Wednesday, April 30, 2008

KQED-TV co-founder James Day dies

James Day, who helped found KQED-TV in 1954 and was a pioneer in public television for five decades, died of respiratory failure April 24 in New York at age 89. Day was president and general manager of Channel 9 for its first 16 years when the station created programs such as the Peabody-winning "Newsroom," which began during the 1968 newspaper strike. Day hosted a weekly program, "Kaleidoscope," on which he interviewed personalities including Eleanor Roosevelt, Buster Keaton, Robert F. Kennedy, Bing Crosby and Aldous Huxley. During his tenure, KQED started its membership drives that have since been copied by public broadcasters everywhere. He left San Francisco to head National Educational Television in New York, the forerunner to PBS. Here are obits from KQED, Daily Variety and the Chronicle. (Photo credit: KQED)

Michelle Carter to lead online newsroom

Former San Mateo Times Managing Editor Michelle Carter has been named to the same position for, a new online community news organization. The announcement was made by Zirana CEO Sanjiv Sahay from the company’s headquarters at 1340 S. De Anza Blvd., Suite 104, San Jose.

“Michelle brings a lot of relevant experience to Zirana, as it grows into a digital media platform covering local communities across the globe,” Sahay said.

The company was founded earlier this year and now has 240 community news sites up and running. Zirana expects to cover more than 1,000 communities by the end of this year.

Carter left The Times in 1995 to accept a grant from the United States Information Agency to work with newspaper editors in Russia for a year. She continued work with newspapers in emerging democracies of the former Soviet Union and former Soviet bloc countries until 2002 when she began teaching journalism and communication at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. She is retiring as a core faculty member and adviser to The Argonaut, the student newspaper, this spring. She is also a past president of the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and an active member of its board of directors. Carter and her husband, Mike Venturino, live in Belmont.

Attaching cards to newspapers is illegal

How ironic! A person who wants San Francisco City Hall to pass a law stopping the delivery of unwanted newspapers is breaking the law by attaching complaint cards to those newspapers.

That's according to the Legal HelpLine of the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA), which saw our item Thursday about the cards that have been showing up on Examiners in certain SF neighborhoods.

Photo journalist Steve Rhodes uploaded theis picture to Flickr, and posted them.

San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has introduced legislation that would impose fines on newspapers that continue to deliver after a resident has asked that the paper stop.

The cards, which have been anonymously taped to copies of the Examiner, complain about the litter the newspaper is creating. Each card has a blank for the resident to give their name and address. They're encouraged to mail the card to City Hall.

The CNPA Bulletin quotes Section 538c of the Penal Code: "... any person who attaches or inserts an unauthorized advertisement in a newspaper, and who redistributes it to the public or who has the intent to redistribute it to the public, is guilty of the crime of theft of advertising services which shall be punishable as a misdemeanor. ..."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chron names new chief of SFGate

Michele Slack, who had been director of digital media for Hearst Newspapers, was named yesterday as the head of, the Chron's online arm, replacing Peter Negulescu, a former AOL executive who had been the Chron's vp for digital media since mid-2004. No reason was given for the change in a brief item published this morning. The article said the change was effective immediately. Slack has been at Hearst since 2005, arriving there from the digital side of The New York Times.

Merc circ up, Chron down

The Mercury News reported a 1.7% increase in its weekday circulation, bucking the trend of most large metro dailies, according to figures released Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulation for the six-month period ending March 31. On the other hand, the Chronicle lost 4.2% on weekdays and 3.0% on Sundays.
    On weekdays, the Merc added 3,902 copies, increasing its circulation from 230,870 to 234,772. On Sunday, the Merc gained 190 copies, increasing its circulation from 251,666 to 251,856.

    The Chonicle's weekday circulation fell by 16,291 copies from 386,564 to 370,345. On Sunday, the Chron went from 438,006 to 424,603, a decrease of 13,403.
E&P has a list of circulation figures for the top 25 papers. The big story is that The New York Times lost 9.2% of its Sunday circulation to 1,476,400. The paper's daily circulation declined 3.8% to 1,077,256.

In Orange County, the Register announced Monday that it was laying off between 80 and 90 employees, or 5 percent of its workforce. As many as 16 longtime reporters and editors were being fired, insiders told the LA Times.

The Register announced the cuts the same day as ABC figures showed its weekday circulation had fallen 11.9% to 250,724 and 5.3% to 311,982 on Sundays.

The move dropped the Register from California's third-largest daily newspaper to fifth. The top five are:
    1. LA Times, 773,884, down 5.1%
    2. SF Chronicle, 370,345, down 4.2%
    3. San Diego Union-Tribune, 288,669, down 2.6%
    4. Sacramento Bee, 268,755, down 3.7%
    5. OC Register, 250,724, down 11.9%

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ward wants to use First Amendment defense

Former radio talk show host Bernie Ward is asking a federal judge for permission to use a First Amendment defense when he goes on trial in July on charges of receiving and distributing child pornography on his computer.

Ward's lawyer filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to allow him to argue he had "a legitimate, journalistic purpose" for his actions because he was doing research for a book. The motion was filed earlier this month and was reported by Bay City News today.

Ward, a liberal who had hosted KGO-AM 810's 10 p.m.-to-1 a.m. shift for several years, posed online using the name "Vincentlio." He had conversations with a woman identified online as "Sexfairy" who later turned him into police after she allegedly received pictures of children ranging in age from 4 to 17 who were "engaged in or simulating sesxual acts with adults or other children," according to a police report.

Ward, the author of several previous books and articles, says in the court filing that he came into possession of the illegal photographs while doing research for a new book. Defense attorney Doron Weinberg has previously said the book was about hypocrisy.

"If given the chance at trial, Mr. Ward will offer proof that he received and distributed the contraband exclusively for the
purpose of furthering his research, and that he intended to destroy the material upon completion of his journalistic enterprise," wrote Ward's lawyer, Doron Weinberg, in the motion.

Prosecutors from the U.S. Justice Department's child exploitation and obscenity section opposed the motion in a response filed on Thursday, BCN reported.

The prosecutors wrote, "The law provides no First Amendment-based license to journalists to violate laws."

They argued that allowing Ward to present a free-speech defense "would invite every defendant charged with child pornography crimes to suddenly become a legitimate researcher educating the masses via their Web blog." (Photo credit: KTUV)

CORRECTION:Earlier this post misidentified "Sexfairy." This item has since been corrected.

Berkeley 'Planet' cuts back to once a week

The Berkeley Daily Planet, which has printed twice a week since 2003, is reducing its publication schedule to just one issue per week. The move comes three weeks after MediaNews Group closed the Berkeley-based East Bay Daily News. Becky O'Malley, who owns the Planet with husband Michael, explained the decision in green terms:
    "This would have obvious environmental advantages: less paper and less gasoline consumed. We’re going to increase the number of pages in an issue, along with the number of copies distributed, so the savings aren’t as much as they might seem to be, but they’re not insubstantial.

    "... For our loyal advertisers, weekly publication will probably be beneficial. If an issue remains on their prospective customer’s coffee table for a full week, the ads will probably be noticed more."
Neil Henry, UC Berkeley journalism dean, told the Daily Cal he wasn't surprised: "You can only lose so much money for so long."

O'Malley told the Daily Cal that the response she has received has been "surprisingly enthusiastic." As of Friday, the paper had only received one complaint.

But the Daily Cal said some city officials are worried because the Planet and Daily News were the only papers which covered the city government in depth. "Any time we lose information getting out to the public, I think it is a sad loss," said Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

    UPDATE, 11:48 a.m.:Becky O'Malley, in an e-mail this morning, emphasized that the Planet will be online on a daily basis. "This means more, not less, news available to the public — we're not laying off any reporters, and since space on the web is essentially unlimited, we'll be able to have more and longer stories."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dennis Richmond disgusted with election

"The Democrats are just handing this election to the Republicans." Dennis Richmond tells columnist Bill Mann. "Rev. Jeremiah Wright wounded him [Obama] greatly. I'm terrified of a McCain-Clinton campaign. Both are consummate politiciann."

Richmond told Mann he didn't like ABC anchor Charlie Gibson's handling of last week's Democratic debate: "He's a field reporter, not an anchor. He only got the ABC anchor job when that guy [Bob Woodruff] was shot in the head."

Richmond, who is retiring next months after 40 years behind the Channel 2 anchor desk, said he has tried to keep his personal opinions off the air. But he adds, "The whole process is starting to disgust me ... No one is talking about the issues."

Mann notes that Richmond's successor, Frank Somerville, has paid his dues over the years. Mann writes, "When he was working in the low-paying news department up at Channel 50 in Santa Rosa, Berkeley High grad Somerville once told me, he and his wife lived in a camper on his sister-in-law's lawn in Santa Rosa."

Reporter, prof Luther Jackson, 83, dies

The father of San Jose Guild leader Luther P. Jackson III — who had been a Washington Post reporter and Columbia journalism professor — has died at age 83 after suffering from Parkinson's disease. Luther P. Jackson Jr. was among the few black reporters at The Washington Post in the 1960s, according to an obit in that appeared that paper this morning. In 1968, he became the first black faculty member at Columbia University's journalism school. At Columbia, he was considered a mentor to many students, aspiring black journalists in particular. We haven't yet seen an obit in the Merc. (Photo credit: Family photo via Washington Post)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

PTSA head threatens to cut paper's funding

The president of Palo Alto's Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) threatened to cut off funding to Palo Alto High School's student publications because the young journalists are refusing to identify a campus vandal, the Palo Alto Weekly reports.

The vandal removed space-bar keys from library computers and littered the room with thousands of print-outs of Chairman Mao in January.

Parent Teacher Student Association president Preeva Tramiel threatened the student editors in a meeting Tuesday, reminding them that the PTSA gives the journalism program $10,000 annually for printing and mailing. Tramiel told the students she was "the one who signs the checks" and wanted them to be more responsible to the school community, according to junior Peter Johnson, a co-editor in chief of the school's Viking sports magazine and the son of Weekly publisher Bill Johnson. In an e-mail to Peter Johnson's mother, Tramiel said: "It is time these kids were held accountable. If a reporter ticked off an employee of a big advertiser at a real newspaper they would be fired."

On Wednesday, Tramiel backed off of her threat and admitted that she alone doesn't have authority to cut off funding anyway, according to the Weekly.

The students, on the other hand, continue to refuse to identify the vandal.

The Weekly points out that the meeting with Tramiel came just days after students won 17 journalism awards at the National Scholastic Press Association convention in Anaheim, including a Best of Show award for the Viking. The Campanile, Palo Alto's student newspaper, was also recognized as one of the best papers in its class.

Cards urge complaints about Examiner

Somebody is leaving these orange cards on copies of the Examiner that have been dropped on doorsteps in San Francisco. Photo journalist Steve Rhodes uploaded these pictures to Flickr, and posted them. (Click on the photos to see a larger view.) As we reported March 19, San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has introduced legislation that would impose fines on newspapers that continue to deliver after a resident has asked that the paper stop. The cards say:
    Dear Board of Supervisors,

    Unwanted SF Examiner newspapers are a nuisance. The papers and plastic bags are a huge litter problem and bad for the environment. The circulation department routinely ignores requests to cease delivery. I support any legislation that reduces the amount of unwanted papers and plastic bags littering our streets.

    Please do what you can to reduce or end this practice all together.


    Name: ______________

    Address: _________________
Rhodes writes that he is amazed someone took the time to put postcards on Examiners left on the sidewalk. He said he has no indication who is responsible. He adds, "The Ex does have useful listings and some decent (though short) local coverage (though the editorial page is completely out of touch with the city)."

The dogs are back at TV20

Remember the TV20 station IDs that featured dogs (usually) on a couch watching TV? They disappeared in 1998 when Jim Gabbert sold the station. Now the current owners have brought them back. To make a little money, the dog station breaks are sponsored by Comcast. Above is one of the old station IDs and below is promo seeking talent for the new IDs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Chron printer moves ahead with plant

The Canadian company that will take over the printing of the Chronicle next year is moving ahead with construction of its new plant in Fremont, and the union currently representing the paper's printers wants to get its foot in the door at the new plant.

"It depends how much pressure we can put, to have them hire our folks and get them to unionize," Chuck Davis, business agent for Teamsters Local 853, told Brad Kava, writing for the SF Weekly.

The Chron's plan (see previous posts) is to let its contract with the 237 Teamster printers expire next year, and then turn the printing over to Transcon, which presumably would be a non-union operation. Previous reports have said that Transcon plans to spend $200 million to build the 338,000-square-foot plant on Kato Road, near the Dixon Landing-880 interchange. Transcon is looking for workers (see Monster ad).

Kava says the new press will lead to a redesign of the Chron and could also mean better advertising, with ads that might fold out like maps and lead buyers to a store.

Newsom gets a national radio show

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, seen here clowning around with a microphone last year, will host a one-hour Saturday radio show for Air America starting in two weeks, the Examiner reports. (Actually Matier & Ross broke the story April 7, but the Ex now has the date he starts.) The liberal Air America network has 60 stations including Clear Channel's "Green 960" KKGN-AM San Francisco and KSAC-AM 1240 Sacramento. Newsom's show will air from noon to 1 Pacific.

“It’s an opportunity to have a more substantive dialogue on policy than a lot of the tit-for-tat at City Hall,” Newsom said. “I’m trying to focus on something much bigger than who’s up and who’s down at City Hall." It's widely assumed that Newsom will run for governor in 2010.

April 2008 Press Club board minutes

April 9, 2008 — Meeting was called to order at 7:42 p.m. by President Jamie Casini.

Board members present: Micki Carter, Jamie Casini, Ed Remitz and Jay Thorwaldson. Executive Director Darryl Compton was also in attendance. Absent: Jennifer Aquino, Peter Cleaveland, Jon Mays, Aimee Strain, Dave Price and Jack Russell.

Since a quorum was not achieved, the meeting was informational.

Treasurer's report: Filed by Compton.

New business

New Press Club logo: Mays has had several designs created for a new logo, which was necessary due to the addition of the words "San Francisco" to the club's name. One design favored by Casini was not present but will be shared later by e-mail with the board.

Scholarships: Carter confirmed that the Hillsdale Shopping Center will again contribute $500 to the high school awards reception on Wednesday, April 30, at College of Notre Dame in Belmont.

Remitz agreed to coordinate the scholarship program. Members Aquino and Cleaveland will be asked to join.

High school advisers forum and boot camp: Members agreed they should be combined. Remitz is researching whether the event can be hosted Sept. 19 or 26 at College of San Mateo.

Bench Bar Media: Thorwaldson volunteered to coordinate the events.

Meeting adjourned at 8:20 p.m.
Minutes submitted by Treasurer Ed Remitz

Saturday, April 19, 2008

MediaNews papers want more help from AP

MediaNews Group, which has been cutting newsroom jobs at its 13 dailies in the Bay Area, is asking the AP for more help covering regional and state stories. That's according to an article in the Spring edition of the Associated Press Managing Editor (APME) newsletter by Martin G. Reynolds, editor of the MediaNews-owned Oakland Tribune. Reynolds' article is about complaints newspaper editors across the country have about the AP, including this from the Bay Area:
    "I have concerns how AP fills in the gap for regional and state coverage," says Kevin G. Keane, Contra Costa Times executive editor and vice president of news for the Bay Area News Group [a unit of MediaNews].

    "It doesn't pay attention to its regional audience."

    As an example, Keane points to AP's coverage of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who he says AP writes about for Japan or New York, ignoring how the governor's policies impact the Bay Area.

    The city of San Francisco is one area where the Bay Area News Group does not deploy reporters and could use AP's support. "I don't believe we get it," Keane says.

    Keane understands that AP is attempting to expand its brand, but in doing so neglects its roots.

    "AP is supposed to be a collection of all of us," he says. "When it puts on national and international hats, do they lose sight of their original mission?"
Coincidentally, the chairman of the AP's board of directors is Dean Singleton, the CEO of MediaNews.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Valleywag fires writer who balked at pay cut

TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington reports that John Golson was fired from Valleywag, the Silicon Valley gossip Web site, after he posted an item criticizing his boss for cutting his pay. Golson complained in the post that his rate of pay — which is based on the number of page-views for his items — was being reduced, but he didn't know by how much. Golson tells Arrington that he doesn't know why he was fired, but says it probably wasn't solely due to the critical post. It may also have been due to a "lack of enthusiam" following the pay cut.

Knight Ridder journalism chair named

Knight Ridder is out of business but its name is on a new journalism chair at Santa Clara University. The university has announced that Sally Lehrman (pictured), a reporter who specializes in science and society, will be its first Knight Ridder San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Nature, Health and She shares a Peabody award and Peabody/Robert Wood Johnson Award for excellence in health and medical programming, and a Columbia/Du Pont Silver Baton. She wrote "News in a New America," a book that offers a fresh take on developing an inclusive U.S. news media.

As a new member of Santa Clara's Communication Department, Lehrman will work on a book about genetics and race, a statement from the university said. "She will teach aspiring journalists and collaborate on projects to improve journalism's ability to serve the public at a time of rapid change in the profession."

She will be the first recipient of an endowed chair funded by the former Knight Ridder newspaper company and its flagship paper, the Mercury News. Tony Ridder, who served as chairman and CEO of Knight Ridder, now serves as a member of Santa Clara University's Board of Trustees. (Photo credit: MediaBistro)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Broadcaster Doug Pledger dead at 89

Doug Pledger, a popular announcer at classical music station KKHI for several decades, died April 7 at age 89, the Chronicle reported today. Longtime KKHI announcer Al Covaia told the Chron that even though Pledger was known for classical music, he had a diverse broadcasting career, a variety of interests and a sound business sense. He broadcasted Cal basketball games for a while, ran an ad agency, was a tax attorney, and at one point owned a San Mateo-based radio station. He's seen here in a 1950s promotional photo from KNBC San Francisco (now KNBR) where he played polka and marching band music. (Photo credit: Chronicle)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

KGO in no rush to replace Bernie Ward

Radio columnist Brad Kava says the candidates vying to replace disgraced liberal talk show host Bernie Ward at top-rated KGO 810 include: Brian Copeland, Christine Craft, David Lazarus and Charles "Karel" Bouley. Kava, in a piece for the SF Weekly, says:
    Rumors are circulating that operations manager Jack Swanson, who gave the world the colorful blight of Michael Savage, favors Karel's outlandishness. Executive programmer Trish Robbins allegedly favors Craft, while station manager Mickey Luckoff supposedly likes Lazarus.
Swanson tells Kava that there might also be a benefit to not naming a host and letting all the candidates work the shift, which will bring added diversity and make them work harder to compete.

MediaNews outsources subscriber services

Calls to MediaNews papers in the Bay Area to start or stop subscriptions will soon be answered by APAC Customer Services, which has call centers in the U.S. and the Philippines. APAC said in a press release that MediaNews Group's Bay Area News Group has signed a multi-year deal with APAC to provide customer service for subscribers. APAC provides the same service to McClatchy. According to APAC's Web site, its three facilities in Manila, "with over 4,000 seats," offer "accent neutral employees" from a "culture committed to service."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is the donor who taped Obama a journalist?

Oakland blogger Mayhill Fowler (pictured) says she was acting as a journalist when she taped Barack Obama at a private San Francisco fundraiser discussing small-town voters. A check of shows she has contributed $2,250 to Obama and $250 to Republican Fred Thompson. Fowler tells The New York Times that she was initially reluctant to write about what Obama had said because she supports him. Her hesitation explains the four-day gap between the event and when she posted her scoop at, a Web site published by Huffington Post. Ultimately she said that if she didn't write about it, she wouldn't be worth her salt as a journalist, as the Times put it. Fowler, 61, is part of a network of 1,800 unpaid writers and researchers who contribute to OffTheBus. Obama supporters have called Fowler a plant for Hillary Clinton and say she was deceptive in getting into the fund-raiser. (Photo credit:

Documentary by college class wins SPJ award

SPJ announced its national Sigma Delta Chi Awards today and the only Bay Area winner was a radio program produced by a Mills College class. “The Drop Out Dilemma,” by the Mills Public Radio Reporting Class of 2007, was the winner in the category for best radio documentary. The documentary was aired by noncommercial KALW-FM in San Francisco. Here's more about the Mills College program that spawned this prize-winner. And here's a list of the other SPJ winners.

Gore's ban on reporters didn't stop blogger

CNET blogger Robert Vamosi reports that he was able to hear Al Gore's speech to the RSA Internet Security conference Friday in San Francisco despite the former vice president's ban on the press. On the right is a sign from the conference. Vamosi got to hear the speech because he was also a speaker at the conference and got a badge designating him as such. Therefore he didn't need to have a press pass to get around. Vamosi wonders why Gore demanded such a restriction because his speech was similar to one he had given at a previous conference. "[S]ince nothing new was added here, why all the secrecy? Or was it all a media stunt?" Vamosi asked. (Credit: Robert Vamosi, CNET Networks)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Journalism student arrested in Egypt

James Bucks, who was in Egypt to take photographs related to his UC Berkeley journalism thesis project, was arrested Thursday when he was interviewing relatives of people detained in a food riot, ABC7's Heather Ishimaru reports. Bucks has been released and is due to return to San Francisco today (April 12). Bucks said he wasn't abused in jail and was allowed to keep his cell phone. But he said he was told that his translator is a "dead man." The ABC7 report quoted Journalism Dean Neil Henry as saying he wouldn't feel relieved until Bucks was in the air and out of Egypt. (Photo credit: James Bucks, via ABC7)

CBS News hires Channel 2's Priya David

Priya David, who has been a general assignment correspondent since February 2005 at KTVU, has been hired by CBS News as a correspondent, primarily for "The Early Show" and the weekend "CBS Evening News," reports. Before that, she was a campaign embed for MSNBC covering Dick Gephardt during his run for the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination. Prior to MSNBC, David was part of the News Associate Program at NBC with contributions to "Nightly News" and as a general assignment reporter for NBC's then-owned WVTM in Birmingham, Ala. Born in Chennai, India, David grew up in Virginia, California, Brussels and London. Her father was with an American company that worked with NATO.

Friday, April 11, 2008

MediaNews stops releasing financial data

MediaNews Group, owner of 13 daily newspapers in the Bay Area, says it will no longer release financial information to the public, such as its quarterly earnings or the compensation of its top executives including CEO Dean Singleton (left).

MediaNews isn't a public company and wasn't required by the Securities and Exchange Commission to post such information. Most of its stock is held by Singleton or the family of Chairman Richard Scudder (right). But bondholders had previously wanted the information posted in the same way that public companies report their finances to shareholders.

Last week, MediaNews reached an agreement with its bondholders to stop posting such information and instead provide it directly to lenders.

The move comes a month after the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's put MediaNews on its CreditWatch status, saying it was concerned the highly leveraged company would violate the terms of its loans because of declining profits.

Here's a link to the SEC filing announcing the change, and this is the Rocky Mountain News's take on it.

Photos document Mercury News layoffs

Mercury News designer Martin Gee has posted a photo documentary at showing the effects of layoffs and downsizing. Gee writes:
    the last round of layoffs and buyouts really hurt me. i mean, each one does but this one especially. this place feels like a morgue. an abusive relationship. remnants everywhere. empty cubicles. empty chairs. abandoned office equipment. goodbye emails. besides looking for a new job and building a massive assemblage, this is a way for me to deal.

    there will be more photos...
At left is the door to Rich Ramirez's office. Ramirez, 44, committed suicide June 20, 2007 during a previous round of layoffs.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

'Citizen McCaw' to be shown in Berkeley

"Citizen McCaw," the new documentary about Jerry Roberts and the journalism ethics battle at the Santa Barbara News Press, will be shown for the first time in Northern California at 6:30 on April 17 at Sibley Auditorium, UC Berkeley campus. The screening will be preceded by a reception and followed by a panel discussion, with all proceeds going to Roberts's legal fund. Tickets are $50 each. Here are the details.

Roberts (pictured), a political writer and later managing editor at the Chronicle for many years, went to work for Santa Barbara News Press owner Wendy McCaw in 2003 and resigned in 2006, saying she was meddling in the newsroom. After he quit, she sued him and he's counter suing. Many other reporters, editors and photographers have quit the Santa Barbara paper too, and some of them are targets of McCaw lawsuits as well.

Former Palo Alto ad director dies

Larry Jordan, former advertising director at the now defunct Peninsula Times Tribune (formerly Palo Alto Times), died on March 24 at the age of 75. More information will be posted when it is available.

Bill protecting journalism teachers advances

A state Senate committee has approved a bill that would protect high school and college journalism teachers from administrators upset by students' stories or editorials, the AP and Chron report.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said he introduced the bill, SB1370, because of cases like that of Teri Hu, who said she was removed as adviser for the Voice newspaper at Irvington High in Fremont in 2004 after the student paper printed two articles that angered school administrators. The Chron said one of those articles questioned the school's compliance with district policy on teaching assistants, and the other reported on a teacher who allegedly told a student to "go back where you came from." The school's principal, Pete Murchison, denied he retaliated against her.

Another teacher, Katharine Swan, who retired in 2006 after 35 years in San Francisco schools, said she had encountered several instances of attempted censorship, according to the Chron. At one point, she said, Mission High School Principal Ted Alfaro claimed the authority to review all newspaper articles before publication. Alfaro said at the time that he supported the students and was just trying to encourage them to write positive stories.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Journalist loses job, then has to fight Kaiser

KPIX CBS5 aired this story last night about the health of ousted Benicia Herald editor Les Mahler. He was told by a Kaiser doctor that the tumor behind his eye was benign. But a second doctor at UCSF said he had an adenoid cystic carcinoma and that he had six years to live. When he began treatment at Kaiser, before he could get an MRI he was told he had to pay a $975 co-pay, more than he could afford while on disability and without a job. So he didn't get the MRI. After Channel 5 got involved, Kaiser immediately scheduled the MRI and agreed to bill him later for the treatment. Mahler was fired by the Benicia Herald in November after a City Council candidate, who had spent thousands of dollars on ads, complained about Mahler's opinion column. The firing triggered protests by residents outside the newspaper's offices.

SF Weekly owner uses N-word at SPJ event

Michael Lacey (pictured), co-owner of the Village Voice Media chain of alt-weeklies which includes the SF Weekly, used the N-word while accepting an award from the Phoenix chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

SPJ was honoring Lacey and business partner Jim Larkin for stories that exposed an Arizona prosecutor's attempts to obtain Internet records of anyone who had ever visited their Phoenix paper's Web sites.

According to the Mesa, Ariz., East Valley Tribune, Lacey used the term "my (n-word)" during his acceptance speech, referring to his friend, the late Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Tom Fitzpatrick.

A black journalist in the audience fired off an e-mail to Lacey the next day, demanding an apology. She noted that the event coincided with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Lacey apologized on Monday.

It wasn't the first time Lacey's use of an obscenity made news. On March 5, as a San Francisco jury read its verdict ordering Village Voice Media to pay the Bay Guardian $15.6 million, Lacey could be overheard in court saying "shit" to himself over and over, according to the Guardian.

Somerville to succeed Richmond at KTVU

Channel 2 has picked a familiar face to replace longtime anchor Dennis Richmond rather than going outside of the market for new talent. Frank Somerville will start co-anchoring the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts on Thursday, May 22, the night after Richmond signs off after 40 years. Somerville grew up in the Bay Area and has been at Channel 2 for 16 years.

The appointment of Somerville ends speculation that KTVU hired Dave Clark away from L.A.'s KCAL/KCBS-TV to replace Richmond. Clark, who now co-anchors Channel 2's 6-to-8 a.m. news block, suggested he was in line to replace Richmond in an e-mail to friends that made the papers last year.

With Somerville's appointment, Channel 2 is emphasizing the longevity of its anchor team. Somerville will co-anchor with Julie Haener who has 10 years at KTVU, chief meteorologist Bill Martin (12 years at KTVU) and sports director Mark Ibanez (29 years at KTVU). In addition to the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts, Somerville will continue to co-anchor the 5 p.m. news with Gasia Mikaelian.

“Frank has really earned his stripes here at KTVU. He has shown tremendous range in anchoring KTVU Mornings on 2 and The KTVU Channel 2 News at 5, in addition to filling in for Dennis over the past three years,” said KTVU Vice President and General Manager Tim McVay. “Frank is at his best during live, breaking news situations.  His knowledge of the history and fabric of the Bay Area has made him invaluable.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Here we go again: Cops want salaries secret

The salaries of police officers as well as their badge numbers and individual identities would become private and could not be publicly disclosed under an amendment to a bill introduced in the Legislature on Monday, according to the Contra Costa Times. The amendment to Assembly Bill 1855 would overturn last August's state Supreme Court's decision that declared the salaries of all government employees to be public record. The ruling was in a case where the city of Oakland attempted to conceal the salaries of employees making over $100,000 to the Contra Costa Times. The amendment was introduced by Assemblyman Anthony J. Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge and it is sponsored by the Peace Officers Research Association of California, a group that lobbies for cops.

Ex reporter, Merc editor argue via e-mail

Merc editor Dave Butler (pictured) is making news in Southern California, at least on blogs such as LA Observed. LA Observed posted this exchange of e-mails between Butler, who is also head of editorial for MediaNews Group's California papers, and Val Kuklenski, who left the company's LA Daily News during that paper's most recent round of layoffs.

Kuklenski called Butler "the worst newsman I've ever known. The one who ran Bush's 2000 convention nomination acceptance speech on page 1 with a Bush byline."

But the thrust of Kuklenski's e-mail was the departure of LA Daily News editor Ron Kaye.

Instead of ignoring the disgruntled reporter, Butler takes the bait and responds that he doesn't "control the fate of editors. The publisher of each newspaper does. You are making the worst mistake that a reporter can make -- though that's not surprising to me -- in assuming what my role may or may not have been in terms of Ron." It goes on from there.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Radnich: KRON sale two weeks away

Young Broadcasting could be two weeks away from selling KRON 4. That's the word from Channel 4 sportscaster Gary Radnich (pictured), who briefly mentioned the sale on his KNBR show this morning (MP3) while horsing around with fellow sports-talker Tony Bruno.
    Radnich: KRON could be two weeks away from a sale. We're very excited.

    Bruno: Is that good or bad?

    Radnich: It's good, very good. Let's put it this way. Good for me, bad if you are VJ [a video journalist who both shoots video and does on-air reporting].

    Bruno: Most sales are bad for employees, but that's just me, my experience.

    Radnich: I know but trust me.
Radnich didn't say who might be buying the station. No announcement yet from owner Young Broadcasting. Young put KRON up for sale in January and said it hoped to have a deal by March 31. That deadline passed without any word about whether anyone was interested in the station. While the station has been on the market, Young cut Channel 4's staffing by 11 percent.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Carter B. Smith, the walking sound bite

If you're interested in local radio, grab this morning's Chron to read an Q&A Ben Fong-Torres had with the legendary Carter B. Smith (pictured), who was at KNBR, KFRC "Magic 61," KABL and KSFO. The Q&A included this:
    Q: What about personality radio? Is it over?

    A: I think it's gone into a great descent. It may recover, once management realizes that in order to make a buck you have to spend a buck. Radio is in the mode of "don't spend a buck, so don't attract the kind of talent who'd want money, don't spend money on promotion" — all the elements that worked so well for many years.
(Photo credit: Ben Fong-Torres via

Saturday, April 5, 2008

TV news losing audience faster than print

Rick Quan (pictured), one of 14 KPIX staffers let go this week in a budget cutting move, says he's concerned that other Bay Area stations might follow CBS 5's cost-cutting ways.
    "You can bet that they'll be keeping an eye on this situation," he tells the Contra Costa Times' Chuck Barney. "They'll be checking to see if KPIX can put out a decent product with fewer people. It's like, 'Hey, if they can do it, we can do it.' "
Barney also notes that while local news has long been a cash cow for station owners, ratings were down for the second year in a row as the Internet, 24-hour cable news and DVRs grab viewers. "Local television news, as an industry, is actually losing its audience faster than newspapers," said Tim Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. "... [I]f the audience losses pile up, you get to the point where you have to deal with it through budget trimming."

Broken leg led to Darian O'Toole's death

A follow-up to our item Thursday on the death of former radio host Darian O'Toole at age 40: The Chron ran an obit this morning that said she died from complications suffered from a broken leg. The obit quotes her agent, Paul Anderson, as saying she was close to getting a TV job. But it also says she had looked into a private investigator job. Former KSAN GM Dwight Walker is quoted as saying:
    "She was a pioneer for female broadcasters to speak their mind and not hide anything about their lives. ... She was not a shock jock — just someone who spoke the truth."
No services have been announced.

MediaNews editor exits after 23 years

Ron Kaye stepped down as editor of MediaNews Group's Los Angeles Daily News yesterday after 23 years at the 155,000-circulation San Fernando Valley paper. While Kaye, 66, did not give a reason for his departure, the LA Times quoted sources as saying he had been battling with MediaNews for several months over cutbacks in staffing. MediaNews also owns 13 dailies in the Bay Area including the Mercury News. The LA Times ran this story on his departure. Here's two paragraphs:
    Reporters agreed that Kaye took his employees' interests to heart during the recent downturn in the newspaper industry, which has been hit hard by a drop in advertising, the crash in the housing market and rise of free information online. Staffers say he was sensitive about delivering news of cutbacks, laying staff members off personally and timing bad news so it wouldn't interfere with things like weddings.

    "For the last few months I saw him there, he took everything incredibly personally, incredibly hard. He looked like a mess," recalled [Brent] Hopkins, who was a union steward for six of his seven years at the paper. "He didn't sleep; he went back to smoking very heavily. We weren't just numbers to him; we were people to him, and then we were employees."
(Photo credit: CNPA Web site, 2006)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Top business publications, writers honored

Below are the Bay Area's winners in the Society of American Business Editors and Writers' 13th annual Best in Business contest. SABEW will hand out the awards during a ceremony at its annual conference April 27 in Baltimore. Here is a link to the judges' comments.
    • The Santa Rosa Press Democrat -- General Excellence, small papers (circulation under 125,000)

    • Carol Benfell, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, "Hospital closure" -- Business News Reporting, small publications

    • Pete Carey, San Jose Mercury News, "Harsh side of the boom" -- Enterprise reporting, large publications

    • Ron Leuty, San Francisco Business Times, "The fight of his life: Bay Area tech execs and VCs rally to aid one of their own battling a rare disease" -- Enterprise reporting, weekly publications

    • Steve Symanovich, San Francisco Business Times -- Columns, weekly publications

    • Tom Krazit, Caroline McCarthy, Erica Ogg, Kent German, Leslie Katz, Brian Cooley, CNET News, "Launch of the iPhone" -- Online Excellence, Breaking News, large Web sites

Fewer writers covering 49ers

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat had this exchange with a reader:
    Question: In an earlier response you referred to the "dwindling media corps" covering the Niners. Is it dwindling because the print media business has fallen on hard times, or because the Niners have been so bad of late, or some combination of the two? Jerry, Location unknown

    MAIOCCO: Thank you for the question. When I first started writing articles about the 49ers, the following daily papers had reporters who regularly covered the team: Press Democrat, Marin Independent Journal, Oakland Tribune, Hayward Daily Review, San Mateo Times, Peninsula Times Tribune, Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee and the Sacramento Union.

    Now, the only daily newspaper organizations that cover the team are Press Democrat, Sac Bee, SF Chronicle and MediaNews. Some of those other papers have folded or downsized. The big blow to Bay Area newspapers occurred when MediaNews took ownership of the Mercury News and CC Times. It already owned the Oakland Tribune, Marin I-J, Hayward Daily Review and many other smaller papers. All the 49ers stories in those papers are generated by one reporter. In the past year-and-a-half, three good friends who covered the 49ers (Roger Phillips, Kevin Lynch and Dennis Georgatos) have been laid off. It has been a difficult time in this area for our line of work.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Will Spens killed in car crash

Former New York and Los Angeles TV news anchor Will Spens, who struggled with homelessness since losing his last media job 10 years ago, died in a single-car accident on the Ventura-Santa Barbara County line Tuesday afternoon, the Ventura County Medical Examiner's office reported today.

Spens was driving north on Highway 101 when he crashed into a concrete bridge abutment at the Bates Road off-ramp, according to Medical Examiner's office spokesman Craig Stevens.

Stevens said Spens was not wearing a seat belt and died instantly from the force of the impact in his older Toyota sedan.

It took several days to find Spens' nearest relative, a sister living in the Southwest. Stevens said Spens had only five names stored in his cell phone, all news directors of major market television stations. They were all contacted.

Spens had been living at a residential hotel in Santa Barbara for approximately the past 10 years. He was briefly married twice.

Toxicology tests are pending. Stevens says there were no witnesses to the 3:30 p.m. crash.

Host suspended for remarks about Clinton

Randi Rhodes, a host for the progressive Air America radio network, was suspended today after calling Hillary Clinton a "whore" at an event last month in San Francisco for KKGN-AM "Green 960," the N.Y. Times reports. Rhodes made the remarks on March 22, but it didn't cause much of a stir at the time. However video of her comments was uploaded to YouTube, which then prompted condemnations by bloggers. AirAmerica described her suspension as "indefinite" but has not said what will happen to her daily three-hour program.

Movie in the works about Merc's Gary Webb

Variety reports that Universal is developing a movie called "Kill the Messenger" based on the story of Merc reporter Gary Webb, whose 1996 three-part series "Dark Alliance" implied that the CIA was a catalyst for the crack cocaine scourge in California.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist died Dec. 9, 2004 after suffering two gunshot wounds. His death was ruled a suicide.

He was the target of a smear campaign after he linked the CIA to a scheme to arm Contra rebels in Nicaragua and import cocaine into California.

Universal has optioned two books for the screenplay: Webb's "Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion" and Nick Schou's "Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb."

The film will posit that Webb was mostly right, and that the CIA sought to smear him to cover up a scandal, according to Variety.

"It's the story of a reporter killed for telling the truth, and it's poignant and relevant as the CIA and U.S. government continue to make nefarious deals with the devil for what they believe is the greater good," screenplay writer Gary Landesman told Variety.

No, it's not a KRON 4 VJ

This is how Sacramento News & Review cartoonist Robert Armstrong sees the journalist of the future. The story by R.V. Scheide associated with the drawing questions how journalism can survive. Newspapers made money when they were printed because the ads were seen by readers; online ads don't work as well, and aren't bringing in the revenues printed ads did. Scheide says: "How the hell am I going to get paid?" Bill Gates, who lent money to Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group to buy the Mercury News (which had been one of his biggest critics), didn't have a clue as to how journalism would survive, according to a CNET story Scheide cited. Also wondering is talk-radio host Christine Craft, who has been heard more frequently on KGO-AM 810 after the 10 p.m.-to-1 a.m. shift of the indicted Bernie Ward became available. Scheide, still wondering how he will be paid, finishes his piece by saying:
    [T]here’s no way I could have written this column without BMW motorcycles. It goes without saying that Race to the Bottom would be impossible without Macintosh computers. R.V. Scheide uses only Olympus digital voice recorders bought on sale at to interview his subjects, and you should, too.

Merc, CC Times will shrink by 1/2 inch

While losing a half-inch off the waistline seems impossible for many of us, pages in the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times will soon be going from a width of 12 inches to 11 1/2 inches to save money by reducing the use of paper. The printing trade publication Newspapers & Technology says that 25 MediaNews Group papers, including those in the Bay Area, will be shrinking their web widths to 46 inches. A 46-inch Web translates into a page 11 1/2 inches wide. The Chron still is using a 50-inch web (resulting in a 12 1/2-inch wide page). MediaNews is also installing PDF-to-plate technology, something Southwest Offset in Redwood City has been using for several years.

Hearst bets $60 million on print's future

Will the printed word die anytime soon? Hearst Corp. is betting it won't. The owner of the Chronicle (as well as lots of money-making magazines and TV stations) is plunking down $60 million to buy a new press for its Albany, N.Y., Times Union newspaper. Why does that matter to anyone in the Bay Area? The Chronicle, which lost about $1 million a week from 2000 to 2006, has signed a contract with Canadian printer Transcontinental to take over its printing 11 months. Transcon is building a 338,000-square-foot plant on Kato Road in Fremont. Construction is under way and Transcon is recruiting workers.

Other stations already calling Russomanno

Tony Russomanno, one of the 14 KPIX newsroom employees laid off Monday, tells the LGBT Bay Area Reporter that he is fielding phone calls from other stations but has yet to decide what the next step in his career will be. Russomanno had been with Channel 5 for nearly 17 years, but had not been on air since January due to foot surgery. The station has agreed to pay him for the rest of his contract, which expires in July, as well as a severance package, according to the Bay Area Reporter. "I had planned to keep working several more years at least. I will be looking around for something to do," he said.

Radio's Darian O'Toole dead at 40

Radio host Darian O'Toole has died at an Oakland hospital following a long illness, reports. She was 40. The NY Daily News said she died of respiratory failure. She was at KSAN, KIFR Free FM and K-BIG in San Francisco as well as stations in New York, Seattle and Sacramento. Here's a link to a 1997 Chronicle story about her when she was on the rise.

MediaNews shuts down free East Bay paper

MediaNews Group on Saturday shuttered the Berkeley-based East Bay Daily News after nearly three years. Here's a link to the editor's note announcing the closing. Here's the East Bay Express's take on it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

KPIX CBS 5 lays off 14 including four reporters

KPIX CBS 5 on Monday laid off 14 newsroom employees including reporters (from left) John Lobertini, Manny Ramos, Tony Russomanno and Bill Schechner. The four laid-off reporters have a combined 61 years of service at the station. Schechner, 66, has been on TV in the Bay Area since 1972. Lobertini headed the station's Sacramento bureau. The others laid off were editors and producers. Management isn't commenting beyond saying the layoffs weren't disciplinary. [Chronicle, AP, CBS 5 Blogger Brittney Gilbert]

Many viewers posting comments at are outraged, with some claiming the four reporters were victims of age discrimination.

Other CBS-owned stations are cutting jobs including 30 positions at WBZ-TV Boston, 17 at WBBM Chicago, and unknown numbers of layoffs at WCBS-TV New York, KCNC Denver, KOVR Sacramento and WTVJ Miami.

UPDATE, 10:30 p.m. The AP is reporting that Rick Quan, a reporter and sportscaster who has been at KPIX since 1987, was laid off, too. KPIX communications director Akilah Monifa would not confirm the number being cut except for the five on-air staffers. She said layoffs extended beyond the newsroom to other divisions of both KPIX and sister station KBCW-TV Channel 44.