Saturday, September 29, 2007

SF Weekly runs fake story on steriods

Blogger Josh Wolf admits he was fooled by a fake story in the SF Weekly about Barry Bonds' steroid use. The story headlined "Steroids Confidential" by Nic Foit and Ira Tes (anagram for "steroid fanatic") does not include a disclaimer or note at the end saying it was satire. The story quotes a Marion Leftwich, who supposedly shared a cell with Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, in federal prison in the East Bay city of Dublin. Wolf, who served seven months in the same prison for refusing to surrender a videotape of a political protest, says he got to know Anderson in prison and never heard him talk about the things Leftwich quoted him as saying. Wolf said he even got a call from an AP reporter asking him about Leftwich. Wolf said he finally called the SF Weekly, which confirmed the story was a fake. Wolf writes, "Satire is an integral part of the press, but it is of critical importance that readers are able to recognize where the 'real news' ends and the fiction begins."

Ex-publisher stops reading his old paper

San Francisco newspaper analyst and former Chron assistant managing editor Alan Mutter has a blog about the newspaper industry that drew this response from a former newspaper publisher who sold his or her paper off to a chain in the mid-1990s. Neither the publisher nor the 40,000-circulation daily he or she sold in 1996 were identified. The unidentified paper's paid circulation has fallen to 21,000 under chain ownership.

Some quotes that caught our eye:
    "I finally stopped my subscription, because I really wasn’t interested in reading the generic news that has replaced the community coverage we used to provide."

    "... In the early 1990s,our newspaper partnered with a small Internet company and began offering our classified ads online. ... A small management team was established to meet with other suburban newspapers in our market to ascertain their interest in aggregating all of our classified ads and offering a market-wide buy. I’ll always remember the meeting, because the publishers from the other newspapers looked at us as if we were aliens from some other planet. Simply put, they didn’t get it. One of the publishers present at that meeting is now a top executive of the same chain that bought our paper!"

    "... Our family sold our newspaper to the chain, because we were wall-to-wall union; the unions were intransigent and we could not see how we could compete with the lower-cost media competing for the same business. I knew the chain could 'get the deal done' when it came to reducing costs. Parenthetically, my family doesn’t miss the death threats I received from disgruntled union activists when we attempted on our own to reduce force (legally, through the contracts, I might add)."
The unidentified publisher notes that he now serves on various non-profit boards and that one of them was thinking of moving its advertising from print to the Internet due to disappointing results. A marketing consultant told the board that he knew he should move the ads to online because when he asked his 24-year-old son if he had seen a particular column in a neighboring metro, his son said he didn't read the paper. The publisher concludes by saying,
    "Now, I don’t read my old paper, either. When the boiler-room crew calls to attempt to lure me back by offering a full year’s subscription for $15.99, I respond by saying that’s still too much for what their product has become. If I don’t read the paper, who will?"

Examiner's Basich headed to Dow Jones

Examiner Managing Editor Zoran Basich is leaving the free paper for a job as an editor for Dow Jones and Co. in San Francisco. He has been managing editor since July 2006.

Senior Assistant Managing Editor Deirdre Hussey will be promoted to managing editor, according to an e-mail from Executive Editor James Pimentel. Hussey has been with The Examiner for five years and has been primarily responsible for driving the local news coverage, serving as city editor and senior assistant managing editor responsible for news. Previously she was at the The Village Voice in New York City and the Cape Argus in Cape Town, South Africa.

How to pitch a tech story to the Merc

MarketingSherpa, a Rhode Island research firm that tracks marketing efforts, has posted this guide titled "How to Pitch Tech News to the San Jose Mercury News." One tip: "In your email, show that you’re familiar with the types of stories they write by sending only those relevant to their coverage. Senior Editor Melissa Jordan says reporters prefer focused pitches and 'don’t like to be blasted with generic e-mails.'”

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ridder disappointed by today's Merc

American Journalism Review, in a lengthy article about layoffs in the Bay Area newspaper business, says former Knight Ridder chairman Tony Ridder of Woodside still reads the chain's Mercury News every morning, but with a mounting sense of disappointment and sadness.
    "There's less there there ... Most newspapers are so incredibly important to the area they serve. Most of the great enterprise journalism is done by newspapers. They keep the government honest. They tell us about the state of the educational system. Who's going to do it when they no longer can?"
The AJR article by Paul Farhi also discusses the cutbacks at the Chronicle.
    From a practical standpoint, [Executive Editor Phil] Bronstein can see the advantage to the Chronicle in Singleton's editorial retreat ("It's a shame that their quality is dropping, but as a competitor I'm happy," he says). Yet he recognizes that this is a danger for his paper, too. "The problem is, you can get into a death spiral, where you're less and less effective each time you have to cut something," he says. "I can't tell you that that's where we're at now. But is there a point when you're no longer effective to readers? Probably there is. Is it a danger? Yes, it is."

Publicity group honors cartoonist Phil Frank

The San Francisco Bay Area Publicity Club, a non-profit network of public relations professionals, has awarded its Herb Caen lifetime achievement award to the late cartoonist Phil Frank, author of the Chron's Farley strip. Presentation of the award at Moose's restaurant on Wednesday came two weeks to the day after Frank died from a brain tumor at age 64, the Chron reported.

The Publicity Club also presented 13 other awards ranging from favorite newscast — won by Brent Cannon and Laura Garcia Cannon of NBC11 — to favorite weekly e-mail newsletter, won by SFCityDish. won an award for the top media Web site.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

'Dear Abby' of real estate writers dies

Longtime real estate columnist Robert Bruss has died in his home on the Peninsula at age 67. He frequently was called the “Dear Abby” of real estate writers and his column appeared in hundreds of newspapers. In his writing, Bruss combined three talents, those of a journalist, a lawyer and a real estate broker. He was a 1967 graduate of the University of California's Hastings College of Law in San Francisco and had worked for the large brokerage company Grubb & Ellis. An editor at Inman News, which syndicated his column, told the Merc that the circumstances of Bruss' death were unclear, but that he had been ill earlier this year.

LA Times may start free daily

Reuters tonight is quoting the new publisher of the Los Angeles Times, David Hiller, as saying he is considering launching a free daily newspaper that would aim for the 18-to-34-year-old audience. The paper would be similar to the Chicago Tribune's RedEye. Both the Chicago Tribune and LA Times are owned by Tribune Co., which is going private in a $8.2 billion deal led by Chicago real estate tycoon Sam Zell.

Most of California's free dailies are in the Bay Area (Berkeley, Burlingame, Palo Alto, San Mateo, Redwood City and three in San Francisco), but they also can be found in Eureka, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and South Lake Tahoe.

Ex-Merc editor finds herself in a firestorm

Susan Goldberg received a rude surprise if she thought she was escaping controversy when she left the top newsroom job at the Merc for the same position at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. An editorial cartoon by one of her staffers, which was intended to take a shot at the city's mayor, instead was widely seen as an insensitive and tasteless portrayal of a 12-year-old murder victim. (See Richard Prince's column.) Fierce outrage in the black community forced Goldberg to run an apology. But two of her reporters, writing anonymously in the alt-weekly Cleveland Scene, say she ducked TV reporters who wanted her comments on the controversy. They remarked, "Isn’t it funny we work in a business where we want people to call us back?" The two went on to write:
    "It’s funny how the San Jose Mercury-News is going through major changes since Susie left. I hope she doesn’t ruin the PD like the Mercury-News. The company just found an accounting error of $4 million, and will have to ax dozens more. Or maybe Susie just saw the writing on the wall. Time will tell.

    "The only thing Susie has taught the newsroom so far is a new term called “Chunky Bits.” The term is the rage of the newsroom. Can your story be told as Chunky Bits?"

Station group urges rejection of Hearst bid

Privately-held Hearst Corp., owner of the Chronicle, also owns 73 percent of Hearst-Argyle Television. Today, a special committee of Hearst Argyle's board recommended that shareholders reject Hearst's offer to buy the company's remaining shares. Publisher Hearst wants to buy the public minority stake it does not already own in Hearst-Argyle Television for $23.50 per share, or about $600 million. Hearst-Argyle (HTV) closed Thursday at $26.05 — $2.55 better than Hearst's offer. The price has been rising ever since Hearst announced its bid. Hearst-Argyle owns 26 TV stations including KRCA Channel 3 in Sacramento. As the Press Club reported Sept. 7, one shareholder group in Northern California had sued to stop the buyout and another suit was in the works.

Citing finances, KQED cancels 'Pacific Time'

The Chron reports that KQED-FM 88.5 has canceled "Pacific Time," the only nationally syndicated public radio program about Asian American affairs due to its cost. The program was estimated to cost roughly $550,000 a year. Host Oanh Ha will stay at KQED, as the station plans to expand its coverage of local Asian Pacific communities and issues. News Director Raul Ramirez and GM Jo Anne Wallace hope to incorporate some of the stories and issues that were covered in "Pacific Time" into other KQED-produced shows such as "The California Report."

Ramirez told the Chron that it was hard to convince public radio outlets on the East Coast and the Midwest to carry the show, often because station programmers didn't feel their audiences were interested in news from the region. Plus, programmers found it hard to find a place on the schedule for a 30-minute show.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Clint Reilly gets free space from MediaNews

MediaNews Group now says that it is providing Clint Reilly with space for his column at no cost, even though the company originally said Reilly would be paying for the space. The column was part of the settlement in Reilly's antitrust lawsuit agianst MediaNews and Hearst Corp. over the consolidation of Bay Area newspapers. On April 28, E&P quoted MediaNews Group President Jody Lodovic as saying Reilly's column will be paid space. Lodovic's comment was in response to Reilly, who said the space would be free. Today's column, which appeared on page 2B of today's Mercury News, said "MediaNews is providing the space at no cost according to the settlement terms of a public interest suit filed by Reilly to promote newspaper competition." At the top it says, "Provided by MNG." MNG is MediaNews Group.

Chronicle journalist wins an Emmy

Talk about convergence! Normally Emmys are won by TV people, not newspaper folk. But Chronicle journalist James Irwin won an Emmy on Monday for an online video documentary on four teens as they took a sobering look at life behind bars in San Quentin State Prison. Irwin, director of video journalism for The Chronicle, got his start at a Reno television station in 1979 but left television for a job with The Chronicle and its Web affiliate,, in 1996. Here's the story about his award and the video.

Former ABC7 producer Ginny Yamate dies

Virginia "Ginny" Poon Yamate, a former ABC7 KGO-TV San Francisco producer, died Sept. 13 following a battle with cancer, the Asian American Journalists Association reports. She was 58. She joined the station in 1979 and held various positions. In addition to producer, she was director of public affairs and community relations manager. Most recently, she was Manager of diversity outreach & corporate contributions at the California State Automobile Association. (Photo credit: CSAA)

Monday, September 24, 2007

This ought to be interesting

Two big names in the Bay Area news business — Leslie Griffith and Robert Rosenthal (both pictured) — are among the panelists who will sound off Thursday on the topic of "The State of Journalism: Are Integrity and the Bottom Line Compatible?"

Griffith, who left Channel 2 last year after 20 years at the station, is writing a book about what she says is corporate censorship of the media called "Shut-up and Read."

"Rosey" Rosenthal resigned from the Chron in May without the standard two-weeks notice because "the next two weeks are going to be so tumultuous there [due to layoffs], for me to linger around when I could not be part of the future did not make sense." His boss, Phil Bronstein, declined to comment when asked if he had tried to keep Rosenthal on the job.

Others on the panel Thursday will be KGO ABC7 News Director Kevin Keeshan and Merc Editorial Pages Editor Steve Wright. The moderator will be UC Berkeley journalism Professor William Drummond.

The panel is co-sponsored by SPJ NorCal and the Commonweath Club of California. The discussion will take place on the second floor of The Commonwealth Club at 595 Market St. A wine and cheese reception is at 5:30 and the panel starts at 6. For tickets, call (415) 597-6705 or register at

SPJ NorCal names Bailey journalist of year

Chauncey Bailey, slain editor of the Oakland Post, has been named Journalist of the Year by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The NorCal chapter says:
    At a time when journalists around the world are under threat for simply doing their jobs, Bailey was a forceful presence in print and on radio and television in the Bay Area for the past 15 years. A tireless advocate for the African-American community, he was assassinated while pursuing a story, and evidence presented thus far shows that he was assassinated because he was pursuing that story. His death is a loss to the Bay Area community he served, to the young journalists he mentored, and to the profession of journalism he so passionately practiced.
SPJ NorCal's Public Service award went to G.W. Schulz and the San Francisco Bay Guardian for coverage of MediaNews Group's purchase of nearly all Bay Area paid-circulation daily newspapers. founder David Talbot and Channel 2 political editor Randy Shandobil won the Career Achievement Award.

Malcolm Margolin received the Distinguished Service Award for his contribution to book-length journalism for "The Ohlone Way."

The Unsung Hero Award went to Fred Goff of the Data Center, a public interest research library in Oakland, who for 30 years has remained committed to making information available to journalists.

A complete list of winners is posted at

The awards will be presented Nov. 8 at at Yank Sing Restaurant in Rincon Center (Spear and Mission), San Francisco, with with emcees Barbara Rodgers of KPIX CBS5 and Scott Shafer, host of KQED's "California Report." Sandy Close, founder of Pacific News Service and New America Media, and Ben Bagdikian, author and former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC-Berkeley, are serving as honorary chairs of the dinner. To purchase tickets, contact Eva Martinez at

Chron printed 2 front pages for Bonds story

The Chron on Saturday, which carried the news that Barry Bonds would be leaving the Giants, printed two different versions of its front page, alternating from one to the other as the papers came off the press, according to a memo from Assistant Managing Editor Allen Matthews posted at Matthews wrote:
    Two of our designers were kicking around separate layout ideas, and we decided to use both. This is a first for the Chronicle. Our presses were set up so that the front page alternated with every other paper so that I'll get one cover and my next-door neighbor will get the other.

Psst! Want to buy a couple of radio stations?

Brad Kava, former Merc writer who now has a blog on the local radio industry, reports that Santa Cruz stations KSCO-AM 1080 and KOMY-AM 1340 are for sale. Owner Michael Zwerling (pictured), 55, tells Kava that he's frustrated with radio, saying it wasn't producing enough revenue and he was working too hard. Kava writes:
    A real estate investor who appeared on KSCO as a high school student, [Zwerling] bought the station 17 years ago for $600,000. He had been fired for making a fart noise on the air, and promised someday to own the station.

    He bought [1340 AM] a decade ago and has experimented with a number of formats, including Air America, which he dropped, claiming he couldn't get advertisers to sponsor it in one of the most liberal markets in the country.
(Photo credit: KSCO Web site)

Radio people meters due here by spring

Ben Fong-Torres, writing in the Chron, describes the changes ahead for the local radio industry when the ratings system switches from diaries to the Portable People Meter, which a listener wears. The meter (shown here next to the base station) is the size of a beeper and it captures silent codes radio stations will send out. Survey participants place the meter at the end of the day in the base station to recharge the battery and to send collected codes to a household collection device known as a "hub." Arbitron's literature says the system will be rolled out here in June and Torres says it will arrive in the spring. Torres spoke to a number of local broadcasters who were all optimistic about the new system. A couple of quotes:
    • "We're excited," says KCBS GM Doug Harvill. "It'll accurately show the number of people using our station."

    • "The devices are very accurate and provide accountability for this medium that television has had for years," says Dwight Walker, market manager for Entercom's local stations, KOIT, KDFC and KBWF (the Wolf).

    • "I can hardly wait for it to get here," says Larry Sharp, PD at KSAN (the Bone). He had read reports from Philly, which showed that young men (in the coveted 18-34 age range) are more willing to wear the PPM (it's just another gadget) than women (who usually throw such things into their handbags), thus resulting in higher ratings for rock stations.

    • Kim Bryant, president of Clear Channel's Bay Area stations (such as 106 KMEL, Wild 94.9, Star 101.3 and KKSF 103.7), expressed some concerns about women's fashions working against the device: "They don't necessarily have a belt" to clip it to, she notes.
Brad Kava, formerly of the Merc, writes on his blog that the biggest change is that men will be counted more, and they listen to more rock radio. Kava writes, "The reason why is fairly logical. Women are better diary keepers. Its something they are trained to do from an early age."

(Photo credits: Arbitron)

KRON's shows have got to be profitable

KRON president/GM Mark Antonitis (pictured) is quoted in the latest Broadcasting & Cable magazine as saying that at Channel 4, "Nothing gets on the air unless it's profitable." The quote appears in a story about how MyNetworkTV affiliates like KRON are airing local shows that make money. For instance the MNT affiliate in Kansas City created a hit dating show that was done before a live studio audience. The KRON successes cited in the article were "Nissan's Bay Area Backroads" hosted by Doug McConnell and "Bay Area Bargains."

Oh no, Thurs Merc won't have movie listings

Oh no! On the front of Sunday's Merc was a dreaded "Dear Reader" article. Usually such articles describe redesign efforts that are intended to mask reductions in coverage. But this time there was no attempt to hide the bad news from the reader. Merc Executive Editor Carole Leigh Hutton (pictured), formerly editor and publisher of the Detroit Free Press, was blunt:
    The business model that has sustained this newspaper for more than 150 years is changing. Revenue from the traditional newspaper is declining.
The consequences so far include reducing the Monday-Saturday paper from six or seven sections to four. The "SV Life" section will be appearing every day, and will include such things as A+E and House+Home. But maybe the biggest consequence is that weekend movie listings will no longer appear in Thursday's "Eye" section. Instead they'll be online at and in the Friday Merc.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Farley celebration set for Monday

The Chron invites the public to "Camp Farley" to celebrate the life and legacy of cartoonist Phil Frank (pictured) on Monday, Sept. 24, noon to 1 p.m. at Washington Square Park in San Francisco. Participants are encouraged to come as their favorite Farley character and join a parade around the park, featuring Phil's friends from throughout the Bay Area, including representatives from the Chron, the National Park Service, the San Francisco Police Department and other local groups.

The parade will be followed by entertainment by Beach Blanket Babylon, Tried & True Gospel Singers, Bob Schultz and the Frisco Jazz Band, SFPD Parking Enforcement "Precision Scooter Team," National Park Service Mounted Color Guard & Patrol, and others. Featured speakers will include Editor Phil Bronstein and former Mayor Willie Brown. (Photo credit: Kurt Rogers, Chronicle, 2004)

Par Ridder won't return to publisher's job

Par Ridder, the son of former Knight Ridder chairman Tony Ridder of Woodside, likely will not return to the post of publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune after a judge removed him from his job for one year as punishment for taking confidential data when he left the rival St. Paul Pioneer Press. Star Tribune Chairman Chris Harte told workers at a meeting Thursday that he would begin a national search for a new publisher, the newspaper reported.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ronn Owens suffers on-air medical incident

A possible "prescription imbalance" caused KGO 810 host Ronn Owens to slur his words during the first hour of his three-hour program Monday morning. Owens said he felt "woozy." He then turned the program over to host John Rothmann. Rothmann, subbing for Owens today, announced at the top of the show that "Ron is in the hospital for some tests. They think it's a prescription imbalance." Rothmann said Owens is expected to return Thursday. The medical episode happened on Monday, the very day Gil Gross took over the shift of Pete Wilson, who died of a heart attack following hip replacement surgery in July.

Report: Merc accounting error means cuts

Retired Mercury News ad manager Lou Alexander (pictured), who is now a blogger, says several sources have told him that an accounting error of $3 million to $4 million at his former newspaper will force a new round of budget cuts that may lead to fewer reporters. No layoffs have been announced but Alexander says he can't see how the newsroom could be spared. "I am being told that the people behind well-known bylines who do general assignment reporting and investigative work will be assigned to more mundane beats in business and metro," Alexander writes. "If this happens there is a danger these talented people will move on to places where they can do more than cover beats like City Hall." The Merc's newsroom has been hit with two rounds layoffs in the past year, with 10-16 workers cut in December and 46 more in July. The paper now has about 200 newsroom staffers.

Judge removes Par Ridder as publisher

A Minneapolis judge today removed Minneapolis Star Tribune publisher Par Ridder, son of former Knight Ridder Tony Ridder, from his job for one year after concluding that he took confidential financal data from his former employer, the rival St. Paul Pioneer Press. In his extraordinary ruling, the judge cited the 39-year-old Ridder's "cavalier" behavior. He also ordered the Star Tribune to pay the Pioneer Press's legal fees, estimated at $5 million. The Pioneer Press is owned by owned by Hearst and operated by Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group. The Star Tribune is owned by the private equity group Avista Capital Partners. [Star Tribune] [AP] [Pioneer Press]

Guild files new charge against MediaNews

    UPDATE (Sept. 20, 1:10 p.m.): After this item was posted, a person mentioned in the story, John Bowman, disputed how his remarks were reported by the East Bay Express. The Express has since changed its story. See note in bold face at the end.
The Guild has filed another charge with the National Labor Relations Board against MediaNews in the wake of the company's decision to no longer recognize the union as the representative of its newsroom employees in the East Bay. According to the East Bay Express, the allegation this time is that two top editors instructed mid-level editors to lie to reporters and photographers at the Oakland Tribune and other ANG papers in an attempt to get the workers to decertify the union.

John Bowman, who resigned in May as editor of the San Mateo County Times, a sister paper of the Trib, told the Express that the two top-level editors told him and other editors that they should tell their reporters that Trib newsroom employees had lower salaries than those at the CoCo Times because they were union members and that the union contract prohibited raises. Both instructions, according to Bowman and top union officials, were completely false. Bowman identified the two top level editors as Kevin Keane and Pete Wevurski.

The Express said Keane did not immediately return a phone call, but Wevurski denied Bowman’s allegations. Wevurski also said he and Keane told editors that if union issues were to come up during informal talks with reporters and photographers that they should tell them that semi-annual raises mandated by the union contract forced the company to reduce what was available for merit-based increases.

The East Bay Express story was written by Robert Gammon, who discloses that he is a former union official at the Tribune and helped negotiate the union contract.
    NOTE: After the Press Club posted this item, Bowman submitted an online comment to the East Bay Express, objecting to how Gammon reported his comments. Bowman wrote, "While I identified Pete Wevurski has one of the two top editors at the meetings in question, I never said that he personally said any of the things alleged in the story. Also, we were told to strongly imply, not flat out state, that CC Times staffers made more than ANG staffers because ANG had a union while the Times did not."

    Gammon said that after interviewing Bowman again, he changed his online report to read the way it does now. The headline was also softened from saying "Claim: Oakland Tribune Editors Told to Lie to Reporters" to "Oakland Tribune Editors Allegedly Told to Trick Reporters."

Gillmor: Foundations could fund reporting

Former Merc columnist Dan Gillmor, who was part of the now-defunct Backfence community journalism start-up, says in a Chronicle op-ed that community foundations should fund news-gathering projects. Ideas he suggests include:
    • Provide seed funding for a network of local blogs and other community sites combining a variety of media, adding journalism training for the people involved.

    • Pay the salary of an investigative journalist at a local newspaper. ...

    • Help get local and regional governmental data online in ways that anyone, not just database specialists and professional journalists, can easily use for a variety of purposes.

    • Fund local media-literacy education for this media-saturated age.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Panel explores future TV distribution trends

What is TV going to look like in the next 5-10 years? Will it all be short-form video on the web? Or will there be one dominant distribution channel? Find out what plans NBC11, Comcast, Link TV and ZDNet’s blogisphere have for content distribution at a panel discussion Sept. 20 hosted by the SF/NorCal Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Panelists include:
    • Jan Boyd (left), executive producer, New Media, NBC11;

    • Harry Fuller (second from left), Green Tech Pastures Blog,;

    • Andrew Johnson (third from left), vp communications, Comcast;

    • Joel Ficks (not pictured), chief strategic officer and chief financial officer, Link TV.

    • Cynthia Zeiden (right) of Zeiden Media, a media distribution company, will moderate the panel.
The discussion will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 20, at KRON 4. For more information, visit

NLRB rules against MediaNews in email case

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled in favor of the Guild in a 2001 dispute over the e-mail policy at MediaNews Group's ANG newspapers, the Guild has announced. A three person NLRB panel ruled that MediaNews should have negotiated with the union before imposing a policy that prevented union leaders from using the newspaper's e-mail system to send out "broadcast" messages to all workers. (Text of ruling, 12 page PDF)

The ruling applies to a Guild unit which, in the eyes of MediaNews at least, no longer exists. The company headed by Dean Singleton announced Aug. 13 that it would no longer recognize the union as the representative of its workers at its offices in Alameda, Hayward, Fremont, Dublin, Danville, Tracy, Martinez, Livermore, Pleasanton, Oakland and San Mateo. MediaNews cut its ties to the union after merging the 170 non-union newsroom jobs at the Contra Costa Times with the 130 mostly union jobs at its ANG papers. The Guild has filed charges with the NLRB over the move.

In a memo to employees Tuesday, Publisher John Armstrong said "we had no choice but to withdraw recognition since it is illegal to extend recognition to a union that represents a minority of employees in a group." Amstrong also said the Guild "is waging a campaign of misinformation in an attempt to block our efforts to move the company in a positive direction in a very challenging economic environment."

New Chron printer talking to other papers

Transcontinental, the Canadian company that plans to build a $200 million plant in Fremont to print the Chronicle, says it is talking to other daily newspapers about their printing their papers too. Transcon didn't identify those other dailies in its third-quarter earnings report but MediaNews is a likely customer.

Transcon said its planning for the plant is on schedule, the presses have already been ordered and construction will start this fall. The 338,000-square-foot plant, to be located on Kato Road, is scheduled to begin printing the Chronicle in the spring of 2009 when the newspaper's contract with its 237 Teamster printers expires. Transcon said it has launched a program called "Talent Greenhouse" consisting of group of 20 Transcon employees selected to work on the hiring of employees for the Chronicle project. The Chronicle and Transcon have said the 15-year printing contract is worth $1 billlion.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Farley creator Phil Frank dies

The Chron reports that Farley cartoon creator Phil Frank, whose retirement was announced a few days ago, died this morning. He was 64. Frank, a longtime resident of Sausalito, had been ill for months with a brain tumor, the Chron says.

The obit notes that when Frank announced his retirement, cards, letters and e-mails poured in, wishing him well, complimenting him on his work, and offering prayers for his recovery. Before he died, Frank wrote this thank-you note to readers. And here are some comments readers left after word of his death was posted at

His alter ego was a newspaper reporter and sometime park ranger named Farley (left), the central character in his "Farley" comic strip that he once described as "really a horizontal column, documenting the life and times of the characters in the Bay Area." The Chronicle says it was the only local comic strip in the country. (Photo credit: Kurt Rogers, Chronicle, 2004)

Frank Viviano to write for

Frank Viviano, who served as the Paris-based chief European and Middle Eastern correspondent for the Chronicle from 1991 to 2002, has begun writing a column for the CBS5 web site. He plans to write at least two columns a month for CBS5. They can be found at After leaving the Chron, Viviano began writing for National Geographic Magazine. He is now a resident of Italy. His first column for examines the economic boom in China. He writes, "With a population of 1.3 billion people, China is about to run out of workers." (Photo credit: National Geographic)

Griffith writing book about censorship

An update on Leslie Griffith, who left Channel 2 last year after 20 years at the station: She's written this article for the Web site truthout on the mistreatment of elephants by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. According to the italicized note at the end of the article, she is currently working on a book about corporate censorship of the media called "Shut-up and Read."

State's high court backs student journalist

The California Supreme Court — in its third pro-media ruling in three weeks — has refused to hear the Novato school district's challenge of a ruling that upheld a student's right to write an anti-illegal immigration editorial for the student newspaper (Chron) (BCN). The school district was appealing a ruling in May by the Court of Appeal in favor of student Andrew Smith, who now attends Santa Rosa Junior College and is in the Marine Corps reserves.

Smith was a high school senior when his school paper printed his editorial on Nov. 13, 2001 that suggested people who can't speak English should be suspected of being illegal immigrants and that a number of undocumented immigrants are criminals. School administrators collected all remaining copies of the newspaper and sent parents a letter apologizing for the editorial and saying it should never have been published. Smith then sued the district, contending the school's action violated his rights under a 1971 California law. The law gives public school students the right of free expression unless their material is obscene or slanderous or incites others to commit illegal acts or disrupt "the orderly operation of the school."

On Aug. 27, the California Supreme Court issued two pro-media rulings, one requiring state and local governments disclose the names and salaries of their employees and a second giving the public the right to inspect hiring records of police agencies.

Minneapolis ad man to head Chron sales

The head of sales for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Michael LaBonia (left), is replacing Phyllis Pfeiffer (right) as senior vice president of advertising at the Chronicle, the paper announced today. Pfeiffer is joining the advertising staff of Hearst Newspapers. LaBonia is quitting the Star Tribune, which has been mired in controversy after its publisher, Par Ridder, was accused by Dean Singleton of taking computer data and violating non-compete agreements when he left the rival St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Pioneer Press is operated by Singleton's MediaNews and owned by Hearst.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sister: Bailey 'lived, breathed journalism'

The sister of slain Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey remembers how enthusiastic her brother was about newspapers when he started in the business in Detroit. Lorelei Waqia recalled her brother took the bus to the Detroit Free Press one day. He saw that everybody just stared out the window. He wanted them to read. The next day Bailey took a handful of papers with him and passed out sections to a busload of commuters, she said. He did this for years, she said, laughing, until he went to work for The Associated Press in Washington.

Waqia, who now lives in Atlanta, tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that her brother "lived and breathed journalism ... And as we're finding out now, he was a mentor to so many people. He could always find the best in them and try to channel it toward his craft."

Above Waqia holds a copy of her brother's paper. In the background are Kareemah Iddeen, Sadiyyah Iddeen and 2-year-old Sahriyah Anderson. (Photo credit: Joey Ivansco, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Readers, editors prefer different stories

The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) compared the news agenda of the mainstream media for one week with the news agenda found on a host of user-news sites for the same period. In a week (June 24-29) when the mainstream press was focused on Iraq and immigration, the three leading user-news sites — Reddit, Digg and — were more focused on stories like the release of Apple’s new iphone and that Nintendo had surpassed Sony in net worth, according to the PEJ study. Here's the Chron's report on the study.

The PEJ study also looked at Yahoo's main news page, the most popular news Web site in the U.S. according to both comScore and Nielsen//Net Ratings. While the story choices on that page reflect the views of Yahoo's editors, the site offers three user-driven lists of stories: Most Viewed, Most-Recommended and Most E-mailed. Of the three, the Most Viewed page was also the most sensational. Eleven percent of all stories were celebrity-related stories, compared to 3 percent of Most E-mailed and just 1 percent of Most Recommended. Meanwhile, crime accounted for 8 percent of all coverage on Most Viewed, slightly higher than what it was on Most E-mailed (7 percent) and Most Recommended (5 percent).

Swartz: No last-column for a while

"At the newspaper, we've been passing around farewell cards for departing colleagues," writes Santa Rosa Press Democrat columnist Susan Swartz (pictured). "I joked that we should each circulate cards with our names on them, just to see what our co-workers would say about us if they thought we were leaving. Kind of like an early peek at your obituary." Swartz said she considered taking a buyout management was offering to newsroom staffers. "As it turned out, more people applied for the buyout than were needed and I'm still here. There will be no last-column column for awhile."

SJSU students to start conservative paper

While it seems there are fewer student newspapers these days, San Jose State University will soon be getting another paper — a conservative one. The student-run Spartan Daily reports today that a new club of student conservatives plans to put out the "Spartan Review," which will initially be funded by the Leadership Institute, a nationwide organization with a mission to "identify, recruit, train and place conservatives in politics, government and the media," as stated on its Web site. According to the Spartan Daily, the Leadership Institute will fly in people from Washington, D.C. to train students in production and management of the newspaper. The institute will also provide a grant for the first publication and teach students how to acquire funding on their own for all the following editions.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Coast Guard won't name people it rescues

The U.S. Coast Guard, now a part of the Department of Homeland Security, has decided it will no longer release the names of people it has rescued except during an active operation, the Navy Times reports. Loren Cochran, an attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, says the decision limits the public's ability to determine if the Coast Guard is performing its duties. “Did the Coast Guard get there quickly? Was it able to rescue everyone in a safe manner? With no witnesses available, if you follow the Coast Guard’s model, you’ll just have to take their word for it,” Cochran says.

Register now for First Amendment assembly

Registration is being accepted online for the California First Amendment Coalition's 12th annual Free Speech and Open Government Assembly, Oct. 25 and 26 at the USC Annenberg School for Communication in Los Angeles. The assembly will bring together the best and brightest of law, journalism and public policy. New Yorker Magazine writer and book author Jeffrey Toobin will be there to talk about secrecy and the U.S. Supreme Court. Journalists Judith Miller, Josh Wolf and Earl Caldwell will discuss going to jail to protect the secrecy of confidential sources. Panel discussions will cover the following topics: Student speech, citizen media, access law, sources and shields, tribal secrecy, personal privacy vs. public access, national security and government access, police secrecy, immigration reporting, geographic information system-assisted reporting and information technology. Awards will also be presented to leaders in First Amendment advocacy. Registration is $25 before Oct. 1 and $50 after.

Attempt at stronger open records laws fails

The Sacramento Bee laments in an editorial that even a modest attempt to improve California's public record laws couldn't get through the Legislature this session. Assembly Bill 1393 was the latest in a series of bills dating back to 1999 that attempted to make it easier for the public to see records generated by its government. These bills either didn't make it out of the Legislature or were vetoed by both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his predecessor, recalled Gov. Gray Davis. AB1393, after amendments watering it down, would have required state agencies to post information on their Web sites about how to request public records and to include a form to submit. The bill was sponsored by the open govenrment group CalAware and authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who told the Salinas Californian, "At this point, I’m not expecting anything."

Guild's claims against MediaNews detailed

The Guild has filed grievances with the National Labor Relations Board against MediaNews that purport to show how the newspaper company is attempting to bust their union. Robert Gammons of the East Bay Express (a former Guild leader at the Trib) says the union's greievances claim MediaNews:
    • refused to hire union workers in violation of federal law and then transferred jobs to non-union employees, thereby making it easier for the company to break the union.

    • did not replace at least eight reporters who resigned in the past year. Instead, the company left the positions vacant and then assigned most of the work to non-union reporters at its other East Bay newspapers including the Contra Costa Times.

    • purposely downsized the Trib and four other unionized papers (the Daily Review, the Argus, the Alameda Times-Star, the Tri-Valley Herald, and the San Mateo County Times) so that there would be fewer union than non-union workers when the company officially combined its union and non-union newsrooms on Aug. 13.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Farley cartoonist retiring due to illness

Phil Frank, the artist behind the local Farley comic strip, is retiring because of a serious illness that has kept him confined to his home in Sausalito for several months and has made it impossible for him to continue to draw, the Chronicle reports. Frank, 65, has been drawing Farley for 32 years. That's more than 9,300 comic strips.

Farley, a rumpled newspaper reporter who lives in a San Francisco apartment with a wisecracking talking raven named Bruce, comments on the local scene, especially politics. Willie Brown was Frank's all-time favorite mayor, appearing in the strip as an emperor surrounded by spear-carrying flunkies. "Willie," Frank once said, "was a gift from the cartoon gods."

In 2005, Frank and cohort Joe Troise created a nationally syndicated comic strip, the Elderberries, which addresses the funny aspects of aging. Frank and Troise's version of the Elderberries stopped running daily when Frank became ill about a year ago, the Chron reports. The strip and Farley have been running in the Chron as reruns. Outside of San Francisco, the Elderberries continues in about 75 papers with Corey Pandolph of Portland, Maine as the artist. (Photo credit: Eric Luse, Chronicle, June 2005)

Paper launches interactive sports site

The Palo Alto Weekly has launched an innovative local sports Web site,, that will feature use of video technology and databases to provide everything from late-breaking news about games to technology that allows any sports team to create a "team page," with game schedules, results, stats, videos and photos. An announcement from the paper said the site will feature video interviews with players and latest scores, stats and contributions from student journalists, players and fans.

"Parents, coaches and players may submit game scores as soon as a game is over -- or even during a game -- and they will immediately appear online, along with comments or stats from the game," Publisher Bill Johnson said.

Photos and short videos can be submitted by the public and will appear on the site via YouTube. Videos will also be posted by Palo Alto Weekly and Palo Alto Online staff members. Parents will even be able to post sideline photos.

Keith Peters, the Weekly's longtime sports editor who this year is observing his 40th year of covering sports in the Palo Alto/Stanford area, said the new sports Web site "is like nothing we've ever done before."

Friday, September 7, 2007

Los Gatos News prints last edition

The three-day-a-week Los Gatos News printed its last edition today, but the weekly Los Gatos Weekly-Times will be adding a second edition each week to fill the void for the community west of San Jose. Both papers are part of MediaNews Group, which also owns the San Jose Mercury News. An editor's note said the new paper, called The Weekender, will focus on local arts, entertainment and leisure activities. The Weekender will be delivered to homes and made available in racks around town every Friday. The Los Gatos News began life in 2002 as the Los Gatos Daily News, an off-shoot of the Palo Alto Daily News. It was reduced in January to three-days a week and the word "Daily" was removed from its title. Above is today's edition of the Los Gatos News.

New editors for San Mateo, Alameda papers

Connie Rux has been named editor of the twice-weekly Alameda Journal, replacing Jeff Mitchell, who will become managing editor of the San Mateo County Times, MediaNews Group's Bay Area Newspaper Group-East Bay has announced.

Previously Rux was the city editor at the Oakland Tribune. Rux estimates that she's worked for more than a dozen newspapers throughout her 38-year career. Before the Tribune, she was editor of the Hayward Daily Review from 2002 to 2004 and editor of the Eureka Times-Standard from 1999 to 2002. Rux will oversee a staff of two reporters and a calendar editor.

Mitchell was appointed in May 2006 to the Alameda Journal editorship, replacing Lucinda Ryan. Before arriving at the Alameda Journal, Mitchell was a reporter for the Pasadena Star-News, the Daily News-Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Times. He also served as a reporter and editor for the North County Times in San Diego County and most recently worked for the Fairfield Daily Republic and Marin Independent Journal.

Mel Lane memorial set for Tuesday, Sept. 11

A "celebration of life" memorial service will be held for Melvin Lane, the former co-owner and publisher of Sunset magazine, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 4 p.m. at Stanford Memorial Church, the Palo Alto Weekly reports. A reception will follow at Arrillaga Alumni Center on the Stanford campus. Lane died July 28 at his Atherton home of complications from Parkinson's disease. He was 85. (Photo credit: Stanford News Service via Palo Alto Weekly)

MediaNews signs up with Real Cities

MediaNews Group is adding the Web sites of its papers in the Bay Area to the Real Cities network, the Internet operation formerly associated with Knight Ridder and now owned by McClatchy, according to E&P and Business Journals. Here's the press release. Some of MediaNews Group's papers here, such as the Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News, were previously owned by Knight Ridder, which had Real Cities network its Web sites. The Real Cities network will now include 1,500 papers including those owned by Chronicle owner Hearst Corp.

Hearst sued in bid to take TV unit private

Hearst Corp., owner of the Chronicle, is facing opposition in its attempt to take its TV division private. Hearst-Argyle Television is a publicly held company that owns 29 stations including Sacramento's KCRA 3 (helicopter pictured above). Hearst holds a majority of its stock and wants to buy the outstanding shares from the public for $23.50 a share, about $2 less than its current price. MediaDailyNews reports that one suit was filed by an individual shareholder and another by the Sheet Metal Workers Pension Plan of Northern California. Other cases may be in the works. The suits seek a higher price from Hearst and class action status.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Gil Gross to replace Pete Wilson on KGO-AM

KGO-AM 810 has hired Gil Gross, an ABC Radio Network anchor, to take over the late Pete Wilson's 2-4 p.m. weekday slot starting Sept. 17. Gross currently broadcasts out of Los Angeles and anchors ABC Radio's newscasts from 3 to 8 p.m. (Pacific) weekdays. He anchored ABC Radio's 9/11 coverage. He's the main substitute for Paul Harvey and has subbed locally for Ronn Owens for several years.

"It's a good call for them, looking for a moderate, mid-range voice for that slot, someone with a political and news-oriented range like Wilson's," former Merc radio critic Brad Kava said on his blog. "Contrast to the shouting on other stations at those hours and he'll be a welcome voice of reason and intelligence."

KGO Operations Manager Jack Swanson said, "Gil has appeared on KGO so frequently during the past few years, it's not like a stranger joining us, but a respected friend."

Gross's career began in the early 1970s when, at the age of 23, he became the youngest anchorman in history on network newscasts from the ABC Chicago Bureau, while also anchoring at WLS Radio. He has had shows on stations including WABC, WCBS, WOR and a talk show on the CBS Radio Network.

"I am thrilled to be joining KGO Radio," Gross said. "It is still committed to local programming, making it almost unique — not just in this market, but in America. It is still committed to news, and it still has a stake in its community."

Gil is married to actress/singer Rhoda Bodzin; they have a son, Spencer Darrow Gross. They'll be relocating to the Bay Area in the next several months, KGO said in a news release.

Trouble ahead for newspaper Web sites

Newspapers like to point to rising Internet sales (which on average still represent only 7 percent of their revenues) as the future salvation of their businesses. But Bay Area newspaper industry analyst Alan Mutter (pictured) warns on his blog that Google's decision to link readers directly to the sites of the AP and other wire services will reduce the number of page views newspaper Web sites get. That will lower revenues in an area where newspapers were hoping to see growth to make up for a loss of print advertising dollars.

Mutter also notes that banner advertising, which is seen on virtually every newspaper site, is on the way out. Advertisers are paying less for banner ads because people tune them out, or literally block them out.

• Google's announcement about its deal with the wire services

Aug. 17: Readership at most newspaper Web sites flatlines

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Strong interest in high school boot camp

High schools from as far away as Fresno have said they plan to send students to the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club's boot camp for high school journalists on Oct. 5 on the campus of the College of San Mateo.

At the afternoon event, media professionals will discuss topics including: Motivating a staff, finding stories, page design, headline writing, podcasting, photography, online publishing, selling advertising, "What's an editorial and why do we need them?" and "Convergence: How print, online and broadcast work together." There's even one session titled, "So you're an editor! Now what?"

The boot camp is geared toward high school newspaper editors. The discussions will be led by veterans in the Bay Area newspaper business. The event is co-hosted by the Press Club and the College of San Mateo Journalism Department. To sign up students from your school, contact Micki Carter of the Press Club.

Time to close Business 2.0 magazine

Time Inc. is closing high-tech magazine Business 2.0, employees of the San Francisco-based publication were told at a staff meeting today, according to Brad Stone's NY Times business blog. Rumors about the 2.0's demise had been circulating for months as the magazine's page count plunged. This morning's New York Times reported that the October issue will be 2.0's last. TimeWarner bought the magazine in 2001 for a reported price of $68 million. Time Inc. will reassign the editor of Business 2.0, Joshua Quittner, and nine other editorial staff members to Fortune magazine, where they will help with Fortune’s technology coverage, conference business and Web site, the NY Times reported.

Google tells tech blogger to stay away

Valleywag, Silicon Valley's gossip site, reports that Dan Frommer, editor of the tech blog Silicon Alley Insider, has been told by Google's PR people to stay away from an Oct. 3 event the company is hosting for the media at its new offices in New York City. According to Valleywag, Frommer was told by a company representative that "this event is very much consumer-focused and based on your coverage, the content does not seem aligned with your topic area." Invited guests include W and Women's Wear Daily. The NY Post also says some journalists are not being invited.

Labor lawyer: Guild election likely

Veteran Oakland labor lawyer Dan Siegel, whose firm defeated MediaNews in a wrongful termination case last year, tells the East Bay Express that he thinks the National Labor Relations Board will order a union election for workers of the newly combined ANG-Contra Costa Times news organization. On Aug. 13, MediaNews canceled the Guild's contract with the ANG newspapers (Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, Hayward Daily Review, Fremont Argus and Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald). The move followed the company's decision to merge its Contra Costa Times newsroom (170 non-union jobs) with the ANG news operations (130 union jobs). If the NLRB orders an election, that will leave the question of representation up to newsroom staffers rather than management. "MediaNews cannot simply wave a magic wand and say, 'You're no longer union,'" said Siegel.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Stanford intern defends coverage in Uganda

"It was disturbing to feel so much hate coming toward me," says Stanford journalism student Katherine Roubos, who is interning at a Kampala, Uganda newspaper and is writing about gay and lesbian issues in a country where homosexuality is illegal. Ugandans have held protests, demanding that she be deported before her internship ends. The Mercury News reports today that Roubos is the former president of Stanford's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender group Querillas and helped organize the university's 2004 National Coming Out Day celebration. In an interview with the Merc, Roubos defended her coverage as balanced journalism, not activism. "I have been careful to keep personal opinion out of my articles, and to get quotes from all sides on the issues," she said. "I have been involved in gay rights organizations, but I am a human rights activist, not a single-issue person." [Aug. 30: Stanford grad ignites protests in Uganda]

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Results of salary ruling already seen

The landmark ruling by the state Supreme Court ordering city governments to disclose the salaries of their employees resulted Friday in the release of salary data by San Jose, the Mercury News reports today. San Jose was one of several cities that decided to withhold such information after San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Rosemary Pfeiffer ruled in 2003 that the Palo Alto Daily News was not entitled to receive a list of salaries paid by five city governments. Her ruling sparked a legal battle that culminated in Monday's ruling in a case brought by the Contra Costa Times against Oakland. Oakland had been withholding salary data based on the precedent set by Pfeiffer's decision.

The Merc and other MediaNews papers sent identical requests to other local governments after Monday's ruling, including Santa Clara County and the cities of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Fremont. The Merc said none of those cities had produced the records by Friday, and most were calculating what they planned to charge for the information, which San Jose provided for free. Santa Clara County, for example, plans to charge $1,760 for the information.

Pete Giddings back in the Bay Area

Meteorologist Pete Giddings has returned to the Bay Area, working as needed at KGO-AM 810, waging a campaign to fight scientific illiteracy and writing a blog. "Now, in my dotage I want to live where I love the weather, both in reality and in forecasting," Giddings writes. Giddings left KGO-TV in 1998 after 30 years as the station's weeknight weather anchor. He then worked in Reno and later Salinas. In the 1970s, Giddings, news anchors Van Amburg and Jerry Jensen and sports anchor John O'Reilly comprised a Channel 7 anchor team known as the KGO Cowboys or Four Horsemen. In promos they wore cowboy hats and rode horses. Their 11 p.m. news frequently had 50 shares or better.