Saturday, August 30, 2008

Restrictions on news-gathering going too far

The following was posted at TV Spy's ShopTalk blog by San Francisco newsman Don Knapp (pictured). He is responding to a report of an ABC News producer who was arrested by Denver cops for being on a sidewalk supposedly owned by the Brown Palace Hotel, where a lot of top Democrats were staying last week including the Clintons. The producer was part of Brian Ross's unit that is exposing payoffs to legislators. Don's comment starts now:
    This appears to be an extreme, even perverse case of access issues that have become too common with property restrictions here in the San Francisco Bay area. (ABC producer restricted at Democratic National Convention).

    Let's begin at the bottom of the list with access to shopping centers. Despite state law (based on a "free speech" court decision in the 1980 case of restrictions at the Pruneyard Shopping Center, in Campbell, Calif.) giving holders of media press passes the right to cross police and fire lines, except in cases of crime scenes, we here in Northern California fight a new battle nearly every time a story takes us to these places. Security guards are quick to tell us we can't be there.

    And police often block reporters from crossing the line by expanding the crime scene in what sometimes seems an unreasonable way, declaring an entire city block, or a public park, well beyond the area of interest, a cr! ime scene. BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, insistes on calls ahead, if news crews are coming to the stations, even though anyone with the price of the ticket is allowed through the turnstile at any time the system is running. Muni, on the other hand, God Bless 'em, rarely voices any thing when crews come on board buses and streetcars and cable cars.

    There are locations in San Francisco — the public sidewalks around the downtown Embarcadero Center, and at least one park (Jackson Square) that is privately owned, but open to the public on an everyday basis — where security guards will even chase away crews that have come for a pleasant background for an interview, or to do a "standup" which may or may not relate to the property. It's happened to me, a couple of times. Certainly, we crystal clear decisions on what the law is, and a massive information program to make it clear to police and security guards that we have t! he right to be there.

    Earlier this year, an associate at another station, Wayne Freedman at KGO, and cameraman Craig Southern, were arrested and had their camera confiscated, after Napa County Sheriff's deputies declared them too close to a wild fire. Did they have the safety of the crew at heart? Or were they just muscling them around? Fortunately, for all of us reporters and photographers here in the Bay Area, Craig and Wayne loudly resisted, before being handcuffed and hauled away. I'm not sure what the eventual outcome of the case was, in terms of the legal actions that followed, but I can tell you this: For most of this summer, fires and areas on the other side of police lines have been much more accessible.

    And, oh, by the way, about those sidewalks around private buildings that have that little thing in concrete that says, permission to pass by owner and revokable at any time? The point is, if the sidewalk is open to the public, it is open to us. Do members of the fourth estate have fewer first amendment rights than everyone else? Thanks, Asa Eslocker, for resisting, and making a stand. And thanks to the crew for shooting the scene. Looking forward to your story.

    Don Knapp
    San Francisco

Friday, August 29, 2008

'Backroads' on hiatus, McConnell talking to KQED

The Chron reports that money-strapped KRON has put "Bay Area Backroads" on "production hiatus" and that the program's staff has thrown "type of wrap party you'd expect when a show is off the air for good."

KRON will continue to air "Backroads" reruns and a few in-the-can episodes. "Backroads" lost its Nissan sponsorship in June.

But host Doug McConnell, 63, and a business partner have been talking to KQED, which has been expanding its locally produced programming.

"I really think there's a lot of legs left in this stuff, and a lot of stories I still want to tell," McConnell tells the Chron's Peter Hartlaub. "Every time you go out and do a story, you find five or six more. The list gets longer, not shorter."

Meanwhile, McConnell has put some of his clips on his OpenRoad.TV Web site.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bernie Ward gets seven years in prison

"With his sobbing family looking on in a San Francisco courtroom, former KGO radio host Bernie Ward today completed his tumble from one of the Bay Area's most popular liberal voices on the local airwaves to a pariah caught up in the world of online child pornography," writes Howard Mintz of the Mercury News. "Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker sentenced Ward to seven years and three months in federal prison, calling the disgraced celebrity a "troubled individual'' whose downfall is a "personal tragedy.'' Ward now must turn himself in to U.S. Marshals by noon Friday to begin his prison term."

Bernie Ward's confession at the KGO studios

Later today (Aug. 28), Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is scheduled to sentence former KGO-AM host Bernie Ward on child pornography charges. Prosecutors want nine years in prison while his attorney will argue for five. Last night, KGO-TV's Dan Noyes reports that back in 2005, Ward confessed to Michael Pritchard (left), former comedian now a child advocate, at the ABC Broadcast Center at 900 Front St.

Noyes reports:
    Bernie Ward has just wrapped up his Sunday morning program, "God Talk," when he runs into an old friend outside the studio.

    "Bernie walked out and just fell into my arms crying and said that his house had been raided by the FBI and that he was devastated," said Pritchard.

    Pritchard was stunned when Ward explained why he was in trouble, because of what he had done on the Internet.

    Michael Pritchard: "That he's, you know, viewed some stuff, and I knew immediately what that meant because there's nothing on the Internet other than that that's going to cause the Federal Bureau of Investigation to actually come to your home."

    Dan Noyes: "Did he actually say child porn?"

    Michael Pritchard: "Yes."

    Dan Noyes: "And you asked him for how long?"

    Michael Pritchard: "For a year."

    Dan Noyes: "And he said for a year?"

    Michael Pritchard: "He said for a year."

    Ward's case got rolling after he e-mailed an image of child porn to a woman from the Central Valley town of Oakdale. She called police who brought in the FBI, and three months later, agents raided Ward's home. Three days after that, Ward confessed to Pritchard.

    "And I still love him and I want the best for him and hope that he would redeem himself, but at the same time, I have spent my entire life protecting children," said Pritchard.
Read the entire story at

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

File this under "Shoot the Messenger"

You'd think Vallejo City Manager Joseph Tanner, whose city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in May, would have more important things to do than worry about what Web sites his employees visit. But on Monday, Tanner found time to add the Vallejo Times-Herald's Web site and the Vallejo Is Burning blog to the list of Internet addresses employees cannot access from city computers, according to the Chron and Times-Herald. "We blocked these because they are political in nature," Tanner said. "We blocked them because one is an anti-bankruptcy site and the other is a rag of a newspaper." Also banned is the Vallejo Bankruptcy Update site, which is written by former city workers.

Chron stops using the term 'progressive'

Audrey Cooper, assistant metro editor of the Chron, tells the Bay Guardian that her paper "decided to stop using the word 'progressive' to describe the more liberal of San Francisco's political factions because it is a politically loaded term that doesn't mean much to our readers. And while 'progressive' may be the preferred term of some politicians — and, of course, they are free to use it to describe themselves — it doesn't describe where they sit on the traditional political spectrum."

"We believe using adjectives such as 'far left' and 'ultra liberal' more accurately describe city politicians and policies in that broader context," Cooper said in an e-mail to the Guardian's Bruce Brugmann.

Brugmann says Mayor Gavin Newsom's gubernatorial campaign complained about the use of the word progressive, but Newsom's press secretary Nathan Ballard denied leaning on the Chron. "I have to admit that I'm pleased to learn from you that the Chronicle will no longer be using the term 'progressive' to describe politicians who aren't," Ballard tells the Guardian. "It always struck me as Orwellian doublespeak to describe somebody who wants to legalize sex trafficking and force lobbyists to wear badges as 'progressive.'"

At least one progressive, uh, far left winger is upset about the change. George Avalos, a supervisorial candidate in San Francisco's Excelsior District, complained to Cooper about the change. "The Chron's use of 'ultra left' and 'far left' is completely biased. After all, who's the arbiter here about what 'ultra left' and 'far left are?' What standard are you using and where did it come from? Seems pretty made up to me. Very rarely or better yet, never do I hear progressives talk about themselves in these terms. The Chron's making it up out of whole cloth," Avalos said in an e-mail to Cooper that was quoted by the Guardian.

SacBee offers buyouts to most employees

The Sacramento Bee reports that it is offering voluntary buyouts to 55 percent of its full-time employees — including 200 of its 240 full-time news staffers — as an advertising slump continues. The Bee has made limited buyout offers before, but this marked its first-ever broad-based buyouts. The buyouts came two months after The Bee eliminated 86 jobs as part of an across-the-board layoff ordered by its parent, The McClatchy Co. of Sacramento. A companywide wage freeze was imposed by McClatchy two weeks ago. In July, The Bee unveiled a smaller print format, another way to save money. McClatchy stock, already off 85 percent in the past year, closed Monday at $3.54, down 4 cents.

P. Scott McKibben head sales at LA Times

P. Scott McKibben (pictured), former publisher of the ANG newspapers and the Examiner, has been named as executive vp and chief revenue officer of the LA Times. McKibben's appointment was the first major move by new Publisher Eddy Hartenstein, the former DirecTV executive who is attempting to turn around the struggling Southern California newspaper.

McKibben was publisher of the Examiner when the Fang family sold the free daily to billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz in 2004 for $10.7 million. He negotiated the sale on behalf of the Fangs and stayed on as publisher under Anschutz. Then McKibbin sued the Fangs, saying they owe him a $1.2 million commission for brokering the Examiner sale. The Fangs countersued, alleging that McKibben turned away potential buyers so that Anschutz could buy the paper at a discounted price. The case was settled out of court and McKibben stepped down in August 2005. Since November 2006, he had been publisher of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

August 2008 Press Club board minutes

Meeting was called to order on Aug. 20, 2008, at 10:12 a.m. by President Jamie Casini.

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

Treasurer's report: Distributed to board members.

New business:

The annual picnic was postponed because of scheduling. Instead, the Christmas party was scheduled for Dec. 7, a Sunday, between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

It was determined that the forum/boot camp for high school students would take place Sept. 26 at the College of San Mateo. Topics are yet to be determined, but some considerations may include: The future of the industry, what is news, dealing with an administration, ethics, design, critiques, finding stories, interview techniques, podcasting and photography.

The next meeting was determined to occur at the San Mateo Daily Journal offices Sept. 17.

There was an informal discussion on board participation and how the club overall should proceed considering some directors' lack of participation.

Meeting was adjourned by President Casini at 11:04 a.m. by President Casini.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chron editor defends Willie Brown column

"[S]ince Willie Brown’s column was introduced into the Sunday Chronicle, it has been very well received by readers because it is amusing, topical, controversial and informed. Willie has special connections to the Bay Area," Chronicle editor Ward Bushee (left) writes an e-mail to Guardian Editor Bruce Brugmann (right).

Brugmann, a longtime critic of PG&E, discovered that the utility paid the former California assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor $200,000 last year for "consulting services."

Brugmann asked Bushee whether the payment violates Hearst's ethics code for journalists.

According to Brugmann, Bushee said he did not see a conflict nor think that disclosure of Willie’s clients was necessary. Bushee said that Willie is widely known, is “a man about town,” has a popular column, is subject to “strenuous editing,” but is “a freelance columnist who is free to pursue his business interests as any other person who is not a part of the staff.” He said that, if Willie were on staff, he would be subject to Hearst’s “ethical standards.”
    "“Look, Bruce. If we ever found that Willie had knowingly used his column to benefit his clients, we would end the relationship. As with any agreement, trust is implicit.

    “The Chronicle news staff always has aggressively—and fairly—covered Willie Brown as a newsmaker. And I have told our editors that I expect nothing less when Willie Brown makes news in the future.

    “Besides that, Willie writes a great column. I’m delighted he is in the Sunday Chronicle.”
July 30, Chron staffers appalled by Brown's column

Daily Californian drops Wednesday edition

Add the Daily Californian to the list of newspapers that have dropped editions due to a downturn in advertising. The Daily Cal, a 137-year-old student-run newspaper independent of the UC Berkeley administration, says it no longer print on Wednesdays. It also plans to scale back its staff and reduce compensation, though it gave no specifics.

The Daily Cal also said it will beef up its online offerings, a statement frequently made by newspapers when they cut print editions.

In March, Berkeley lost the East Bay Daily News and in April the Berkeley Daily Planet went from two editions a week to just one.

Bryan Thomas, editor-in-chief and president of the Daily Cal, wrote:
    Our primary mission has always been to train the next generation of superior journalists and media industry professionals-a mission which we excel at fulfilling. In doing so we have provided UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley with a distinguished source of information free of charge.

    This year we mark 137 years of publication and 37 years of independence from the university, making us one of the nation's oldest college newspapers, and one of the few that is truly independent. Our staff takes seriously the legacy we are protecting, and we understand that we must make changes to prosper into the future.

MNG pins hopes on 'individuated' newspapers

With its daily newspapers sliding in terms of ads and circulation, MediaNews Group is focusing its attention on niche publications — focused on topics such as autos, real estate, restaurants and golf — which can be highly profitable. The trade publication Newspapers & Technology quotes Peter Vandevanter, MNG vice president of targeted products, as saying the company wants to become the “iPod of newspapers,” offering targeted daily products to readers with all of the content they want and nothing they don’t.
    "MNG is so keen on the idea of targeted newspapers that the publisher coined the term 'individuated newspapers' to describe the concept and distinguish it as going beyond targeted products currently available."

9 year sentence urged for Bernie Ward

Federal prosecutors are recommending a nine-year prison sentence for Bernie Ward and they are belittling his claim that he was just doing research for a book when he was caught sending child pornography online, the Chronicle reports. Ward, 57, will be sentenced Thursday by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. "No evidence supports (Ward's) contention that he engaged in his behavior to further a journalistic investigation," Justice Department lawyers said in papers filed Aug. 20 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. In fact, they said, new evidence shows that Ward shared graphic images of child pornography with a group of 10 people for about a year. While prosecutors are seeking a nine-year sentence, Ward's attorney said he will ask for five years.

Singleton sues rival for selling below cost ads

Dean Singleton, the Bay Area's biggest publisher of daily newspapers, is suing a competitor in Humboldt County for supposedly selling below cost advertising, a violation of California law.

Typically in such cases, a small independent paper sues its chain-owned competitor for doing such things. An example is the Bay Guardian's successful lawsuit against the Village Voice Media chain, which a jury found was selling below cost ads in the SF Weekly to run the Guardian out of business. The Guardian was awarded $15.9 million, which is now on appeal.

In the Humboldt County case, the David and Goliath roles are reversed. Singleton's MediaNews Group owns Eureka's Times-Standard, a paid-circulation daily, and the Tri-City Weekly, a shopper. A local banker, Rob Arkley, started a free daily, the Eureka Reporter, in 2004 because he felt the Singleton-owned paper wasn't providing enough local news.

The civil suit seeks a jury trial and the recovery of $3 million in lost advertising revenue and $40 million in economic damages from depressed value to the Times-Standard and Tri-City Weekly, as well as a court order to prohibit its competitor from engaging in any alleged unlawful, unfair and deceptive business practices, according to the Eureka Reporter's story about the lawsuit.

According to the Times-Standard's story, the complaint claims The Eureka Reporter undercuts ad costs, “with the intent to eliminate the Times-Standard and Tri-City Weekly as competitors and destroy competition.” It further alleges that The Eureka Reporter's financiers “are willing to subsidize the (company's) losses ... in an effort to economically cripple The Times-Standard and the Tri-City Weekly.”

The two newspapers have been embroiled in a separate lawsuit over legal notices, with the Times-Standard arguing that the Reporter doesn't fit the state's criteria to print them. An appeals court agreed with the Singleton paper and the Eureka Reporter has been forced to stop printing the notices.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chronicle: Josh Wolf is a real journalist

[Full disclosure: The Press Club's webmaster is Dave Price, an owner of the Daily Post.]

When he went to prison for refusing to give law enforcement a videotape he made of a San Francisco political protest, journalists debated whether Josh Wolf was really a journalist.

While Wolf was sitting in a federal prison, the Chronicle appeared to be more concerned about the fate of two of its reporters who might have to go to jail for refusing to say who gave them a grand jury transcript in the Barry Bonds case. It turned out that they never spent a day in jail. But Wolf, now 26, spent 226 days behind bars at a federal prison.

The mainstream media mostly ignored Josh Wolf. Some argued that since he had professed anarchist political beliefs, he couldn't fairly report on a protest that included anarchists. When the Press Club began counting up the days Wolf was spending behind bars, it received e-mails from journalists criticizing that decision.

But Wolf's views didn't stop KRON4 and KTVU Channel 2 from paying him for portions of his video.

Now that he's out of prison and has landed a job at the Palo Alto Daily Post, the Chronicle has decided Wolf is a journalist. Here are a few paragraphs from the story:
    The case helped fuel the debate over the definition of what constitutes journalism — in an age of blog posts and video uploads by noncredentialed amateurs - and who is entitled to press protections, specifically journalists' ability to maintain the confidentiality of an unnamed source or unpublished material. For now, Wolf said the debate concerning his professional status can be put to rest.

    "I felt like it was an irrelevant argument before," Wolf said. "But it feels like it's much harder for them to make their point now that it's how I earn my paycheck."

    The shift from only a blogger to a just-the-facts reporter at a 16,500-circulation newspaper may seem counterintuitive at a time when newspapers and their staffs are shrinking.

    Yet Wolf enjoys the lot of a small-town cub reporter at a traditional local newspaper, which doesn't even maintain a Web site. At the Palo Alto Daily Post, he files 10 to 15 stories a week written in standard newspaper style, devoid of personal analysis, and most of his stories are only a few hundred words long and fail to include what Wolf calls the "significant nuances" of his reporting.

    "I could write 10,000 words on some stories," Wolf said. "But I think it's understood you're trying to get the facts of the story a reader can easily understand, and no story is free of minute details that are also important." ...
(Photo credit: (Kim Komenich, The Chronicle

Is this the future Bay Area media museum?

The historic work of broadcasters and journalists may soon have a permanent home in the Bay Area. David Jackson, executive director of the Bay Area Radio Museum, toured the 38,000-square-foot Hibernia Bank building at Jones and McAllister streets (at Market) on Tuesday with San Francisco officials. According to the Chron, Jackson laid out his vision for a cultural arts center that would house music, sports and broadcasting museums, along with training facilities for dance, art and filmmaking. The Chron reports that Jackson faces some obstacles:
    The Hibernia's owner, Thomas Lin Yun, leader of the Black Sect Tantric Buddhism temple in Berkeley, has the building on the market for $4 million, down from a nearly $10 million asking price in May 2007, said Benny Yee, a real estate broker for the potential buyers.

    It would also cost roughly $18 million to make the building inhabitable, including seismic retrofitting, removing asbestos and lead paint, adding access for the disabled and ensuring proper fire escape routes, said Steve Van Someren, the radio museum's secretary and treasurer.
Jackson's radio museum, which currently exists as an online archive, is looking for a permanent home. It has joined with the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and the local chapter of the National Television Academy to form a consortium dedicated to creating a broadcast and newspaper museum in the Bay Area.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Report: KGO 810 tumbles in 25-54 demo

"Radio Equalizer" Brian Maloney reports that Arbitron's switch from diaries to Portable People Meters has crushed KGO 810's legendary ratings into tiny bits. He writes:
    Late last week, the first PPM report representing July 2008 was released to clients and obtained by your Radio Equalizer. ...

    While the station did retain its number one position in the overall 12 and older demographic, it was killed in the all-important Adults 25-54 segment. Because advertising rates are set based on a station's performance in that category, strong ratings there are a must.

    But KGO's new figures show it ranks just 18th overall, with a particularly disappointing 18th showing during the crucial morning drive period, followed by 17th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., an abysmal 23rdin afternoon drive and 20th between 7 p.m. and midnight.

    By contrast, all-news competitor KCBS was number one in morning drive.

    Rock-bottom numbers like that should have advertisers thinking twice about paying a premium to advertise on KGO.
Maloney, a conservative, points out that conservative KSFO 560 fell to 31st place in the 25-54 demo.
    After firing talker Melanie Morgan in what was claimed to be a cost-cutting move, KSFO's morning show generated a mere twenty-second showing.
KGO-AM topper Mickey Luckoff was warning more than a year ago that the People Meters presented a skewed look at the radio audience. We suspect there is more to this story.

India to edit Palo Alto real estate section

The Palo Alto Daily News Group in has tapped Express KCS to manage writing, copy-editing and design of a weekly real-estate product, the trade publication Newspapers & Technology reports.

Workers at Express KCS’ Gurgeon, India, facility (offices pictured above) are handling the copy editing and design associated with the creation of Home Preview, an 8- to 16-page advertorial product that is distributed with Daily News editions and also used as a topper for selected San Jose Mercury News zones, said Mary Evans, the Mercury News’ chief financial officer.

Evans told Newspapers & Technology that the decision to use Express KCS to create Home Preview does not mean BANG will outsource any of its other editorial functions. “It’s a toe in the water, and it’s not a shot across the bow,” she said.

“It behooves us to find ways to optimize our operations, but we have no plans to outsource any of our news,” she said, adding that the publisher might, however, outsource other advertorial products.

Express KCS already handles ad production for the Mercury News as well as other BANG papers that include the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times.

DNG, a unit of MediaNews Group’s Bay Area Newspapers Group, consists of free newspapers distributed in Palo Alto, San Mateo and other communities near San Francisco. (Photo credit: Newspapers & Technology, January 2007)

Dean Singleton to party with Democrats

MediaNews Group chief executive Dean Singleton, a major Bush fundraiser, now wants to make a good impression at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, where his newspaper empire is headquartered.

And money doesn't seem to be an object.

At least that's the opinion of LAObserved.
    "The Denver Post [is] sponsoring a media party Saturday night at Elitch Gardens, a big Denver theme park. Denver's other paper, the Rocky Mountain News, is also a sponsor, but Singleton seems especially interested in the shindig. Actually, there had been some talk that he threatened to pull out of the event when some organizers proposed a cattle-drive parade to kick off the convention (Singleton wants the world to know that Denver is not some cow town). Anyway, Robert Sweeney, publisher of The Villager, a weekly, said Singleton told him that it would cost $1.5 million to host the event. In his weekly column (no link), Sweeney didn't offer details on where the money was coming from, but considering the financial woes that MediaNews faces it's bound to be noticed within the Singleton newsrooms.

Palo Alto Weekly drops Wednesday edition

The Palo Alto Weekly, which has been printing two editions a week for the last 15 years, has announced that it will drop its Wednesday edition and only publish on Fridays. The move comes six weeks after the Palo Alto Daily News killed its Monday edition because of a lack of advertising.

However, the Weekly says it will launch an online edition called Express that will be e-mailed at 10 a.m. Monday-Friday.

"The new electronic daily edition will contain a digest of up-to-the-minute news stories, sports scores and local events, with links to more detailed information on the website Palo Alto Online. It will be distributed by e-mail at 10 a.m. each weekday to an initial list of more than 10,000 recipients in the Palo Alto area," the Weekly said in a story announcing the changes.

"The new daily e-mailed edition will have three featured advertising positions, which [Publisher Bill] Johnson expects to be extremely popular among advertisers due to the targeted audience."

The Weekly started in 1979 and went to twice a week in 1993 when the Peninsula Times Tribune folded. In 1994, it says it became the first newspaper in the United States to publish its contents on the World Wide Web.

City gives paper newsracks it wanted

[Full disclosure: The Press Club's webmaster is Dave Price, an owner of the Daily Post.]

The newest newspaper in Palo Alto, the Daily Post, announced in Monday's edition that the city of Palo Alto has given it 27 spaces in the city-owned modular newsracks along University Avenue, the town's main drag.

Previously the city was only willing to give the paper 14 spaces. The Post complained, saying it should get the same number as its competitors. The Palo Alto Daily News has 39 spaces and the Palo Alto Weekly has 31.

However, the city's newsrack ordinance didn't anticipate new publications coming to town, so there weren't enough spaces allocated for daily newspapers to give the Post the same number as the Daily News or Weekly. However, there were dozens of spaces abandoned by non-daily publications. The city agreed to give the Post some of those spaces.

The dispute became heated at one point last week when a city employees grabbed all of the Post's racks in the downtown area and put them on a flatbed truck headed out of town. The move was prompted by complaints by the Palo Alto Weekly. The Post's distribution manager, Amando Mendoza, caught the workers as they were grabbing the racks and convinced them to leave the racks off at the Post's office instead of confiscating them.

Hours later the Post put the racks back and Editor/Co-Publisher Dave Price said in print that if the city employees attempted to confiscate the racks again, they would have to throw him in jail first. Price said he simply wanted the city to treat his paper like others in the area.

On Friday, acting city manager Steve Emslie called Price and asked him to come down to City Hall. Emslie proposed giving abandoned racks to the Post in order to level the playing field between the various newspapers. The two walked through the downtown district, with Emslie pointing out which racks the Post could use. In the end, the Post got 27 racks. While it wasn't as many as the Daily News or Weekly, Price said the number was sufficient to meet the new paper's needs.

Friday, August 15, 2008

City takes newspaper's racks

[Full disclosure: The Press Club's webmaster is Dave Price, an owner of the Daily Post.]

The city of Palo Alto seized 27 newsracks belonging to the 2-month-old Daily Post on Thursday.

The action was triggered by complaints from the rival Palo Alto Weekly. A city public works official, Bob Morris, agreed with the Weekly that placing free-standing racks (such as the blue one at left) downtown violated the city newsrack ordinance, which forces newspapers to use modular newsracks (the unit of four on the right).

But when the city failed to act on the Post's request for spaces in the modular racks, the newspaper put out the freestanding racks.

Last week, nearly three months after the Post asked for space in the modular racks, the city granted it 14 spots -- far less than the 38 spots held by the Palo Alto Daily News or 31 occupied by the Palo Alto Weekly.

Then, after the Post had installed racks into just three of the 14 spaces it had been awarded, the city Public Works Department began loading the paper's freestanding racks onto a flat-bed truck at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Post's circulation manager, Amando Mendoza, caught up with the truck at about noon and persuaded the city workers to drop the racks off at the newspaper's offices at 324 High St.

When the racks were seized, they would have contained more than 1,000 papers, Mendoza said. But when they arrived at the Post's office, they had only 120 papers. Post Editor and Co-Publisher Dave Price has filed a theft report with Palo Alto Police over the missing papers, citing Penal Code Section 490.7 that makes it a crime to take more than 25 papers from the box of a free newspaper. Police told him they would investigate the complaint.

Meanwhile, the Post on Thursday put the racks back where they had been located previously, in defiance of city officials. (Here's a PDF of the Post's stories that ran Thursday. The Post doesn't have a Web site.) The following is from the Post's story by reporter Ian Port:
    Mayor Larry Klein said yesterday that it was only fair that competiting dailies get the same amount of space in city-administered newsracks.

    "I'm concerned when any newspaper's racks are confiscated," Klein told the Post.

    Ronna Devincenzi, head of the California Avenue Area Development Association who keeps a close eye on newsracks in her part of town, called the city's move "outrageous."

    She said she's seen newsracks vacant so long that residents have used them to store groceries.

    "(The Post) had no other option (than to put out freestanding racks). If you had waited for the city, you'd never have space," said Devincenzi. "For the area of all of downtown, 14 is not enough if the Daily News has 38."

    Overnight the Post replaced the 27 newsracks that the city removed.

    "Until the city provides a level playing field, and allows us as many spaces as our competitors, these freestanding newsracks aren't going anywhere. And if the bureaucrats at City Hall don't like it, they can throw me in jail," said Price.
Additional coverage: Associated Press, Palo Alto Daily News.

KRON's owner says sales talks continue

Vince Young (pictured), chief executive of Young Broadcasting, told analysts yesterday that the "auction" of KRON-TV is ongoing. Young said Moelis & Co., the Los Angeles broker Young tapped in January to conduct the sale, “was engaged with several parties,” but the company was not willing to give out more information. Young said later, “It’s a tricky environment for doing an M&A [merger-and-acquisition] deal. The amount of buyers and sellers in the marketplace are not what they were a year ago.” (Here's a link to a Webcast of the earnings conference call.)

Young reported second-quarter net revenue of $37 million, down 6.7 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

Vince Young said his company has written down the value of KRON by $139 million, from $366 million to $227 million.

Young Broadcasting's financial statement for the quarter separated KRON from the company's other stations in the Midwest. The figures show KRON had revenues of $12.3 million in the second quarter and expenses of $13.1.

McClatchy freezes employee pay for a year

McClatchy has frozen employee pay for a year and sold off its Real Cities Network in order to conserve cash amid an advertising downturn, the McClatchy-owned Sacramento Bee is reporting this morning. Real Cities, which McClatchy got when it acquired Knight Ridder in 2006, sells Internet advertising.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Alice's Sarah Clark makes $1.2 million?

Radio critic Brad Kava, writing in the SF Weekly, says that Live 105 morning man Jeff "Woody" Fife (right) has been hammering rival morning host Sarah Clark (left) of Alice FM 97.3 by making fun of her show and broadcasting her salary. Fife claims it's $1.2 million a year.

Both stations are owned by CBS and they broadcast from studios in the KPIX building at Battery and Broadway. Fife told Kava that he got reamed out by management for talking about Clark's salary. "I don't say I need to make that, but I hate when they fight me over another $25,000," he said.

Kava notes that among listeners 18 to 35, Live 105 is fourth while Alice is 12th. (Photo credits: left, KGO ABC7; right, Chronicle file)

CNN reduces size of SF bureau

CNN announced Tuesday that it would “double its domestic news-gathering presence” by assigning journalists to 10 additional U.S. cities. CNN currently has 10 domestic bureaus, and will transfer employees from four bureaus — Atlanta, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco — to staff the new operations, according to Brian Stelter of The New York Times' blog TV Decoder.
    "[T]he journalists will not work from news bureaus; instead, they will be stationed at local television affiliates and other office locations. Using inexpensive laptops and cameras, they will file stories for the Internet and report live on television. One “all-platform journalist” will be assigned to each city.

    "The strategy reflects the increasingly portable and flexible nature of television production. Expensive bureaus with camera crews and satellite uplinks are increasingly being downsized by TV news divisions, in favor of so-called “one man bands” that interview, write, record, edit and report live."

Examiner to pay bloggers based on page views

The Examiner chain is hoping to beef up its online side by paying bloggers based on the number of page views. Gawker Media, whose sites include the Silicon Valley gossip site, has been paying its writers this way for years. Gawker took delight in reporting that the Examiner has now borrowed its concept:
    "The wee free newspapers of nutty Christian entrepreneur Philip Anschutz (the DC, Baltimore, and San Francisco Examiners) have announced an exciting new method of paying content-providers: based on the page views those content-providers accumulate!

    "The Examiner umbrella brand has launched what looks like 1,000 new blogs based on every possible topic one could blog about (with plenty of overlap), written by, who knows, hobos and bored high school students, and all of them will be paid between $2.50 and $10 for every 1,000 views they attract to their pages."
Gawker says the Examiner plans to launch a promotional campaign for new bloggers (who will be called "examiners") in the next week or so.

San Francisco may chase newspapers away

Mayor Gavin Newsom and members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors figured they could help reduce a $338 million deficit by doubling the fees newspapers pay to use the city's green modular news-racks. But the SF Weekly's John Geluardi reports that many newspapers will react to the increase by reducing the number of racks they use.

"Now because of the financial barrier, smaller publishers will have to consolidate, which will decrease their ... presence," Alex Popovics of the Newsrack Fairness Coalition, which represents 50 publishers, told the SF Weekly. "There is a chance that a lot of the pedestals will be partially empty."

Geluardi also says that local news publishers are hinting they may sue the city for violating their free speech rights. (Photo credit: SFPPC)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Columnist warns supe he'll get dinged

San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly (right), who leads the progressive wing of that city's politics, posted on his blog an e-mail he said he got from Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius (left):
    From: Nevius, CW
    Date: Fri, 8 Aug 2008 11:58:12 -0700
    To: Chris Daly
    Subject: cwn

    Hi Chris,
    Just a heads up. I am going to ding you for the zoo hearing yesterday. It didn’t look good to limit the public comment, nor to cut off the first speaker. I understand that you were trying to get to your afternoon session about black flight from the city, but even some of those who spoke said they’d had enough hearings, they wanted some action. While that is an important topic, so is the zoo and disappointed to see you didn’t give it a full hearing, even though it has been discussed before.

    Will also mention your call to get Mark Sanchez out of the race. With Sierra Club and Mark Leno endorsements, it seems to me his support is not as feeble as you suggested.

    I am sending you this as an effort at responsible journalism. Ethically, you should always give a subject a chance to state his side. I wish you’d done the same before writing that I was a liar.

Here's what Daly said he e-mailed back to Nevius:
    From: Chris Daly
    Sent: Friday, August 08, 2008 12:26 PM
    To: Nevius, CW
    Subject: Re: cwn

    Responsible journalism? Go sell crazy somewhere else.
And here is Nevius's column, headlined, "Zoo hearing brings out the predator in Daly."

Singleton gets help from 'partner' Hearst

The Bay Area's two big newspaper companies have teamed up to do another deal. This time Hearst Corp., owner of the Chronicle, is paying Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group an undisclosed amount for the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport and seven weekly newspapers in the state.

"We are selling the Connecticut Post to Hearst and paying down a lot of debt," said Singleton, chief executive of MNG, according to a report in the Connecticut Post.

Hearst will also be taking over the management of a number of Connecticut newspapers it owns but MediaNews had operated.

Speaking for Hearst about the deal was Frank Bennack Jr., who has returned to the helm of the company after the resignation of CEO Victor Ganzi in June. Ganzi resigned following a dispute with the company's trustees. Bennack headed Hearst for two decades before Ganzi took over in 2002.

Bennack said Hearst will continue to be a partner and investor in MNG, according to the Connecticut Post article.

In 2006, Ganzi told The New York Times that Hearst had effectively purchased a 20 percent to 30 percent stake in MNG when it gave $263 million to MNG to help it buy the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other newspapers. To guard against Hearst or MediaNews getting a monopoly in the Bay Area, the Justice Department said Hearst could not own any part of MNG's assets here and that the two companies' papers had to treat one another as competitors in the region.

Lawyers want to learn about the media

The Bar Association of San Francisco will hold a panel Oct. 15 titled "Meet the Press: What Every Law Firm Needs to Know about Media Relations." The description says:
    "The panel will focus on best practices for raising your firm’s profile in the legal and business press and include practical tips for law firms of all sizes in dealing with reporters. What makes a good story. What makes a deal or case newsworthy. How to pitch a story to a reporter. Elements of a “trend” story. Interview do’s and don’ts for lawyers. How to handle bad news. Blogs – perils and opportunities."
Speakers include Scott Graham, editor of the legal newspaper The Recorder; Niraj Chokshi, reporter at The Recorder; Jill Redhage, reporter at the San Francisco Daily Journal, also a legal newspaper; Deobrah Goodin, marketing and communications manager at Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin, and the moderator is Carl Whitaker of Whitaker Communications, which does PR and marketing for law firms. Here's a link for information.

CC Times, ANG union leaders plan Web chat

The union representing newsroom workers at the Contra Costa Times newspapers and Alameda Newspaper Group will hold a live Web chat moderated by unit leaders from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 13. That's the first anniversary of the merger of the two newsrooms by MediaNews Group. In her invitation, Guild unit co-chair Sara Steffens writes, "Got questions about what you see — and don't see — in your local paper? Wonder what the plans are for the future? Worried about whether we can sustain quality journalism amid the historic downturns of the newspaper industry? We want to hear from you — please join the conversation." For more information, go to

Program released for CFAC annual assembly

Here's a link to the program for the California First Amendment Coalition's annual Free Speech and Open Government Assembly, Oct. 17-18 at UC Berkeley. Sessions of interest to reporters include:
    Getting the Most Out of City Hall and Police. Leading investigative reporters and legal experts pour through the public files, explaining what key information can be gleaned from them, where to go to get it and how to overcome obstacles to access.

    Accessing government databases. Leading investigative reporters and legal experts discuss the enormous amount of information now being stored electronically by governments, how to obtain that information and overcome obstacles to access.

    New Channels for News and Information. YouTube, a crucial news source in the 2008 election cycle, did not exist as of the Kerry v. Bush contest. The panel of leading digerati examine the latest steps in the evolution of the media/information ecosystem and their relevance to the political system.
Admission is free, but participants need to register to be assured of a space.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bronstein: Throw out objective journalism

Phil Bronstein says it's time to throw out the notion that journalists should be objective.

Bambi Francisco, formerly a MarketWatch columnist who now heads, interviewed several figures in journalism about objectivity during a conference at Stanford two weeks ago and posted this video.

William Randolph Hearst III, for instance, said objective journalism still exists, and emphasized that there's a distinction between facts and opinion. Andy Heyward, former head of CBS News, said he would hate to see a world where everything is an op-ed page and nobody is trying to do old-fashioned, objective reporting. Bronstein, who stepped down in January as editor of the Chronicle to become the editor-at-large for Hearst, told Francisco that objectivity is a concoction that has developed over the past few decades:
    "People have opinions, they have perspective and one of the things that creates expertise is your perspective ... "I think journalists shy away from speaking with authority and that they ought to speak with it. ... I think the whole notion of objectivity should be thrown out."
(Photo credits: screen grabs)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sarah and Vinnie back together at Alice

Who doesn't believe in redemption? This morning Sarah Clark of Alice FM 97.3 will be reunited with former co-host Vinnie Hasson, who was fired by the station in 2002 for recurring absenteeism. At the time, Clark would only her partner he was "very sick" and had "serious personal problems." As radio critic Brad Kava put it, Hasson was terminated for "partying too hard and passing out at a company party." Kava, writing for the SF Weekly, reports that six years later, Hasson is a changed man:
    He sounded like ... one who knew he had miraculously beaten long odds by getting fired and rehired for the same slot on 97.3’s morning show.

    “It was a miracle for sure, a trip for sure,” says the 39-year-old who proudly announced that he’s been sober for four and a half years. “I just made a mess of everything around me.”

    He said he couldn’t help but drink to excess, “aggressive and over the top” and a binge that lasted some two years straight, all in the public eye. ...

    He said his friends at Alice tried to get him to get help, but he couldn’t do it. He thought he could take a few days off and fix the problem. It took getting fired and hitting bottom to get him to rehab and then to Alcoholics Anonymous.

    Cleaned up, he ended up in Eugene, Oregon, on rock station KNRQ, doing mornings. But he always dreamt of coming back to San Francisco, never imagining he could get his old show back.

    He stayed in touch with people from CBS and auditioned for other shows, but nothing worked until Alice general manager Greg Nemitz called to ask him back. ...
Here are a few paragraphs from a news release Nemitz put out about Vinnie's return:
    After much speculation and daily on-air auditions with several different candidates, Vinnie Hasson has rejoined Sarah Clark as co-host of the new morning show at Alice @ 97.3. ...

    When Alice went on the air in 1997, Sarah & Vinnie were recruited to anchor the station's morning show. They came into San Francisco as relative unknowns after being unceremoniously dumped by a Philadelphia station following a six month stint.

    Within just a few months, their irreverent chemistry made them one of the most popular morning drive programs in San Francisco.

    Vinnie departed in 2002 and eventually landed at KNRQ in Eugene, Ore., where he has anchored the morning show for the past four years.

    "As we searched for a new partner for Sarah, Vinnie's name kept coming up," said Alice Vice President and General Manager Greg Nemitz. "We interviewed several interesting other candidates but it just seemed so obvious that Vinnie would be the best fit. He is known in this market and has undeniable chemistry with Sarah. Just listening to their interaction on the first conference call and we knew that this team could be resurrected."

    Added Sarah, "We had not spoken in years until we reconnected to discuss this opening. It took us about 30-seconds to realize that we still have this unbelievably comfortable rapport! It was like having a conversation with a long lost brother."

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Group asks DOJ to probe Bailey murder

On the first anniversary of the assassination of journalist Chauncey Bailey, Reporters Without Borders is calling for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the case, and launched an online petition drive.

The press freedom group says:
    "Evidence, some recorded by the police and some uncovered by investigative reporters, points at someone other than the currently accused defendant as a potential perpetrator(s) and/or mastermind(s) of the crime, and suggests that local police officials may be protecting those responsible for Mr. Bailey’s death. Reporters Without Borders also disapproves of Oakland Police Chief Tucker and Deputy Chief Howard A. Jordan’s unwillingness to talk to the media. ...

    "This important case must be taken away from the local officials and brought to the federal level in order to avoid further bias, pressure and conflicts of interests, and, to allow a thorough and impartial investigation."
Today, two gatherings took place on the first anniversary of the shooting death of Bailey, the former editor of the Oakland Post. According to Thomas Peele and Bob Butler of The Chauncey Bailey Project, about 25 people gathered at 14th and Alice streets in Oakland near where Bailey was shot down. One of the speakers, the Rev. Jay Matthews of St. Benedict's Church, said: "We pray this day that the healing that is so needed will be a reality for us."

In North Oakland, former members of Your Black Muslim Bakery — where the man accused of killing Bailey, Devaughndre Broussard, had worked — demanded more accountability from police and the media in a gathering that attracted 20 people, according to Peele and Butler.

Chron plans to cut another 125 jobs

The Chronicle reported this morning that it will offer at least 125 employees the chance to take a buyout before the end of the year, or another round of layoffs will take place. The story did not say how many of the employees would be from the newsroom.

The cuts come just two months after the Chronicle reduced its newsroom from 400 people to around 300. An in February, the Chronicle will not renew the contract of about 237 Teamster press operators as it turns over printing to a contractor, Transcon, which is building a plant in Fremont.

"Obviously, we're not the first newspaper to be affected by the continuing downturn in advertising," said Publisher, President and CEO Frank Vega. "We are hopeful that by opting for our employees to voluntarily sign up for buyouts we can avoid any type of layoffs going forward."

The program is open to all employees who are not represented by a union as well as employees who are represented by the Northern California Media Workers' Guild, the Chron said. The company said it would consider accepting more than 125 employees and that it has the right to reject as well as accept applicants. If the reduction goal is not met, the company said, layoffs will be likely.

SF Mayor Newsom to double newsrack fees

On the same day the Chronicle reported that it is cutting 125 jobs (see item above), it reports that publishers in San Francisco are furious over a proposal by Mayor Gavin Newsom to double newsrack fees from $30 to $60 a year, effective Aug. 30. Alex Popovics, owner of San Francisco Bay Distributors, said the smaller publications he provides distribution services for are likely to reduce their presence in the city due to cost. Small papers aren't alone in making this complaint: Lawyers representing several newspapers, including the Chron and USA Today, argue the higher fees could have a chilling effect on First Amendment rights by creating a financial barrier to the dissemination of news.

San Francisco has an unusual newsrack program, where the green modular pedestal racks that the city wants all over town are owned by Clear Channel Outdoor — a competitor in the advertising arena to newspapers. Clear Channel made a deal with former Mayor Willie Brown to pay for the installation and maintenance of the new newsracks in return for the right to place large billboards on the back of the racks. San Francisco voters, in a 2002 referendum, passed Proposition G to stop new billboards from going up. But a loophole allows them on city property, including the new newsracks the city is installing.

The number of pedestal racks has grown from about 200 to more than 550 in just the past year and a half. The city plans to have 1,000 pedestal-style racks installed by 2013.

To keep up with the increase in the new city racks, more money is needed for news-rack program managers, sidewalk inspectors and engineers, said Christine Falvey, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.