Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bronstein doesn't have the answer either

Everybody is searching for a way to keep the news business viable, including former Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein in his new role as a Hearst vp. Robert MacMillan of Reuters asked him how the newspaper business needs to change.
    "How it needs to change? Anybody who tells you they have the answer to that question, or the answer to the question, 'What’s the successful business model for journalism,' is lying to you. Because no one has it," Bronstein said, according to Reuter's Media File blog. "People are doing things that may end up being right. Everybody’s reinventing, blowing up … You could write a great historical memo from an anonymous editor using only buzzwords that editors use in their speeches to the newsroom: 'This is how you do it,' 'We have to engage the reader more,' 'We have to be more nimble,' 'We have to be more Web-friendly.'"
Bronstein also said that the "quirky pioneering billionaires" who were buying newspapers a few years ago are probably getting tired of losing money, and asking themselves what were they thinking when they got into the business. The Reuters piece doesn't say whether Bronstein identified those billionaires, but Sam Zell (Tribune Co.) and Phil Anschutz (The Examiner) come to mind.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Narrative writing workshop in San Jose

The Society of Professional Journalists will host a Narrative Writing Workshop April 26 at San Jose State University. The workshop, led by Pulitzer-winner Tom Hallman Jr. of the Oregonian, will show journalists how to move beyond the inverted pyramid-style of writing to the art of storytelling. For details, go to the SPJ site.

Hearst signs deal with developer for Chron site

Hearst Corp. has signed a deal with Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises to redevelop the 4-acre Chronicle site at Fifth and Mission streets, according to a story in this morning's Chron. "If and when a decision was made to go forward and develop the project, The Chronicle would remain in San Francisco and likely go into some new space," Publisher Frank Vega said. Tishman Speyer and Wilson Meany Sullivan were also in the running for the redevelopment contract, the story says. The move shouldn't come as a surprise. On Oct. 25, 2007, the Chron said it was considering offers for the site at Fifth and Mission. According to the Chron's Matier & Ross, developers were interested in the site as far back as December 2005. Back then, M&R wrote: "In any case, Vega insists that the paper itself is not for sale, and that the editorial and advertising offices would be relocated to smaller and less costly digs only if it made financial sense -- which, so far, it doesn't."(Photo credit: Deanne Fitzmaurice, Chronicle, file)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MediaNews wins East Bay union battle

The National Labor Relations Board has decided that MediaNews was within the law when it canceled its contract with the Newspaper Guild on Aug. 13 after merging the newsrooms of the Contra Costa Times and the Alameda Newspaper Group. ANG includes the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, Hayward Daily Review, Fremont Argus and Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald and Marin Independent Journal. The merger of the two news operations created one entity with 300 jobs -- 130 from the unionized ANG and 170 from the non-union Contra Costa Times. The changes "were entrepreneurial in nature," NLRB associate general counsel Barry Kearney wrote, according to a story by George Avalos of the Contra Costa Times. The Guild, which worked for more than 10 years to organize ANG, said it will continue its efforts to organize the combined news operation.

2 notes to high school journalism advisers

First, grant applications for equipment must be postmarked by April 16. The California Newspaper Publishers Association is handing out grants of up to $1,500 per school specifically for the purchase of equipment to improve the production process at campus newspapers. Questions? Need an application? Contact Joe Wirt at CNPA. (Editor's note: Earlier in the day we had the wrong due date. April 16 is the correct date.)

Second, the San Francisco Peninsula Press club is offering scholarships o high school, community college, college and university students from the 11 Bay Area counties who are planning a career in print, broadcast or photojournalism. Here's a link to the flyer that gives details. The deadline is April 1. Please distribute copies of the flyer to students or post it in your classroom.

Merc ad man takes over in Santa Cruz

Jeff Muhleman, who has spent the past nine-and-a-half years as director of marketing and business development for the San Jose Mercury News, is the new advertising director for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, succeeding Deb Geissler. Both papers are owned by MediaNews. Here's a link to the announcement of his hiring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Legendary ad man Hal Riney dead at 75 is reporting tonight that Hal Riney died on Monday at his home in San Francisco after a battle with cancer. He was 75. Riney helped build San Francisco into a creative center for the advertising industry with low-key, upbeat campaigns for Saturn cars, Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers and the re-election of President Ronald Reagan, the NY Times said in his obit.

Here's a You Tube link to his classic "Morning in America" ad for Reagan's re-election. And, yes, Riney did the voiceover.

"What is remarkable about the resonance of that effort for Reagan was that it was a positive ad message," wrote David Kiley of Business Week. "As politics has been driven deep into the gutter of negative advertising and talk-radio partisan blather, it is a testament to Riney that he wrote the only positive political ads in modern times that are still remembered."

Riney's entire career was spent in San Francisco, starting in 1956 as a marketing trainee at BBDO. Ten years later, Riney was promoted to exec VP-creative director. He switched in 1972 to San Francisco shop Botsford Ketchum but four years later took a job opening Ogilvy & Mather's San Francisco office. He set up shop as Hal Riney & Partners in 1985 and the following year bought the remaining 40 percent of the agency from Ogilvy to become an independent.

Riney is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Sutherland Riney, and two children from a previous marriage, Benjamin, 21, and Samantha, 19. His ashes will be spread at Mount St. Helens, Wash., where he grew up and loved to fish and hike, Ms. Riney said told AdAge. A wake celebrating his life is being planned to take place in about a month.

UPDATE, 12:05 a.m. Wednesday: The Chron has posted its obit. George Raine -- after noting the Bartles and Jaymes, Saturn and Reagan campaigns -- writes:
    "These advertising campaigns and many more had a unique and relaxed Western feeling to them and stood in contrast to so much in a New York-dominated industry. Importantly, Riney's ads prompted marketers to pay attention to the San Francisco ad scene. He narrated many of them, and his gravelly voice is as memorable as the products he promoted."
Raine quotes Jeff Goodby, one of Riney's proteges and co-founder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners:
    "[Riney] was an optimistic, perhaps even romantic, vision of America. It was a land populated with people of similar values, small-town Fourth of July parades, and rocking chairs on shady porches. There was little tolerance of fakery and cant. It was this vision he mined in his 1984 campaign for Reagan, and even in his advertising for beer and automobiles."
Here's a link to the full Chron obit. posted this obit and a link to Riney's Reagan ad about the bear in the woods. It added:
    "Riney will long be one of the names most associated with San Francisco advertising, alongside local titans like Howard Gossage. He influenced many of the city's agencies and big players, including Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hispanic journo group drops Merc project

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has suspended a recruiting partnership with the Mercury News.

"More positive signs in the hiring and retention of journalists of color at the Mercury News that increase the diversity of its staffing and an improvement in its relationship with the local Latino community need to be undertaken," the association said in a March 13 statement posted on its Web site.

"Until that time this news organization will not be acknowledged as a partner in the Parity Project," the statment said. "When the Mercury News shows its commitment to newsroom staffing that reflects the diversity of its community and its active interaction with that community, NAHJ stands ready to resume our active partnership. We look forward to that happening."

The association says the recruiting project has 25 other media partners.

See updated list of CC Times, ANG buyouts

We now have identified 55 newsroom staffers who have taken buyout packages. Scroll down a few items for the list or use this link.

CBS 5's 'Good Question' gets a good review

TV critic Bill Mann says Ken Bastida's "Good Question" segment on the CBS 5 "Eyewitness News" at 11 is "one of the quirkier and more enjoyable things on local TV." We won't steal the punchline of Mann's lede, but Mann notes that Bastida's segment is "another reason the station's newscasts are gaining more viewers."

Chronicle seeks tax reduction on its building

In a story about developers seeking property tax reductions for buildings that have lost value during the real estate slump, the Chronicle reported that its owner, Hearst Corp., wants a tax break from the city and county of San Francisco on several of its properties. "That includes a claimed $25.7 million (63 percent) reduction in the value of The Chronicle headquarters at 901 Mission St. [pictured], which the company has acknowledged it is considering redeveloping," said the story by staff writer James Temple. No more specifics were given. Hopefully no horse trading will take place. (Photo credit: Deanne Fitzmaurice, Chronicle, file)

Five Asian American journalists profiled

Lloyd LaCuesta, Robert Handa, Alan Wang, Kristen Sze and Janelle Wang are profiled in the latest edition of Asian Week in a feature about Asian Americans on local TV. The story by Gerrye Wong notes that Kristen Sze and Janelle Wang, both of KGO ABC7, grew up as childhood friends in the South Bay and in Taiwan. Sze started her career writing for Aragon High’s newspaper in San Mateo. The story provides a bio of each of the journalists mentioned. ABC7's Alan Wang says, "I think the majority of Asian parents try to direct their sons into professions they believe have higher earning potential ... In my first job, I was making $13,000 a year in Texas, and my father was chewing his nails off while trying to be supportive.”

Despite layoffs, MediaNews is still hiring

Despite layoffs at the Merc and buyouts at the Contra Costa Times and ANG, MediaNews Group in Denver has hired a new leader for its online operations (Oliver Knowlton, formerly of Sports Illustrated and Time Inc.) and an executive vice president for sales and marketing (Mark Winkler, formerly of Comcast). Also, former Knight Ridder president Steve Rossi will replace George Riggs as president and CEO of the company’s California Newspaper Partnership.

March 2008 Press Club board minutes

March 19, 2008 — Meeting was brought to order at 6:15 p.m. by President Jamie Casini at the San Mateo Daily News office.

Board members present: Jamie Casini & Peter Cleaveland. Executive Director Darryl Compton was also in attendance. Absent: Micki Carter, Jon Maysm Dave Price, Ed Remitz, Jay Thorwaldson, Aimee Strain, Jennifer Aquino and Jack Russell were not in attendance.

Treasurer's report: Compton provided the board with an updated treasurer's report.

Scholarships: Compton noted that we have received no scholarship entries from high school or college students and encouraged us to help get the word out.

Professional awards contest: We received about the same number of entries this year as last year but made less money on entry fees.

We will be getting entries to judge from Southeast Texas and Florida (yay!)

High school advisor forum: Tentative date is April 18 but we need someone to organize this with high school advisors and we need to find a venue for it.

Board meeting schedule: The majority of members that emailed Jamie back re. a better time to meet said night still work best, so we will have out next meeting on Wednesday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the San Mateo Daily News office.

Meeting adjourned at 7 p.m.

Minutes submitted by President Jamie Casini.

Journalist Josh Wolf returns to jail, briefly

Journalist Josh Wolf is no stranger to a jail cell. Wolf, was jailed for 226 days because he refused to turn over a video he shot of a political protest, participated in Thursday's protests on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war as a reporter, not a protester. The distinction didn't matter. Here are a couple of quotes from his story posted at Fog City Journal:
    Having covered numerous San Francisco protests in the past, I knew to place myself outside the police encirclement. For some reason an officer decided he wanted me arrested and I found myself being dragged by the back of my head into the arrest-zone. I explained that I had no intention of interfering with police business and had been pulled into the circle inadvertently, but my complaints went unanswered and I soon found myself placed under arrest and transported onto a bus operated by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.
Despite his arrest, Wolf writes "With few exceptions, the rank-and-file Police officers and Sheriff’s deputies that I dealt with exhibited a level of professionalism that deserves to be commended." He adds:
    "We were processed almost immediately upon our arrival. It was a pleasant surprise seeing a gaggle of police working so diligently to process our citations. Around noon it appeared that the arduous task of completing our paperwork was complete and a citation had been affixed to everyone’s personal property. Those amongst us who were elderly had been released, and we assumed the rest of us would be let back out in short order. Having nothing left to do, the cops began to congregate in small circles and practiced the fine art of killing time."
(Photo credit: Luke Thomas, Fog City News)

A story familiar to Bay Area journalists

The decline of the Long Beach Press-Telegram might sound familiar to Bay Area journalists. MediaNews, the Denver-based owner of most of the Bay Area's paid dailies, is cutting costs in the Southland by combining the copy desks of the Long Beach paper and the Torrance Daily Breeze. Dennis McDougal, author of "Privileged Son: Otis Chandler and the Rise and Fall of the L.A. Times Dynasty," worked at the Long Beach paper as a young reporter, and wrote this opinion piece in Sunday's L.A. Times. A couple of quotes:
    "Company founder, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive William Dean Singleton has left no doubt about what's important to him in what remains of U.S. daily journalism -- profit margins. In relentlessly cutting "news" from newspapers to maintain profits, he and many of his peers have helped transform an industry. Journalists like [re-write man Stan] Leppard [who is mentioned at the top of the piece] are bought out or laid off, limiting -- or even eliminating -- the newsroom opportunities for mentoring that transforms youthful ambition into thoughtful journalism. The fact that the mistakes of reporters make it into print more frequently these days, and that newspapers increasingly shy away from investigative stories, can be traced to the slash-and-shrink policies of chief executives who vanquish veterans and intimidate greenhorns, all the while adding more "failing" newspapers to their portfolios."
And ...
    "The city of Long Beach has already recognized this, complaining to Media- News that the P-T isn't doing its job of reporting the news, and threatening to pull its legal advertising from the downsized daily. The irony -- which would never get past Leppard -- is that withholding such advertising could kill the paper, and while The Times might gain some disaffected or former P-T readers, it would be losing a farm team."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Merc's Vindu Goel headed to NY Times

Tech columnist Vindu Goel (pictured) announced on his blog this morning that he is leaving the Mercury News after nine years to become the deputy technology editor at The New York Times. Goel, whose last day is April 1, announced his departure about a month after another Merc tech columnist, Dean Takahashi, quit to become a full-time blogger at VentureBeat. Goel said that while he had a good run at the Merc, he couldn't "resist the opportunity to go play on the news industry’s equivalent of Broadway. If the Merc is the newspaper of Silicon Valley, the Times is the newspaper of the United States."

FCC to hold Comcast hearing at Stanford

The FCC has scheduled an April 17 hearing at Stanford (no time or building has been announced yet) to hear testimony about whether Comcast and other ISPs are blocking access to peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent, Richard Koman of ZD Net reports. Valleywag reported previously that the FCC decided to have a second hearing after an earlier meeting at Harvard went awry. Valleywag said Comcast paid locals to take seats in the auditorium so that net neutrality types couldn't get in.

SF may fine papers for unwanted deliveries

The Examiner's practice of dropping unsolicited newspapers on doorsteps is under fire in San Francisco. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (left) has introduced legislation that would impose fines on newspapers that continue to deliver after a resident has asked that the paper stop. He says half of the litter complaints his office gets are about newspapers.

Mirkarimi wants to require newspapers that deliver unsolicited copies to publish a phone number or e-mail address residents could use to place their residence on a do-not-deliver list, according to a report in today's Chronicle.

If newspapers keep coming, the publisher would face a $100 fine per residence on the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for any thereafter, the Chron reported. Also, in some circumstances, people living at the residences where the unwanted newspapers are delivered could collect three times the amount of the fine from those who violate the law.

The law targets the Examiner, owned by billionaire Denver oilman Phil Anschutz (right), which is the only major paper in San Francisco that delivers unsolicited papers to homes. Publisher John Wilcox is quoted as saying his company delivers 120,000 copies to San Francisco homes each day. The Examiner's pitch to advertisers is that it is read in high-income homes. The law exempts paid subscription papers such as the Chron. The SF Daily, SF Weekly, Guardian and Anschutz's other daily, The City Star, don't go to homes.

If the "comments" section after the Chron article is any indication, the law has popular support. "I must have called 5 or so odd times over the last 10 years, and after a few litterless days, the trash — err Examiner — is delivered again ... out on the sidewalk, bushes or street. Make it stop!" Wrote another person: "The Examiner is obnoxious, they way they MAKE you pick up their garbage."

The same law was proposed by a Maryland legislator after complaints by residents about the Examiner in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington. Residents there were unable to get the Examiner to stop delivering despite numerous phone calls to the paper. A Washington TV station did this report about their complaints. The AP reports that the Maryland legislator withdrew the legislation, however, after the Examiner and other papers promised to clean up their act.

Radio anchor pleads guilty to molest charge

Former Sonoma County radio newsman Ron Kirk is facing as much as 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to a felony count of child molestation, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. He pleaded guilty to one count in exchange for 14 others being dropped. Kirk (pictured), 49, whose full name is Ron Kirk Kuhlmeyer, was a reporter and morning co-anchor at stations KZST and KSRO until his arrest in October. A girl who was a friend of Kirk’s family told detectives that he touched her inappropriately when she was between 11 and 14 years old, the newspaper reported. Sentencing is set for May. (Photo credit: Santa Rosa Press Democrat, December 2007)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

KGO-AM, CBS5 dominate APTRA awards

KPIX CBS5 landed 12 Associated Press Television-Radio Association (APTRA) awards over the weekend, the most of any TV station in the contest's seven-state territory, while KGO 810 picked up nine first place trophies, more than any other radio station.

Bret Burkhart (left) earned five of KGO's nine awards including his third consecutive Reporter of the Year award. Other winners at NewsTalk 810 were Production Manager Mike Amatori for Best News Promo and Rich Walcoff for Best Sports Segment. Here's KGO's news release.

Channel 5's first-place prizes included:
    • Best 30-Minute Newscast — 11 p.m., Brian Neal, Dana King, Ken Bastida and Dan Rosenheim

    • Best Anchor or Anchor Team — Allen Martin and Thuy Vu for their coverage of the tiger escape at the SF zoo

    • Best Sports Segment — Dennis O'Donnell and Anthony Catchatoorian

    • Best Weathercast Segment — "Roberta Gonzales Pinpoint Forecast," Roberta Gonzales and Eric Elliott

    • Best Serious Feature — "Behind The Green Box," Anna Werner, Abigail Sterling, Craig Franklin, Gerard Watson and Jeff Harris
Werner (right) also won the Chris Harris Reporter of the Year award. Here's a list of all of Channel 5's winners.

CBS5 to provide news video, ads to bloggers

CBS5 is trying a new way to get its news headlines, video and advertising to the public. CBS5 is offering widgets to local bloggers and social media Web sites. Each widget will feature top local headlines and images with links to the video and text stories on the CBS station's site. Included in the widget is a banner ad that CBS5 will sell, but share the revenue with the blogger or Web site. Local sites that have already become members of the CBS 5 Local Ad Network include SFBayStyle and (shown above).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Press Club seeks scholarship applications

April 1 is the deadline to apply for scholarships from the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club. Here's a link to the flyer that gives the details. We encourage journalism instructors to post the flyer in their classrooms. The competition is open to high school, community college, college and university students from the 11 Bay Area counties who are planning a career in print, broadcast or photojournalism.

Daily News moves to Menlo Park building

Over the weekend, the Palo Alto Daily News moved from downtown Palo Alto to an office park in Menlo Park on the east side of Highway 101. The Daily News will share its new space with the Mercury News' distribution operation at 255 Constitution Drive. The move will save owner MediaNews Group money and, according to a story published Sunday, improve the comfort of workers who complained about temperatures in the paper's downtown buildings at 324 High St. (pictured) and 329 Alma St.

Other papers have made similar moves. In November, MediaNews moved the Santa Cruz Sentinel from its downtown Santa Cruz home to an office building in Scotts Valley. Last June, MediaNews moved the San Mateo County Times from its home of 43 years on Amphlett Boulevard near Highway 101 to a leased building at 477 Ninth St. at S. Claremont St. The Times building will be demolished to make way for a housing development. In May 2007, MediaNews moved the Oakland Tribune from the downtown Tribune Tower to an office building across the freeway from the Oracle Arena. The Chronicle announced in October 2007 that it was talking to developers about selling its building at Fifth and Mission streets. And a few weeks ago the Palo Alto Weekly said it will break ground within the next two months on a $5 million building at 450 Cambridge Ave.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Martin Reynolds named Tribune editor

Martin G. Reynolds has been promoted from managing editor to editor of the Oakland Tribune after 13 years at the paper. "It feels pretty surreal," Reynolds, 39, said of being named editor. "When you think about following in the footsteps of a lot of the great journalists who have come through the Tribune, it's amazing."

The Berkeley native said he would like to see the Tribune reaffirm its ties to Oakland. "I also believe, as a newspaper, we have a responsibility to present some solutions to problems through a solution-oriented approach to reporting," Reynolds said in a story announcing his appointment.

Pete Wevurski, who previously held the title of editor, will continue as managing editor of Bay Area News Group-East Bay, which includes the Tribune. Reynolds will continue to serve as an assistant managing editor for news for BANG-EB. (Photo credit: Oakland Tribune file, 2006)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

NBC11 says it's entirely powered by wind

KNTV NBC11 reports that it has become the first television station in the U.S. to be powered by wind. "That means every bit of power used at the studios on the 2400 block of North First Street in San Jose is replaced on the grid by clean energy created by wind farms," a release from the station says.

The announcement comes one month after KGO-AM 810 announced it was installing solar panels at its transmitter site near the Dumbarton Bridge so that it could become the first major broadcasting station in California to use solar power to transmit its signal.

The General Electric-owned station is buying "renewable energy certificates" that will fund wind energy providers. The screen grabs at right of wind-blown anchors Jessica Aguirre, Brent Cannon and Laura Garcia-Cannon are from a new promo.

"This is not a hollow marketing tactic. We are taking a very frank appraisal of our carbon footprint, and will take our viewers through the process as we make changes and improvements to our building and our lives," said NBC11 President and General Manager Richard Cerussi.

'What we have is a business model problem'

"I see tremendous energy going in to breaking new ground in gathering news, telling stories and creating community. What I don't see is an equivalent amount of innovation occurring around the business models that will support journalism going forward," writes Merc business writer Chris O'Brien on PBS's Idea Lab site.
    "There is an enormous, untapped opportunity for innovation around the business model. This is where the conversation needs to go."
Newspapers have been putting their stories online for more than a decade, hoping that their online operations would provide the kind of revenues their print side used to provide. It isn't working out.
    "More people read the content of the Mercury News than ever. And technology represents an opportunity to deepen our connection with those readers and enhance our impact on their lives.

    "What we have is a business model problem. Even as our audience has exploded, our revenues have cratered."
O'Brien notes that TV is having a similar problem as people begin to watch shows on their computers.
    "There is an enormous, untapped opportunity for innovation around the business model. This is where the conversation needs to go.
(Photo credit: Idea Lab)

Chron circ dropped 28% in four years

Of the nation's 20 top newspapers, the Chronicle has suffered the largest percentage circulation loss in the past four years, an analysis by E&P of ABC figures shows. Between September 2003 and September 2007, the Chronicle's daily circulation fell by 28.8 percent or 147,406 copies. The current figure is 365,234. In terms of percentages, the second biggest loser was the LA Times at 20.2 percent. The Times lost the most copies per day (201,133) and second was the Chron.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

BANG-EB launches 'NewPaper' effort

With the departure of 15 to 18 percent of its news department, the combined Contra Costa Times-ANG Newspapers are launching an effort called NewPaper to re-examine what they're doing, a memo from editor Kevin Keane (via Poynter) says.
    "For the sake of the NewPaper discussion, we must assume that the business model of newspapers has been permanently altered, and that we will never be able to support a fulltime news operation larger than what we have now. ...

    "Perhaps we should shrink our coverage area and concentrate on what we know we can still cover well given the size of our staff. Or form regional partnerships with other media. With pressure to reduce newsprint consumption, should we combine sections on certain days? How should our papers be organized and zoned? And what elements of design should we embrace?"
The CC Times and ANG are controlled by MediaNews Group, whose CEO, Dean Singleton, reportedly was displeased by the Merc's recent redesign proposal. A few days after Singleton saw a presentation outlining the Merc's plans, editor Carole Leigh Hutton abruptly resigned.

New service to help with records requests

Californians Aware, a nonprofit open government advocacy group, is offering a new service to help people make public records requests via the Internet. CalAware's new "SunScribe" will offer three levels of service:
    • The basic level will be a do-it-yourself option that will generate a form letter for the user to submit. This service is free to CalAware members, or $2.99 to others.

    • For those seeking anonymity as requesters, CalAware will contact the relevant agency on the user’s behalf at the Gold service level, available to members at $19.99.

    • The full-service or Premium level will include further assistance and oversight by General Counsel and Founder Terry Francke, who will follow up with the agency with reconsideration letters if he feels that the request was improperly denied, plus an evaluation of the strength of the agency’s position to help denied requesters decide their options. Premium level service is available to members at $74.99.
Go to for details of the service that starts March 20.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

List of CCTimes, ANG buyouts

[UPDATED at 9 a.m., March 13] Here's a start on the list of names of employees who are leaving the Contra Costa Times, ANG and related newspapers after receiving buyout offers:

Andy Altman-Ohr, assistant sports editor, Pleasanton
Lea Blevins, reporter, Tri-Valley Herald
Keith Bennetts, East County editor
Bari Brenner, copy editor/travel editor
Dan Buchholz, Hayward city editor)
Herman Bustamante, photo
Julie Cadigan, Danville/Pleasanton editor
Momo Chang, reporter, Oakland Tribune
Rachel Cohen, reporter, Hayward
Linda Davis, reporter, Alameda, Hills Newspapers
Chris De Benedetti, reporter, Fremont
Janice De Jesus, reporter, metro
Rob Dennis, Argus city editor
Mary DiMeglio, copy editor
Donna DiPaolo, copy editor
Steve Ellison, sports copy editor
Francisco Fernandez, copy editor
Michele Fry, opinion
Trine Gallegos, copy editor
Dogen Hannah, reporter
Steve Herendeen, Oakland Tribune local sports editor
Rog Hernandez, graphics
Deb Hollinger, chief clerk, editorial
Ryan Huff, reporter, metro
Beverly Hunt, librarian
Jamaal Johnson, reporter, Fremont
Chad Jones, theater critic
Nader Khouri, photo
Bill Kruissink, Valley Times sports
Kate Lavin, copy editor
Ron Lewis, photo
Alan Lopez, reporter, Alameda, Hills Newspapers
Scott Marshall, reporter, CC Times
Mike Meenan, San Mateo city editor
Dennis Miller, Tri-Valley Herald local sports editor
Candice Murphy, features
Nargis Nooristani, reporter, metro
Brenda Payton, columnist/reporter, Oakland Tribune
Bob Pepping, photo
Laurie Phillips Huff, reporter
Mary Pols, film critic
Ben Reed, copy editor
Ron Riesterer, photo
Michele Roderick, copy editor
Ricardo Sanchez, West County sportsr
Joni Sare, graphics
John Sherriff, sports copy editor/paginator)
Jennifer Slafkosky, copy editor
Jay Solmonson, photo
Randy Striegel, weeklies news editor
Aaron Swarts, reporter, Tracy
Tue Nam Ton, photo
Alyssa Tong, copy editor
John Vieira, copy editor
Jon Walsh, sports copy editor

Bay Area News Group-East Bay said on March 6 that it will buy out 107 of its 1,100 workers, however it has declined to identify them or say how many are from the newsroom. If you have names to add to this list, e-mail us at We appreciate those who have already sent us lists including the Guild. The Guild estimates that between 15 and 18 percent of the BANG-EB staff was eliminated in this round of buyouts.

Stanford asked to save journalism

"My request is that Stanford take on the problem of how to preserve public and investigative journalism with the same seriousness academia addressed global warming, because it is that desperate," writes Wes Hughes, a former LA Times editor, in a letter to university president John Hennessy. "Put some of Stanford’s best minds to work on it, create a think tank, talk to everybody but be wary when you talk to publishers and top editors because they are at a loss as to what to do and have succumbed to herd panic." He copied the letter to Sam Zell, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Dean Singleton, Associated Press, Poynter Institute and the Pugh Trust. Here's the entire letter courtesy of LA Observed.

Subject of Merc investigation kills himself

The head of a legal services firm that was the subject of a three-part series by the Mercury News has shot and killed himself in his San Jose home, the Merc reported today. Gary Proctor (right), 63, resigned in mid-February, the week the series "Broken Families, Broken Courts" appeared. Proctor's firm has a contract with Santa Clara County to represent parents who faced losing their chldren in Santa Clara County Juvenile Dependency Court. The series reported that attorneys for Proctor's firm often lacked such fundamental tools as experts and investigators, and regularly met the parents they represented on the day of their hearings. As a result of the series, court officials had begun an audit of Proctor's firm and started to look for a new firm to represent indigent parents. Proctor was also a Newport Beach City Council member from 2000 to 2008. (Photo credit: Mercury News file)

Monday, March 10, 2008

As print shrinks, TV expands

KPIX CBS5's addition of a 10 p.m. newscast on Channel 44 provided the jumping off point for a story by the Chron's Joe Garofoli on the expansion of local TV newscasts. In the past year, KTVU Channel 2 has launched a 7 p.m. news on co-owned Channel 36, and KGO ABC7 is providing an hour of local news at 9 p.m. on Granite Broadcasting's KBWB TV20. Garofoli writes:
    These additional newscasts make money, as they don't cost a lot to produce for a station already running a news operation; often they earn more than the syndicated program that they replace. Technological advances in TV newsrooms mean that a broadcast that used to take six to eight people to produce can now be done by one or two.

Chron edit page editor gives tips to PR types

"In my experience, the public figures who consistently get positive media attention practice what I call "the three A's" - accessible, accurate and articulate," says John Diaz, editor of the Chron's editorial pages. He points out that Hillary Clinton "hasn't done herself any favors with her rationing of accessibility. If you want to challenge the narrative that you're inauthentic and a control freak, well, a good start would be to make yourself more available to journalists' questions."

Melanie gets blasted after losing KSFO gig

Go to the jump on Sunday's Matier & Ross column and you'll discover that Melanie Morgan went out and got smashed last Monday after she was let go by KSFO 560's new owners in a cost-cutting move. KSFO is emphasizing that she wasn't cut because of her on-air performance. "I had a great run," Morgan told M&R. "I'm just going to enjoy not getting up at 3 a.m. for a while."

Marin County editor launches eco magazine

Longtime journalist and technology writer Karen Peterson of San Anselmo is publishing a new green living magazine called Terra Marin. Her quarterly magazine, which debuted last August, has documented growing public efforts to save energy, reduce greenhouse gases and avert global warming. "I see the magazine as a resource guide," Peterson told the Marin IJ. "I want to show people the things we can do - for ourselves and our community, and as an example to the rest of the world." Here's the IJ's story on the magazine. (Photo credit: Jeff Vendsel, Marin Independent Journal)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

No Headliners for Merc, Chron; KCBS gets 3

The Chron and the Merc usually pick up a number of National Headliner Awards every year, but this year they struck out. Ray Chavez of the Oakland Tribune, who earned a third-place Headliner for his photography portfolio, was the only newspaper winner in the Bay Area this year.

More than 90 Headliner awards will be handed out to newspapers by The Press Club of Atlantic City at a banquet on May 17. In 2006, the Chronicle won three Headliners while the Merc and the Oakland Tribune each got one. In 2007, the Chron won five Headliners and the Merc two.

However, electronic journalists in the Bay Area won six Headliners this year.

KCBS-AM 740 won three Headliners, the most of any news organization in the region. The all-news station landed first-place awards for its Web site and newscast (its morning team) and a second-place trophy for documentary or public affairs (Doug Sovern).

San Francisco's Current TV, the cable network started by Al Gore, won a first-place Headliner for investigative reporting by a broadcast or cable network for a story titled "From Russia With Hate."

KPIX-TV CBS5 earned a second-place Headliner for business and consumer reporting on TV. The award was for a story titled “The Wireless Runaround II” by Jeanette Pavini, Craig Franklin, Jeff Harris.

KGO-AM 810 received a third-place award for breaking news for its coverage of a wildfire by its afternoon news team.

Palo Alto Weekly to build a new home

The Palo Alto Weekly says it will break ground within the next two months on a $5 million, 10,000-square-foot office building at 450 Cambridge Ave. that will become its new headquarters. The three-story aluminum- and glass-paneled office, shown here, will also be a model for green building design and construction, according to Weekly publisher and company president Bill Johnson. Since 1981, the Weekly has rented an 8,600-square-foot building on Forest Avenue. (Rendering courtesy of the Hagman Group via Palo Alto Online.)

MediaNews cuts met by protests, warnings

Newsroom budget cuts by MediaNews have been met with protests in Southern California and a warning from the Society of Professional Journalists in Northern California.

In Southern California, MediaNews is merging the 65,000-circulation Torrance Daily Breeze and the 88,000 Long Beach Press-Telegram, which will eliminate 19 jobs and put the two papers under the same local management based in Torrance, according to AP. Staff at the Long Beach paper who were not immediately laid off were told to go to the Torrance office for interviews for their same positions, according to a report in the Cal State Long Beach 49er. The Long Beach operation, once a jewel in the Knight Ridder crown, will essentially become a bureau for the Torrance paper.

Angry staffers and readers complained to the Long Beach City Council on Tuesday, holding signs saying, "Save Our Jobs" and "Don't Take the Local Out Of Local News," according to the 49er (see picture). Council members said they fear Long Beach will lose solid local coverage with portions of the Press-Telegram based elsewhere.

"We need you. We need the hometown news," said Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal about the Press-Telegram at the city council meeting, according to the 49er.

City council member Tonia Reyes Uranga said the city spends $100,000 a year in advertisements in the Press-Telegram, and that she would like to see where that money is going.

In Northern California, SPJ issued a statement expressing concerns about job cuts at the MediaNews papers in the region and vowing to monitor the quality of journalism in those papers. The statement came out on Wednesday, before the Mercury News and other MediaNews papers in the region cut a total of 157 jobs. The statement said:
    The NorCal chapter will work with its membership to collect data documenting the effects of the cutbacks on San Francisco Bay Area news coverage. Chapter representatives will seek direct discussions with senior management of MediaNews as well as journalists, union representatives, media analysts, academics, community leaders and other interested parties. The board plans to share its findings with the public and with concerned governmental officials.
(Photo credit: Matt Sun, Cal State Long Beach Daily 49er)

Cuts shrink statehouse press corps

Fewer and fewer reporters are covering state government in California these days. Alvie Lindsay, the Sacramento editor of the Mercury News, has accepted a buyout from the MediaNews-owned paper. The Los Angeles Daily News, also owned by MediaNews, has closed its Sacramento bureau and reporter Harrison Sheppard is headed back to LA, according to Steve Maviglio's California Majority Report.

The Sacramento Bee says MediaNews, with 29 dailies in California, still has five people in its Capitol bureau: Steve Harmon and Steve Geissinger of the Bay Area News Group, East Bay (which publishes the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times, among other papers) and Edwin Garcia, Mike Zapler and Kimberly Kindy of the Mercury News.

Lindsay told the SacBee that further cutbacks are expected. “It was always assumed that the staffing up here would be reduced beyond that,” he said. Lindsay said at least one, if not both, of the non-Mercury News positions in Sacramento was expected to be eliminated.

SF Weekly owner doesn't want to pay up

The corporate owner of the SF Weekly is vowing to make it hard for the Bay Guardian to collect the $15.6 million it was awarded by a San Francisco jury on Thursday.

The jury found that the Weekly, owned by the 16-paper Village Voice Media chain, sold ads at below cost for 12 years in an attempt to run the locally owned Guardian out of business, in violation of California's predatory pricing law.

In a post trial commentary on its blog, the Weekly suggested jurors were swayed by their emotions as the Guardian portrayed itself as the local victim of a national chain.

"Village Voice Media vows that Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann will have a difficult time cashing his ticket," the blog stated bluntly.

The Weekly's blog hinted at some of the arguments it will use in its appeal, such as claiming the predatory pricing law is out of date.

The verdict upset Village Voice Media executive Mike Lacey, who was heard in the courtroom mumbling “shit” over and over again as the jury's answers to 11 questions were read aloud, according to Guardian editor Tim Redmond's blog. The Guardian ran the picture above (by Charles Russo) of Lacey leaving moments after the verdict.

Meanwhile, the Guardian plans to return to court to ask a judge to monitor sales by the SF Weekly to prevent the paper from selling ads at below cost in the future. If the judge agrees, the Weekly would have to raise its prices and it is possible that customers might shift their business to the Guardian.

Ward breached court monitoring rules

Former KGO-AM host Bernie Ward violated his "electronic monitoring schedule" and then initially lied about his whereabouts to federal agents, according to a court document posted online by The Smoking Gun. Ward, who is charged with sending and receiving child pornography, appeared before federal Magistrate Maria Elena James, who "strongly admonished" him but didn't revoke his $250,000 bail, according to the document. His bail includes a curfew, restrictions on his contacts with children and a requirement that he only use one computer in his home, which is being monitored by the government. Ward, 56, is charged with sending and receiving child pornography and his trial is set for June. Ward was fired in December, a month after the charges came to light.

AP's Brian Carovillano moves up

Brian Carovillano, news editor for the AP in Northern California, has been promoted to the new position of regional editor for the South, the news cooperative reports. Carovillano, who has been at AP in San Francisco since 2003, oversaw investigations into the death of ex-NFL star Pat Tillman, food safety, and the ongoing credit crisis, among others. He also coordinated coverage of Barry Bonds and the BALCO steroids case, the Hewlett-Packard boardroom spying scandal, the Lake Tahoe wildfires, and numerous other national news events. Carovillano will lead AP's news coverage in a 13-state territory from Maryland to Florida and west to Louisiana. Dixon will direct 16 sports writers in the region. A replacement has not been named.

List of job cuts at Mercury News

    Lisa Chung, metro feature writer, ex-columnist
    Steve Chae, library
    Katherine Conrad, commercial real estate reporter
    Barbara Egbert, copy editor
    Barb Feder, medical writer
    Dennis Georgatos, 49ers beat writer
    Elizabeth Goodspeed, features designer
    Joanne HoYoung Lee, photographer
    Carolyn Jung, food columnist
    Dave Kiefer, sports writer
    Thu Ly, photographer
    Mike Martinez, travel writer
    Erik Olvera, metro reporter
    Connie Skipitares, metro reporter
    Barry Witt, metro reporter
    Alvie Lindsay, state bureau chief
    Matt Mansfield, deputy managing editor
    Pam Moreland , features editor
    Rebecca Salner, assistant managing editor of business
    Steve Wright, head of editorial pages
Voluntary departures
    Sue Hutchison, features columnist
    Julie Kaufmann, food editor
    Levi Sumagaysay, assistant business editor
The list is from George Sampson of KLIV-AM 1590 who notes, "Terrible, just terrible. Some good people are on this list!"

Friday, March 7, 2008

Merc cuts 50 jobs, names two new editors

The Mercury News said today it has cut 50 jobs — 16 through voluntary buyouts and 34 through layoffs. The cuts represent 5 percent of the paper's staff. It was the third round of layoffs since MediaNews Group acquired the paper in August 2006.

Yesterday, the Bay Area News Group-East Bay, which includes the Contra Costa Times and other MediaNews papers in the region, said it was able to avoid layoffs by giving buyouts to 107 of its employees.

At the Merc, 20 of the jobs lost were in the 173-person newsroom. Five newsroom workers accepted buyouts and 15 were laid off this morning. When MediaNews bought the paper, it had a newsroom of 242 people.

Editor David Butler also filled two vacancies today.

• Barbara J. Marshman, associate editor, will replace Stephen E. Wright as editorial page editor. She is the first woman to hold that job at the Merc.

• Deputy business editor Stephen R. Trousdale replaces Rebecca Salner as business editor.

Workshop to help freelancers get started

the California Writers Club is hosting a day-long workshop at the Belmont Library on March 15 on getting started freelancing. Speakers will answer questions such as how to pitch a story, what sells and where to sell it. The cost is $35 for CWC members, $40 for non members. Here's a link for more information.

No buyer yet for KRON Channel 4

Young Broadcasting said today that it probably won't be able to sell KRON Channel 4 by the end of the month as it had planned.

On Jan. 10, Young said it wanted to shed the station by the end of the first quarter so it could focus on its more profitable network affiliates in the Midwest.

Today's statement didn't say whether there was a lack of interest in KRON or whether potential buyers were hobbled by the credit crisis. When KRON went up for sale, there was speculation that NBC and Fox would be interested.

The announcement was part of Young's quarterly earnings press release, which began by presenting results that excluded KRON, treating the San Francisco station "as a discontinued operation." Including KRON, Young posted a $4 million loss for the quarter compared to a $700,000 profit in the period a year earlier. Revenues fell to $44 million from $50 million a year ago.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New local news alliance says, 'Send resumes'

Six media companies are forming an alliance to report local news and provide it on multiple platforms -- print, online, broadcasting and citizen journalism. The partners include NBC11, the San Jose alt-weekly Metro, Metro's Web company Boulevards, online news aggregator Topix and two citizen journalism sites, San Jose Inside and the Los Gatos Observer. Here's a release describing the alliance. It ends with a request for resumes from news writers and editors "who know this market well."

BANG-EB gives 107 buyouts, avoids layoffs

The Bay Area News Group-East Bay announced today that enough of its employees took a buyout offer that it will be able to reduce its staff by 10 percent without layoffs.

BANG-EB will buy out 107 of 1,100 workers. The reductions will affect every department in that company including the papers' newsrooms. The staff reductions involve 23 Bay Area daily and weekly publications, including the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune. The papers are owned by the California Newspapers Partnership, which is controlled by MediaNews Group.

"These job eliminations through voluntary buyouts no doubt will require shuffling and sharing of work and may result in new assignments and work locations for some employees," BANG-EB publisher and president John Armstrong said in an e-mail announcement to employees. "We hope all of you will understand and be flexible."

Previously the company said it was making the cuts due to a reduction in real estate advertising.

Former KNTV anchor loses race bias case

The Chronicle says that a state appeals court has rejected a discrimination suit filed by a white anchor at KNTV, Brad Hicks, who was replaced by an African American. The court agreed with management who said they were concerned about Hicks' on-the-air style, not his race. Hicks was one of several anchors whose contracts were not renewed in 2003 after NBC brought in new management. He said in his suit that he was more qualified than his successor and that KNTV had bowed to pressure to hire more minorities. But the Sixth District Court of Appeal in San Jose, upholding a judge's dismissal of the case, said Hicks failed to back up his claims.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ex Channel 11 anchor loses bias suit

A state appeals court today rejected a discrimination suit by a white man who was replaced by an African American as a news anchor at KNTV NBC 11, saying station managers were concerned about his on-the-air style, not his race, according to the Chronicle. Brad Hicks was one of several anchors whose contracts were not renewed in 2003 after NBC brought in new management. He said in his suit that he was more qualified than his successor, T.J. Holmes, and claimed that KNTV had bowed to pressure to hire more minorities. KNTV said Hicks was replaced because of his on-air performance. Holmes left for CNN in 2006.

Guardian wins $15 million in SF Weekly suit

A San Francisco jury this afternoon awarded the Bay Guardian $15.6 million after determining that the SF Weekly and its corporate owner illegally sold below-cost ads in an attempt to run the locally-owned paper out of business, the Guardian, AP and the Chron report.

At the end of the five-week trial, Guardian Publisher Bruce Brugmann told the jury that his paper would have to close if it lost the case.

Jurors were told that the SF Weekly had lost money for the past 12 years. The Guardian's lawyer suggested that the Weekly's owners were willing to accept such losses in the hopes they would force Brugmann out of business. The SF Weekly is owned by Village Voice Media of Phoenix, formerly known as New Times.

The jury awarded the Guardian $6.39 million in actual damanges, but part of the verdict is subject to treble damages, bringing the award to $15.6 million.

Rod Kerr, attorney for the Village Voice Media, said the 16-paper chain intends to appeal, according to the Guardian.

The SF Weekly said on its blog:
    "Today's verdict in Bruce Brugmann's suit was an expensive lesson in laws, lawyers, and lawsuits, and how one man's obsession manipulated the system. Like Ralph Nader, Bruce Brugmann is out of touch with reality."
On the other hand, the Guardian said on its blog that the $15.6 million award has larger implications:
    "[T]he verdict sends a clear signal to small businesses, independent newspapers and the alternative press that a locally owned publication has the right to a level playing field and that a chain can’t intentionally cut prices and sell below cost to injure a smaller competitor."

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Melanie Morgan out at KSFO

Melanie Morgan has lost her job as morning co-host at KSFO-AM 560 as part of a cost-cutting measure by the conservative station's new owner, Citadel Broadcasting.

Citadel, which acquired KSFO and KGO-AM 810 from Disney last year, decided not to renew her contract, according to, where Morgan is a columnist. Other cuts at the two stations are expected as Citadel lost $848 million in the most recent quarter. KSFO's morning program will continue to be hosted by Lee Rodgers.

"What I loved most about my time at KSFO was that it allowed me to connect with listeners and take action to make real changes in the world," Morgan said in a statement issued after Monday's program. "We got out of our chairs, left our homes and offices, and circulated petitions, rallied for our troops and met with government leaders."

Morgan and Rodgers have been widely credited with starting the recall of Gray Davis. In 2006, she was put in the national spotlight for saying New York Times editor Bill Keller should be executed if convicted of treason for revealing government secrets in his newspaper. Most recently, Morgan led protesters who countered demonstrators who wanted to close a Marine Corps recruiting office in Berkeley. Morgan co-founded Move America Forward, an activist pro-troop organization, which has defended American military intervention abroad.

Morgan, 51, began her career in 1981 as a reporter for KGO Channel 7. In 1984, she became an on-air personality for KGO radio where she worked for six years before switching over to KSFO.

She's traveled to the Middle East twice to interview U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait, and her broadcast efforts from Iraq produced for her the Associated Press' Mark Twain Journalism Award as well as the Peninsula Press Club's award for Best Interview or Talk Show. (Photo credit: Chronicle, Carlos Avila Gonzalez, October 2006)

Also read:

Jennifer Jones finds the love of her life

Laura Ingle of KFI Los Angeles and Fox News tells this story on her blog about how her good friend, KGO-AM morning co-host Jennifer Jones, found the love her live unexpectedly by signing up for a military pen pal outside a Walnut Creek shopping mall. Ingle, who worked with Jones at KFBK in Sacramento 10 years ago, explains how Jones, originally from Redding, got together with Army Cpt. Scott Lee from Stone Mountain, Ga. After Jones and Lee had exchanged numerous e-mails from Iraq, they first laid eyes on each other in San Francisco.
    They sat and talked for hours, starting to form a powerful bond. As they left the Pier, he took off a leather necklace given to him by a friend for good luck in Iraq, and threw it into the ocean, as a symbolic gesture that his time in Iraq was over. Or so he thought.
We don't want to steal Ingle's thunder. Here's her blog. But here's how Ingle ends her piece.
    If this story inspires you to reach out and write a soldier fighting for our country, just to say hello or maybe send a care package, (they LOVE getting them) check out this website. I’ve talked to the man who operates this, and it is a very successful program
(Photo credit: Laura Ingle's

Bill protects school papers from censorship

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Mateo, has introduced a bill, SB 1370, to prohibit schools and colleges from retaliating against employees for standing up for students' free speech rights. Yee's bill is intended to stop schools from shutting down student papers or dismissing journalism advisers in order to clamp down on unfavorable coverage. Yee has documented eight cases in the state in which journalism advisers were either dismissed or reassigned after being confronted by school officials who chafed at embarrassing or revelatory stories, the Mercury News reports.

Examiner switches focus to local Web sites

The expansion of the San Francisco Examiner into 70 other cities stopped in city No. 3 (Baltimore) back in 2006. It seems billionaire owner Phil Anschutz has put the brakes on the expansion of the Examiner brand.

But last week, the Examiner's parent company, Clarity Media Group of Denver, announced it had hired former AOL executive Michael Sherrod to run its Internet operations. David Schafer, who had been CEO of, was pushed aside to the job of Chief Operating Officer of Clarity Digital Group in order to make way for Schafer.

Now LA Observed notes that has posted an ad at for "city editors" in 59 cities to post stories to local sites:
    City Editors will build by recruiting and managing a team of local content contributors. Candidates should have an established local network within the community and be able to demonstrate their strong local ties.
Looks like Anschutz, who orginally had set his sights on being a print barron, has switched to the Internet.

Monday, March 3, 2008

22,000-circ daily needs copy desk chief

The Appeal-Democrat, a 22,000-circ daily in Marysville (5 minutes from Yuba City and 35 minutes from Sacramento) is looking for a copy desk chief. The pay is in the mid-40s, very good for that area. Here's a link to the description on the CNPA site. Editor Len La Barth tell us that job just came open late last week (current copy desk chief is relocating to Riverside) and he's reaching out to industry colleagues to assist him in helping find the right talent for this position.

(The Press Club hasn't posted job listings in the past, but given the state of our industry, we will accept them from now on.)

MediaNews may face trouble with banks

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's says it is worried that MediaNews Group may soon violate the terms of its loans because of declining profits. One solution, S&P says, is to bring on a partner.

S&P has put MediaNews on its CreditWatch status, a move with negative implications that may reduce the privately held company's ability to borrow more money.

MediaNews, headed by Dean Singleton (pictured), controls most of the Bay Area's daily papers including the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and Palo Alto Daily News. In January, S&P lowered MediaNews Group's credit rating from "B" to "BB-minus."

S&P analyst Emile Courtney explained the negative listing this way:
    The CreditWatch listing reflects our ongoing concerns regarding operating trends in the newspaper sector, which we believe will continue to drive meaningful EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] declines for newspaper companies in 2008.

    In the case of MediaNews, we are concerned that lower EBITDA may lead to a violation of the leverage covenant in its bank agreement over the near term.

    Total leverage as measured per the calculation required in the company's bank facility was 6.53x at December 2007; this compares with the company's 6.75x total leverage covenant at December 2007, which steps down to 6.5x on June 30, 2008 and to 6.25x on Sept. 30, 2008. There is also limited cushion in the company's 4.25x senior leverage and 1.25x fixed-charge coverage covenants.

    As a result, MediaNews could tolerate only a limited amount of deterioration in its cash flow generation over the next few quarters.

    We had previously stated that we believe the company has a number of good relationships with, and a long track record of, significant asset transactions with partners of solid credit quality.

    We expect that one possible solution — should MediaNews encounter a covenant violation over the near term — would be to negotiate for a liquidity injection of some kind from a partner.

    Over the near term, we plan to assess expectations for cash flow generation, and review with MediaNews the possibility for a transaction that may enhance the cushion under its bank covenants.
Here's a link to the Denver Business Journal's coverage of this announcement and a report in Denver's Rocky Mountain News.

Goldberg tells why she fled the Merc

Susan Goldberg (pictured) says she jumped from the job of editor of the Mercury News to the same job at the Cleveland Plain Dealer because she felt the situation at the San Jose paper was "just very unhappy. I didn’t see where it was going to end.” She made her comments to Cleveland Magazine, which has printed a lengthy profile of her:
    [I]n late 2005, impatient shareholders forced Knight Ridder to put itself up for sale. Goldberg tried to reassure the paper’s reporters and editors with optimism and candor. The turmoil could end pretty well, she said at a meeting, if the McClatchy chain bought the Mercury News — or “we could be sold to Singleton, and that would suck.”

    McClatchy did buy Knight Ridder in March 2006 — then sold the Mercury News 44 days later to Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group. ...

    Luckily for Goldberg, her new bosses apparently never heard about her candid moment. Still, she had to cut the news staff: first buyouts, then layoffs. ...

    “She had tremendous loyalty from the staff,” says [managing editor David] Satterfield. But she had cut about a quarter of the news employees, and she could tell more cuts were coming.

    “I just wanted to get out of the whole situation,” she says now. “It was just very unhappy. I didn’t see where it was going to end.”

    Late last March, a headhunter called her. The Plain Dealer needed a new top editor. Was she interested? No, she said at first. Her stepson was a junior in high school, so she didn’t want to move.

    “Then, after I hung up the phone, I started thinking, Let me get this straight, Susan. You’re in a situation that is not going well, and you have just told a top 20 newspaper to basically take a hike,” she says. “So I called the headhunter back and said, ‘Can I have a do-over on that?’

Saturday, March 1, 2008

SF Weekly trial becomes p1 news in Chron

The Chronicle has begun covering the Bay Guardian's predatory pricing lawsuit against the SF Weekly — now that the case has gone to the jury. The story made the front page of today's Chron.

While mainstream dailies and alternative weeklies seldom have anything nice to say about one another, the Chron's Meredith May generously pointed out that both weeklies are award-winners.
    Despite their small staffs — the Guardian has three staff writers and the Weekly five — both have won prestigious George Polk Awards. The Weekly won the award in 2002 for a series on mishandled radioactive waste at Hunters Point shipyard, and the Guardian took its prize in 2005 for a look at life in San Francisco's public housing developments.
The jury got the case on Thursday after five weeks of testimony. The question jurors must decide is whether the SF Weekly and its corporate owners, Village Voice Media of Phoenix, sold ads at below cost in order to run the locally-owned Guardian out of business. By the end of the trial, there was little dispute that the SF Weekly had sold below-cost ads — the chain-owned paper has lost money for 12 years. But question of intent was still in dispute.

"It seems like given the losses that both are experiencing, maybe the San Francisco market can't support two alternative weeklies," activist Randy Shaw of the blog Beyond Chron told the Chron. "It's likely, after the outcome of this court case, there might only be one left standing."

KGO-AM, KSFO owner vows big changes

Citadel Broadcasting, the company that acquired Disney's radio stations including KSFO 560 and KGO-AM 810, posted a $848 million loss on Friday, which the company is blaming on its new acquisitions. Radio & Records put it this way:
    Citadel Broadcasting today (Feb. 29) brought home a very bad report card and the big guy, chairman of the board and CEO Farid Suleman, says things are going to change. And change fast -- beginning this week and over the next two weeks. It could get ugly. ...

    Citadel losses were “primarily attributable to lower revenues in our San Francisco, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Atlanta, Ga.; New York, N.Y.; Birmingham, Ala; Dallas, Texas; and Los Angeles, Calif., radio stations.” ...

    “This was a very difficult and disappointing year. The biggest disappointment was the major market radio stations that we acquired from Disney in 2007," Suleman said. "On an analyzed performance basis, decline was across the board with every major market decline. National was a complete disaster. The markets were down but we underperformed the markets by a factor of almost two-to-one. ...

    "Suleman said that Citadel began instituting major restructuring of the company’s major markets this past week and will continue over the next two weeks. The restructuring will “create a very significant savings in costs and position the stations for major growth even in a zero-based growth environment,” he said ...

Chinese paper penalized for labor violations

The Chinese Daily News, which has an edition in San Francisco as well as LA, New York and Houston, has been ordered by a federal judge to pay $5.9 million to 200 employees who were denied overtime pay, the NY Times reports. The story says the 200 employees included 25 reporters as well as production workers, delivery drivers and sales people. One plaintiff said reporters were required to write five stories a day, which meant they had to race between news conferences and interviews for hours without a break.

Gary Araki dies, covered San Jose Sharks

Gary Araki, who covered the San Jose Sharks for the Sports Radio Service, died Monday. No obit has been published but his friend at Sports Radio Service, Ryan Leong, posted this tribute to the broadcast journalist who had covered sports in the region for two decades.

SacBee reporter faces child porn charge

Longtime Sacramento Bee business reporter Gilbert Chan, 52, has been charged with possession of child pornography, the Bee reports. UC Davis police said Chan was seen videotaping a youth cheerleading competition with a camera he was trying to conceal. Chan was not arrested at the time but further investigation, including review of the videotape, led to the charge being filed by prosecutors, police told the Bee. The Bee has put him on administrative leave.

Tracy Press goes from 3 to 2 days a week

The locally owned Tracy Press is reducing its printing schedule from three to two editions a week and is laying off an undisclosed number of employees. The layoffs included longtime associate editor Jack Eddy, according to this story by the Bay Area News Group's Paul Burgarino.

"The Press has been in business for almost 110 years, as a weekly and as a daily, and our family doesn't plan to go away anytime soon. But to keep going, we have to make cuts at the same time that we strive for solutions," Publisher Bob Matthews wrote in a note to readers.

The cuts come as the two other dailies that circulate widely in Tracy, the San Joaquin Herald and Stockton Record, also announced cost-cutting measures.

The 110-year-old, family-owned paper evolved over the years from a weekly to a twice a week paper, and then, in 1986, to a five-day daily. In 1995, it added a Saturday edition. In February 2006, the Tracy Press dropped its Monday edition and returned to a five-day publishing schedule (Tuesday-Saturday). Then last August it cut back to a three-day schedule.