Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Another radio station switches formats

KMAX-FM 95.7 is the second station in the Bay Area to change formats this week, flipping from adult hits to country. The station, along with classical KDFC 102.1 and soft rock KOIT 96.5, were traded by Mormon-owned Bonneville International to Philadelphia's Entercom in return for stations in other markets. reports that Bananarama's 1986 smash "Venus" was KMAX's last song under the old format, which ended this afternoon. The station is playing a robotic voice countdown until the new format, called "95.7 The Wolf," begins tomorrow. The logo above is from the station's Web site. AllAccess says Scott Mahalick, formerly from Entercom's Seattle country station, will be the station's new program director.

This is Entercom's first move after taking over, but there is talk that KDFC might change its classical format too. Earlier this week, Clear Channel flipped its 104.9 frequency from Spanish to alternative music.

Trivia: The frequency 95.7 has had a lot formats over the years. Warner Brothers put the station on the air in 1947 as KGSF. It also had the calls KXKX, KEAR-FM and, from 1980 to 1994, KKHI. Westinghouse bought the station in 1994 and flipped it to news/talk. One of its hosts was Dr. Laura Schlessinger. KPIX-FM was briefly at the top of the ratings with its live, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. In 1997, Westinghouse sold the station to Bonneville, which operated it under the call letters KOYT, KZQZ ("Z95.7"), KKDV ("95.7 The Drive"), KZBR, KMAX-FM and now KBWF.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

February 2007 Press Club board minutes

Minutes of the Feb. 21, 2007 PPC board meeting

Meeting was brought to order at 6:20 p.m. by President Jamie Casini.

Board members present: Jack Russell, Jon Mays, Jennifer Aquino, Ed Remitz, President Jamie Casini, Diana Diamond and past president Micki Carter. Executive Director Darryl Compton was also in attendance.  

Absent: Peter Cleaveland, Dave Price, Aimee Lewis Strain.

Minutes: Minutes of January meeting were approved.

Treasurer's Report: Darryl gave the Crowne Plaza Hotel a deposit check for $1,500 and said the books will change greatly once the checks for the contest start rolling in. The Treasurer's Report was approved.

Old business

Bench Bar Media: Carter expressed some amount of frustration in meeting with Judge Joe C. Scott to obtain e-mails for those in the courts and law enforcement. Aquino offered her list of cop contacts and Diamond said she could get a judge in Santa Clara County to call for a good word. Carter suggested Quentin Kopp, former judge and state senator, might be a good person to contact since he wrote the Sunshine Law. Carter suggested an April or May date for the event.

Student scholarships and photo scholarship in honor of Susan Caldwell: It was decided that the scholarships be renamed the Peninsula Press Club Young Journalist Award and be given in increments of $1,500. There is some built in flexibility in that print journalists can receive the scholarship in the name of Herb Caen and photojournalists can receive the scholarship in the name of Susan Caldwell. The scholarship committee will award two scholarships and has the ability to ask for a third if there is an outstanding candidate.
The committee will work on some specific word changes.

New business

PPC Awards Dinner: Compton reported the Chronicle is not competing in the contest this year. There was some discussion on getting a speaker and the board considered having a speaker out of the contest's list of winners.
High school journalism. A date was set for a meeting with high school advisors/class representatives for March 21 at 5:30 p.m. There is some question about the location and Carter said she will inquire about having it at the church.

Other. It was agreed to ask Mary Ann Thomas if she would like to have her photos on display during the awards dinner. The former photo editor for the Chronicle, she now has breast cancer and could use the money.

Diamond said she would like to see some changes in the award categories. Specifically, she would like to see a general excellence and profile category. She would also like some sort of expansion of business categories. Other ways of submitting entries such as by submitting links were also discussed.

Meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.

Next meeting is March 21 at 5:30 p.m. and will be conducted as the high school journalism workshop.

Minutes submitted by Secretary Jon Mays. 

Balco reporters to be interviewed on radio

KGO-AM 810's Ronn Owens is scheduled to interview Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada on Wednesday (Feb. 28) from 11 a.m. to noon. The two reporters were facing jail for refusing to identify their source of grand jury transcripts in the Barry Bonds steroids case. Then defense attorney Troy Ellerman came forward and admitted he was the source. Since then the Chronicle has been under fire for being "used" by Ellerman. Williams has given interviews since Ellerman was charged, but Fainaru-Wada has not. See previous Press Club entry of Feb. 23.

Station drops Spanish, returns to alt-rock

Clear Channel's KCNL 104.9 has dropped the Spanish format it adopted 13 months ago and will return to playing alternative music, the radio Web site reports. The station's Spanish programning was pulled at 3 p.m. Monday and the new format is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. today (Feb. 27). In between, station has been airing sounds of construction noises. The station will rely more heavily on listener requests than before. Music director Jeanene Calhoun will return. Former KSAN ("The Bone") program director Michael Solari will be the station's new promotions director. The station manager will be Justin Wittmayer.

Asian paper's 'I Hate Blacks' op-ed slammed

The Fang Family's Asian Week newspaper is getting heat from black leaders and was the subject of a front-page article in today's Chron for printing an op-ed entitled "Why I Hate Blacks." Among the things writer Kenneth Eng says is that "Blacks hate us. Every Asian who has ever come across them knows that they take almost every opportunity to hurl racist remarks at us."

"I can't believe Ted Fang [pictured] would allow such a column to go to print," Ling-chi Wang, retired chairman of the ethnic studies program at UC-Berkeley told the Chron. "It is really offensive and damaging and is not one that contributes to a better understanding of diversity."

The Chron also quotes San Francisco writer Claire Light, one of several bloggers who wrote about the column over the weekend, who said Asian Week in general -- and especially Eng's column -- makes her embarrassed to be Asian. She said that "most Asian Americans have never even heard of AsianWeek, much less agree with its editorial decision making."

Hillary campaign snubs local Chinese papers

Reporters for two Bay Area Chinese-language newspapers, the World Journal and the Sing Tao Daily, were denied access to a briefing by Sen. Hillary Clinton in San Francisco, according to New American Media, a Web site featuring news coverage by ethnic newspapers.

The report by New America Media's Eugenia Chien said the local reporters were told by Clinton staffers that the briefing Friday at the Sheraton Palace Hotel wasn't open to "foreign press." They got nowhere when they attempted to explain that their papers were local publications.

However, Chien notes that several Chinese media reporters who arrived early were admitted to the briefing.

A couple days beforehand, the Clinton campaign sent out press releases to some local news organizations alerting them to the event and telling local reporters to arrive by 11:45 a.m. However, none of the city's three Chinese dailies got the release, according to the Chroncle.

World Journal reporter Portia Li told the Chron she arrived about 10 minutes before noon. Li said that after she got the "no foreign media" runaround, she produced a business card with a local address. Then a Clinton staffer asked her for two forms of identification, which seemed to Li to be insulting. Li, who has covered news in the Bay Area for two decades, said she had never had to show identification at similar events.

"She kept saying this is only open for local media, not foreign press," Li said. "I told her, 'I'm not foreign press. I'm local media.' I was really angry. It's not about myself. It's about how the mainstream looks at Chinese (people) as a whole. Why do they call us foreigners, even they we have a local address on our business card?"

Sing Tao Daily reporter Ken Hu, another reporter excluded from Friday's briefing, wrote in Saturday's edition of his 65,000-circulation paper that he arrived at noon, when the event was supposed to start. The doors were promptly closed to the press, he wrote, despite the fact that the briefing started more than 20 minutes late. “Compare this to Barack Obama, another Democratic presidential candidate who recently came to San Francisco. The door was wide open (when he visited),” Hu wrote.

The World Journal (also 65,000 circulation), in an editorial Sunday, was even more blunt, saying the Chinese media is owed an apology from Clinton: "Many non-whites are still viewed as foreigners in mainstream society.”

Sen. Clinton appears to have been silent about the gaffe. But campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson did apologize and called the incident a "learning lesson and a learning opportunity," according to the World Journal.

Local journalists who were able to cover the event included Amy Chai of the Ming Pao Daily and Angelina Wong of KTSF Channel 26.

Debra Saunders: Wolf isn't a journalist

Debra J. Saunders, the Chron's conservative columnist, writes in today's edition that Josh Wolf isn't a journalist but rather a "blogger with an agenda and a camera, who sold a 'selected portion' of the video of the demonstration, which left a San Francisco police officer with a fractured skull, to KRON-TV."

Saunders says, "a camera and a Web site do not a journalist make, any more than shooting a criminal makes a vigilante a cop." She disputes the ACLU's claim that Wolf was "covering" anarchist groups as a journalist -- she points out that on his videoblog he calls himself an "artist, an activist, an ararchist and an archivist."

Saunders also found an angle other media has missed -- the police officer who Wolf purportedly photographed being attacked is gay. Saunders writes:
    "What if he were attacked, not because he is a cop, but because he is a gay man? [Officer Peter] Shields, who is gay, said people here would be 'furious.' He added, 'If this chaos happened in the Castro, there would not be this hoopla, if you will, around the Josh Wolf videotape.' But there is no public outrage, he added, 'just because I put on a uniform.'

    "Alas, in the Special City, attacking a gay man is a hate crime, while attacking a gay cop can be a cause celebre."

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chron takes hits for protecting Balco source

The Chron is under fire for protecting a source in the Balco steroid story who leaked grand jury testimony to the paper to help his clients. The source, attorney Troy Ellerman, insisted in court papers that he wasn't the leaker and that the publicity was hurting his clients' chances of getting a fair trial. Ellerman has now pleaded guilty, and the Chron reporters who used his leaks, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, are no longer facing jail for refusing to identify their source.

Tim Rutten of the LA Times called the conduct of the two reporters "sleazy and contemptable." Rutten writes:
    "There's more at stake here than just an abstract preoccupation with journalistic ethics or the trade-school mechanics of handling sourcing in news stories. Journalists consumed with a self-interest so strong that it makes them the willing dupes of manipulative sources report what they're meant to report and not the information the public has a right to know."
Slate's Jack Shafer asks these questions:
    "Does the Chronicle regret having quoted so faithfully from grand jury transcripts? Was it trying to bait prosecutors into subpoenaing its reporters? That's how it looks from a distance. Does it regret the last taste it took of the transcripts? Why didn't the paper do a better job in preparing the public for the Ellerman bombshell? During its long legal fight to keep its reporters out of jail for refusing the grand jury subpoenas, the Chronicle gave no indication of its morally ambiguous relationship with Ellerman. It was all "rah-rah-rah" for the First Amendment. Looking back, does the newspaper wish it had done something to prevent its relationship Ellerman from becoming so ... morally ambiguious?"
And criticism also is coming from within the Chron, according to Will Harper of SF Weekly, who said veteran reporter Tom Abate questioned during a newsroom celebration whether Williams and Fainaru-Wada were "used" by their source.

In response to the criticism, Williams told E&P:
    "Do you want the information or not, is what it comes down to ... As reporters, we have so few means to persuade people to talk to us. You can offer confidentiality -- and once you have done that, you have to keep your word."
For the record, neither Bronstein or Williams will say whether Ellerman was their source. Fainaru-Wada has declined all comment.

Bronstein told E&P that t is important to look at source motives, but said judgments need to take all aspects of a story into account. "In my experience as a reporter and an editor, sources have motives," he said. "And they range from good to bad. People need to, in general, make sure they consider everything." (Sept. 21 photo of Williams (center left) and Fainaru-Wada (center right) by Darryl Bush of the Chronicle.)

Silicon Valley has ignored Josh Wolf

CNET's Charles Cooper is wondering why Silicon Valley couldn't give a damn about Josh Wolf, the freelance videographer jailed for refusing to give outtakes of an ararchist protest he shot to federal prosecutors. "Considering the counterculture roots of so many who laid the foundation of this business, I expected to hear people weigh in," writes Cooper, CNET's executive editor for commentary. Cooper writes:
    "It's not as if this crowd doesn't know how to voice its concerns. When self-interest is involved, there's no shortage of talking heads eager to bloviate. So it was that several stars from the high-tech firmament dutifully trooped to Capitol Hill last year when Congress debated Net neutrality legislation. No less a personage than Google CEO Eric Schmidt publicly lectured how those who understand such things need to educate government about the Internet's role in society.

    "Probably a good idea, too. How about extending that noble concern to a disquisition on the Wolf case and the importance of free Internet journalism -- practiced in a myriad of ways -- in that same society?"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Newsom, Bush have something in common

In October 2003, President Bush declared that he did not read newspapers and instead relied on his aides to tell him what was going on in the world. On Wednesday, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (left) told KPIX CBS5 that in the wake of a sex scandal, he too is ignoring the media. "The hardest part is not reading the papers, watching the news on TV," Newsom told Hank Plante. The mayor compared the scope of media coverage of his personal foibles to the coverage the start of the Iraq war received.

Study: Newsroom cuts reduce profitability

Budget-cutting newspaper executives in the Bay Area take note: A University of Missouri study, that looked at 10 years of financial data, found that newspapers which invested in their newsrooms saw their profits grow.

"The most important finding is that newspapers are under-spending in the newsroom and over-spending in circulation and advertising," said one of the study's authors, Esther Thorson, an associate dean at Missouri's J-school. "If you invest more in the newsroom, do you make more money? The answer is yes. If you lower the amount of money spent in the newsroom, then pretty soon the news product becomes so bad that you begin to lose money."

The study, which was jointly done by Missouri's business and journalism schools, developed a mathematical formula that breaks down revenues and expenditures from news, advertising and circulation departments and predicts profitability.

"By looking at the data, investing in news quality does pay off," said Murali Mantrala, a marketing professor in Missouri's business school and another author of the study. "It improves circulation and advertising revenues, which are the bulk of a newspaper's revenues. Better news quality drives circulation, and circulation drives advertising revenues."

Reuters, in reporting the study, quoted one outplacement tracking firm as saying that the number of planned job cuts in the U.S. media last year surged 88 percent to 17,809.

Couple sues 7 police agenices over records

CalAware's audit to determine if police agenices are obeying state open records laws has resulted in an usual lawsuit. A politically active retired Saratoga couple, Janice and Ronald Naymark, have sued seven police agenices operating in Santa Clara County, alleging that they have a long history of ignoring the public's right to know. The suit, reported Wednesday by the Mercury News, is unique because the Naymarks weren't denied any information by the various police agenices. Instead, their lawyer, James McManis, said they are acting on behalf of all county taxpayers, charging that their taxes are being used to enforce policies that violate state law. McManis says the suit was prompted by the CalAware audit. Defendants include police departments in San Jose, Campbell, Los Gatos-Monte Sereno, Palo Alto and Santa Clara, as well as the CHP and Santa Clara County Sheriff. Also named are the heads of each of those agencies.

The Naymark's complaint was posted by the Merc on MediaNews Group's future regional news site,

MediaNews's consolidation moves forward

In another sign that consolidation of the daily newspapers in the Bay Area is advancing, MediaNews Group's California Newspaper Partnership has appointed a number of people to run its "Shared Services Center" in San Ramon. The center will handle the back office functions such as finance, HR and IT for its newspapers including the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Marin Independent Journal and so on. Here's a list of who will manage different aspects of the center.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Roast of Jerry Roberts on March 13 in SF

Longtime Chronicle political reporter and managing editor Jerry Roberts will be roasted March 13 in San Francisco to benefit a legal defense fund set up to help him and other journalists who are being sued by Santa Barbara newspaper publisher and billionaire Wendy McCaw. Roberts worked for McCaw for six years. He resigned last July 6 along with several other reporters and editors at the Santa Barbara News Press over newsroom intererence by McCaw. Roberts, who is fighting non-Hodgkins lymphoma, is also battling a $25 million lawsuit filed by McCaw. Roberts and the other journalists targeted by McCaw are being represented by the Santa Barbara Lawyers Alliance for Free Speech Rights, comprised of 44 of that community's attorneys. The roast, from 6-9 p.m. at AT&T Park's club level, will feature Roberts' old boss from the Chronicle, Phil Bronstein, and Santa Barbaran Lou Cannon, Ronald Reagan’s biographer.

Awkward moment at Balco reporters' party

Will Harper, who just transferred to the SF Weekly from Village Voice Media's East Bay Express, has the scoop on the newsroom party Chron editor Phil Bronstein threw for reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada (pictured) after the news broke that they wouldn't be going to jail for refusing to reveal their Balco source. Harper reports that they even had a cake depicting the two reporters in jail-stripes.

"It was a back-slappy affair for the most part — until veteran reporter Tom Abate cross-examined the duo, Chron sources say, by asking them about getting 'used' by their source. Cue uncomfortable silence. Williams recalls telling Abate that they had fought 'like wildcats' for eight months not to disclose their sources, and they were not going to now," Harper writes.

Harper goes on to explain how Fainaru-Wada returned to their source, defense attorney Troy Ellerman, to copy more of the grand jury transcript after Ellerman filed a motion asking to have the case dismissed because of leaks, which he blamed on the media. (Photo credit: Brad Mangin, Sports Illustrated)

Cast changes in suit against weekly owner

For the third time, the owner of the SF Weekly and East Bay Express has changed law firms in the suit filed against it by Bruce Brugmann's (pictured) Bay Guardian. The Guardian claims Village Voice Media is selling ads at below the cost of producing them in an effort to put the locally owned Guardian out of business. And the Guardian is covering every detail in the case, even routine status conferences before the judge. Such stories remind readers that the SF Weekly and EBX are owned by a chain and are accused of underhanded activities. The new attorneys for Village Voice Media are H. Sinclair Kerr Jr. and Ivo Labar, from Kerr and Wagstaffe. The Guardian notes that the trial is set for July 16 before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chron adds ad to bottom of B Section

Chron readers got a surprise this morning when, for the first time, the paper ran an ad at the bottom of its "Bay Area" or B-section, where most of the local news is located. The move is hardly surprising since Hearst Corp. said in September that the Chron has lost $330 million since it bought the paper in 2000. Newspapers owned by MediaNews Group, such as the Oakland Tribune and San Mateo County Times, have been running ads on the front page for a couple of years now. And on Feb. 3, the Press Club reported that John Armstrong, publisher of the Contra Costa Times, said his paper and the Mercury News are also considering ads on the fronts of sections and page one. He said they could start sometime in the next three months. The Coco Times and Merc were acquired by MediaNews in August.

'I've had three ad reps in the last year'

Advertisers are concerned that the consolidation of daily newspapers in the Bay Area will reduce the quality of news coverage and reduce readership even more, Examiner reporter Kate Williamson writes in today's edition.

The Examiner says MediaNews Group, the company headed by Dean Singleton of Denver, is beginning to consolidate the advertising departments of the newspapers it bought last year, the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, with those it already owned, the Alameda Newspaper Group, which includes the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times and Marin Independent Journal.

Ad buyers say they haven't seen any increases in rates, but they're seeing a lot of turnover in staff. "I’ve had three ad reps in the past year,” said Ricki Kohn, the founding partner of RK Media Solutions. “It makes my job a little harder.”

Media buyers interviewed by the Ex also said they were concerned that the papers maintain their quality, because readers may not subscribe to a paper if it changes, or a different demographic group of customers may result. Those options can expose ads to fewer potential customers — or the wrong ones for the ad buyers’ clients.

“If it’s not local, if its general Bay Area stories … their articles will become useless,” said one buyer who was not identified by the Ex but was said to represent a "very large" national advertiser. “It’s important that they [the different papers] maintain their individuality, that the content remains pertinent.”

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Local news on KGO ABC7 goes HD

KGO ABC7 on Thursday (Feb. 17) became the second station in the market to broadcast its local news programs in high definition. KTVU Channel 2 was the first, making the switch in October. KGO's high-def newscasts will include coverage from HD cameras installed in the station's news helicopters. Channel 7 in the San Francisco area, KGO will also air View From the Bay, a daily news show hosted by ex-Good Morning America weatherman Spencer Christian, in high-def. says there are now about 30 stations nationwide that are broadcasting the local news in HDTV.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

KGO ABC7 sues to get bus agency records

The union representing city bus drivers in San Francisco is going to great lengths to prevent KGO ABC7's Dan Noyes from finding out which drivers are getting the most complaints from riders. For more than a month, Noyes has been trying to get the transit agency, Muni, to release complaints about its 25 worst drivers. Initially Muni was ready to turn over the complaints. Then the union ran to a judge, Patrick Mahoney, who said Muni should black out the names of drivers pending a future hearing. Now, the union and Muni agreed to a settlement in which the transit agency would only release the complaints if the names were blacked out. The screen grab above shows Noyes with the 1,000 pages of complaints he received -- sans names. Yesterday, KGO ABC7 announced it was suing Muni under the state's open records law to obain the complaints with the names.

Judge in Josh Wolf case: Let's settle this

Maybe it has something to do with last month's resignation of Kevin Ryan, the federal prosecutor for San Francisco. But in the same week that the feds cut loose two Chronicle reporters who wouldn't reveal their source of a grand jury transcript, U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered his magistrate to broker a deal with imprisoned journalist Josh Wolf "in the interest of reaching a resolution satisfactory to both sides.''

Of course, "satisfactory" to Wolf would be freedom.

Nobody will say who told Alsup to let Wolf go. But it doesn't seem as if the defense -- which hasn't convinced the judge to do anything so far -- could have set this chain of events in motion.

Anyway, stay tuned for the details in the Wolf case. In the meantime, watch this new video which offers some pictures (one posted here) of the anarchist protest that Ryan so desperately wanted to see. Listen to the video to hear what the cop with the gun was saying to the political protesters.

The news starts now:BTW, the lyrics to the song by Ralph Buckley are: "What would you do if they asked you to rat on your friends? Do you think the means will justify your ends? 'Cause now the revolution is televised before your eyes. Free Josh Wolf."

MediaNews profit margin at 3.5%

Denver-based MediaNews Group — owner of 57 daily newspapers across the country including the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune — reports that it had net income of $12.95 million on revenues of $372.46 million for Q4 2006 -- a 3.5% profit margin. That's up from 2.2% for the same quarter last year.

At KGO-AM, Laporte replaces Finney

The Merc's Brad Kava is reporting that former Bay Area broadcaster Leo Laporte (left) will be taking over consumer reporter Michael Finney's (right) slot from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays on KGO-AM 810. Kava says that when Finney's radio contract was up, he didn't renew because the station didn't offer him enough money to work weekends. He can still be seen weekdays on KGO ABC 7. Laporte, who will be doing a technology program, will be syndicated from Los Angeles.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Yahoo reporter named source in December

While two Chronicle reporters were ready to go to jail rather than reveal their source for their series of stories on steroids in baseball, a journalist for Yahoo online discovered the source's name back in December. Yahoo's Josh Peter (left) was the first to report that Colorado attorney Troy Ellerman (in the cowboy hat at right) leaked confidential grand jury transcripts to Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. Yesterday, Ellerman agreed to plead guilty to four charges relating to the leak, and he could get up to 17 years in prison. Fainaru-Wada and Williams are now off the hook. The Yahoo journalist, Peter, said in December that he got his information from Larry McCormick, a private investigator who was involved in the Balco case. McCormick told Peter that he went to the feds with the information that Ellerman was the Chronicle's source. (Photo credit: Brad Mangin, Sports Illustrated)

Coverage includes:
    • Chronicle: Lawyer admits to leak; Fainaru-Wada and Williams aren't commenting

    Bloomberg: Balco probe attorney to plead guilty in leak case

    • Mercury News: Reporters avoid jail in Balco case; Victor Conte, Balco's founder, says he's "shocked" Ellerman was the leaker

KCBS's Janice Wright takes part-time PR job

CORRECTION: Earlier today, the Press Club reported that Janice Wright (pictured) would be leaving KCBS All News 740 for a public relations job. She informs us this afternoon that she will still be working part-time at the radio station while also working for Zanides Public Relations in San Rafael, specializing in managing bad publicity. The PPC apologizes for the error. Wright has been in Bay Area broadcasting for more than 25 years and is married to KCBS and KPIX CBS5 reporter Mike Sugerman.

Dept. of Justice issues release on Balco case

Attorney Troy L. Ellerman, who represented Balco founder Victor Conte and vice president James Valente, leaked secret grand jury transcripts to Chronicle reporters Lance Williams (left) and Mark Fainaru-Wada, then went to court to say he was "angry" over the leaks and swore he wasn't the leaker, said a press release from prosecutors issued this afternoon. Ellerman's role was revealed to the feds through a "previously unknown witness" who approached the FBI last fall, the release said. Ellerman has agreed to plead guilty to four charges in a plea bargain with prosecutors. Prosecutors said the case against the Chronicle reporters is now moot. (Photo credit: Brad Mangin, Sports Illustrated)

BULLETIN: Chron's Balco reporters off the hook

The AP moved a "news alert" at 3:52 p.m. that the two San Francisco Chronicle reporters will avoid jail time after a lawyer pleaded guilty to leaking them secret grand jury documents from the BALCO steroids investigation. Troy Ellerman pleaded guilty to leaking the information, lying to prosecutors, obstructing justice and disobeying a court order not to disclose grand jury information, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court in San Francisco today.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

SPJ honors journalists hit with subpoenas

The Northern California Society of Professional Journalists chapter will honor four Bay Area journalists who have waged separate campaigns to resist government subpoenas in defense of the First Amendment right to freedom of the press.

"As freelance journalists Josh Wolf and Sarah Olson, and San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams discovered, government officials over the past year have aggressively challenged journalists’ rights to protect confidential sources and refuse testimony in court proceedings that would undermine the independent free press," the SPJ chapter said in a news release. To date, Wolf has spent more than 176 days (see top right) behind bars.

Other winners include:
    • the Mercury News for championing open government in San Jose;

    • the San Mateo County Times for forcing health officials to report facilities where patients suffered from norovirus;

    • the Oakland Tribune's Michele Marcucci and Rebecca Veseley for exposing substandard care received by disabled and autistic patients in private-care homes;

    • Meera Pal from the Contra Costa Times for delving into an e-mail scandal involving Pleasanton's mayor and another council candidate;

    • reporters from the Chronicle were honored for showing how the city's police department has failed to control its officers' use of physical force;

    • Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who blew the whistle on the federal government’s warrantless wiretapping program,

    • and student journalists at Lowell High School in San Francisco.
These Madison Award winners will be recognized March 13 at Biscuits and Blues restaurant near San Francisco’s Union Square district. Visit or call (415) 749-5451 for ticket information or more details.

High school journalism contest opens

Calling all high school journalists and their advisers -- the Peninsula Press Club today has begun accepting entries for its annual high school contest. The Press Club will present awards in 12 categories. Entries are due March 31, 2007. Download this entry form for details. Here's a list of last year's winners. The contest is presented by the Peninsula Press Club, Hillsdale Shopping Center and the Journalism Program of Notre Dame de Namur University. Pictured are some of the winners from last year's contest. Photo by Erik Oeverndiek.

Public records audit disputed in Palo Alto

Palo Alto officials have come out swinging after the city got an F minus grade in a statewide public records audit by the non-profit, First Amendment group CalAware. CalAware sent journalists or volunteers to 214 police agencies across the state on Dec. 4 to ask for certain documents that are undisputed to be public information. In the case of Palo Alto, KGO-TV investigative producer Steven Fyffe went to the police department counter to ask for documents. The journalists did not reveal that they worked for news organizations when they made the requests because CalAware wanted to see how the government treated ordinary citizens.

The Palo Alto Daily News and Palo Alto Weekly have published articles that quote various city officials as saying the audit was unfair and flawed. "It's almost like they went into this expecting government to perform poorly, and their way of judging reflected that," Council Member Peter Drekmeier said. According to the Daily News, top city officials including the police chief and city clerk have written a report that claims:
    • Fyffe requested a daily crime log, arrest information and an officer salary schedule, which are on the city's Web site. Because they were not made available in hard copy, the city was docked 29 points.

    • The city lost two points for not keeping Form 700, which contains the police chief's economic interest, at the front desk. Johnson e-mailed the form to Fyffe 14 days after the initial request.

    • Police made certain documents available prior to Jan. 12, the day the audit scores hit newspapers.
CalAware executive director Emily Francke told the Daily News that Jan. 12 was far beyond the deadline for compliance. If the city had filed a 14-day extension, which it did not, she claims, the deadline would have been Dec. 28. And keeping crime and arrest information online isn't enough, Francke said, saying the city should have printed it out.

Still, the city is planning to make changes as a result of the audit including training employees on how to deal with public records requests and improving the tracking of those requests.

Wolf vs. the Balco reporters

Josh Wolf (left), who is in a federal prison for refusing to provide a grand jury with videotape he shot of a political protest, says the government is treating him differently than Chronicle reporters Lance Williams (in photo at right, he's on the left) and Mark Fainaru-Wada (right), who have also been found in contempt of court. In the case of the Chron reporters, they are refusing to name their source of grand jury transcripts in the Barry Bonds steroids case. Wolf, in an interview with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, says there isn't much difference in the cases. "It clearly shows how the government's deciding to deal with corporate media versus an independent journalist, is that they've said [to the Chronicle reporters], well, we're not going to make you go to jail until the Ninth District rules one way or the other, and then the Ninth District's hearings have been pushed back and pushed back and pushed back. Mine, on the other hand -- I was escorted into custody from the courtroom the day I was ruled in contempt."
    AMY GOODMAN: Josh, what has been the response of the journalistic community in this country to your incarceration?

    JOSH WOLF: It's difficult for me to gauge what the journalistic response is. I obviously don't have internet access or anything like that in here. I do get the newspaper, and the San Francisco Chronicle's covered this story quite well. I’ve been told that it's been a sort of lackluster response. I’m not entirely sure why that is. But it seems to me that part of it may be that the existing news media doesn't want to acknowledge that independent journalists who don't rely on television stations or large-scale newspapers or anything like that really are an additional form of journalism that's part of the media today.

Monday, February 12, 2007

UHF station to try 'citizen journalism'

Clear Channel-owned KFTY-TV Channel 50 in Santa Rosa, which abruptly canceled its money-losing newscasts Jan. 26, is now getting some ink for its plans to solicit news reports programming from its viewers. The Chron reports in a front-page story Sunday that media executives nationwide are eager to see whether the independent UHF station can make money from citizen journalism. Clear Channel's Steve Spendlove (pictured) plans to ask people in the community -- its independent filmmakers, its college students and professors, its civic leaders and others -- to provide programming for the station.

Of course local TV stations accept video from viewers from all the time, and use it if its newsworthy -- things like plane crashes and car wrecks. "If there's breaking news, we want to hear from people," said CBS5 News Director Dan Rosenheim. "But beyond that, we want to rely on our own people. It's a quality control issue." NBC11, however, has given digital still cameras to a dozen viewers, including an injured Iraqi war veteran and a gravedigger. Editors and reporters at the station reviewed the pictures, then returned to interview the subjects and told a "Moving Pictures" story based on the still images. (Photo by Gary Kazanjian, special to the Chronicle.)

New KDFC owners may drop classical music

Bill Lueth, program director of classical KDFC 102.1, tells Chron radio columnist Ben Fong-Torres that he fears the station's new owners may drop classical music in favor of a format that makes more money. "This could mean the end of classical music radio in San Francisco ... Typically, new ownership comes in with a new agenda. KDFC is a success, but it doesn't make the kind of money light rock does." As the Press Club reported Jan. 19, KDFC and sister stations KOIT 96.5 and KMAX 95.7 are being sold by the Mormon-owned Bonneville International to Philadelphia's Entercom. Speaking about KDFC, Hoyt Smith is recovering from open-heart surgery and expects to return to the air soon, Fong-Torres reports.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Hearst might get a piece of Merc, CCTimes

The Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News could wind up being partly owned by Hearst Corp., according to documents in a federal antitrust case. When Dean Singleton's (pictured) MediaNews Group bought the Times and Merc in August, it was disclosed that Hearst wanted a 30 percent interest in MediaNews's assets outside the Bay Area. The idea that Hearst, owner of the Chronicle, would get a piece of MediaNews's Bay Area assets was ruled out on the grounds that it violated antitrust laws.

But Coco Times reporter George Avalos of the Coco Times reports today that, according to a sworn declaration of Hearst executive James Asher, the 30 percent interest in non-Bay Area assets would be "convertible into ordinary MediaNews Group common stock" under certain conditions, giving Hearst part ownership of all of MediaNews' operations, including those in the Bay Area. But such a move would require approval from the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice. So far, the division hasn't even approved Hearst's ownership of the 30 percent stake in non-Bay Area assets. The story quotes John Amstrong, who heads MediaNews operations in the East Bay, as saying his company is currently responding to a new round of questions from the Justice Department.

• Press Club, Feb. 1: Hearst offered to sell Chron to Singleton

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Wolf sets U.S. record for jailed journalists

San Francisco photographer and blogger Josh Wolf (right), who is refusing to comply with a grand jury subpoena for his testimony and video outtakes of a political protest, has spent 169 days in a federal prison in an East Bay federal prison as of today (Feb. 6). He has now spent more time behind bars than author Vanessa Leggett, who was jailed for 168 days in a Texas federal prison for refusing to comply with a subpoena in 2001. As this morning's New York Times notes, Wolf remains behind bars even as the United States attorney who had him held, Kevin Ryan, has said he is stepping down and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris has dismissed the lone remaining criminal case involving the protest. Wolf could stay jailed until the term of the grand jury ends in July. The longest-held journalist is former Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson (left), who was abducted on a west Beirut street on March 16, 1985 by pro-Iranian Shiite Muslims, and held 2,454 days before being released Dec. 4, 1991.

Josh Wolf Benefit tonight
Tuesday, Feb. 6, 8 p.m.
House of Shields
39 Montgomery St., San Francisco
Benefit performers The Greening,
Troublemakers Union, GAVIOTAS

News coverage and press releases:
release from the Free Josh Wolf Coalition
release from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
• Center for Media and Democracy: Call for Freeing Josh Wolf
Release from Reporters Without Borders
• Indymedia: "Don't bother looking for Josh Wolf on the evening news
NBC11: Journalist Josh Wolf Longest Held in History
• Chronicle: Blogger jailed for defying grand jury
• New York Times: Jail Record Near for Videographer Who Resisted Grand Jury
AP: Bay Area videographer becomes longest held journalist

Monday, February 5, 2007

Calling all Bay Area bloggers

Who has the best blog in the Bay Area in terms of journalism? The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club wants to know. The Press Club has added "best blog" to its annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards Competition. Bloggers who report news are encouraged to enter their work in this contest. The Press Club has created new categories this year for online journalists including:
    • overall Web site,
    • breaking news,
    • multi media,
    • blog
Follow this link to find out how to enter the contest.

Participation in the Greater Bay Area Awards Competition has been on the upswing over the past five years. Since the 2002 competition, the number of entries has increased 32 percent to 578 for last year's contest.

On Saturday, June 2, this year's awards will be presented during a dinner banquet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 1221 Chess Drive, Foster City.

Balco reporters may need their own lawyers

Susan Beck of The American Lawyer says that the two Chronicle reporters facing possible prison time for not revealing their sources in the Balco baseball steroids case might consider getting their own counsel rather than relying on Hearst Corp. attorneys, led by Eve Burton. "... [W]hen battling the government, a news organization's interests may differ from those of its reporters," Beck writes. "In the last major blowup over reporters' refusal to name sources before a federal grand jury-involving reporting by Judith Miller of The New York Times, and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine about Valerie Plame of the Central Intelligence Agency-the reporters learned they were better served by hiring their own lawyers and not relying on those representing their publications." (Sept. 21 file photo by Darryl Bush of the Chronicle.)

Saturday, February 3, 2007

MediaNews buys Santa Cruz Sentinel

Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group acquired another daily newspaper yesterday -- the 25,000-circulation Santa Cruz Sentinel. Singleton had been eying the Sentinel for several months. The paper was put on the block last year by owner Dow Jones & Co. along with five other dailies in other parts of the country. MediaNews bid on just the Sentinel, but Dow Jones decided to sell the entire group to Alabama-based Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. for $287.9 million. It was the Alabama chain's only West Coast paper and chief executive Donna Barrett said the Sentinel "will be a better strategic fit with its new owner.''

George Riggs, chief executive of the California Newspapers Partnership and publisher of the Mercury News, made the announcement in the Sentinel's newsroom (see picture above).

The Merc reported that the Sentinel will be acquired by the California Newspapers Partnership, which is controlled by MediaNews with Gannett and Stephens Media as the remaining partners. Terms weren't disclosed, but each partner contributed its share of the price, with MediaNews paying for its share with borrowings from a revolving credit agreement.

A brief announcement on the Sentinel's Web site last night quoted Singleton as saying: “The Sentinel is a fine newspaper today but will be strengthened by the resources of our existing newspapers.” (Photo credit: Sentinel Web site.)

SFGate sets new record with affair story

With a boost from the Drudge Report, the Chron's had its busiest day ever Thursday after breaking the story about Mayor Gavin Newsom's affair with the wife of his campaign manager. had 4.8 million page views for the day, beating its previous high of 4.4 million on Election Day 2006. But the site had a slowdown Thursday morning after the Drudge Report added a link with photos to the site. "He caused a little traffic jam for us and we asked him to remove it," SFGate's Peter Negulescu told E&P. "It slowed the response time, but we never crashed."

SF gets new 50,000-watt AM blowtorch

A 50,000-watt Modesto radio station, KTRB-AM 860, is moving to San Francisco and begun testing its new 50,000-watt transmitter near San Antonio Reservoir (I-680 and Vallecitos Road) in Alameda County. KTRB's studio is at 1700 Montgomery St. in San Francisco. It be the market's fifth 50,000-watt station, after KGO, KCBS, KFAX and KNBR.

For now, as KTRB fine tunes its new transmitter, it is playing what it calls “The San Francisco Sound” -- rock music performed live and recorded by San Francisco artists and groups from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s such as The Beau Brummels, The Syndicate of Sound, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother & The Holding Company, as well as Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Journey.

On March 1, the station will go to its permanent format, which hasn't been disclosed, though the station's vp and gm Jim Pappas told the Mercury News that they're still trying to decide between talk and music.

KTRB was founded by T.R. McTammany and Bill Bates (the “TR” and “B” in KTRB) in 1933 in Modesto, according to a press release. In 1973, brothers Pete, Mike, and Harry Pappas bought the station and made it apart of their broadcasting empire, reportedly the largest privately held group of TV and radio stations in the country. GM Jim Pappas, 40, is the nephew of the company's CEO, Harry Pappas.
    • David Ferrell Jackson's Bay Area Radio Blog documents what KTRB played when it hit the air in the Bay Area.

Merc, Coco Times exploring front page ads

Front-page ads, long a taboo in the newspaper industry, may soon becoming to Dean Singleton's Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. And his ANG papers, which have had a one-inch high strip of ads at the bottom of p1, may get more front page ads soon. That's according to E&P, which quotes Coco Times publisher John Armstrong as saying: "We are exploring advertiser interest in various options for section front ads and Page One ads. We would like to get something done in the next few months." How big will the ads on the front of the ANG papers become? "We expect it could be around two or three columns by five inches," said Peter Wevurski, editor of the ANG papers (which include the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, Marin Independent Journal and Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Hearst offered to sell Chron to Singleton

In 2005, Hearst Corp. offered to sell the money-losing Chronicle to Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group, but MediaNews didn't offer enough money, according to newly unsealed federal court documents.

The documents were filed in the federal antitrust suit San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly has filed against the two newspaper companies. Bruce Brugmann's Bay Guardian and the non-profit Media Alliance sued to have the documents released.

Perhaps the key document to be unsealed was the deposition of James Asher, Hearst's chief legal and business development officer. He says that Hearst, as of September 2006, had recorded cumulative losses of $330 million on its investment in the Chronicle, which it acquired in mid-2000.

That's a burn rate of about $1 million a week.

Asher said Hearst offered the paper to Singleton, but they couldn't come to an agreement on the price. So, when Singleton bought the San Jose Mercury News and other Knight Ridder properties in the Bay Area last summer, the Chronicle agreed to put up $263.2 million to buy the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press and Monterey County Herald and conveyed them to MediaNews in exchange for a 30 percent stake in MediaNews' non-Bay Area properties.

Details about the documents released can be found at and the Bay Guardian.