Saturday, October 31, 2009

Want to see a Merc story? Go to SFGate

The Chron's SFGate is now posting the Twitter feeds of other media outlets in the Bay Area including the Mercury News, its rival. Even though a 2006 court order has kept Hearst and MediaNews from combining operations in the Bay Area (Hearst owns 30% of the MNG outside the Bay Area), SFGate lists the Merc as one of its many contributors (scroll down to "Other Local Media"). Here's an SFGate page of Merc links. And often links to Merc stories are featured on the first page of SFGate.

AG spokesman put on leave for taping reporter

Attorney General Jerry Brown has put on leave spokesman Scott Gerber, who taped a conversation he and other members of the AG's office had with Chron reporter Carla Marinucci without her consent, a violation of the state's wiretapping law, the Chron reported.

The recording came to light when Gerber complained to Marinucci's editors that she did not accurately report the remarks of one of the people in the conversation, Jim Humes, chief deputy attorney general.

To make his point, Gerber e-mailed them a transcript of the interview.

The Chron said it briefly took the story off of the Web site to get more comments from Gerber.

The incident comes at a time when Brown's office is investigating whether two conservative journalists violated the same law when the posed as a prostitute and pimp, and recorded ACORN employees at two California offices.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Second Japanese newspaper closes

The Hokubei Mainichi printed its last edition today after 61 years of publishing -- San Francisco's second Japanese American weekly to close in two months.

Here is a letter president and chief executive Don Yamate wrote to readers:
    As a result of our worsening financial situation, the board of Hokubei Manichi Newspaper has decided at its Oct. 26 meeting to halt publication after the Oct. 30 issue. 
    We, the staff members of the Hokubei, sincerely regret having to give the bad news so suddenly to you, our readers. Since the closure of the Nichi Bei Times, we made the decision to redouble our efforts and serve an even more important and broader function in the community than before. 
    We are extremely disappointed that we were unable to meet our readers' expectations. While the editorial, advertising and subscription departments involved in the daily production of the newspaper will be closed, the company will continue to seek investors and make every effort to once again become a media outlet serving the community. We would be grateful for your continued support. 
    We offer our thanks to everyone who has helped us over the years, including long-time subscribers, advertisers and contributors.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Press Club hosts seminar on city, school budgets

With the ongoing economic downturn, Bay Area public agencies are facing a fiscal crisis. Layoffs, service cuts and new taxes or fees are being considered.

To help journalists explain complex budget stories to readers or viewers, the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club is hosting a seminar on Monday, Nov. 9, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on how to read and understand school and city budgets.

The seminar will begin with an in-depth examination of school funding sources, basic aid vs. revenue limit districts, budget terms and how to find key information that readers or viewers need to know. Jim Lianides, an assistant superintendent of the Sequoia Union High School District with more than 30 years of experience in public education, will provide the expertise.

Next, Brian Moura, the assistant city manager of San Carlos, will help untangle the complexity of municipal finance. For example, the printed budget for San Carlos, a suburban city of fewer than 30,000 residents, is nearly 300 pages. Moura has worked for San Carlos since 1986 and has an extensive background in budgeting.

Each presentation will be followed by a question and answer session. Food and drinks are permitted in the conference room. Please RSVP to
    Who: The seminar is free and open to all working journalists and journalism students. 
    What: Untangling School and City Budgets 
    Where: Sequoia Union High School District Offices, Birch Room, 480 James Ave., Redwood City 94062, Parking is available at the district office or on the street 
    When: Monday, Nov. 9, 2009, 1 to 3:30 p.m. 
    Why: The best journalists need to understand financing to tell better stories and help readers or viewers understand their public institutions and how tax money is spent.
About Dr. Lianides — In 30 years in public education, Dr. Lianides has served as a teacher, principal, chief business official and superintendent prior to joining the Sequoia district in Fall 2008. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California – Berkeley and a master's degrees from San Jose State University. In 2006, he completed his doctorate in educational leadership through a joint program between U.C. Berkeley and the three Bay Area campuses of California State University.

In his current role with the Sequoia district, Dr. Lianides serves as the chief business official and oversees the administrative services areas, including accounting, purchasing, technology, construction, facilities, transportation and food services.

About Brian Moura — Brian Moura served as both the Assistant City Manager and Finance Director for his first 11 years at the City of San Carlos as well as filling the positions of Assistant Executive Director of the San Carlos Redevelopment Agency, Human Resources Director, Interim Parks and Recreation Director and Interim Economic Development Director during his tenure.  He also managed the Capital Improvement Budget for the City of Hayward over a 7 year period while working at that City.

About the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club — The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club is a professional journalism organization serving the greater Bay Area. The Peninsula Press Club was founded in 1974 to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and opinions among professionals in various news and public relations organizations. Other goals include promoting professional competence and knowledge, encouraging students to enter journalism by awarding scholarships and providing an organization in which to share fellowship. Directors changed the club’s name in 2007 to the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club.

Newspaper seeks a pot critic

We're surprised one of the Bay Area alt-weeklies didn't think of this first. But Denver's Westword is looking for a marijuana critic. The medical marijuana business has been growing rapidly in Colorado in the past year, with clinics popping up everywhere. Here's the ad:
    Do you have a medical condition that necessitates marijuana? Do you have a way with words? If so, Westword wants you to join the ranks as our freelance marijuana-dispensary reviewer. 
    To provide an objective resource on the state's burgeoning medical marijuana scene, Westword has launched "Mile Highs and Lows," a weekly review of Colorado marijuana dispensaries. Now we're looking for just the right person to take the reins. 
    The job is simple: Visit a different dispensary each week (without revealing you're working for Westword) and pen concise, impartial and snappy accounts of your experiences. Keep in mind this isn't about assessing the quality of the medicine on site; it's about evaluating the quality of the establishment. After all, we can't have our reviewer be stoned all the time. 
    The perfect candidate will be a talented writer who's not about to play favorites -- and, of course, someone who has a state medical marijuana ID (or the ability and need to obtain one). Compensation will be meager — and no, we can't expense your purchases, although that would be pretty cool.
More than 100 people applied. Editor Pat Calhoun said that the first applicant replied within five minutes — "fast work for a stoner." Westword hasn't announced who it will hire. But it has posted a sampling of responses.

Examiner owner gets 10% of Michael Jackson ticket sales

Phil Anschutz, the conservative Christian billionaire who owns The Examiner and the Weekly Standard, will make 10 percent of all ticket sales on Sony's Michael Jackson concert film, "This is It," according to Bloomberg's Michael White and Adam Satariano. The film, which opened today, is expected to make $400 million in worldwide sales.

New strategy helps Chron turn a profit

Chronicle Publisher Frank Vega says his paper is now turning a profit some weeks after years of significant losses, including more than $50 million last year.

Vega said that the Chron is moving away from a business model that depends mainly on advertising and instead relies on readers for a greater share of revenue.

The figures released Monday showing the Chronicle's circulation had dropped by 28.5% to 251,782 were anticipated, Vega said, due to changes designed to make the paper profitable.

In addition, the Chron has:
    • and cut delivery to outlying areas and other places where it didn't make economic sense.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chronicle circulation plunges 25%

The Chronicle's circulation fell by 25.8% in the past year. Of the nation's 25 largest newspapers, the Chron reported the largest percentage decrease. The Chron's daily circulation now stands at 251,782, down from 339,430 a year ago.

Sales of the Chron's Sunday edition fell by 22.9%, to 306,705.

In one year, the Chron lost 87,648 daily customers and 91,411 Sunday customers.

The figures are from the Audit Bureau of Circulation's FAS-FAX reports, which were released today.

In San Jose, the Merc's daily circulation fell by 10% to 200,258 and its Sunday circulation dropped 5.6% to 225,9878.

However, on Aug. 9, the Merc decided to add the circulation of the San Mateo County Times to its numbers. The Times went from being a separate newspaper to an edition of the Merc. That will allow the Merc to claim a daily circulation of 225,175 and 248,386 on Sundays.

In Santa Rosa, the New York Times-owned Press Democrat reported a 10.5% drop on weekdays (to 64,237) and 9.1% on Sundays (to 68,489).

The Contra Costa Times' daily circulation fell 3.3% to 174,852. On Sunday, the CCT was down 2.9% to 184,118.

In Marin County, the IJ's Sunday circulation is down 8.3 percent to 28,815. The IJ's Monday-Saturday average circulation is 26,548, which is down 10.7% from that paper's Monday-Friday average in the previous year of 29,742.

The Oakland Tribune is a bright spot. It's Sunday circulation jumped 5.6% to 91,691, an increase of 4,933 more papers sold. The Trib's daily number increased by 294 copies to 92,794, a 3/10ths of 1% increase.

The Vallejo Times-Herald reported a 13.9% drop in its daily circulation (falling to 13,580) and 17.7% on Sundays (to 13,777).

The Vacaville Reporter's daily circulation fell 3.7% (to 17,22) and its Sunday circulation declined by 5.6% (to 17,569).

UPDATE (5 P.M., OCT. 26): Bringing in more money from readers is now more important than trying to preserve circulation, Chron President Mark Adkins told the AP. He said that while the Chronicle has fewer subscribers, they are collectively paying more for the paper than a year ago.

The Chronicle now charges $7.75 per week for home delivery, up from $4.75 in the previous year. Weekday copies sell for $1 on the newsstand, up from 75 cents.

"The new circulation revenue has become an important part of our business model," Adkins told AP. "We are pretty pleased."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nonprofit news project seeks CEO, editor

The Bay Area News Project (that nonprofit start-up involving Wells Fargo heir F. Warren Hellman (right), KQED, the Berkeley j-school) has posted help wanted ads for its chief executive and executive editor.

Neither posting gives a salary range.

Things the CEO is required to possess include an "ability to foster and encourage smart risk-taking and experimentation." The CEO must also be "a visionary with well-developed people management skills, strategic thinking, and a demonstrated ability to inspire."

The two-page job description for the editor says he or she will lead the project's "team in creating a new model for sustainable journalism that advances the latest technology, and experiments with innovative ways of engaging and interacting with the public, while retaining journalistic values and best practices."

Besides job listings, the project's Web site also has an FAQ. However, there is no mention on it about the possibility that local governments might provide some of the funding for the project. However, it does say that project will serve as a government watchdog.

In Chicago, a similar nonprofit news operation is starting with former LA Times and Chicago Tribune newsroom leader James O'Shea at the helm, according to Chicago Tribune media writer Phil Rosenthal. Like the Bay Area News Project, the "Chicago News Cooperative" intends on providing copy to the New York Times. The Times is doing local inserts in both cities.

In Chicago, there's no talk of government funding.
    A major funding source is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and CNC is looking for additional support from other foundations and individuals. The New York Times will pay CNC for the content it provides, as it does other news services. 
    The goal of CNC is to generate enough revenue from multiple streams, such as membership fees, advertising and service, to be self-sustaining within five years.

Why are j-schools still enrolling students?

Attorney and journalist Peter Scheer (right), executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, writes:
    As I read about the latest contractions in the newsroom of the New York Times (100 reporters and editors) and the San Francisco Chronicle (investigative reporting staff – gone), the question occurs: Why are universities across the country continuing to churn out journalism graduates? Do they know something that the rest of us don’t? Do they have some reason to believe that demand for academically-trained newbee journalists is about to stage an extraordinary recovery? [MORE]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

NYT calls Bronstein's plagiarism claim 'ridiculous'

The New York Times is firing back at Phil Bronstein's (right) claim that the Old Grey Lady "borrowed" an anecdote from the Chronicle. Here's a statement from the Times' associate managing editor for standards, Philip B. Corbett:
    The suggestion in Phil Bronstein's blog post that a New York Times reporter improperly borrowed or plagiarized from a San Francisco Chronicle article in a profile of the Oakland police chief is ridiculous. 
    The chief, in discussing his move to Oakland, explained his decision to our reporter in the same way he described it at the public news conference covered by the Chronicle in August. 
    This is hardly surprising. As commenters on Mr. Bronstein's blog have pointed out, other news organizations had also recounted the same anecdote -- BEFORE the Chronicle article appeared. 
    The fact that the chief has recounted the incident previously certainly does not give one newspaper an exclusive right to these facts. 
    The Times takes the issue of plagiarism extremely seriously. Even in a competitive news environment, allegations like these should not be made capriciously. But we're glad Mr. Bronstein is reading our new local pages carefully, and with evident concern.
(BTW, the only place we could find the Times' response was on Bronstein's blog; evidently the Times didn't post it on its own Web site, nor publish it.)

Bronstein's reply to the Times's response: "Times, you have great reporters here, including the writer of the Oakland police chief piece. Do something original for your lead story next time."

Online experiment boosts Live 105's ratings

Benny Evangelista of SFGate's Tech Chronicles reports that an experiment allowing listeners to vote on songs has doubled the ratings of alternative rock Live 105 during a two-hour period on Sunday nights.

While Sunday nights don't have the audience of morning drive, "it got everyone's attention," said Doug Harvill, gm of CBS Radio's six SF stations.

Harvill said it's something like the "Casey Kasem's American Top 40 of the digital generation."

Jelli Inc., the San Mateo startup that provided the software for listeners to vote for their favorite songs, hopes to syndicate it in other markets.

MediaNews cuts pay 5% in East Bay newsrooms

MediaNews Group has cut the pay of about 175 newsroom employees in its East Bay cluster of dailies by 5%, and a second round of cuts is coming in January.

Papers in MNG's Bay Area News Group-East Bay include the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Fremont Argus, Hayward Daily Review, West County Times, East County Times, San Ramon Valley Times, Valley Times, Tri-Valley Herald, San Joaquin Valley Herald and San Mateo County Times.

MNG cut the pay of management and non-union employees in July. Newsroom employees reached a new contract in June, which prevented any reductions in pay until now.

The Guild said on its Web site that it met with company negotiators four times, starting Sept. 25. "Throughout, Guild negotiators pushed for explanations and received little satisfaction. We also pushed for a delay to allow for continued negotiations. By all indications, the company intends to move forward with a 2% to 6% pay reduction in October, followed in January by a second phase of the pay cut for some employees."

In January, the Guild is expecting MNG will cut the pay of those earning $50,000 or less by 1% and by 2% for most others.

The total amount of savings to be generated by the pay cut program comes to about $433,000 annually, the Guild said.

E&P quoted Jim Janiga, senior vp of hr for MNG's California Division, as saying the cuts were needed. "The newspaper industry as a whole is still having to deal with this transition," he stated. "We've still got to be reasonable and prudent."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stanford panel discusses future of news

How healthy is the news business these days? “On a scale of one to 10 of healthy media, we’re somewhere around two,” Alberto Ibarguen, president and CEO of the Knight Foundation, said at last night's 44th Annual Kelly McClatchy Memorial Symposium at Stanford.

The topic was the future of journalism. The Stanford Daily reports that New York Times Co. CEO Arthur Sulzberger, perhaps the biggest name scheduled to appear, was absent.

Much of the discussion focused on producing journalism in the digital age, and how to get people to pay for it.

Martin Nisenholtz, senior vice president of digital operations for The New York Times, said there was a delicate dilemma in charging customers who had previously enjoyed content for free.

“There’s a fine line, a balance that needs to be taken into account that stops [The New York Times from decisively engaging in online monetization],” he said. “The problem with charging out of the gate is that you don’t have much trial ... you need a significant constituency to charge what you want without risking your survival as a news organization.”

San Jose rejects plan to open police records

The Mercury News reports that a proposal to make public most San Jose police arrest records has been rejected by City Council, which said it would put crime victims in jeopardy and hinder crime fighting.

Mayor Chuck Reed, who had previously been on the side of making more records accessible to the public, said he was worried that no other city had opened up its police records to the extent that San Jose would under the proposal from the Sunshine Reform Task Force.

"We're being asked to sail into uncharted waters," Reed said, according to the Merc. "We're being asked to do something no other city in the state is being asked to doIt's wise to take some advice from people who have sailing experience, and they are saying, 'Don't do this. It's a bad idea.'"

But Merc managing editor Bert Robinson, who is a member of the 15-person task force, said other cities allow people to access these records.

"I'm disappointed that the council turned back a reasonable proposal that could have made San Jose a leader in police accountability," Robinson said. "I believe the community members who spoke (Tuesday night) demonstrated why this proposal is needed, and I'm grateful that five council members heard their message."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Palo Alto clamps down on public information

Palo Alto officials are taking a different approach when it comes to communicating with the media in the wake of four suicides by teenagers on the Caltrain tracks.

Bay City News reported Tuesday:
    This morning, Palo Alto police Agent Dan Ryan declined to say whether the teen killed Monday was a student at Gunn, explaining that publicizing details in such cases can contribute to "copycat-ism and the cluster effect." 
    Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said transit police are still investigating whether Monday's death was a suicide. 
    "We owe it to the victim as well as to the community to do a complete and thorough investigation before we release any information," she said.
The Mercury News and Daily News said in today's editions:
    Palo Alto police Sgt. Dan Ryan would say only that the victim was a male struck by a train about 50 yards south of the West Meadow Drive crossing in Palo Alto. 
    "We're trying to avoid creating a greater cluster of these," Ryan said. "The research we're being told is that the more we talk about it and romanticize it, the easier it is that mentally ill or depressed people will make that leap. We're taking a stand and not releasing more information."
     Kathleen Ruegsegger, a school district spokeswoman, also said there would be "no statement from the district or the school."
The decision to clamp down on public information runs contrary to recommendations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives for prevention and containment of suicide clusters. Section VIII of the CDC's guidelines begins with this statement: "A timely flow of accurate, appropriate information should be provided to the media."

These are a few of the points the CDC makes in its advice to government officials or others coordinating a response to a suicide cluster:
    • (B) Appoint a single media spokesperson from each of the relevant community sectors — public health, education, mental health, local government, and the like. 
    • (C) These spokespersons should provide frequent, timely access to the media and present a complete and honest picture of the pertinent events. When appropriate, regularly scheduled press conferences should be held. 
    • (C. 1.) Avoid "whitewashing" — that is, saying that everything is under control or giving other assurances that may later prove unwarranted. This practice would undermine the credibility of the community spokespersons.
The CDC guidelines also say, "Gaining the cooperation of media representatives in this regard is also a formidable task. In the midst of a crisis, the frequent presentation of accurate and credible information is the best means of establishing such cooperation."

The CDC guidelines also suggest that officials convince community members not to comment to the press and instead refer comments to the appointed spokespersons. The public, of course, has a constitutional right to talk to a reporter at any time. 

For additional information on the coverage of suicides, here are two links:

Panel to discuss 'Future of Journalism'

A panel will discuss the future of journalism starting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Cubberley Auditorium on the Stanford campus. (Earlier we incorrectly stated another location.) Here's the description from the Stanford Department of Communication:
    The traditional print newspaper is struggling to stay profitable in the face of competition from electronic sources of information. What does this mean to the future of journalism? Discussing these issues will be Philip Balboni of the GlobalPost; Alberto Ibarguen of the Knight Foundation;Paul Steiger of ProPublica; Arthur Sulzberger of the New York Times and Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times Digital Operations. Moderating will be Joel Brinkley of Stanford.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bronstein accuses NYT of borrowing from Chron

The New York Times' Bay Area section is off to a rocky start. Chron editor at large Phil Bronstein says the Times "borrowed" material from his paper for a story about the new Oakland police chief. The following is from Bronstein's blog:
    A story about the new Oakland police chief, the lead and longest of four pieces in the two-page Bay Area NYTimes insert, began with a compelling anecdote:
      Anthony W. Batts was enjoying a successful run as the head of the Long Beach police when a headhunter called last winter and asked if the chief's job in Oakland had any appeal. Mr. Batts said no. 
      Then, he said, came March 21, when a recently released parolee, Lovelle Mixon, shot and killed four Oakland police officers and cemented the city's reputation as the violent crime capital of the Bay Area. 
      Sitting at the officers' funeral, Mr. Batts said, he changed his mind. "I decided that I'd like to help," he said.
    Nice, right? Some serious and newsworthy insight into Chief Batt's character, just as we'd expect from a journalism enterprise that's taken its public service role very seriously for well over 100 years. But there was just a gnawing deja vu sensation about it. Oh, right. Here was the beginning of a San Francisco Chronicle story written two months before, on August 17th:
      When a headhunter called Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts in March and asked him whether he was interested in becoming Oakland's next chief, Batts knew the answer: No. "I was happy in Long Beach," Batts said during his first public appearance Monday since accepting the chief's job in Oakland. 
      But everything changed three days later, on March 21: four Oakland police officers were gunned down in the deadliest day for law enforcement in the city. 
      Batts viewed the television coverage. "I watched the pain and the suffering in the Police Department," he said. "I watched the pain and the suffering in the community as it too hurt at the same time." 
      After attending the officers' funeral at the Oracle Arena, Batts said he text-messaged the headhunter: "I want to help."
    Eerie. Maybe the Times was just being economical. So I checked the names. Chronicle reporter Matthai Kuruvila wrote our story. There was another completely different name on the Times piece.
The Times' reponse?

"Unfortunately, neither Jesse (McKinley, the Times' SF chief) nor I saw the Chronicle's piece on Mr. Batts until today. It is clear that Mr. Batts, like many people, is given to repeating anecdotes that have resonance for him," Times editor Felicity Barringer told San Francisco media blogger Michael Petrelis.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Politico article examines Examiner owner

If you want to find out more about the reclusive billionaire who owns the Examiner, check out this article in The Politico, a D.C. Web site founded by former Washington Post reporters. The news peg was billionaire Phil Anschutz's purchase of the conservative The Weekly Standard, edited by Bill Kristol. Anschutz's San Francisco Examiner is only mentioned once, but it says of the Examiner's Washington counterpart:
    The paper, no longer delivered every day to the affluent neighborhoods it originally targeted, has had a succession of editors and personality transplants but recently has morphed into a kind of New York Post, with headlines such as “Sex Scandal Hits D.C. Jail: Guard Probed After Hooker Sues.”
The Washington Examiner's editor says his paper "plays it straight" when it comes to news, but many of its editors and reporters have conservative views. Still, they say Anschutz stays out of the day-to-day newsroom operations.

The Politico also lists who has received donations from Anschutz:
    Since March 2008, Anschutz has given nearly $59,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and current and former individual members of Congress, such as Orrin Hatch, Ted Stevens, Larry Craig, Elizabeth Dole, Rick Santorum, Alfonse D’Amato and John Ensign. He’s also donated to GOP presidential candidates and primary contenders: That list includes George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, John McCain, Bob Dole and Mitt Romney. 
    He has also donated to Christian conservative causes, such as Colorado for Family Values, a group that pushed against gay rights in the 1990s.

NYT's SF move 'defensive as much as offensive'

Phil Rosenthal, who covers the media for the Chicago Tribune, says the NY Times' launch of a Bay Area edition is part of a national strategy to fend off the Wall Street Journal, which intends to become the national newspaper of record.
    [T]his may not simply be a play for the hearts left behind as the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News recalibrate themselves to the harsh economic realities afflicting the newspaper business. The Times' maneuver may be as much defensive as offensive.
The financially-troubled Times, which in the past year was forced to mortgage its headquarters to remain solvent, seems an easy target for the Journal, now owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose assets include Fox News.
The Journal plans to launch its own Bay Area edition in January, and both papers will apparently launch local editions in Chicago next.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

'Local' must have broad interest at the Merc

The Merc's Mike Cassidy is back with another column responding to readers about the paper's coverage. This time the subject is local news coverage. He explains that the paper's local coverage means stories that have a broad interest among all of its readers:
    If you want to be local, argues reader Michael Bower, how about more news "such as covering high school sports or events going on among high schools, junior highs and elementary schools?"

    It sounds good on paper, but the paradox of local coverage is that the more intensely local the story, the smaller the universe of people who will be interested in it. You might find a story about a program at your kid's school fascinating. But what about those whose kids go to another school in another district in another city?

    More readers are better served when we report local stories with a more universal appeal. So, how does the Mercury News define "local news"?


    "I would describe local news as something that affects local residents," says Mercury News Editor David J. Butler. "It's not necessarily or exclusively a geographic issue."

    Butler looks at an event, a trend, a legislative effort, an injustice, a disaster, a dispute, a milestone and asks a series of questions on behalf of Santa Clara County residents: "Is it new? Have they heard about it? Is it something they need to know?"

Local editors say NYT section no threat

In comments to Editor & Publisher, the top editors at the Chron, Examiner and Bay Area News Group said they don't consider the new twice-a-week Bay Area section in The New York Times or its Bay Area news blog to be a threat.
    Chron's Ward Bushee: "They have 10 people covering a very large, competitive area. We have a full staff much larger than that covering the area ... All it means to us is that there is a lot more competition, which is a good thing. I welcome it." Ex's James Pimentel: "Newspaper readers will be happy to have another option ... But the Examiner is going to continue to excel in covering local news. We will continue to provide the best local news. We concentrate on local news." BANG's Mac Tully: "I wouldn't say it is a threat ... But this is a competitive market and this will elevate the level of competition. It just makes everyone work harder. You have to."
E&P gives updated circulation figures for the NYT in the Bay Area: 40,080 daily and 57,514 on Sunday.

Auto advertising is back

Bloomberg reports: The Chron's ad revenue from carmakers has stabilized after it "kind of dried up for us at the beginning of the year as they cut back and went through their troubles," said Jeff Bergin, senior vice president of advertising. "We've seen a pretty robust return of national advertising from the manufacturers."

Overall, auto ads comprised 5.5 percent of national ad spending last year, down from 11 percent in 2005, according to Newspaper Association of America data. That was the most recent year that car and truck sales rose in the U.S.

Report: Wired fires two top editors

Valleywag reports that Wired has laid off managing editor Marty Cortinas and copy chief Tony Long, though it's expected the two will stay on through the end of the year. There's also word that co-founders Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman are on their way out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

NYT's Bay Area section starts tomorrow

The New York Times, which has a daily circulation of 49,000 in the Bay Area (65,000 on Sundays), will launch its Bay Area section tomorrow (Oct. 16), with coverage of "Arts & culture, style & dining, politics & public affairs, San Francisco & Silicon Valley," according to an e-mail to subscribers. The section will appear Fridays and Sundays.

Columnists in the new section include Daniel Weintraub, a longtime Sacramento Bee political columnist, and Scott James, a novelist and founder of the the SoMa Literary Review in San Francisco.

The Times' "Media Decoder" blog reported this morning:
    At first, most of the editing and reporting will be done by Times staff journalists, but the plan calls for turning the bulk of that work over to a local operation after a few months. A nonprofit consortium that includes KQED, a public radio station in San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley’s, graduate school of journalism, has been in talks with The Times about taking over the added work.
The consortium is being organized by Wells Fargo heir F. Warren Hellman, who has promised to donate $5 million and said he may ask the city of San Francisco to help fund the journalism effort.

The Times is looking to add local pages in other markets, the next being Chicago, according to a Sept. 4 Times story.

The Wall Street Journal, which has toppled USA Today as the nation's No. 1 circulation daily, is planning a San Francisco edition that will probably launch in November or December, but it looks as if the Times will be first.

The Times' e-mail told subscribers they can meet two of the paper's editors (they didn't identify them) at a special Times-sponsored panel discussion following the screening of “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” at the Mill Valley Film Festival on Oct. 17-18.

Tribune reporter J Lloyd Boles Sr. dies at 86

J Lloyd Boles Sr., an investigative reporter for the Oakland Tribune who was nominated by newspaper management for a Pulitzer Prize for his 1970s probe of statewide welfare abuses, died Saturday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease at age 86, according to the Tribune.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 2009 Press Club board minutes

Oct. 14, 2009 — Board Room, San Mateo Daily Journal. The meeting was called to order at 6:35 p.m.

Present: Jon Mays, Peter Cleaveland, Darryl Compton, Ed Remitz, Melissa McRobbie and Marshall Wilson

Absent: Jack Russell, Micki Carter, Jamie Casini and Dave Price

Guest: Kristi Blackburn, Adviser, Gunn High School in Palo Alto

1. Approval of minutes. Peter Cleaveland moved to approve the September minutes; Melissa McRobbie provided the second. All voted to approve.

2. A treasurer’s report was presented. Darryl Compton, Executive Secretary, said $72.17 was spent for food at the high school journalism boot camp on Sept. 11. Melissa McRobbie moved to approve the report; Marshall Wilson provided the second. All voted to accept.

3. Open Director positions — Kristi Blackburn is interested in becoming a director. She attended the meeting to observe operations. Jon Mays says two more people are interested in joining the board.

4. High school boot camp debriefing — Jon Mays said the event “went well.” Darryl Compton said the initial meeting room was inadequate.

5. Town Hall meeting — Marshall Wilson is organizing the event and suggests discussions continue at the next meeting. He is seeking a subject for the meeting that is of interest throughout the Peninsula.

6. Professional development workshop for members — A workshop titled “School and City Budgets — Ask the Right Questions, Write Better Stories,” was proposed by Marshall Wilson for Oct. 28 at the Sequoia Union High School District, Birch Room, 480 James Ave., Redwood City. Members wanted additional time to publicize the event. Wilson plans to schedule a new date soon. Workshop attendance will free.

7. Other business —

Darryl Compton wanted to issue a formal thank you to Micki Carter for hosting the press club picnic on Sept. 13

Jon Mays plans to meet with Scott Laurence, superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School district, about ways the press club can help high school journalism programs.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:05 p.m.
Submitted by Ed Remitz, treasurer

After rescue, Current TV considers layoffs

Jackson West of NBC Bay Area reports that SF-based Current TV is looking at layoffs and may relocate its video production to LA or outsource it. Current TV became a household name when two of its reporters were captured by North Korea, later to be freed with the help of Bill Clinton. Current TV, co-founded by Al Gore, has gone from soliciting viewer content to producing much of its own programming.

Judges to discuss social media and courts

The U.S. District Court in San Francisco is inviting reporters to a free half-day conference Nov. 4 titled "How Blogs, Twitter and Social Media are Changing Legal Reporting."

The conference includes two panel discussions:
    "1:15 p.m. -- Media Mania and the Courts: With "old media" imploding and the "new media" exploding, just who is reporting on the courts these days and how are they doing it? What should judges and courts expect from the new media? Join a distinguished panel in discussing how court coverage is changing and what that means for accuracy and access."

    Panelists include
      • U.S. District Judge Susan Illston;
      • attorney Kelli Sager;
      • Peter Scheer, California First Amendment Coalition executive director;
      • Jim Bettinger director, Knight Fellowship Program at Stanford, and
      • blogger Melissa Griffin of

    "3 p.m. -- Blogging, Tweeting: New Media in the Courtroom: Who qualifies as a journalist and does it really matter anymore? Are bloggers the new court reporters? How have courts responded to the challenge of instant reporting via wireless communications devices? Join a judge, a working journalist, legal blogger and Internet law expert in a discussion of new media in the courtroom."

    Panelists include
      • U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel;
      • Eric Goldman, associate professor and blogger, Santa Clara University Law School;
      • Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director, Electronic Frontier Foundation;
      • Howard Mintz, legal affairs writer, San Jose Mercury News
Here are links for more information and to register.

Chron upgrades electronic edition

The Chron's electronic edition (or e-dition) has been upgraded so it can be read on a Kindle or iPhone, and readers can access a 30-day archive of newsppaers, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

A happy hour for information freedom lovers

The Norcal Society of Professional Journalist's Freedom of Information Committee is holding a happy hour at 5:30 on Wednesday, Oct. 21. The group couldn't find a bar with First Amendment in its name, so it will meet at the 21st Amendment Brewery, 543 2nd St., San Francisco, 94107, (415) 369-0900. Committee member Mark Conrad writes: "Please invite other journalists, colleagues, friends -- if they love sunshine policies and the Freedom of Information Act, that's wonderful. If they just love beer, that's good, too."

New law expands access to court records

A new state law that takes effect in January will give people, for the first time, the legal right to get administrative records from California courthouses, according to a report in the Ventura County Star. The public access will extend to administrative budgets, workplace rules and the staffing of courthouse personnel. Some say the new rules mean more public scrutiny of the state’s courthouses.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

FTC wants to help journalists, enforce ethics

The Federal Trade Commission is making a couple of moves journalists should consider:

1. The FTC on Monday approved new guidelines that will require bloggers who review products to disclose any connection with advertisers, including the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers.

In other words, we now have a government agency that will become a referee when it comes to journalism ethics. The FTC is not applying the same rules to print journalists who review products, perhaps out of concern of a First Amendment lawsuit.

"The FTC has no authority to regulate speech unless it's commercial speech, so, in order to assert jurisdiction over bloggers it doesn't like, it simply redefines their activities as commercial speech," writes Jeff Bercovici of Daily Finance.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press questions whether the FTC will be able to distinguish endorsements from journalism.

2. The FTC plans to ask journalists whether they want any money from the government to help them get out the news. The FTC is holding workshops on Dec. 1 and 2, and page 6 of the document describing the event lists a number of proposals the federal government has on the table to help the news industry. Ideas include tax breaks, bending copyright rules, granting antitrust immunity to publishers and broadcasters, and just giving money to news organizations.

Here's the text of bullet point No. 5:
    Should the federal government provide additional funding for news organizations? Why or why not? If yes, should only current recipients of federal funding receive increased funding? What methods have other countries used to provide government funding for news, while retaining journalistic integrity? What would be the cost and potential consequences of increased federal funding for the news? What strategic behavior or unlimited consequences might increased federal funding engender?
A lot of what the media covers is government. Would an editorial about the government be a product review? If so, and the journalist writing that editorial received government funding, would that editorial be prohibited under the new FTC guidelines?

Eshoo's commercial loudness, FM radio bills advance

Two bills by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, concerning the broadcasting industry were approved Thursday by the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet sent on to the full Energy & Commerce Committee, according to Radio Business Report.

• H.R. 1147 will allow low power community broadcasters to use frequencies adjacent to full power FM stations.

• H.R. 1084, which is known as the CALM Act or the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, will require TV stations, broadcast and cable networks, and cable operators to ensure that volume does not fluctuate between programming and commercials.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Open records victory in Santa Clara County

The Merc's John Woolfolk reports that Santa Clara County has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit over the county's attempt to charge astronomically high fees for access to the county's electronic maps.

It's the largest payment of its kind in a California public records dispute, experts told the Merc.

The money was paid this week to the California First Amendment Coalition to cover its legal bills in the three-year fight.

The maps — including aerial photographs, jurisdictional boundaries, assessor parcel information, streets and buildings — are free in other counties, but Santa Clara County wanted to charge as much as $250,000 for the countywide data.

The county decided to settle after 6th District U.S. Court of Appeal rejected the county's arguments in a February ruling.

Among the arguments the court rejected:
    • that the county's GIS (geographic information system) maps were not subject to disclosure under the public records act because they contained sensitive information such as the location of water supply pipelines that were not subject to release under federal homeland security law;

    • the county's maps were copyright protected;

    • that the county was entitled to recover the expense of compiling the data in addition to the copying costs.
Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said the $500,000 judgment should serve as a warning to all government officials that they may pay a steep price for stiffing the public on records requests.

"It sends a very, very clear message that if they ignore their obligations under our open government laws, they better treat that as a real liability," Scheer said.

SFPD eases up on press pass restrictions

Brent Begin of the Examiner reports that a blogger managed to get a press pass from the San Francisco Police Department — a remarkable feat given the department's stingy attitude about press passes.

Begin reports that Michael Petrelis succeeded because he persistently challenged the department's press pass policy.

It started when Petrelis couldn't get into the press box at a news conference inside the federal building back in July. He was denied the pass under former police Chief Heather Fong because he didn’t cover crime scenes — although press passes are regularly checked at busy hearings at City Hall and other government buildings.

Petrelis now has a press pass, but his employer is listed as PAZ Magazine.

“The pass was given to me not so much because I am a blogger, but because I sometimes write a column for a traditional magazine,” Petrelis said.

Still, Begin says the new police chief, George gascon, will pay more attention to new media.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sequoia High launches a student newspaper


Sequoia High School in Redwood City published its first student newspaper Sept. 30, the Raven Report.

This is the first year that the school has granted permission for the newspaper staff to have their own journalism class as opposed to an after-school club. In previous years SHS's leadership club has sporadically released a newsletter-style publication, but plans this year are to carry forward a monthly 8-page newspaper, under the supervision of English teacher Ms. Kim Vinh.

"I think that journalism is the best real life writing opportunity you can have in school because you have an audience", says Vinh. "Students become better writers because it's so high stakes."

Currently the Raven Report staff consists of just 12 students, ranging from sophomores to seniors and led by the new editor-in-chief, senior Arielle Jones. None of the staff have any previous journalism experience. Despite this, the first publication was received well.

"Within 10 minutes of the paper being delivered, I received about 10 emails from people. They are all so excited about our school newspaper", says Vinh, the Raven Report's staff advisor.

Julia Onken is on the staff of the Raven Report and wrote this item for the Press Club's blog.

Imagine a day without newspapers

Oakland Tribune columnist Tammerlin Drummond recalls that a few years ago there was a movie called "A Day Without a Mexican" that showed what would happen if all of the Mexicans in the U.S. suddenly vanished. Drummond asked what would happen if, for one day, there were no newspapers.
    Just what news do you suppose would be available on the Internet without the content produced by newspapers? What would Google News have to aggregate without The Washington Post, The New York Times and other newspapers from around the world?

    I'm speaking of content produced by real, boots-on-the-ground reporters. Not bloggers whose specialty is commenting on what's already been reported elsewhere. Or experts in their fields who are blogging based on their own in-depth knowledge of some niche specialty like taxidermy. ...

    Hyperlocal is the new buzz word. Just as "neighborhood news" was back when I started in journalism in the mid-1980s.

    Yet for all the hoopla, I have yet to see a hyperlocal news site with a business model for turning even a modest profit. Most are struggling, and some such as the Chi-Town Daily News have crashed and burned."

For Singleton, it's back to print journalism

A few years ago, MediaNews Group was pushing the Internet as the future of its company. It looks like chief executive Dean Singleton has had a change of heart. Morgan McGinley of the independently owned New London, Conn., paper The Day, quotes Singleton at a recent National Conference of Editorial Writers as saying:
    "Some say newspapers have no future. Others say that print newspapers have no future, but that a pot of gold is waiting at the end of the rainbow for those who develop the right online newspaper models. Count me as one who believes that if there is no future for print newspapers, there is no future for newspapers. ...

    "There is not enough Internet revenue available to newspapers to support the overall mission of providing news and opinion to the customers we serve. … If print is not a part of our future, then there isn't enough revenue online to provide that future.”

    ”Print must be preserved to provide us any future. And it can be.”
McGinley observed that this is a "somewhat surprising message from a publisher who has chopped editors, reporters and other employees by the hundreds from news organizations his MediaNews Group has acquired."

Commercial loudness bill advances

Broadcasting & Cable reports that a hearing is scheduled on Thursday for Palo Alto Democratic Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's bill to insure that the volume of ads isn't louder than the surrounding programming. The bill would require the FCC to adopt the commercial volume standard being developed by the TV industry with the backing of advertisers and agencies. Eshoo has said she introduced the bill because she was tired of hearing commercials that were louder than the program she was watching.

Monday, October 5, 2009

RTNDA awards coming up

The Radio-Television News Directors Association of Northern California will hold its 28th annual awards program on Saturday, Nov. 7, in San Francisco.

This year NorCal RTNDA will honor three legends of Bay Area news broadcasting: KGO-TV reporter Vic Lee; KTVU's host of "Mornings on Two,'' Ross McGowan; and longtime Bay Area radio newsman Dave McQueen, who recently signed off from KCBS. The three will receive the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to the achievement awards, NorCal RTNDA will honor the winners of its 2008-2009 awards competition.

The program begins at 6 p.m. with a no-host bar at the Kabuki Hotel, 1625 Post St., San Francisco. Tickets for the event can be ordered online at, by e-mail at, or by calling (650) 341-9978.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Daily News evacuated after bomb threat

Police are checking the phone records of The Daily News (formerly Palo Alto Daily News) after somebody called in a bomb threat to the paper Friday, according to a story in this morning's Daily News. At about 10:15 a.m., an unknown man called paper's office on Constitution Drive in Menlo Park and said, "You're all going to die. There's a bomb in the building." Employees called police and filed out of the building. The bomb squad used sniff dogs to look for explosives, but none were found. Employees returned to work at 12:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Big money for some in nonprofit journalism

F. Warren Hellman's proposed Bay Area News Project will rely on the free labor of UC-Berkeley journalism students, but not everyone involved in nonprofit journalism is working for free.

The editor of Pro Publica, Paul Steiger, was paid $570,000 in 2008, according to IRS forms the nonprofit files annually.

Pro Publica is the 32-person nonprofit news service started by subprime mortgage pioneers Herbert and Marion Sandler of San Francisco and Steiger, of course, is the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal.

The salary was first reported by Reflections of a Newsosaur blogger Alan D. Mutter. The NY Times' Media Decoder blogger David Carr asked members of Pro Publica's board about the salary. They defended it, saying you get what you pay for.

September 2009 Press Club board minutes

Sept. 9, 2009 — Board Room, San Mateo Daily Journal. The meeting was called to order at 6:45 p.m.

Present; Jon Mays, Micki Carter, Marshall Wilson, Melissa McRobbie, Dave Price. Absent: Jamie Casini, Jack Russell, Peter Cleaveland and Ed Remitz

Minutes of August were approved as read.

Treasurer’s Report was accepted.

New Director
    Jon will talk to Barry Parr of to see if he might be interested.
Town Hall Meeting
    Marshall reported that enthusiasm for a town hall meeting on high-speed rail had gained some momentum with Mike Garvey, of the High Speed Rail public outreach campaign. Rose Jacobs Gibson and Adrienne Tissier interested. More information to come.
High School Boot Camp
    Last minute details were worked out with Darryl doing signs. Micki reported that Sept. 11 was probably too early in the year for most programs but it worked well for the San Mateo Union High School District because it fell on a half-day.
Professional Development Workshop
    Marshall will put together a working lunch from noon to 2 p.m. at the County Center on how to read a (school, city, county) budget and where the agencies get their money. The date will be Oct. 28 with the San Mateo County budget director. The next one will focus on accessing public records in the spring.
Summer Picnic
    Sept. 13 from 2-4 p.m. at the home of Micki Carter and Mike Venturino. It was suggested that the high school advisors be invited. (Kristi Blackburn, the Gunn High School advisor, did attend and indicated that she was interested in serving on the board.)
Meeting was adjourned at 7:15 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
Micki Carter, Secretary