the paper's books in order to make an informed bid. "This raises questions about the fairness and transparency of the sale process, about whether that process satisfies McClatchy's fiduciary obligations to shareholders, and about the commitment to seek a buyer that will represent the journalistic excellence of all 12 papers," said Jackson in a statement. The guild's leadership said it's considering a "range of options including outreach to governmental agencies responsible for regulating corporate ownership and governance issues as well as unspecified collective actions." Tonight's (April 27) meeting is at 6 at the IBEW Electrical Apprenticeship Training Center, 908 Bern Court (Palm Orchard Business Park), a two-minute drive from the Merc on Oakland Road.

Cassidy: New boss willing to face the music

Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy says the paper's new boss, Dean Singleton, didn't have to come into the newsroom to face harsh questions about his purchase of the paper, but he did anyway. Now the question is whether the Merc will get the Good Singleton -- a guy who cares about journalism -- or the Bad Singleton, who slashes and burns in order to get higher profits.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Singleton says he won't disappoint Ridder

Dean Singleton (pictured) said today (April 26) that he knows how much Knight Ridder Chairman Tony Ridder loved the San Jose Mercury News, and he promised to "make him proud" once his MediaNews takes over the paper in July. Ridder, who was standing next to Singleton when he made that vow before Merc employees, called Singleton a man who "loves newspapers" and will be "a very good steward of the Mercury News." [Audio of Singleton's remarks at the Contra Costa Times]

That said, other headlines emerging from today's news that MediaNews will acquire the Merc, Contra Costa Times, Monterey Hearld, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Palo Alto Daily News Group and Silicon Valley Community Newspapers in a $1 billion deal:

    • Hearst Corp. assisted Singleton in making the purchase, by agreeing to buy the Monterey and St. Paul Papers for him, and then selling those papers to him in return for a stake in Singleton's non-Bay Area newspapers. While Hearst and Singleton are now partners in most parts of the country, he said the Hearst-owned Chronicle is the "enemy" when it comes to the Bay Area market.

    • This is a setback for the Newspaper Guild, which had teamed up with billionaire Ron Burkle to buy the Knight Ridder papers McClatchy was planning to sell. The Guild didn't even get to first base -- it wasn't allowed to examine the Merc's books -- in order to make an informed bid. Outspoken Guild leader Linda Foley was quoted in Merc tonight as saying, "This really does smack of a backroom deal. I find the deal very troubling because of its complex nature and because of the fact it involves so many of these large media companies that compete with one another.''

    • Traditionally new owners boot the publishers of newspapers they buy, but Singleton will keep the Merc's George Riggs, who also oversees the Contra Costa Times, and the rest of the Merc's top management.

    • No layoffs are planned either. Singleton said, "Local management makes those decisions ... Staffs go up, staffs go down ... I can't promise you they won't go down." No pay cuts, however.

    • The deal is far from final -- no closing date was announced -- and the state Attorney General's office reiterated tonight that it will investigate the antitrust ramifications of the the acquisition that will give MediaNews 700,000 newspaper readers daily in the Bay Area. U.S. Department of Justice approval of the deal is considered a slam dunk because the agency has favored business consolidations, but since the state Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, is a Democrat who has been supported by unions, it's hard to say how that investigation will turn out.

    • And perhaps it's trivia, but we read in a Merc sidebar that Singleton, who has been in the newspaper business for 30 years, was once a reporter -- in sports.

[Merc's coverage] [Chronicle's version] [Merc: Singleton is a shrewd bargainer] [AP's main story] [AP sidebar: Singleton makes people nervous] [E&P: Employees raise concern about MediaNews takeover] [CCTimes editorial about the sale] [CCTimes: Editor says Singleton said all the right things in newsroom chat] [CCTimes: Map shows papers involved in deal] [CCTimes: Reaction from players, community members] (Photo by Karl Mondon, Contra Costa Times)

Singleton: No layoffs are planned

Dean Singleton (pictured), whose MediaNews has agreed to acquire the San Jose Mercury News and other Knight Ridder papers for $1 billion, said no layoffs are planned. Bill D'Agostino of the Palo Alto Weekly wrote: "Exiting the Mercury News offices in San Jose this afternoon following the announcement, MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton, Mercury News Chairman and Publisher George Riggs, and a relaxed-looking Knight Ridder Chairman and CEO Tony Ridder were mobbed by television and print photographers. Asked about the effect the MediaNews purchase would have on Bay Area journalism, Singleton said, 'It will make it even better.' He also said that no layoffs are planned, and then got into Riggs' black Jaguar and drove away." News of the sale was closely guarded all morning, and announcements had been put off at the Contra Costa Times three times, that paper reported.

Questions about the Hearst, MediaNews deal

The announcement today (April 26) that Dean Singleton's MediaNews will buy the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Monterey Herald wasn't a surprise -- but it is a stunner that the SF Chronicle's parent, Hearst Corp., will help finance the deal. If the deal is approved by state and federal authorities, it will mean that the two remaining major newspaper companies in the Bay Area will have a close financial relationship with one another. Questions it raises include:

    • Will the Chron and MediaNews work together to sell advertising? The problem national advertisers have had with the Bay Area market, is that to reach the entire region, they would have to buy ads in at least two newspaper groups.

    • What is the state of MediaNews's finances if Singleton had to bring in a rival as his lender? Instead of doing this deal in cash, Singleton has worked with partners.

    • When the deal closes in July, Singleton will have two newspapers in San Mateo, two in Alameda and two in Pleasanton. Will he keep them all open?

[Updated Merc story on the sale] [Reuters: McClatchy is getting more for the papers than it paid for them] [Map shows papers controlled by Singleton, Knight Ridder]

3:52 p.m.: SacBee's version of sale story

The McClatchy-owned Sacramento Bee at 3:52 p.m. (updated at 4:04 p.m.) on the sale of the four Knight Ridder newspapers to Dean Singleton's MediaNews and points out that the transaction could be controversial -- while Knight Ridder and McClatchy are known for producing quality newspapers, Singleton has a reputation of being a ruthless cost-cutter who has little regard for journalism. "We don't know what to expect from him," Merc reporter Becky Bartindale, president of the San Jose Newspaper Guild, to the SacBee. "Obviously, people here are concerned about what's going to happen to them and by extension the paper." Reporters have concerns "about media concentration in the Bay Area," Bartindale said. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has said he would review the McClatchy auction to determine whether it violates competition for readers and advertisers.

3:21 p.m.: Chron reports sale of Merc, CCT

At 3:21 p.m. today (April 26), the Chron's Carolyn Said posted the following on "Denver's MediaNews Group agreed to buy the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times --the Bay Area's second and third largest newspapers -- as well as two other newspapers from McClatchy Co. in a deal valued at $1 billion, the companies said today. New York's Hearst Corp., publisher of The Chronicle and SFGate, is providing financial backing to MediaNews in exchange for an equity stake in that company's newspaper operations outside the Bay Area. ... It was unclear what form Hearst Corp.'s stake in other MediaNews properties would take. MediaNews owns 40 papers in 11 states."

3:16 p.m.: Merc reports it has been sold

At 3:16 p.m. today (April 26), the San Jose Mercury News reporter Pete Carey announced the sale of his own newspaper: "McClatchy announced today that the Mercury News and three other Knight Ridder papers will be acquired by Denver-based MediaNews in a complicated deal valued at $1 billion, with backing from Hearst, the owner of the San Francisco Chronicle. ... The deal creates a powerful new media giant in Northern California by combining ownership of MediaNews' eight local daily newspapers with Knight Ridder's Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Monterey County Herald. MediaNews also is acquiring Knight Ridder's smaller Bay Area publications, such as the Palo Alto Daily News group and the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers. As part of the deal, MediaNews is also buying the St. Paul Pioneer Press."

2:48 p.m.: Media News, Hearst to team up

McClatchy Co. put out an electronic press release at 2:48 p.m. today announcing: "MediaNews will purchase two northern California papers, the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, and Hearst will acquire the Monterey (CA) Herald, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minnesota. Under a separate agreement between Hearst and MediaNews, Hearst has agreed to contribute the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Monterey Herald to MediaNews in return for an equity investment in the non San Francisco Bay Area assets of MediaNews [headed by Dean Singleton, pictured], subject to, among other things, regulatory approval. In the event such transaction is not consummated, MediaNews has agreed to acquire these newspapers from Hearst. The four newspapers are currently owned by Knight-Ridder, Inc., which McClatchy agreed last month to acquire." [AP: McClatchy sells 4 newspapers to MediaNews]

Reports: Merc, CCTimes sold to Singleton

Mike Colgan of KCBS-AM and Bill D'Agostino of the Palo Alto Weekly are reporting that word will come later today that Dean Singleton's MediaNews has emerged at the buyer of the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other Knight Ridder assets in Northern California. Singleton is expected to come to the Contra Costa Times' newsroom to make the announcement himself today, the sources told D'Agostino. The Palo Alto Daily News group and its four sister papers, a Bay Area chain of local tabloids that Knight Ridder purchased a year ago, are expected to be a part of the package deal. Singleton, who holds a controlling interest in local papers such as the Oakland Tribune and San Mateo County Times, is expected to combine his papers with the Knight Ridder publications. As a result, newspapers in Alameda, San Mateo and Pleasanton might close since Singleton will have two papers in each of those communities. [CCTimes: Times said to be near sale to MediaNews] [CCTimes: Editor Chris Lopez's take on the sale]

Singleton, Pruitt speak at industry forum

During a panel discussion in Seattle yesterday, newspaper chief executives Dean Singleton (left) and Gary Pruitt (right) dodged questions about the sale of Knight Ridder's papers in Northern California. It's believed that Singleton's MediaNews is the front runner to buy the Northern California Knight Ridder papers that McClatchy's Gary Pruitt doesn't want to keep when he acquires KR on July 1. "Never have I seen so many people write so many things they didn't know," Singleton said. The New York Times noted that the negotiations between Singleton and Pruitt appeared to have been tense because the two men barely exchanged glances as they took their seats for a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Pete Carey of the Mercury News focused on the two men's opinions about the internet. Singleton favors charging for information online but Pruitt said advertising should pay the way. "I don't think it has to be charged. Broadcast did pretty well without charging," Pruitt said.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Singleton may hire Tony Ridder's son

Traditionally the publisher is the first person to go when a newspaper changes hands. But it's possible that when Dean Singleton buys four Knight Ridder newspapers, he may keep Par Ridder, the publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Dispatch and son of Knight Ridder chairman Tony Ridder. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday that Par Ridder (pictured), 37, is "seen as a possible candidate for an executive job at MediaNews if the company buys the California papers," according to an unnamed source. Ridder's response to the report: "I love the job I have and I'm not looking to move." The papers Singleton is expected to buy include the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Monterey Hearld and the St. Paul paper where Par Ridder is publisher. (Photo by Jeff Horwich, Minnesota Public Radio) [Pioneer Press circulation up despite ownership uncertainty

Biz Prof: KR didn't grow digital fast enough

Writing in Forbes magazine, Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen (pictured) offers a theory to explain the demise of Knight Ridder -- that KR's digital division didn't get big enough fast enough. If KR had a strong digital division, that could replace the dollars being lost by the print division, KR wouldn't have become a target of disgruntled shareholders, Christensen says.

Bidding war erupts for other KR papers

While only two parties have expressed an interest in buying the Mercury News and other Northern California Knight Ridder newspapers, a bidding war has erupted for the chain's papers in Philadelphia, according to a report by Joseph N. DiStefano of the KR-owned Philadelphia Inquirer. The latest group that is kicking the tires of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News is from Canada, and includes the chairman of the CanWest newspaper chain. CanWest owns two national dalies, several dailies in major cities and a national TV network. Another potential bidder is a group headed by developers Brian Tierney and Bruce Toll of the Toll Bros. home construction company. Billionaire Ron Burkle, who is financing a union-buyout proposal, is also bidding for the Philadelphia papers, as he is for all of the Knight Ridder papers up for sale. Dean Singleton, who is thought to have the inside track to buy Knight Ridder's papers in Northern California, balked at the price for the Philadelphia papers last month, and so now they're being offered to the other bidders. [E&P: Interest in Phily papers grows as visitation week begins]

Monday, April 24, 2006

Paper experiments with baseball coverage

Sacramento Bee Public Editor Armando Acuña says his paper is no longer sending a reporter to cover every Giants and A's game this year. Instead, the McClatchy-owned Bee will use wire copy for the game stories and instead have its reporters write more "magazine-style, behind-the-scenes" stories about the teams, players and issues in baseball. Budget cuts was one reason for the change. But Acuña said technology is also a factor -- sports fans probably will see the highlights of an A's or Giants game on ESPN's sportscenter before the paper comes out. Also, in Sacramento, interest in baseball falls behind that of the NBA Kings, 49ers, Raiders and Nascar, according to Acuña. A trivia note: In 2003, when Acuña was the Bee's sports editor, he had to fire 34-year veteran reporter Jim Van Vliet for filing a story about a Giants game while watching the game from another, undisclosed location.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

'Mr. Mayor, did you just call me a jerk?'

KGO-TV I-Team reporter Dan Noyes finally cornered SF Mayor Gavin Newsom at the 1906 earthquake remembrance ceremony and got to ask him why the city hasn't finished its earthquake planning, which Newsom had promised to complete by the end of 2005. Newsom has been dodging Noyes for several weeks. Newsom gave his side of the story, saying a good part of the plan is done but that it wasn't fair to focus on the parts which haven't been completed. Then the mayor praised Noyes for his "remarkable inability to be objective," and walked off, saying, "Dan you are seriously one of the greats ... one of the great jerks of journalism." Noyes got back in Newsom's face again and asked him whether he had called him a jerk. Newsom responded, "I would never say that about you." A moment later he added, "I've been doing politics for 10 years and I've had some of biggest and most challenging interviews from some people who have been outstanding, I've never had an opportunity to meet someone like you. That's all I want to say." KGO has streamed the interview, unedited it appears, on its web site. Matier & Ross also had something to say about it in this morning's Chron. [Dan Noyes' blog about his series on emergency preparedness]

Grand jury to discuss leak to Oakland Trib

Oakland City Auditor Roland Smith (pictured) has asked Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff to find out who told the Oakland Tribune that he was the subject of a sexual harassment and hostile workplace investigation. Orloff said he forwarded Smith's requst to the grand jury, which will decide if a leak probe is necessary, according to the AP. The Oakland Tribune on Jan. 23 ran a story by Heather MacDonald that said an outside firm was hired to investigate Smith. "Several members of the office said they witnessed Smith making inappropriate comments to a female member of the staff while requiring her to go to lunch with him," MacDonald wrote in the Jan. 23 story. Smith, who is running for re-election June 6, contends that whomever tipped off the Tribune violated state law requiring personnel matters to remain confidential.

More dirt about John London's firing

Chronicle radio writer Ben Fong-Torres has more today on Free FM's controversial firing of afternoon host John London (pictured). London tells Fong-Torres that his firing was ordered by CBS Radio chief executive Joel Hollander, over the objections of local general manager Ken Kohl. Kohl isn't talking about it beyond saying that London is no longer at the station. London was fired April 6 after attacking Penn Jillette, the comic magician who does a one-hour show before London, for saying how much he hated Mother Teresa. Jillette she got her "kinks watching people suffer and die." London responded: "Penn Jillette has said on a number of occasions that words do not hurt people. We should be able to say whatever we want, in the open marketplace of ideas. So here's a little string of sentences for ya: How about if I give somebody $5,000 to kill ya? I'll add $2,000 to that if there's some suffering attached to it. ... The whole thing was obviously a joke, and it was never mentioned again for the entirety of the show." London suggested that CBS is protecting Jillette because its parent company owns Jillette's show on the Showtime network.

Minutes show extent of Press Club activities

A note to Peninsula Press Club members -- the board of directors posts the minutes of its monthly meetings on this site. See the "Board Minutes" link to the right. The minutes from the April meeting were posted the other day. Reading the minutes is a good way to keep up to date on Press Club projects. At April's meeting, for instance, there was an update on plans to revive the Bench-Bar-Media meetings and concerns about declining interest in the Press Club's scholarships. Board meetings are open to the public, and they take place in the second floor conference room of the San Mateo Daily News, 2600 El Camino Real, San Mateo. Meetings usuallly take place on the second Wednesday of the month, but there are exceptions. The May meeting is on the 3rd.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Local AP contest winners named

Here's the tally for the Associated Press News Executives Council's 2006 statewide journalism contest:

    • Mercury News wins 2 first-place awards -- one for spot news coverage (presented to the "staff") for a child killed by a train, and the other to Pat Tehan for a feature photo ironically taken at the Knight Ridder ice rink in San Jose.

    • Chronicle wins four second-place awards -- Joan Ryan for local column, Brant Ward for picture story, Todd Trumbull for graphics and a Sunlight Freedom of Information Award" on a series about pay irregularities in the UC system.

    • The Santa Rosa Press Democrat wins one first-place to Chris Coursey for a story on a rapist, and second-place trophies to Kevin McCallum for business writing and Christopher Chung for a portrait.

    • The Recorder of San Francisco: 3 second-place awards -- Brenda Sandburg for business writing, Christine Jegan for a portrait, and Jason Doiy for a news photo.

    • Marin IJ: First-place for graphics (Josh Ruthnick); second-place for investigative reporting (Kerri Brenner on the county's pension plans).

    • Daily Journal of San Francisco (a legal newspaper): second-place for feature writing (John Roemer).

    • San Mateo County Times, second-place for series on gangs. The series was reported and written by Julia Scott, Rebekah Gordon, Nicole Neroulias, Amy Yarbrough, Teresa Mills-Faraudo, Laura Ernde and Tara Ramroop.

Click here for the complete list.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Singleton gets help from Gannett with bid

Dean Singleton's MediaNews will get some financial help from Gannett Co. and a smaller newspaper company, Stephens Media Group, when he bids for the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Dispatch and other Knight Ridder papers, the LA Times reported today (April 21). The Times also said a deal wouldn't come until next week at the earliest. Under a 1999 alliance with Gannett and Stephens, known as the California Newspapers Partnership, Singleton's MediaNews is required to give its partners the option to participate in any newspaper purchases in California. Previously, Gannett had said it wasn't going to bid for the Knight Ridder newspapers that are being put up for sale by McClatchy Co., but a partnership with Singleton is apparently a less risky way for the newspaper giant to expand its holdings in California. The partnership already owns 23 papers in California including the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, Marin Independent Journal. MediaNews is the majority owner, while Stephens holds a 26.3% interest and Gannett has 19.5%. Stephens owns papers in Arkansas and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. [Chron: Bay Area newspaper landscape will undergo seismic change if Singleton succeeds] [Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Potential buyer doubts Singleton has $1 billion]

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Court may reverse ruling against blogger

An appeals court might soon overturn a ruling by Santa Clara County Judge James Kleinberg (right) that made it easier for companies to track down people who leak information to the media. Mercury News writer Howard Mintz reports that an appeals court in San Jose today (April 20) appeared "openly hostile" to attempts by Apple Computer to pry information from a blogger who revealed confidential information about a new Apple product. Apple officials were furious two years ago when the blog by Jason O'Grady (pictured at left) gave details about a musical device designed to work with Apple's GarageBand music software. Apple convinced a local judge, James Kleinberg, to allow them to subpoena O'Grady's electronic files in an attempt to find his source. However, O'Grady has appealed and therefore hasn't been forced to reveal his source. The appeals court will issue a ruling in the next 90 days, and Mintz says that whatever the ruling, the case appears headed for the state Supreme Court. [ZDNet: Apple argues for blogger records] [Chron: Apple tries to keep its secrets] [CNET News: Apple pushes to unmask product leaker]

KR, McClatchy bonds downgraded to junk

Moody's today (April 20) cut both Knight Ridder and McClatchy's bond ratings to junk status, according to Reuters. It was the second time in a month that the bond rating service cut McClatchy's ratings. At that time, McClatchy Treasurer Elaine Lintecum was quoted in the McClatchy-owned Sacramento Bee as saying McClatchy didn't expect any more downgrades. "She said she believes Moody's will change its mind about further downgrades 'once they see that we can execute ... on the deal,'" the March 29 Bee article stated. Since then, McClatchy hasn't been able to sell the 12 Knight Ridder papers it was planning to spin off to lower its cost of borrowing money to buy the KR chain. On Saturday, the Mercury News reported such a deal was close, and on Sunday, Reuters said about the same thing. This morning, the L.A. Times also said McClatchy and Singleton are close to a deal. Meanwhile, other potential bidders, such as billionaire Ron Burkle who is financing a union buyout, want to bid, but haven't received much cooperation from McClatchy.

State to investigate Singleton's KR purchase

With several media outlets reporting that a deal is near for Dean Singleton to buy Knight Ridder's Northern California newspapers, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer says he will investigate whether the transaction will reduce competition. The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a separate investigation. The Central Valley Business Times quotes Lockyer, a Democrat, as saying he wants to know if the reduction in competition would be significant enough to warrant intervention. The deal will give Singleton's MediaNews two newspapers in Alameda, San Mateo and Pleasanton, and it's unlikely he will keep two papers in each town. The deal will also give Singleton a Bay Area circulation of more than 800,000 copies a day, twice that of the Chronicle. Singleton already owns the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, Marin Independent Journal, Hayward Daily Review, Alameda Times-Star, Fremont Argus, Vacaville Reporter and Vallejo Times-Herald. He hopes to buy the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Palo Alto Daily News Group (including papers in San Mateo, Burlingame, Redwood City, Berkeley and Los Gatos) and the Monterey Herald. He will also get weekly newspaper groups in Santa Clara County and Alameda County.

Readers asked to decide if reporter was fair

The San Francisco Sentinel, a web site that prints City Hall political news and gossip, is inviting its readers to referee an ongoing dispute between KGO Channel 7 I-Team reporter Dan Noyes (pictured) and the Gavin Newsom administration. At issue are Noyes reports about problems with San Francisco's disaster preparedness siren system. Noyes claims the city's emergency services chief, Annemarie Conroy, and Mayor Newsom ducked questions about the sirens. Conroy and Newsom deny it. The Sentinel posted emails going back and forth between the two sides along with public statements they have made in the dispute. As the Press Club reported March 7, Noyes says he is now getting the cold shoulder at City Hall for his reporting.

Guild to pressure KR for new Merc contract

With the Guild's contract at the Mercury News expiring in June, national newspaper Guild President Linda Foley (pictured) is quoted by the L.A. Times today as saying she will attempt to pressure Knight Ridder into agreeing to a new contract for employees at the Mercury News and other unionized KR papers before they change hands.

She says that if likely buyer Media News retains a majority of the newspaper's staff, the company would be obliged by labor laws to recognize the union.

"With MediaNews — known for its stringent cost-cutting — widely expected to reduce staff at the Mercury News and a union contract expiring in June, many employees at the San Jose paper are seeking jobs elsewhere, according to people at the paper," said the LA Times story by reporters Joseph Menn and James Rainey.

The Times story leads off with what has been reported over the weekend by the Merc and Reuters, that a deal is near to sell the Merc, Contra Costa Times and other Knight Ridder properties in Northern California to MediaNews, headed by Dean Singleton. But the Times says MediaNews would only have a "controlling interest" in the KR papers, not sole ownership. The other prospective owners were not identified. "Singleton has been working with private-equity firms and newspaper companies, as he often does, in pursuit of Knight Ridder's properties. It is unclear which partners he might take on in the pending acquisitions," the story said. Media news hoped to complete the deal this week, "but a number of details remained to be ironed out late Wednesday, and sources familiar with the talks said a final agreement was not a certainty."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Newmark praises professional journalists founder Craig Newmark was at the Chronicle yesterday (April 18), where he was quizzed by reporters and others, and said that he feels that while he likes citizen journalism, there's no substitute for professional writing, professional editing or professional fact checking. How does he feel when he is told that his site is killing newspapers by taking their classified ads? "I don't take it too seriously." But he said the accusation has caused him to talk to industry experts to find out more about what's going on. "Maybe the biggest effect of all is newspaper chains (demanding) high profit margins," he said. The Chronicle has posted a summary of his remarks and has a pod-cast recording of what he said. [Newmark blogs on]

Singleton takes ax to newsroom staff

As MediaNews chief executive Dean Singleton negotiates to buy the Mercury News and other Knight Ridder properties in Northern California, he is reducing the size of his Denver Post newsroom. The Post is offering early retirement packages and buyouts to 25 full-timers, about 10 percent of the paper's news staff, according to the Denver Business Journal. Newspaper Guild leaders in San Jose, who have organized the "" web site, have expressed concerns that Singleton will make deep cuts in news if he acquires the Merc, Contra Costa Times, Palo Alto Daily News and Monterey Herald. Meanwhile in Denver, while the Post is cutting, the rival Rocky Mountain News won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday and an official there says the paper is in a "hiring mode."

Berkeley J-school dean to step down

The Chronicle's Charles Burress reports this morning that Orville Schell will step down today as dean of UC Berekley's Graduate Journalism School. Schell told the Chron he wants to spend time practicing journalism himself, which might include a book. He is also considering an invitation from UC Berkeley to oversee the university's global initiatives, he said.

Monday, April 17, 2006

'Hyperlocal' web site planned for Palo Alto

Backfence Inc. -- an internet startup that operates four "hyperlocal" citizens' media web sites in the Washington, D.C., area -- will be rolling out five sites in the Bay Area, the first of which will start in Palo Alto in May. Backfence also announced that it has acquired former Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere blog site, where he attempted to get web surfers to become citizen journalists. Backfence launched its first sites in McLean and Reston, Va., in May 2005 and has since added sites in Bethesda, Md., and Arlington, Va. The sites consist entirely of content contributed by readers including news coverage, event listings, reviews and ratings of local businesses. The startup hopes to make money by selling ads on the sites. Backfence President and CEO Susan W. DeFife said in a news release that Backfence chose to launch its first Bay Area hyperlocal site in Palo Alto because “it is the linchpin of Silicon Valley. Its broad collection of community organizations, strong business and commercial base, high Internet penetration and its population base are the kinds of things we look for in deciding where Backfence should open local sites. We’re looking forward to becoming an important part of the Palo Alto community and then launching additional sites in Bay Area communities over the next few months.” [E&P: Backfence acquires Bayosphere, will launch 'hyperlocal' web sites] [Merc's SiliconBeat: Backfence picks up Gillmor's blog, expands into SF Bay Area]

No Pulitzers for Bay Area newspapers

Newspapers in Gulfport, Miss., New Orleans, San Diego, Portand, Ore., Atlanta and Denver were among the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism today, but none of the awards went to newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Pulitzer Prize Patrol hasn't visited the San Jose Mercury News since 1990. Same for the Oakland Tribune. The Chronicle had one last year for photography by Deanne Fitzmaurice and another in 1996 awarded to columnist Herb Caen. The Hearst-owned Examiner had one in 1987 for photography and the Merc in 1986 for international reporting.
No Bay Area dailies won Pulitzers in the 1960s or 70s.

In 1952, George De Carvalho of the Chronicle won a Pulitzer for his stories about a "ransom racket" that extorted "money from Chinese in the United States for relations held in Red China," as the Pulitzer committee put it. In 1951, the Examiner's Edward S. Montgomery won for his series on tax fraud. In 1950, Bill Crouch of the Oakland Tribune won for his picture of a near collision at an air show. In 1942, Stanton Delaplane of the Chronicle won for his articles on the movement of several California and Oregon counties to secede and form a 49th state. In 1934, the Chronicle's Royce Brier won for his story about the lynching of two kidnappers in San Jose who had been arrested for abducting Brooke Hart, a merchant's son.

TOTALS BY NEWSPAPER: Merc 2, Oakland Tribune 2, Examiner 2, Chronicle 5, Denver Post 4, Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal 4, Seattle Times 7, Miami Herald 18, Philadelphia Inquirer 18, Boston Globe 18, Chicago Tribune 24, Wall Street Journal 29, LA Times 37, NY Times, 93. Figures include today's awards. [Pulitzer Prize history] 'Geeks Gone Wild'

LA Times reporter Chris Gaither takes a look at the Silicon Valley gossip web site and writes: "While gossip columns at the New York Post and other papers are filled with celebrity sightings and antics, Valleywag is gossip by a geek, for geeks." Gaither says that Valleywag's Chris Douglas, 22, chronicles the lifestyles of the "rich and nerdy." Gaither writes: "But by giving software programmers, bloggers and marketers the Brad Pitt treatment, Valleywag has touched off a debate: Does Northern California need or want the same kind of gossip coverage as Los Angeles, New York and Washington? More importantly, does it warrant it?" The LA Times article points out that Valleywag averages about 16,000 pages viewed a day, compared to 318,000 for the political gossip site Gawker or 260,000 for Defamer, a celebrity gossip site. But Valleywag does have helpful readers. Douglas got a hold of a photo of several employees of Adaptive Path, an SF web design firm, in a hot tub. Douglas didn't know their names. So he posted the photo under "Geeks Gone Wild" and asked readers to help him identify everyone. Soon every bather was named on the site. On reader wrote, "This has to be a freakish anomaly. I've never seen a geek bathtub with anything less than a 5:1 male to female ratio."

Readers complain about lack of follow-up

Chronicle Reader Rep. Dick Rogers writes that one of the biggest complaints he gets from readers is that the paper doesn't do a good enough job following up on major stories. Because of such complaints, Rogers says Managing Editor Robert Rosenthal is considering a regular "update" feature that would reunite readers with stories. Rogers suggests that any story involving the word "crackdown" receive a follow up -- like when police say they're cracking down on red-light running, speeding or drugs. What happens after the crackdown is announced? Does anything change? Rogers invited readers to send their list of stories that need follow-ups to the Chronicle with the subject line "Whatever happened to?"

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Singleton may need help buying Merc News

Reuters is reporting tonight (Sunday, April 16) that negotiations to sell the San Jose Mercury News and three other Knight Ridder newspapers to Dean Singleton's MediaNews are at a "sensitive stage" and "could fall apart at any time" because "[q]uestions still remain over whether MediaNews will partner with financial backers or another company to help pay for any acquisitions, one source said." For months, the word among insiders was that Dean Singleton's MediaNews would be buying the Mercury News and other Knight Ridder newspapers in Northern California. But when Knight Ridder put itself up for sale, Singleton didn't bid, which raised questions about whether he had the money to pull off such a deal. More eyebrows went up when a March 28 deadline to bid on the 12 KR papers McClatchy was spinning off came and went without any word on whether Singleton had a deal. Then, a couple days after the deadline, McClatchy officials told the LA Times that the bidding process might take another two months, pushing the date to June 1 at the latest.

Media's go-to guy at CHP is retiring

Sgt. Wayne Ziese, a 27-year CHP officer who has been the agency's media spokesman in the Bay Area for the past five years, is retiring April 30. He gave reporter James Lanaras of Bay City News a wide-ranging interview about his career, and says the toughest part of the job is dealing with accidents involving children. Sgt. Les Bishop and Officer Michael Wright will replace Ziese. Upon retirement, Ziese will work part-time for the state Office of Traffic Safety, coordinating 33 grants for the "Avoid'' program that funds local DUI checkpoints.

Is Merc a 'canary in the coal mine'?

Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee tries to explain in a story this morning why McClatchy Co., which bought Knight Ridder's 32 daily newspapers, didn't want to keep the San Jose Mercury News. Kasler says "those who've witnessed its problems up close say the Mercury News may represent the proverbial canary in the coal mine -- a paper whose troubles reflect challenges facing newspapers everywhere."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Singleton said to be close to deal for Merc

Reporter Chris O'Brien of the Mercury News reported this morning that, according to unidentified "individuals familiar with the process," Dean Singleton's MediaNews is in "advanced discussions" to buy the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Monterey County Herald and St. Paul Pioneer Dispatch. "These sources said an agreement could be reached 'soon' for the purchase of the four papers," O'Brien wrote. It is believed that such a deal would also include KR assets such as the Palo Alto Daily News Group and Silicon Valley Community Newspapers.

Previously, Singleton was talking about buying Knight Ridder's Philadelphia papers as well, but this story contains no mention of them.

The news about Singleton was in the sixth paragraph of a story concerning details of the sale of Knight Ridder to McClatchy Co., which is now selling 12 of KR's 32 papers to reduce its debt. The story, based on a 200-page Security and Exchange Commission filing by McClatchy, says that when Knight Ridder put itself up for sale in December, 11 parties expressed an interest in Knight Ridder, but by March only one -- McClatchy -- submitted a full, final bid. Singleton didn't bid despite a lot of talk before the deadline and tours he took of the newspapers for sale.

If Singleton, who already owns eight Bay Area dailies, acquires Knight Ridder's northern California assets, he will have two papers in San Mateo, Pleasanton and Alameda. His circulation in the Bay Area would increase from 297,952 per day to 824,560, dwarfing that of the Chronicle, which has about 400,000 daily.

[Sacramento Bee (McClatchy-owned): Value of deal changes with stock price] [AP: McClatchy discloses details on Ridder] [KR's Mercury News: How the sale went down: Knight Ridder's gloomy options]

Antitrust inquiry into KR deal expands

The investigation of the sale of Knight Ridder to McClatchy Co. by the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice appears to be widening. Previously, we noted that investigations were taking place in the Twin Cities and the Bay Area. This morning, Eric Pryne of The Seattle Times reports that investigators are looking into the antitrust implications of McClatchy's proposed acquisition of Knight Ridder's 49.6% stake in The Seattle Times. McClatchy already owns The (Tacoma) News Tribune, 30 miles south of Seattle. The story quotes a local law professor and the publisher of a Kent, Wash., newspaper as saying they were interviewed by DOJ lawyers about the KR deal.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Salaries of top KR execs released

Knight Ridder filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission this afternoon disclosing the salaries of its top executives in 2005. Chief Executive Tony Ridder received $980,000 in salary and a $281,304 bonus. He holds restricted stock valued at $1,176,230. In terms of compensation (salary and bonus, but not including housing relocation fees or restricted stock), the pecking order goes like this: No. 2, senior vp and CFO Steve Rossi, $704,233; No. 3, senior vp Hilary Schneider, $695,166; No. 4, senior vp Art Brisbane, $693,618; and No. 5, senior vp Mary Jean Connors, $677,933. [E&P article] [SEC filing (see page 7, "Summary compensation table")]

Bill Workman making steady progress

Retired Chronicle writer and PPC board member Bill Workman is making a steady recovery from a stroke in December that left him in a coma for the better part of a month. He's speaking again, has regained the use of one hand -- and his mind is as sharp as ever. He's out of the hospital and is receiving therapy on a daily outpatient basis. His wife Marla Lowenthal, a professor of mass communications at Menlo College, told Michelle Carter that Bill now plans to finish two freelance stories he was doing for Gentry before his stroke -- he has all of his notes, he just needs to type it up. In this photo by Paul Sakuma, Bill gets a kiss from Marla at the 2003 PPC awards banquet.

Letters wanted to support records reform

CalAware, which fights for open meetings and open records, is asking journalists to write letters in support of Assembly Bill 2927, which would strengthen open records laws and require agencies to make more public documents available on the Internet.

Terry Francke (left), CalAware's general counsel, calls the legislation "the most significant California Public Records Act reform measure in years."

AB2927, introduced by Mark Leno, D-San Francisco (right), would require every state agency to:
    • allow citizens to request public records through an agency's web site;

    • post online financial disclosure forms (Form 700) for every officer, employee or contractor of the agency who is required to file such a form;

    • post the terms of all current employment and consulting contracts;

    • post the full text of every lawsuit settlement;

    • post every record disclosed by the agency in the past year under the open records act.

Leno's bill would also stiffen penalties for agencies that improperly deny or delay records requests, including a possible $100-a-day fine.

The Assembly Governmental Organization Committee is scheduled to hold the first hearing on the bill on Wednesday, April 19. Send letters to Eric Johnson, a consultant to the Assembly GO Committee, via email at or by fax at (916) 319-3979. [PDF of sample letter] [Santa Cruz Sentinel editorial explaining and supporting the legislation]

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Professor, editor William Woo dies

William Woo, former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who moved to Palo Alto in 1996 to become a Stanford journalism professor and mentor to hundreds of young journalists, died Wednesday (April 12) of colorectal cancer at age 69. "A three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Woo was an elegant, eloquent writer who articulated ideas steadily, slowly and with devastating clarity," a Mercury News obit by Jessie Mangaliman said. James Fishkin, chairman of the Communications Department at Stanford, is quoted in the Chronicle as saying, "He offered not only feedback on writing, but the whole perspective on a journalism career ... Because he'd also been an editor and reporter, he could anticipate how to make work better. After a while, it wasn't just students standing in line, but colleagues, myself included, waiting to get his reaction, on what to write and how to frame it." [Mercury News obit] [Chronicle obit] [St. Louis Post Dispatch obit] [Stanford Daily obit] [Stanford News Service obit] [Friends remember Bill Woo in online guest book]

Pruitt: Fate of Merc to be known by July 1

McClatchy Co. chief executive Gary Pruitt (pictured) said today his company is "on track" with its plans to close on its Knight Ridder transaction by July 1, according to MarketWatch reporter Chris Reiter. McClatchy plans to complete its purchase Knight Ridder and then, at the same time, sell 12 of KR's 32 papers including the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. Still no word on who might buy those papers from McClatchy.

Joan Ryan shelves column after 22 years

Joking that she might be suffering from a midlife crisis, Chronicle writer Joan Ryan announced in this morning's edition that she will stop writing her column for a year in order to do more features, like her recent series "War Without End." Ryan has been writing columns for 22 years, starting in sports, moving to lifestyle, op-ed and finally metro. "Maybe this is my little version of a midlife crisis, Ryan wrote. "I didn't want to be 70 years old and look back on my career and wonder why I never tried different kinds of writing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

FCC reduces KALW fine, renews license

After nine years of litigation, the Federal Communications Commission has reduced a proposed $300,000 fine against noncommercial KALW 91.7 to just $10,000 but only renewed the San Francisco station's license for two years instead of the customary eight years, according to The action, taken Friday (April 7) by FCC Chief Administrative Judge Richard Sippel may close a divisive chapter in the station's history which began in 1997. That's when a group of KALW employees asked the FCC to deny renewal of the station's license on the grounds that management had covered up violations of hiring rules and falsified information provided to the federal agency. The group that filed the petition has since disbanded, but the case dragged on and led the FCC's Enforcement Bureau to recommend that KALW's license not be renewed. In its defense, KALW says new management acknowledged previous mistakes and corrected the problems. The station licensed to the San Francisco Public Schools but funded through grants and public support including 13,000 paid members. [KALW explains FCC proceedings against the station] [Chronicle 1998: Station's license threatened by legal challenge]

April 2006 Press Club board minutes

Call to order at 6:22 p.m.
In Attendance: President Micki Carter, Darryl Compton, Peter Cleveland, Ed Remitz, Dave Price, Jon Mays, Aimee Strain, Jack Russell
Absent: Jamie Casini, John Kane

Old Business:

Micki Carter complimented Dave Price on his outstanding work on the PPC website -- it really looks great!

Minutes for the March meeting were approved, despite typo indicating that some of the news magazines would remain in the category C in the journalism contest.

Treasurer's report was also approved.

Compton said there are 547 entries in to be judged in this year's contest.

Florida: 120 entries
Milwakee: 16 entries
Cleveland: 37 entries
Texas: 292 entries

Bench Bar Media:

Strain has been in contact with Judge Scott regarding the revival of the Bench Bar Media event. The plan is to meet in the coming weeks with Judge Scott and the president of the county bar association to determine a date.

Strain said that San Mateo County Times Managing Editor Jennifer Aquino had been contacted by the San Mateo County Sheriff's office regarding a similar event. The idea was to join the two.

The soonest likely date for the event will be in the summer or early fall.

Strain said she'd be in touch via e-mail once things are ironed out.

New Business:

The scholarship competition had only 16 applicants. There were 27 applicants last year.

The board wondered why nobody is applying for the $1,500 Herb Caen Scholarship. Compton said the TV scholarship is way down too.

Cleveland suggested calling each district to find out who distributes a newspaper and trying to find new ways to market the scholarship.

Price suggested that maybe the scholarship amount is not enough to entice students to apply.

Remitz suggested having press club volunteers help high schools maintain their newspapers. He suggested sending a message to members stating that 12-24 volunteers are needed to get involved.

Mays suggested hosting another workshop.

Carter said she will make contact with the schools to find out which have papers and who is responsible for them.

Remitz, Russell and Kane will judge the entries.

Evening of Excellence:

To be held June 1 at the Crowne Plaza, Foster City.

The board discussed having another speaker for the event like last year. Suggestions from Price included Adam Clay Thompson of the Bay Guardian, and John Simerman of the Contra Costa County Times.

Strain suggested SF Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagan to speak on his coverage of the many executions he's witnessed or SF Chronicle reporter Todd Wallach to discuss the UC pay issue he's covered so well.

The board agreed a speaker would be a good addition, not to exceed 10-15 minutes of the program. Carter will make calls to see who's willing to speak at the event.

Compton and Paul Sakuma's Power Point presentations will be integrated thanks to Compton's new laptop capabilities. Cleveland said he'd edit the presentations for typos.

Carolyn will do the centerpieces.

The board needs people to work the door of the reception.

Carter will take care of name tags.

Strain will provide Darryl with a contract from Joannie Joutz of the Crowne Plaza. Strain will also speak to Joutz about menu selection, making sure the meal is hot and priced the same as last year.

Price to remain $50 for members/ $55 for non-members

Bill Workman: Bill is at home in he and his wife Marla's new apartment at Woodlake. Marla told Carter that "he's back." He is talking, can use one hand and is wheel-chair bound. He is in intense therapy all day, but things are definitely looking up for him.

Diana Diamond: Price said Diana Diamond is interested in joining the board as a board member.

Joe Benway, CEO of Wave Magazine was also present at the meeting.

Next meeting is May 3, 6:15 p.m., San Mateo Daily News board room

Meeting adjourned at 7:20 p.m.

San Mateo ad man Hal Badgett dies

The San Mateo County Times is reporting today that one of its longtime employees, Harold "Hal" Badgett, has died after a long illness at age 84. A World War II veteran, Badgett worked for the Times for 37 years, starting as a retail advertising salesman and then moving up the ranks to national advertising manager before retiring in the 1990s. The Times reported that he died March 29 at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto.

Doug Murphy's death ruled an accident

Kelli Phillips of the Contra Costa Times reported today that the two-alarm house fire that killed former KPIX Channel 5 anchor Doug Murphy (pictured) has been ruled an accident, but tests showed his blood alcohol content was 0.31, nearly four times the legal limit. Murphy, a smoker, had asthma, emphysema and hypertension, the CCTimes story said. He had recently been hospitalized and had been using a wheelchair before his death in December.

City Council supports bidder for KR papers

The City Council in Salinas has voted unanimously to support a union bid to buy the Monterey County Hearld and 11 other newspapers owned by Knight Ridder, according to a report on the Hearld's web site. Other bidders for the paper include Pacific Grove developer Nader Agha and MediaNews, the chain headed by Billy Dean Singleton. The union's bid is backed by billionaire Ron Burkle, whose personal fortune stems from leveraged buyouts of supermarket chains. He is also known to use money from the United Arab Emirates and the state pension fund CalPERS for his investments.

Burkle proposes new journalistic standards

Billionaire Ron Burkle, who in 2004 had his employees buy up every copy of a newspaper to prevent the public from reading an unflattering article about him, says in a Wall Street Journal commentary today that newsrooms need higher standards of accountability. Burkle, who has submitted what is believed to be the high bid for the San Jose Mercury News and 11 other Knight Ridder newspapers up for sale, says newsroom accountability should be at the level of accountability in corporate boardrooms.

Burkle's piece concerned the alleged attempt by New York Post freelancer Jared Paul Stern to solicit a bribe from him in return for positive coverage in the paper's society column. Though Burkle's negotiations with Stern were recorded on videotape, police have yet to make any arrests. Stern claims he was set up by Burkle.

"I was asked repeatedly to pass on secrets about my friends to gain protection against negative stories about myself. I refused to play this game, so I was punished," Burkle writes. "But this source game is not only played on Page Six. It is also played for high stakes on Wall Street and in Washington. We've all read how well-known and respected journalists have readily protected top-ranked officials leaking classified information. It makes one wonder: Where does the political reporter end and the political operative begin?"

The board of directors of Burkle's Yucipa Companies, which is bidding for the Knight Ridder papers, includes former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The San Francisco Examiner's P.J. Corkery reported March 8 that Burkle is getting money to acquire the KR papers from the United Arab Emirates.

UPDATE: The Sacramento Bee reports that a bill that is seen as a political favor for Burkle to seal records in his divorce and all others in the future has won approval in Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Slashdotting different for women than men

Annalee Newitz (pictured), a columnist for Alternet and a freelance writer for alt-weeklies and online publications for a decade, explains in this SF Bay Guardian piece what it is like for a woman to be Slashdotted. is like the New York Times for techies, Newitz explains, so it's good for a tech writer to be featured on that web site -- unless you're a woman. "A few months ago, an article of mine was Slashdotted," Newitz writes. "But instead of resulting in a lively debate about technology and social justice, it instead produced a popular thread in the 'comments' area about whether I was too fat to be considered attractive." Newitz goes on to give her reaction to the postings and explain the evolution she's seeing among techie guys. BTW, her own web site is

NBC11, KCBS 740 top AP competition

KNTV NBC11 led all Bay Area TV stations in the Associated Press Mark Twain Awards competition, winning 4 trophies including best videographer (Dean Smith) and best anchor (Lisa Kim). Kim tied in the best anchor category with KDTV Univision 14's Maria Leticia Gomez. KGO-TV 7, KICU 36 and KDTV each won 2 awards, and KPIX CBS 5 got 1. Local TV winners included:

  • "Dick Terry Videographer of the Year" -- Dean Smith, KNTV

  • Best Anchor or Anchor Team -- (Tie) Lisa Kim, KNTV, and Maria Leticia Gomez, KDTV

  • Best Weather -- “Early Edition Pinpoint Weather,” Roberta Gonzales, Eric Elliott, KPIX

  • Best Investigative Reporting -- “The Body Show,” Dan Noyes, Beth Rimbey, Lynn Friedman, KGO-TV

  • Best Serious Feature -- “World Airways: Baby Lift,” Thuy Vu, KGO-TV
  • Best Light Feature, “Milpitas Hum,” Garvin Thomas, Donald Hardy, KNTV

  • Best Videography of a News Feature -- “French Laundry,” Jonathan Drum, KNTV

  • Best Sports Videography -- “Elsie Allen H.S. Rugby-Road To Nationals,” Alforde M. Joaquin, KICU-TV

  • Best Feature Editing -- “Elsie Allen H.S. Rugby-Road To Nationals,” Alforde M. Joaquin, KICU-TV

  • Best Special, “Encuentro En La Bahia,” Valeria Hernandez, Mahelda Rodriguez, Maria Leticia Gomez, Luis Echegoyen, KDTV

Among radio stations, KCBS-AM 740 was the big winner with 5 awards followed by KGO-AM 810 with 2 and one each for KSFO 560 and KQED-FM 88.5. Local radio winners included:

  • Pat Davis Radio Reporter of the Year -- Bret Burkhart, KGO-AM

  • Bill Stout Award for Enterprise -- “Pot Clubs,” Doug Sovern, KCBS-AM

  • Best Sports Segment -- (TIE) Steve Bitker, KCBS-AM, and Steve Grad, KNX Los Angeles
  • Best Investigative Reporting -- “Pot Clubs,” Doug Sovern, KCBS-AM

  • Best Special -- “Voices of Soldiers,” Mark Williams, Holly Williams, Melanie Morgan and Jay Allen, KFBK-AM, Sacramento and KSFO AM

  • Best Coverage of an Ongoing Story -- “Stanley Williams Execution Coverage,” Scott Shafer, Debra Baer, Judy Campbell, Kelly Wilkinson, Sarah Varney and Frank Stoltze, KQED-FM

  • Best Sports Reporting -- (TIE), "Bill King," Steve Bitker, KCBS-AM, and “Off to the Races,” Bret Burkhart, KGO-AM

  • Best Use of Sound - Feature -- “Fair Time,” Mike Sugerman, KCBS-AM

All TV and radio stations in California and Nevada were eligible to enter the contest, sponsored by the Associated Press Television and Radio Association of California-Nevada. Here's the complete list of TV and radio winners.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Pruitt says newspapers have a future

While the conventional wisdom is that newspapers are dying, McClatchy Co. chief executive Gary Pruitt (pictured) says the newspaper industry has a future. McClatchy is buying Knight Ridder, but selling the Mercury News and 11 other papers because they're unionized and not growing fast enough, according to reporter Devin Leonard of Fortune magazine. (Photo by Jonathan Sprague, from Fortune)

Top 10 points about the Brown Act

CalAware General Counsel Terry Francke (pictured) has created some Top 10 lists that are designed to help journalists who are denied access to public records or public meetings. The lists summarize the main points about the law -- perfect for reporters who are in a hurry. Topics include "Top 10 Points to Remember About Access to Local Government Meetings under the Ralph M. Brown Act," "Top 10 Points to Remember About Making California Public Records Act Requests" and "Top 10 Points to Remember About Exemptions from the California Public Records Act." Visit CalAware's web site for more information. (Photo by Larry Dalton, Sacramento News & Review)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Free FM fires talk show host John London

A month after midday host Darian O'Toole was fired by talk station "Free FM" 106.9 (KIFR), afternoon drive host John London (pictured) has been shown the door after he offered a reward on the air to have fellow talk show host Penn Jillette killed. Bay Area Radio Digest says that London opened his show on Thursday (April 6) by offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who would kill Jillette (the talking half of the Penn & Teller magician team), with an extra $2,000 if the death was painful. According to the Radio Digest, London's Friday show was a "best of" tape. Brad Kava of the Mercury News posted a story tonight saying he talked to London, who confirmed he had been fired. London told Kava his comments were "obviously sarcastic" and that he was responding to Jillette's earlier attack on Mother Teresa. The CBS-owned station isn't commenting, but any reference to London was removed from the station's web site over the weekend. London was replaced today (April 10) by Johnny Wendell, who does a 10 a.m.-noon weekend shift on Progressive Talk KTLK-AM Los Angeles. From 1985-1991, London did the morning show on KMEL where he developed a strong local following. He worked at stations in LA for most of the 1990s. He returned to the Bay Area and was at KNBR from 2001 to 2004. [Kava's blog: Two strikes on Free FM] [ba.broadcast: London out at Free FM]

New SF blog -- 'It's real estate as porn'

San Francisco has a new blog,, for those obsessed with the real estate industry. Founder Lockhart Steele (pictured) "has been tracking New York's real estate market for almost two years, becoming essential reading for the city's housing fetishists," the Chronicle's Rachel F. Elson writes. "Now the 32-year-old Steele is expanding his empire" to San Francisco, where local editor Phil Ferrato and contributing editor Alison Laichter are "covering dog battles in Bernal Heights, San Francisco fireplaces and the change in Japantown ownership." Elson says the tone of the new blog is "sassy, salacious ... In short, it's real estate as pornography." (Photo by Mike Kepka of the Chronicle.)

The story of how Herb Caen won a Pulitzer

James Risser, a two-time Pulitzer winner and the retired director of the Knight Fellowships at Stanford, debunks an urban myth about legendary columnist Herb Caen (pictured). The myth is that Pulitzer Board members awarded Caen journalism's most coveted honor in 1996 because they knew he would soon die from lung cancer. Risser says that assumption is wrong -- and Risser would know because he served on the board at the time. In this commentary for the Chronicle, Risser discusses the board's private deliberations about Caen. [Caen's April 10, 1996 column, the day after he won the Pulitzer]

Blogger: Singleton will get local KR papers

"Industry observers have whispered that McClatchy and MediaNews deal ... [for] the California papers was done, or close to done, early on," writes blogger Ken Doctor (pictured), a 21-year veteran of Knight Ridder whose last job with the company was as vice president for editorial in KR Digital. Those California papers would include the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Palo Alto Daily News group and Monterey Herald, and when combined with Singleton's eight Bay Area dailies, would give Singleton a daily circulation of 800,000 in the Bay Area, almost twice that of the Chronicle. Doctor says that if billionaire Ron Burkle gets any of KR's papers, it will be those offered in a second round, after Singleton has purchased what he wants. [Silicon Valley Biz Journal: Advertisers hope to get a break in Merc sale] [E&P: Brokers convinced 12 abandoned KR papers will find buyers]

Burkle may seek concessions from union

Bloomberg reporter Hui-youg Yu takes an in-depth look at how billionaire Ron Burkle (pictured) does business and suggests he may be trying to do the same thing in newspapers that he did in supermarkets: "invest in an out-of-favor industry that's threatened by the Internet and is consolidating, and get cost- saving concessions from the unions," Yu writes "Burkle became a billionaire in the 1990s by buying into the U.S. grocery store business. As backers of online grocery stores discovered then, the Web didn't put traditional providers out of business." In addition to getting concessions from unions, Burkle will also benefit from federal tax credits due to the nature of his proposed buyout. Burkle has bid for 12 Knight Ridder papers including all of the company's publications in the Bay Area including the San Jose Mercury News, Palo Alto Daily News group and Contra Costa Times. The Bloomberg story doesn't mention allegations made by the SF Examiner that Burkle is using money from the United Arab Emirates to finance his bid for the KR papers. [Rock River (Ill.) Times: UAE eyes Knight Ridder chain] [Chronicle takes a shot at Burkle]

Goldstein receives Columbia J-School honor

Tom Goldstein, a former dean at two of the nation’s premier journalism schools, Columbia and the University of California at Berkeley, and now the director of Berkeley’s mass communications program, has won this year's Alumni Award from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Goldstein, a graduate of Columbia's class of 1969, will receive the award along with three other journalists during an alumni weekend April 20-23 in New York.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

English-language Chinese paper hits streets

The Epoch Times, a free English-language weekly Chinese newspaper, has expanded its circulation to the Peninsula. Yellow boxes containing the newspaper (such as the one pictured here on Ramona Street in Palo Alto) have popped up in the area in the past week. The broadsheet newspaper has two sections -- one with national and international news written by staffers and Reuters, and a second titled "The Bay," with stories by staffers, freelancers and Bay City News. The Epoch Times supports the Falun Gong religion, which has been outlawed by the communist Chinese government. Bowing to pressure from the Chicoms, Google will not provide links to Epoch Times stories on its Chinese search engine. Alex Ma, the paper's SF managing editor, says his house was burglarized twice last year, and he suspects Chicom agents were responsible for both break-ins. After the first break-in, Ma said relatives in China told him that state security agents visited their homes and told them that he needed to stop his "activities." Another employee of the newspaper in Georgia was beaten by three men on Feb. 8.

Gossip writer says Burkle set him up

New York Post gossip writer Jared Paul Stern (pictured), accused of trying to extort $220,000 from billionaire Ron Burkle in return for favorable coverage, will tell "Good Morning America" tomorrow (April 10) that he was the one being set up by Burkle. Stern said that Burkle contacted him last summer through a mutual friend in an effort to reduce the number of negative items appearing about him in the Post's gossip column. Burkle, who is backing a bid by unions to buy 12 Knight Ridder newspapers including the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, has denied Stern's allegations, saying through a spokesman, "Mr. Stern's re-characterization of events are just that."

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Berkeley residents push for open records

Reporters are often the ones calling for open records and open meetings. But in Berkeley, 30 people showed up at a community meeting to discuss opening up city government there, according to a story by Judith Scherr in the Berkeley Daily Planet. People wanted more access to police records, more time to talk to City Council members at regular meetings and information about lawsuits the city intends to settle before they go to council for a vote, among other things. Those attending the meeting included journalist Peter Sussman, who pointed out "... the people who decide what you should know are the very people about whom you’re trying to get information ... So we’re leaving the fox in charge of the chicken coop.” Council member Kriss Worthington, who called the meeting, plan to compile the suggestions and turn them over to a volunteer attorney attorney experienced in drafting sunshine ordinances, according to the Daily Planet.

Details emerge in Burkle extortion case

The New York Times details this morning the alleged newspaper extortion plot against Ron Burkle (left), the billionaire who is bidding to buy 12 Knight Ridder newspapers, including the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. On tapes made by Burkle's legal team, New York Post Page Six gossip column freelancer Jared Paul Stern (right) is alleged to have told Burkle during a March 31 meeting, "We know how to destroy people ... It's what we do. We do it without creating liability. That's our speciality." The Times says Stern claimed on the tape that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman had already agreed to pay to get positive coverage in the gossip column. Stern has not been arrested and the investigation continues. [NY Daily News: Burkle told Murdoch in letter that he was "getting screwed" by Page Six] [NYT: How the Page Six column started and how it revolutionized mainstream journalism] (Stern photo from Getty images, Burkle from NYT)

Friday, April 7, 2006

NBC11 to distribute documentary via iTunes

KNTV NBC 11 plans to release a documentary it has produced on the 1906 earthquake on iTunes on Monday (April 10), a week before the program is scheduled to be broadcast on the station. MediaWeek says it's the first time a San Francisco station has released a documentary through iTunes ahead of its air date. The documentary, "Echoes from the Past: The 1906 Earthquake," will air on Channel 11 on April 18, the 100th anniversary of the historic quake. The web site will also have a timeline of the quake and a fictional diary depicting the quake through the eyes of a teenager.

Conservative student paper told to apologize

The Stanford Review, a conservative student newspaper, has been told by a disciplinary committee to apologize to students, faculty and staff for violating Stanford's policy against distributing newspapers door-to-door in the dorms, but the paper is considering a lawsuit instead. The Stanford Daily is reporting today that the conservative paper's staff has been ordered by Stanford's Organization Conduct Board to write letters of apology and meet with an associate dean regarding the violations. The Review's staff said it was engaging in "civil disobedience" by distributing its papers door-to-door in four dorms on Jan. 21, and the paper appears ready to fight for its rights in court. The Stanford Daily's Christopher Lin quotes Review Editor-In-Chief Ryan Tracey as saying, "We’re pretty sure that nothing is acceptable to us as a paper unless it includes some sort of door-to-door distribution ... If we can’t reach this, many people have drawn up affidavits and we are certainly planning on pressing forward and filing the lawsuit.”

Writer accused of trying to extort Burkle

A freelancer for the New York Post's Page Six gossip column is under investigation by the FBI on suspicion of trying to extort money from billionaire Ron Burkle (pictured), who hopes to buy 12 Knight Ridder newspapers including the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. Jared Paul Stern is suspected of demanding $100,000 and a $10,000 stipend from Burkle in exchange for not writing "damaging, negative stories" about him, the Post said on its web site. The Post didn't say what specifically Stern allegedly threatened to write about Burkle. No arrests have been made. The New York Sun reports that Stern has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Magazine. Although Burkle is trying to buy the 12 Knight Ridder papers that are for sale, he rarely talks to the press himself and, according to the San Diego Union Tribune, had his employees last year buy stacks of copies of the Los Angeles Business Journal to prevent people from reading about his divorce. State Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Culver City, who has received contributions from Burkle, is pushing a bill through the legislature that would seal financial records in divorce cases, including Burkle's. Critics have said the bill is unnecessary because it would only benefit Burkle but would make news reporting of all California divorce cases more difficult. Meanwhile, a gossip columnist in San Francisco, P.J. Corkery of the Examiner, reported March 8 that the United Arab Emirates was funding Burkle's bid to buy the Knight Ridder papers. [AP version]