Monday, April 30, 2007

Circ down 4.9% at Merc, 2.9% at Chron

New circulation numbers out this morning for the Bay Area's two biggest papers show declines, but not as staggering as the double-digit percentage losses posted in previous years. Weekday circulation at the Chronicle slipped 2.9% to 386,564 while Sunday decreased 2.9% to 438,006, according to E&P, which reported the numbers this morning. At the Mercury News, daily circ declined 4.9% to 230,870 and Sunday decreased 4.4% to 251,666. The daily figures are Monday-Friday averages. For all papers reporting daily circulation, the Newspaper Association of America said that daily circ fell 2.1% while Sunday tumbled 3.1%.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Now MediaNews is threatening to sue Reilly

MediaNews Group President Jody Lodovic (seen here on the left with chief executive Dean Singleton) on Friday accused Clint Reilly of misrepresenting the terms of the settlement of his antitrust suit against the chain and may sue him for breaching a confidentiality clause in the agreement. On Saturday, Reilly's attorney, Joe Alioto, told E&P that it's MediaNews that is spinning the agreement for its own internal political reasons.

The post-settlement dispute began when Alioto said on Wednesday that the settlement will keep alive several MediaNews papers which were "headed for the graveyard." Alioto said the agreement requires Singleton to keep open his papers in Oakland, Fremont, San Mateo, Hayward and Marin County. "There was pretty strong evidence those papers were going to go out," Alioto said. "By reason of our agreement, I think, they'll stay alive, at least for three years."

Lodovic told E&P that Alioto's comments were absurd and that the attorney had no basis for him to comment on the viability of those newspapers.

On Saturday, Alioto repeated his argument that the settlement was key to the survival of those papers, but he added: “I wasn’t trying to suggest, and I wouldn’t try to suggest, those papers are going to be closed up ... The very reason we stopped where we did was (so) ... that couldn’t happen.”

E&P broke down the terms of the settlement and gave each side's interpretation of what those terms mean. For instance, about Alioto's claim that Reilly will get free editorial space, Lodovic said it is paid space, amounting to prefrential positioning once a week. Reilly said that in negotiations MediaNews said it will send him Reilly a bill, but that Reilly can throw it away.

Regarding the placement of Reilly or those he picks to be on the editorial board of MediaNews papers, Lovovic said and Alioto confirmed that all editorial board additions requires the approval of the individual paper's editor. (Photo credit: MediaNews Group Web page)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Who is Clint Reilly, anyway?

As part of his settlement with Hearst and MediaNews, Clint Reilly (left) got an unusual concession -- a quarter page of editorial space plus a seat on the editorial board of a MediaNews Group paper of his choosing. Notice that he didn't get the same concession from Hearst, owner of the Chronicle, which was also a defendant in his antitrust lawsuit. Perhaps that has something to do with the 1993 fight he got into with Editor Phil Bronstein in a newspaper conference room in which Reilly broke an ankle and then sued. But while Reilly is well known in San Francisco -- he's a real estate developer, ran for mayor once and has run political campaigns Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein -- his name recogition might not be high in the other parts of the Bay Area where his opinion pieces will now be appearing. To define him for readers, the Merc's Marry Anne Ostrom served up this profile in which he is described by one source as liberal "a child of the 1960s" and by another as having a "combative personality." Above Reilly is seen moments before announcing the settlement of his lawsuit with wife Janet and attorney Joe Alioto, right. (Photo credit: Jeff Chiu, Associated Press)

Larry Bensky retiring from KPFA

Award-winning broadcaster and journalist Larry Bensky (pictured) is retiring from Pacifica Radio's KPFA-FM 94.1 after 38 years at the station, the Bay Area Indymedia reports. The last program of his weekly talk show "Sunday Salon" will air Sunday (Aprl 29) at 9 a.m. on KPFA.

Perhaps best known as national affairs correspondent for Pacifica Radio from 1987-1998, Bensky covered numerous national and international events for Pacifica, including confirmation hearings for four Supreme Court justices, the 1990 elections in Nicaragua and the Iran-contra scandal, for which he won the prestigious George Polk award, according to his KPFA biography.

Before and during his broadcasting career, Bensky has been a print journalist and editor. He was a managing editor of Ramparts Magazine in 1968, Paris editor of The Paris Review (1964-66) and an editor of the New York Times Book Review. For 15 years he was a political writer and columnist for the East Bay Express, and a contributor to the Los Angeles Times book review, and The Nation.

Indymedia says Bensky's career will be celebrated at a public event on June 3, where he will speak about his life and times with Pacifica historian Matthew Lasar. (Photo credit: KPFA Web site)

Another big loss in Merc circulation predicted

For what it's worth, Editor & Publisher online is saying that the Mercury News will be among the major U.S. newspapers that will report a circulation loss of greater than 5 percent when the spring numbers are reported on Monday. At last check, the Merc's circulation was 228,800 daily and 254,454 on Sunday.

Significantly, the Chron isn't on the list of those losing more than 5 percent. In 2006, the Chron was among the papers with the steepist losses in readers. The most recent numbers for the Chron are 373,805 daily and 432,957 on Sunday.

New presses ordered for Chronicle

Montreal-based Transcontinental Printing has ordered three presses that it will use to print the Chronicle starting on May 1, 2009. As the Press Club reported in November, the Chronicle plans to get out of the printing business when its current contract with Teamster pressmen expires and turn the work over to Transcontinental, which will build a plant in the Bay Area. Graphic Arts Monthly reports that Transcontinental is investing $200 million in its new plant here and will install three Coleman XXL presses from MAN Roland. For those who love presses, here are the details Graphic Arts Monthly reported:
    The presses will also be the first 6 x 2 blanket-to-blanket newspaper presses in North America. Each shaftless press will be configured with three eight-couple towers fed by four MAN Roland CD-15 XXL reelstands and operated from two Pecom control consoles, and be capable of producing 36 broadsheet pages in full process color, or 48 broadsheet pages with 24 in full color.
The outsourcing of printing is becoming more popular for daily newspaper owners. The three big national papers, NY Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal, have been outsourcing much of their work for decades, though the Chronicle would be the largest daily to outsource all of its printing. In 2005, the 70,000-circulation Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif., shut down its printing operation and outsourced to Southwest Offset in Gardena, Calif. Southwest also prints the San Mateo Daily Journal and the Daily News Group (Palo Alto Daily News, San Mateo Daily News, etc.) at its plant in Redwood City.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hearst, MediaNews settle antitrust suit

Hearst and MediaNews Group have settled with San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly, who was suing the companies for antitrust violations. The deal announced this morning averts a trial that would have begun Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco that had the potential of forcing MediaNews to divest itself of the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Monterey Herald and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press. The MediaNews chain headed by Dean Singleton acquired those papers for $736 million in August 2006 with money from Hearst Corp., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other investors.

The deal calls for:
    • Hearst and MediaNews to limit their cooperative business efforts in the Bay Area. We will post more details about what this means when that information becomes available.

    • the companies to renounce a proposed agreement to combine local distribution and national advertising operations.

    • Reilly to get a seat on the editorial board of a MediaNews Group paper of his choosing for three years. MediaNews papers include the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and Marin Independent Journal. He can also recommend one member for the editorial boards of each of the chain's other Bay Area papers for the same period, subject to the papers' approval.

    • Reilly to receive a quarter-page of free space for "personal copy" once a week in the local news sections of each of MediaNews' Bay Area papers, also for three years. It will not be labeled as advertising.

    • the companies to reimburse Reilly for his attorney fees. The amount hasn't been disclosed. Reilly was represented by Joe Alioto.

    • Reilly to receive agendas and minutes of the California Newspapers Partnership's meetings, the entity through which MediaNews controls the Merc, Contra Costa Times and its other papers in the area.

    • the unsealing of all records produced during the litigation.
Significantly, the Hearst's Chronicle didn't agree to give Reilly editorial space or a position on its editorial board.

Hearst said in a statement that the U.S. Justice Department was continuing a review of its deal with MediaNews and that it was confident the companies would be allowed to proceed with their plans.

Reilly said he was "very excited to see that the Chronicle has severed all business or potential editorial ties with MediaNews in the Bay Area." He said his oversight will "ensure that there will be no reneging on these commitments and there will be vigorous competition between MediaNews papers and the Chronicle in San Francisco."

Coverage: The Chron's (11:24 a.m. today); Merc's first version (11:38); Merc's second version (11:46); AP (11:48); Press Release.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

David Halberstam tributes roll in

The tributes are pouring in for David Halberstam, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author who was killed in this accident Monday at the corner of the Bayfront Expressway and Willow Road in Menlo Park. Here is some of the coverage:
    E&P: NYT didn't have a pre-written obit because, at 73, he seemed too healthy to die soon.

    • Merc: He died while on his way to an interview about his book, being driven by a 26-year-old UC-Berkeley journalism graduate student. Halberstam once told Murry Frymer: "Actually, when I think about my career I am sometimes stunned." (Merc)

    NYT: Wife says he was proudest of his trilogy on the war.

    • Washington Post: Halberstam uncloaked Vietnam blunders.

    LA Times: "He had tremendous moral and physical courage," says Neil Sheehan, ex-UPIer in Vietnam.

    • Harvard Crimson: “It’s obvious that he was probably the greatest journalist of his generation," says Anthony Lewis, anotherh Pulizer winner.
(Photo credits: Crash, Victor Maccharoli, Palo Alto Daily News; AP 1993, Mark Lennihan)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Menlo Park car crash kills David Halberstam

The AP is reporting that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam, 73, was killed this morning in an auto accident in Menlo Park near the Dumbarton Bridge. The crash was reported at 10:35 a.m. on the westbound Bayfront Expressway at Willow Road. The driver of the car carrying Halberstam is a student at the Graduate School of Journalism at the UC-Berkeley, and was taken to Stanford Medical Center, the AP said. Two others were injured. Halberstam spoke Saturday at a UC Berkeley-sponsored event on the craft of journalism and what it means to turn reporting into a work of history.

Halberstam won the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the Vietnam War for the New York Times. He quit daily journalism in 1967 and wrote 21 books covering such diverse topics as the Vietnam War, civil rights, the auto industry and a baseball pennant race. (Photo credit: AP file.)

Ex-Chron editor Roberts fights porn 'smear'

Former Chronicle political reporter and managing editor Jerry Roberts called a news conference yesterday to say he has been "smeared" by a Santa Barbara newspaper, where he most recently worked, which claims a computer he used contains 15,000 images of child and adult pornography.

Roberts denied downloading any porn. Moreover, his lawyer presented a report showing he has passed a lie-detector test. And, his lawyers plan to sue the paper for libel if it doesn't retract the story.

The weekly Santa Barbara Independent said on its Web site last night that the allegations are another "shameless" attempt by local tycoon Wendy McCaw to attack Roberts. McCaw owns the Santa Barbara News-Press, which hired Roberts away from the Chronicle in 2002. Last summer, Roberts and several other newsroom staffers quit over newsroom meddling by McCaw. She tried to keep out of the paper a report about an associate's DUI, and she objected when the newsroom mentioned the address of actor Rob Lowe in a routine story about a zoning change for his property.

Roberts came to the News-Press after a distinguished career at the Chronicle, where he won numerous awards. In the past year, after quitting the News-Press, he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He's also been battlling McCaw, who has filed a $500,000 demand against him. She is also suing several journalists who have criticized her. A roast of Roberts to raise money for the legal defense of those sued by McCaw was held in San Francisco in March.

McCaw is the former wife of billionaire Craig McCaw of McCaw Cellular. She divorced him in 1995 and walked away with a reported $450 million.

Yesterday's News-Press story described the newspaper's attempt to regain control of the hard drive Roberts used while employed there. Santa Barbara Police say the drive contains more than 15,000 images of child and adult pornography, according to the Santa Barbara Daily Sound.

Hours after the News-Press story was published, Roberts called a news conference in his attorney's office to categorically deny the story and point out its numerous errors.

“From the first day of this controversy at the News-Press, this story has been about ethics -- and today the shameful ethics of the News-Press and its owner are on full display for all the world to see,” Roberts said, flanked by his wife, Linda Kiefer, and attorney Dennis G. Merenbach. “Today’s front-page smear [in] regards to me is false, defamatory and malicious and published with knowledge that as to me it is completely untrue. My family and I are outraged beyond measure at this desperate attempt to ruin my reputation.”

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Support sought for open records bill

The public information advocacy group Californians Aware is seeking public support of AB 1393, a bipartisan bill that would require state agencies and local governments to create a Public Information Center on their Web sites where the public could request records electronically.

Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill last year because it also required the state Attorney General to review complaints from the public about state and local agencies that refused to turn over records. The governor argued that the bill would create a conflict of interest for the AG, who also has to represent state agencies in lawsuits, including those over public records. This year's bill eliminates that conflict by dropping the AG review provision for state agencies. However, the AG would still review complaints about local governments denying records requests.

On April 18, the bill was approved 13-0 by the Assembly Committee on Government Organization. The next stop is the Assembly Judiciary Committee on date to be determined.

AB 1393 was introduced by Assemblymen Mark Leno (left), D-San Francisco, and Bill Maze (second from left), R-Visalia, and co-authored by Assemblyman Greg Aghazarian, R-Stockton (third from left). Californians Aware suggests that letters be sent to Mark Leno, California Assembly, P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA, 94249-0013.

High school awards to be presented April 30

Please mark your calendars for the Peninsula Press Club's High School Journalism Awards Reception from 4 to 6 p.m. April 30, in the ballroom of Ralston Hall on the campus of Notre Dame de Namur University, 1500 Ralston Ave., Belmont. The reception will be sponsored by the Peninsula Press Club, Hillsdale Shopping Center and the university.

For those who entered the contest, the Press Club's Micki Carter will have a list of winners in a few days. The Press Club hopes journalism instructors will bring as many of your students as you possibly can. Carter said she plans to update instructors about the Press Club's plans to implement some of the suggestions that came out of the meeting in March about high school journalism on the Peninsula.

If you plan to attend, please e-mail Carter and let her know how many students you plan to bring so there will be enough food.

Which papers don't rely on ads, Craig? asked Craig Newmark, founder of the San Francisco-based Craiglist, if his Web site is a threat to newspapers.
    His response: "Not in a significant way. We do drain some revenue from some papers that rely on ads. ..."
Newmark didn't say which newspapers don't rely on ads. Of course, people outside of the newspaper business think subscriptions must amount to a lot of money because they're used to paying for a paper, either by writing checks for a subscription or putting coins in a news rack. Truth is, daily newspapers get 70-80 percent of their revenue from advertising. (For instance, here's a link to MediaNews Group's latest financial filings with regulators -- on page 9 it shows that 81 percent ($302 million) of the company's $372 million in revenues for the quarter came from advertising, while just 15 percent ($55 million) was from circulation.)

However, reading Newmark's comment another way, he is admitting that his Web site has hurt papers that do "rely on ads." He's not the first person to jump to that conclusion. In 2004, Bob Cauthorn, former digital media VP at the Chron's, put together a detailed report saying Craigslist had taken $50 million to $65 million in annual revenues from the Bay Area's newspapers. But Cauthorn also said Bay Area newspaper executives can only blame themselves for losing their leadership position, "because they took no action and listened instead to the arguments inspired by fear, lack of vision, and short-sighted greed." (Cauthorn's report is available only for a fee, but here are stories about it from the Merc's Silicon Beat, Tech News World and ClickZ News.)
    Newmark goes on to say that he has talked to unidentified industry analysts who say newspapers face a bigger threat from "niche sites and niche papers. Sites like Monster are more of a threat because they suck away a lot more job ads. An even bigger threat is the pressure from Wall Street to get like 10 or 20 percent profit margins.

    "Maybe papers should focus on better Web sites, delivering the news better through the Net. Paper is just an expensive media. It's expensive to buy the ink, print the paper and deliver it."
(Photo by Everett Bogue, hotlinked from

Singleton wins Round 1 in fight with Ridder

It looks like Dean Singleton has won the first round in his battle with Tony Ridder's son, Par (pictured), who quit as publisher of Singleton's St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press to lead the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Singleton, CEO of MediaNews, claims Ridder took confidential data with him, and a judge yesterday (April 20) ordered the Star Tribune to allow Singleton's people to examine its computers to see if they contained any of the disputed data. Singleton's lawyers also convinced the judge to grant a temporary restraining order to stop one of the employees who followed Ridder from working for the competition. That employee was under a non-compete agreement. The next round is set for June 18. Coverage: AP, Business Journal, Pioneer Press and Star Tribune. Previous Press Club items: April 19, Law enforcement enters Ridder case; April 13, Singleton sues, lashes out at Ridder's son.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

First Imus, now Savage? Protest Friday

Protesters ranging from La Raza Centro Legal and the Bay Area Lawyers Guild to representatives of public stations KPFA and KQED plan to demonstrate against right-wing talk show host Michael Savage outside KNEW radio on Friday (April 20), according to a report in the San Francisco Daily.

"To remove Don Imus from the radio and not remove people like Michael Savage is hypocrisy," protest organizer Steve Zeltzer told the SF Daily. "Michael Savage is much more flagrant in his racist, sexist and homophobic comments."

Savage (pictured), whose real name is Michael Weiner, has attacked Muslims, Jews, transgendered people, immigrants and many other goups, Zeltzer said.

"We support the First Amendment but we don’t support the public airways being used in this manner," said Zeltzer, who hosts his own cable access program.

KNEW program director Bob Agnew said he had no comment about the demonstration. Savage's show is based in San Francisco and is syndicated by an arm of Clear Channel Communications to more than 400 stations nationwide.

The protest is planned for 5 p.m. — during the middle of the Savage’s afternoon drive-time program — in front of KNEW’s studios at 340 Townsend St., near 4th Street.

The protest comes amid talk by Democrats of restoring what was known as the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to give opposing political points of view equal time. The FCC scrapped the rule in 1987. A year later, Rush Limbaugh started his national program, followed by a number of other conservative hosts.

Ex-publisher sues over mental health hold

Former Point Reyes Light publisher David Mitchell (pictured) is suing Marin County, claiming he was falsely imprisoned when a sheriff's deputy took him to a mental health ward because he suspected the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist was suicidal, the Marin IJ reports. Mitchell, 63, said in the suit that in March 2006 a deputy came to his home and quizzed him about his mental state. Mitchell admitted he spoke philosophically about suicide. The deputy took Mitchell to Marin General Hospital, where he was confined to the mental ward. During that same month, Mitchell was hit with a temporary restraining order requiring him to stay away from the man who purchased his newspaper, Robert Plotkin. Plotkin, a former prosecutor, claimed Mitchell grabbed him by the throat while the two were driving in a car, and that Mitchell crashed his car through the paper's door. The Point Reyes Light, with Mitchell as editor, won a Pulitzer in 1979 when it exposed the violent Synanon Cult.

Channel 42 to drop Azteca due to low ratings

Pappas Telecasting has terminated its affiliation agreement with Azteca America Network for KTNC-TV Channel 42 in the Bay Area and stations in Houston, Reno, Omaha and Sioux City. "Azteca America Network's programming has not developed and ratings have not grown as we had expected," CEO and chairman Harry Pappas said in a news release. Pappas hasn't announced what it will air starting July 1 when it pulls the plug on Azteca, or whether the stations will remain Spanish. Visalia-based Pappas has 31 stations including Fox, CBS, ABC, CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates.

KTNC-TV, licensed to Concord with a transmitter atop Mt. Diablo, was a religious station when it signed on in 1983. The owners went bankrupt in 1996. Pappas bought Channel 42 that year and turned it into a Spanish-language station. KTNC-TV simulcasts its programming on KUNO-TV Channel 8 in the Mendocino County city of Fort Bragg. Pappas also owns San Francisco's newest radio station, 50,000-watt KTRB-AM 860.

NBC Universal attempted unsuccessfully this year to get the FCC to not renew the license of Azteca's Los Angeles station. NBC U argued that Azteca was guilty of anti-competitive practices in Mexico, where it was running an intimidation campaign to keep NBC U's Telemundo out of the Mexican market. NBC U decided not to appeal the FCC's decision after Pappas decided to drop Azteca. Pappas operates Azteca's LA station, KAZA-TV 54, under a contract that expires next year.

Chron won't use 'Rambo' images of Cho

Chron Editor Phil Bronstein says he decided against printing the most startling, "Rambo" images of Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui in today's edition. "To me, that is so manufactured," Bronstein is quoted by reporter Matt Stannard on Sfgate as saying. "It's real in the sense that he used the guns in a horrible way, but those particular images of him with the gun are such manipulation," he said. "They reflected the image that he wanted to have live on, so we made a decision consciously not to reflect that image."

In the same article, former Merc editor Jerry Ceppos said, "If a tape or letter is newsworthy, then the public ought to be exposed to it, even if there is the downside of giving bad guys some publicity. ... I get uncomfortable when the media over-thinks issues. In most cases, I'd rather share the information with the public and let them decide ... The journalist shouldn't be in the position of playing god and deciding what people need to see and what people don't need to see," said Ceppos, who is currently a fellow in media ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

• NY Times: Package Forced NBC to Make Tough Decisions

Law enforcement enters Ridder case

MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton (right) says law enforcement agencies have begun their own probe of Tony Ridder's son, Par Ridder (left), who is accused of stealing computer data when he quit as publisher of Singleton's St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press to join the rival Minneapolis Star Tribune.

"I think it's fair to say that authorities are involved," Singleton told the Twin City's alt-weekly City Pages, "but that's not my job. My job is to get all of the stolen data back, to make sure it doesn't get used, and to make sure the Star Tribune honors the agreements of the people who work for us. Whether there are things to be addressed by the law enforcement authorities, that will take its own road."

This case has Bay Area ties. Ridder, 35, is the son of former Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder of Woodside while Singleton's company controls all of Northern California's paid dailies except the Chronicle. (See earlier item.)

In related developments, Singleton's lawyers went to court Wednesday to ask a judge to seize at least a dozen computers and servers from the Star Tribune, equipment Singleton claims contains information Ridder allegedly stole. A ruling is expected in the next few days. Also, the AP is reporting that the union that represents newsroom workers at the Star Tribune is calling for an independent inquiry of the matter, based on allegations in Singleton's lawsuit against Ridder.

Asian American journalists issue statement

The San Francisco-based Asian American Journalists Association has issued a statement saying it is "disturbed by some media outlets' prominent mention that the suspect is an immigrant from South Korea when such a revelation provides no insight or relevance to the story ... We remind the media that the use of racial and other identifiers must be accompanied with context and relevance."

Yahoo sued for helping Chinese government

Yahoo may soon be forced to answer in a U.S. court why it helped the Chinese government identify dissenters, who were later thrown in prison, including journalist Shi Tao (pictured).

The NY Times reports that the wife of another politicial prisoner sued Yahoo in U.S. District Court in San Francisco yesterday, accusing the Sunnyvale-based company of abetting the commission of torture by helping Chinese authorities identify political dissidents who were later beaten and imprisoned. Wang Xiaoning, who according to the suit is serving a 10-year prison sentence in China; his wife, Yu Ling of San Francisco; and other unidentified defendants seek damages and an injunction barring Yahoo from identifying dissidents to Chinese authorities. "I hope to be able to have Yahoo promise that in the future they will stop this kind of wrongdoing," Yu told the Times.

Shi, an Internet essayist and former editor of the Changsha-based newspaper Dangdai Shang Bao, is serving a 10-year sentence for "leaking state secrets abroad" in a 2004 e-mail sent to the editor of an overseas Web site, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The e-mail described Chinese government instructions on how his newspaper should cover the 15th anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Yahoo helped Chinese authorities identify Shi through his e-mail account; he has been imprisoned since November 2004. (Photo from Committee to Protect Journalists.)

McClatchy picks up DiFi story

Here's a follow-up to the item we posted April 9 about how the Chronicle is refusing to write about Sen. Dianne Feinstein's resignation from a military expenditure subcommittee that approved billions of dollars in contracts that went to companies controlled by her husband, Richard Blum. Michael Doyle of McClatchy's Washington Bureau has become the first mainstream reporter to touch the subject. He begins by covering the coverage -- that is, pointing out how the story broke in a couple of Bay Area alternative weeklies (Metro in San Jose and the North Bay Bohemian), and then how the blogs on both the right and left sank their teeth into the story. Then he explores the allegations that companies controlled by Feinstein's husband got $2 billion in war contracts from her subcommittee. (Photo credit: Sen. Dianne Feinstein with husband Richard C. Blum (center) and Al Gore from Metro.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Correction: Papers won't share offices

A portion of yesterday's item about the likely move of the Palo Alto Daily News to a Menlo Park office park is incorrect. We quoted the Palo Alto Weekly as saying the Mercury News would put its mid-Peninsula bureau in the same building in Menlo Park where the Daily News is going. We're told today by the Daily News that the Weekly's report is incorrect, Merc will not be moving into that building. The Merc closed its Palo Alto bureau on University Avenue a few months ago. (Yesterday's item has already been corrected.)

Chronicle's front page shocker -- an ad

Perhaps the most shocking thing on the front page of today's (April 18) Chronicle was an ad -- the paper's first on the front in modern times. The Chron sold a space measuring 6 inches across and 5 inches deep to PG&E, which used it for its "Green is ..." campaign. On page 2, the Chron printed a note from publisher Frank Vega (pictured) that said:
    Today, The Chronicle begins publishing front page ads. Our advertisers recognize the value of The Chronicle brand, our audience and the priority of delivering key messages to you, our reader. In the recent past, newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and USA Today have all announced their willingness to accept advertising in prominent positions. The Chronicle is committed to delivering to you important news, information and advertising in a variety of new and engaging ways.
The Wall Street Journal and USA Today have run front page ads. The NY Times has not. The Philadelphia Inquirer began running p1 ads on Sunday, and printed this story giving its reasons for adding ads to the front.

On Feb. 19, the Chron began printing ads on the front of its "Bay Area" or "B" section, where most of the local news is located. It's no secret that the Chron is facing financial troubles. Its owner, Hearst Corp., filed court documents in the Clint Relly antitrust case in September that disclosed the paper has lost $330 million since 2000 -- a burn rate of $1 million a week.

Front page ads are common in other Bay Area newspapers. The Palo Alto Daily News has been running them since 1995. Dean Singleton's Alameda Newspaper Group (Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, Hayward Review, etc.) has had often run a single ad across the bottom of the front page starting in 2002. The Examiner has also been running front page ads for the past few years.

SPJ to host panel on blogging journalists

The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will hold an April 30 panel discussion in San Francisco that will grapple with this question: How do journalist bloggers gain trust, maintain principles and uncover relevant and accurate news in a free-for-all information zone? Panelists will include:Tom Ballantyne will moderate. The SPJ NorCal site has details on time, location, cost. Contact ("Flintstones" phonograph graphic from the SPJ site.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Palo Alto paper to move office to Menlo Park

The Palo Alto Daily News plans to move out of its downtown Palo Alto home (seen here) and lease space in an office park in Menlo Park near Highway 101.

If a deal is reached with owners of the office building at 255 Constitution Way in Menlo Park, the paper's news and business operations would be centralized there on one floor, the Daily News said in today's edition. Those functions are currently in two separate buildings in the same block in downtown Palo Alto, with the news department housed at 329 Alma St. and the business offices at 324 High St. (shown above).

Daily News staffers in the past had joked that while many newspapers have a wall between news and advertising, they had a parking lot separating the two.

The Daily News pointed out in its story that "Menlo Park is one of the core cities in the Daily News Group's circulation area, along with Palo Alto, Mountain View, San Mateo, Redwood City, Burlingame and Los Gatos."

As the Press Club March 31, MediaNews has also put the Santa Cruz Sentinel's building on Church Street up for sale, saying it will no longer need 54,000 square feet of space in that community when it begins printing the paper in San Jose on May 1.

Also going on the block is the San Mateo County Times building at 1080 S Amphlett Blvd. (pictured), which is also too large of a space now that the printing of that newspaper takes place in Hayward. MediaNews has also pulled the Oakland Tribune out of the Tribune Tower and re-located many of its functions in the Airport Corporate Center on Oakport Drive on I-880 across from the Oakland Collesum.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pulitzer awarded for James Kim stories

The story of James Kim of San Francisco, who died in an attempt to rescue his stranded family in the Oregon mountains, resulted in a Pulitzer Prize for The Oregonian newspaper in Portland. Above, in this AP photo, Oregonian editor Sandy Rowe rejoices this morning over the news that her paper won the Pulitzer for breaking news.

Once again, no Bay Area newspaper won a Pulitzer this year. Cities with newspapers that did win included New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Sacramento and Birmingham, Ala. Renee C. Byer of The Sacramento Bee was honored for feature photography for her portrayal of a single mother and her young son as he loses his battle with cancer.

The Pulitzer Prize Patrol hasn't visited the San Jose Mercury News since 1990. Same for the Oakland Tribune. The Chronicle had one two years ago 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.

TOTALS BY NEWSPAPER: Merc 2, Oakland Tribune 2, Examiner (Hearst) 2, Chronicle 5, Denver Post 4, Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal 4, Seattle Times 7, Miami Herald 18, Philadelphia Inquirer 18, Boston Globe 19, Chicago Tribune 24, Wall Street Journal 31, LA Times 38, NY Times, 94. Figures include today's awards.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

AP awards banquet cancelled

In a sign of the times, the April 27 Associated Press News Executives Council awards banquet at Disneyland's Paradise Pier Hotel has been canceled. This move follows cancellation of the affiliated California Society of Newspaper Editors conference.

"These are challenging times in the newspaper industry and travel budgets have been significantly reduced, leading to a low number of commitments for both events," said an advisory issued by the AP to its member newspapers.

While the banquet and conference have been cancelled, the winners have been selected (here's a list). Prize money and awards will go out to the winners via Federal Express.

A's PR guy once struck out Barry Bonds

Jim Young, the A's media relations director, once struck out Barry Bonds while Bonds was at San Mateo's Serra High and Young was pitching for Marin Catholic in a game on the Kentfield campus, reports Dave Albee of the Marin IJ in this profile of Young. "But I won't tell you what he did to me in his next at bat. The ball still hasn't come down yet," Young said. "It landed about the 50-yard line of the football field." Young is beginning his eighth season with the A's and has become king of press-conference moderators in the Bay Area, Albee says. (Photo of Young by Meghan Roberts via the Marin IJ.)

Religion writer discusses Esalen

The Chron's Don Lattin, who has covered the religion beat for at least two decades, walks into a Columbia University School of Journalism classroom and is asked by the professor (Ari Goldman, a former religion writer at the NY Times) to discuss "Religion, California-Style." The first word that pops into Lattin's head is Esalen. And Lattin, in this review of Jeffrey J. Kripal's new book "America and the Religion of No Religion," explains the connection between the sexual-awareness resort and spirituality. (Above is a screen shot from Lattin's Web site,

Friday, April 13, 2007

Secrets will be revealed at antitrust trial

Lawyers for MediaNews and Hearst have gone to unusual lengths to keep secret information they have filed in response to Clint Reilly's lawsuit alleging antitrust violations. But U.S. District Judge Susan Illston (left) said in an order issued yesterday (April 12) that documents they use during the trial will be made public. Documents already under seal will remain confidential unless they are used at trial, she said.

Bay Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann (right), whose paper along with the nonprofit Media Alliance filed briefs to unseal documents in the antitrust case, asks in his blog that Reilly and his attorneys get "all the relevant monopolizing documents of the nation's biggest chains into the trial so that the Bay Area, and the rest of the world, can see how it is done and how monopolies censor and mangle the coverage of their own monopoly moves. This is one of the big Censored Stories of our time. And it is indeed chilling to watch these events unfold."

Channels 11, 5, 2 lead in Emmy nominations

KNTV NBC 11 received 38 Northern California Area Emmy nominations, KPIX CBS 5 got 30 and KTVU Channel 2 had 20 nods in this year's competition. The top individual was Mark Oltz, a videographer at NBC 11 who had eight nominations. KICU producer/videographer Alforde Joaquin and CBS 5 investigative reporter Anna Werner each received six. Scott Budman and Jonathan Drum, both of NBC 11, Jeff Harris of CBS 5 and Michael Krajac of KTVU 2, each received five nominations.

This year 930 entries were received in 63 categories, 257 entries were nominated, 604 nomination certificates were presented to 407 individuals. The Emmy statues will be presented at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco on May 12. For additional information go to or e-mail

Singleton sues, lashes out at Ridder's son

"In Par's world, he could get away with anything because Daddy would always take care of him," Dean Singleton said yesterday after filing a lawsuit against Par Ridder, who quit Singleton's St. Paul Pioneer Press to become head of the rival Minneapolis Star Tribune. Singleton claims Ridder (pictured) took business data, customer lists and salary information when he quit. In fact, Singleton even says Ridder walked off with all copies of a non-compete agreement that prevented Ridder and two other employees for working with the competition.

"The dishonesty, the deceit, and the illegal activity ... It was one thing for the publisher to leave to go to the competitor, but it was something else to inappropriately take information that did not belong to him to the other newspaper," Singleton told Minnesota Public Radio. Among the things Singleton claims Ridder stole were salary data and advertising customer lists.

Singleton said Ridder and two Pioneer Press employees who went with him to the Star Tribune had non-compete agreements preventing them from working for a rival for one year, but that Ridder destroyed those agreements before he changed jobs.

"He told everybody, including me, that he did not have [an agreement]. But he did have because we have copies of it," Singleton said. "The reason he said he had a no-compete was because he had confiscated the no-competes and put them in a file, including his own, in the personnel files, and took that with him when he left."

Par Ridder, 35, is the son of former Knight Ridder chairman Tony Ridder of Woodside. KR owned the Pioneer Press for decades until it was sold last year to McClatchy, which then flipped it to Hearst. Hearst turned over management to Singleton. [Coverage: Business Journals, Mercury News]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Reporters, lawyers, judges, police to meet

Peninsula reporters, lawyers, judges and police are invited to a special meeting next Wednesday (April 18) at 6 p.m. at Vic's Restaurant, 1125 San Carlos Ave., San Carlos.

The purpose is to discuss news coverage of the legal system and create smoother working arrangements among the bench, bar, law enforcement and media agencies. The Peninsula Press Club has been organizing such Bench Bar Media meetings since the 1960s. There's only one ground rule -- In order to allow everyone to speak freely, the meeting is off the record. But reporters are free afterward to ask on-the-record questions of participants about what they heard.

The speaker will be San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Quentin Kopp, who will discuss California's Public Records Act (which he helped write as a state senator) and the recent CalAware audit of its application by local law enforcement agencies.

If you cannot attend, please send someone else from your organization. RSVP to Michelle Carter at The cost of the dinner is $20.

April 2007 Press Club board minutes

President Jamie Casini called the meeting to order at 6:20 p.m.

Present: Jamie Casini, Micki Carter, Peter Cleveland, Dave Price

Absent: Darryl, Aimee, Jon, Ed, Diana, Jennifer and Jack

• We discussed the upcoming Bench Bar Media, and Micki nothed that everything was in order for it to be held at Vic's in San Carlos

• Dave mentioned that people should sign up for the PPC Web site's feed blitz if they want to receive daily updates to the site

Meeting was adjourned at 6:50 pm

'Sarah and No Name' get weeknight TV show

The morning show duo "Sarah and No Name" (pictured) from CBS Radio's Alice at 97.3 (KLLC-FM) are getting a half-hour evening show on CBS's Channel 44 starting next Monday, April 16. The 11:30 show is a 30 minute HD highlight version of the radio show. Five HD cameras in the Alice studios will bring viewers face to face with Sarah, No Name and their early morning posse: executive producer Matty, call screener/movie reviewer Hooman and associate producer Charlene “The Boot.”

“I can't believe we have a nightly TV show ... now all we have to do is be funny...wish us luck" said Sarah Clark. (Photos courtesy of CBS 5.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Judge won't stop newspaper antitrust case

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston refused today (April 10) to dismiss Clint Reilly's (pictured) lawsuit against Hearst and MediaNews, paving the way for a jury trial that begins April 30, according to Reuters and Bay City News.

MediaNews, owner of 10 dailies in the Bay Area including the Mercury News, and Hearst, the Chronicle's owner, argued that Reilly hadn't suffered any economic harm by the consolidation of newspapers in the Bay Area and therefore didn't have standing to sue them for antitrust. But Illston said in an order issued today:
    Plaintiff has raised a genuine issue as to whether he has valid antitrust injury in this case ... Even under the traditional antitrust analysis, independent of the newspaper context, plaintiff has standing as a consumer.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Chron ignores emerging DiFi story

A conservative columinst and blogger, Michelle Malkin (pictured at right), is asking why the Chronicle hasn't published any stories about Sen. Dianne Feinstein's resignation from a military expenditure subcommittee that approved billions of dollars in contracts that went to companies controlled by her husband, Richard Blum.

The stories about DiFi weren't written by some right-wing nut, however. They were written by Peter Byrne (at left), an award-winning investigative journalist funded by The Nation Institute, which describes itself as a "liberal-left independently funded and administered organization, committed to a just society and the principles of the First Amendment." His stories were published by San Jose's Metro and the North Bay Bohemian, not exactly right-wing rags.

Malkin said she received an e-mail from a reader who claims to have corresponded with Vlae Kershner (right), news director of the Chron's, about the lack of coverage of the DiFi controversy. According to what Malkin posted, Kershner claims DiFi's resignation from the subcommittee wasn't true, adding:
    You should show the report to your class as an example of how special interests can disseminate phony news on the Internet.
Then Kershner sends a second e-mail stating:
    [J]ust to clarify my prior message, I'm told that what happened was that when the Democrats won control in January, she got off the Military Construction subcommittee to take the chair of Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior instead.
Malkin questions why Feinstein would give up a powerful position to take a less prestigious post. Malkin adds, "In the meantime, it will be interesting to see just what exactly the San Francisco Chronicle determines was 'phony' about Byrne's reporting and whether the paper's editorial board will also turn up its nose at Feinstein's reported conflicts of interest -- which, as we all know, would be a non-stop, front-page crusade if Feinstein were a Republican ..."

On Monday, Feinstein's office released a statement that was posted by the blog in which Feinstein, through her spokesman, gives a detailed denial of the allegations that she funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to her husband's companies. For whatever reason, the Democratic senator's statement cannot be found on the press release portion of her Web site.

Byrne's work:
    • Jan. 24, Senator Feinstein's Iraq Conflict -- As a member of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee, Sen. Feinstein voted for appropriations worth billions to her husband's firms
    • Jan. 25, Metro's news release about Byrne's series
    • Jan. 31, Daddy Kleinbucks -- Why the media missed the story on Dianne Feinstein's past conflicts of interest
    • Feb. 28, Blum Rap -- Turns out Senator Dianne Feinstein isn't the only one in her family with an ethics problem
    • March 21, Feinstein Resigns -- Senator exits MILCON following Metro expose, vet-care scandal
Photo credits: Three-shot is from Metro (its caption: "Laughing all the way to the bank: Sen. Dianne Feinstein with husband Richard C. Blum (center) and Al Gore."); Top photo is from Malkin's blog; Byrne photo from his blog; Kershner's photo is from Grade The News, and DiFi shot (of her at a Rules Committee hearing Feb. 20) is from her Senate Web site.)

Francisco quits MarketWatch over conflict

Bambi Francisco (pictured), who covered Silicon Valley for, has resigned following allegations of a conflict of interest. As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, the issue is that Francisco, on the side, is one of the founders of a company called, which helps start-up companies make pitches to venture capitalists for funds via video. Francisco's boss, David Callaway, gave her permission to work on the project on the grounds that she avoid any conflicts of interest. But the spam hit the fan when she wrote a MarketWatch story about Peter Theil, a PayPal cofounder, who happens to be her partner at Francisco is open about what happened, writing about it in her final dispatch from MarketWatch. She writes:
    So I have decided to run full-time, and I believe in the company. With much regret, I'm leaving MarketWatch, my employer for eight years, as a full-time columnist and correspondent, though I hope to maintain ties. I'm going to try my hand as an entrepreneur. I think I'm making the right decision. If I didn't make this decision, I would always regret not trying.
Her MarketWatch colleague, Jon Friedman, says Francisco's story is a cautionary tale. Friedman writes:
    Her story underscores the point -- yes, again -- that journalists can get into trouble when we mistakenly come to think we're players in our sources' worlds. Sometimes, we can identify too strongly with them as we glimpse their lives of affluence and power. We can delude ourselves into concluding that we, too, deserve to be wealthy beyond any reasonable expectations. "Hey, if they can do it, so can I."
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported Francisco's conflict, is owned by Dow Jones, which also owns MarketWatch.

Josh Wolf case 'a huge misunderstanding'

Josh Wolf's "jailing looks like a huge misunderstanding, in which prosecutors assumed, incorrectly, that Wolf possessed relevant evidence, while Wolf believed, erroneously, that he had a responsibility to go to jail even if he had no relevant evidence," says Peter Scheer. Scheer (pictured) -- a lawyer, journalist and executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition -- asks in a Chronicle op-ed whether Wolf's imprisonment for 7 1/2 months was necessary.

The Chron also gave space to Wolf, who argued for a federal shield law:
    [Chronicle staff writers Mark] Fainaru-Wadu and [Lance] Williams could have just as easily been in my place at FDC Dublin. There are no protections afforded to journalists in the context of a federal grand jury. The debate over who qualifies as a journalist can wait, but we need a federal shield law now.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Judge 'inclined' to let Reilly sue chains

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston (right) said Friday (April 6) that she is "inclined" to rule that San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly (left) has standing to challenge MediaNews Group's $736.8 million purchase of the Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News. Such a ruling would clear the way for an April 30 trial over Reilly's allegations that MediaNews and Hearst Corp. are conspiring to create a Bay Area newspaper monopoly that would result in massive layoffs and higher ad rates.

Bloomberg quoted Joe Allito, Reilly's attorney, as telling the judge that MediaNews is "firing reporters left and right, and they're shutting down plants." The companies have acknowledged in court filings that, "when we don't have to compete anymore we can stabilize circulation and raise prices," Allito said.

According to the Chronicle account of the hearing, Illston said the question of whether Reilly has standing is difficult to determine. The newspapers have argued that Reilly won't personally be injured by the consolidation, and thus doesn't have a right to sue. "Mr. Reilly's injury here is pure speculation," said MediaNews attorney Gary Halling.

Illston pointed out that another judge allowed Reilly to sue in 2000 to challenge Hearst's $660 million purchase of the Chronicle. Although Reilly was unable to block the deal, Hearst failed to have the suit dismissed for lack of standing, and was required to subsidize the new owner of its former newspaper, the Examiner, before gaining federal approval to buy the Chronicle.

• Press Club, March 19: Chains tell readers to butt out of dispute

Saturday, April 7, 2007

New Tribune owner: Make Google pay

The new owner of the Tribune Co., Sam Zell (pictured) says it's time for newspapers to stop giving away their stories to popular search engines such as Google. Zell made his comments in interviews with the Washington Post before and after a speech he delivered Thursday (April 5) at Stanford Law School in Palo Alto. Zell said Google wouldn't be very profitable if newspapers joined together to stop Google from stealing their content. Regarding Google, Zell said:
    We're going to see new formulas in the immediate [future] that reflect the cost benefit.
Google and Yahoo have financial arrangements with wire services, such as the Associated Press, to provide news stories and photos. On Friday, Google settled a copyright-infringement lawsuit with Agence France-Presse, which had alleged that Google posted news summaries, headlines and photos without permission.

Media consolidation talk set for April 18

KGO ABC7 anchor Jessica Aguirre, Contra Costa Times Publisher John Armstrong (center) and KCBS-AM's Al Hart will discuss the impact of the Internet and media consolidation on Bay Area newspapers, TV and radio stations at a free evening talk at the Walnut Creek Library on April 18. During the 90-minute panel discussion, Aguirre, Armstrong and Hart will focus on how the Internet -- including news Web sites and blogs -- is affecting print, television and radio journalism, according to a report in the Coco Times. Sponsored by the Walnut Creek Library Foundation, the program begins at 7:45 p.m. The downtown Walnut Creek Library is at 1644 N. Broadway.