Friday, March 26, 2010

Student hopes to save college newspaper

Bill Silverfarb at the San Mateo Daily Journal reports that student journalist at the College of San Mateo has embarked on a crusade to save the campus newspaper, The San Matean, which is currently slated to go on hiatus for the fall semester.

San Matean Executive Editor Margaret Baum has solicited the help of the Student Press Law Center and state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo. She has also become somewhat of an expert at getting the college to turn over documents through the Freedom of Information and California Public Records acts. [More]

In the photo, Prof. Ed Remitz, right, critiques the latest edition of The San Matean with the newpaper's staff. Remitz is a member of the Press Club's board. (Photo credit: Paul Carlson/Daily Journal)

Los Gatos paper closes office, moves to San Jose

The Los Gatos Weekly-Times has closed its office in Los Gatos and will be moving into an office in San Jose, the MediaNews Group paper has announced.

"Sadly, we have come to the realization that maintaining an office in Los Gatos, when we have ample room for that staff in our main office in San Jose, does not make good business sense," wrote Executive Editor Dale Bryant.

The move took place over the March 20-21 weekend. The paper will now be produced at the offices of the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, 1095 The Alameda in San Jose. SVCN is an arm of the Mercury News, owned by MediaNews Group of Denver.

In the past couple of years, other MediaNews papers have left their hometowns. In 2006, MediaNews shuttered the offices of its Danville and San Ramon papers, and moved their operations to Pleasanton. In 2007, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which had been located in downtown Santa Cruz for 150 years, moved to an office park in Scotts Valley (and two years later executives admitted the move was a mistake). In 2008, the Palo Alto Daily News moved to Menlo Park and a year later shed the words "Palo Alto" from its title.

Bryant concludes, "The Los Gatos staff will continue to spend a lot of time in Los Gatos, and we are looking to find an office in town with room for a couple of desks where our staff might hang their hats occasionally."

Imagine there's no Chronicle

The Commonwealth Club asked a panel of New Media start-ups to imagine San Francisco without a daily newspaper, and none of them could. At least that was the take of the SF Weekly's Lois Beckett, who covered the discussion.
    The problem, as Gannett Vice President for Innovation and Design Michael Maness pointed out, is that while new media sites still rely on old media, readers themselves are less interested in the traditional news coverage or City Hall reporting that mainstream media organizations provide.

    Maness said Gannett recently conducted an anthropological study of the news habits of adults in 16 cities across the United States. What they heard over and over again, he said, was, "I'm tired of turning on the TV and hearing about two murders in a part of the city I couldn't find on the map."
After the panel, the Commonwealth's Inforum announced their "New Face of SF Media" award winner: Jaimal Yogis, a journalist and author of Saltwater Buddha, who has written for San Francisco Magazine and The Bold Italic.

In his acceptance speech, Yogis said he hoped The Bold Italic was the future of San Francisco media, since it had given him a chance to write about swimming to Alcatraz and other adventures, which was much more fun than "trawling through documents and things."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

CBS5's Schaub, Duckworth take buyouts

On the same day that Hank Plante signed off from KPIX, word surfaced that two more Channel 5 veterans had taken buyouts — Jeffrey Schaub and Anna Duckworth. Their departures were reported by media blogger Rich Lieberman, who attributed his information to an anonymous source.

Schaub, a three-time Emmy award winner, has been at KPIX for 20 years while Duckworth has been at the CBS O&O for six years.

Schaub has been the station's "Green Beat" reporter. Previously, he was the North Bay Bureau chief, back when stations were heavily promoting their bureaus.

Duckworth, a Bay Area native who graduated from SJSU, was at KCBS 740 and KRON before arriving at KPIX, where she was a general assignment reporter for the morning and noon editions.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bloomberg to help Chron business section

The Chronicle announced today that it is teaming up with Bloomberg News to offer an expanded daily business section.

The collaboration will feature new and enhanced coverage produced by the staffs of The Chronicle and Bloomberg. The new section, called the "Business Report, The Chronicle with Bloomberg," begins on Sunday.

As part of the partnership, Bloomberg will produce stories, graphics, photos and data features tailored to the Chron's audience.

Plante says politics is more ugly these days

Hank Plant, whose 24-year run at Channel 5 Eyewitness News ends tonight, tells the Bay Guardian in an exit interview that politics has become much more ugly over the years. “It’s just so much more acrimonious, that’s one thing that’s changed. The other is just the money that’s involved,” Plante said, noting Meg Whitman’s plans to spend $40 million of her own money to run for governor. [More].

Man murdered behind radio station

News happened near the backdoor of San Jose radio station KSJX, police said. A 46-year-old transient was stabbed to death allegedly by another transient, age 53, at about 1 a.m. Monday in the alley behind KSJX-AM 1500 at 501 Wooster Ave. Miguel Garcia was arrested late Tuesday night and is jailed on murder charges, according to Bay City News.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Steve Fainaru joins nonprofit news startup

Steve Fainaru, a Bay Area native who won a Pulitzer Prize at the Washington Post, was named today the managing editor of the F. Warren Hellman-funded Bay Area News Project, which has become The Bay Citizen.

Fainaru was born in Mountain View and graduated from Redwood High School in Larkspur. He has been based in the Bay Area for the Post since 2002 and currently lives in El Cerrito.

Fainaru won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting in 2008 for his 10-part series on widespread abuses involving Blackwater and other private security contractors in Iraq.

Fainaru began his career with the Mercury News, where he covered sports. He later worked at the Boston Globe before moving to the Washington Post. He is the author of two books, "Big Boy Rules: American Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq" (Da Capo, 2008) and "The Duke of Havana Baseball, Cuba< and the Search for the American Dream"(Villard, 2000).

Bay Area News Project becomes The Bay Citizen

The Bay Area News Project announced today it has a new name, The Bay Citizen.

This is the project that started when the Chronicle, in its effort to obtain concessions from its unions, began talking about closing. Wells Fargo heir F. Warren Helman has promised to put up $5 million for the project and there's talk that the New York Times will use the project's copy.

"Together with our tagline – News / Culture / Community – the name neatly encapsulates our mission as a publicly supported journalism organization," writes Editor Jonathan Weber:
    As anyone who has had the privilege of naming a company knows very well, there are, to put it mildly, a lot of things to consider. As we worked through the process, though, we kept coming back to the notion of “citizen.” For us, citizen is a not legal description, but rather a state of mind, a way of thinking about and describing a rich and dynamic relationship between individual and community. ...

    The notion of the “good citizen” has become a wry, almost sarcastic reference in the age of snark, but it’s hard to deny the simple fact that good citizens make great communities.

'Your Views on Local News' - a Town Hall forum

Community members will have a chance to discuss their views about the local news with a dozen leading figures in journalism, education, business and politics at a town hall meeting produced by the Society of Professional Journalists on Thursday, March 25.

“Your Views on Local News – A Town Hall Forum” will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Koret Auditorium of the main San Francisco Public Library in Civic Center. Admission is free.

We’ll discuss how the current crisis in the news industry creates opportunities for the public to help shape new kinds of journalism that contribute to a vibrant democracy. The conversation will explore strategies and business models for ensuring robust and reliable news coverage in a changing economic, technological and social environment.

Participants will include:
  • Craig Aaron, senior program director, FreePress
  • Mark Adkins, president, the San Francisco Chronicle
  • David Callaway, editor in chief,
  • Sandy Close, executive director, New America Media
  • Paul Connolly, senior vice president, the TCC Group, manager of the Challenge Fund for Journalism
  • Ron Dellums, Oakland mayor and former congressman
  • Glenn Frankel, Pulitzer Prize-winning Stanford professor and former Washington Post London Bureau chief
  • Lisa Frazier, publisher, Bay Area News Project
  • Dr. Dina Ibrahim, assistant professor for Broadcast and Electronic
  • Communications, San Francisco State
  • Pat Kenealy, managing director, IDG Ventures SF
  • Barry Parr, media analyst and entrepreneurial publisher,; and
  • Venise Wagner, Journalism Department chair, San Francisco State
Sandip Roy and Hana Baba of public radio station KALW-FM will moderate. The program will be recorded and broadcast by SFGTV, San Francisco’s government channel.

SPJ is the nation’s broadest-based organization devoted to encouraging the free practice of high-quality journalism in accordance with the highest ethical standards.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Affiliated Media emerges from bankruptcy

Affiliated Media, the new holding company for MediaNews Group, has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy projection after reducing its debt from $930 million to $165 million.

Secured creditors, led by the Bank of America, agreed to trade their debt for a 89% stake in the chain of 54 papers which includes the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times and Palo Alto Daily News, among others locally.

Under the deal, Dean Singleton remained in charge of the company and it appears his heir apparent will be Jody Lodovic. Here's the company's news release:
    Affiliated Media, Inc. Emerges from Chapter 11 
    DENVER, March 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Affiliated Media, Inc. today announced that it has successfully emerged from chapter 11 protection. 
    Affiliated Media, Inc. is the holding company for the MediaNews Group family of newspapers, the nation's second-largest newspaper publisher by circulation and owner of 54 daily newspapers, over 100 non-daily newspapers, as well as websites, television and radio broadcasters that serve markets in 12 states. 
    As previously reported, the Hon. Kevin J. Carey of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware confirmed the company's plan for reorganization on March 4, 2010, less than six weeks after the company filed for protection, on Jan. 22, 2010. 
    Prior to filing, the company had already reached agreement with its lenders on terms of the plan, which reduces the company's debt from approximately $930 million to approximately $165 million and involves no management change or change of control of the company.

Former NBC11 weatherman John Farley appears on Channel 2

John Farley returned to the air Saturday and Sunday, subbing for KTVU weekend weather anchor Mark Tamayo at 6 and 11. Farley was let go by NBC11 in a cost-cutting move in March 2009. He had been at Channel 11 for 13 years.

Friday, March 19, 2010

City Hall pays journalist's salary

The nonprofit San Francisco Public Press is paying paying the salary of one of its editorial employees with money from a city jobs stimulus program, the SF Weekly reports.

Public Press director Michael Stoll would not disclose how much money multimedia producer Monica Jensen is receiving through Jobs Now, saying the the information is a private personnel issue. However, he said that the city is currently paying her entire salary, which he described as "competitive."

The city official with that information could not provide it to the SF Weekly by its press time.

Stoll defended his decision to take city money, saying NPR and PBS receive funding from the federally financed Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

F. Warren Hellman, the Wells Fargo heir who is funding the Bay Area News Project, said last September that he might seek city funding for his news operation, too.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New excuse to delay public records request

Charles Piller of the Sacramento Bee reports that state and local government officials increasingly are blaming budget cuts and furloughs when they withhold or delay the release of information requested under the state Public Records Act.

The result is a diminished ability for the media to perform their watchdog role – just when downsized programs and government dysfunction make that scrutiny more crucial, Piller writes.

High fees and long delays in responses from agencies in California have weakened the public's right to know, blocking some investigative reports and reducing the scope or timeliness of others, said Bee reporters, other journalists and open-access experts contacted on the eve of "Sunshine Week." Sunshine Week, March 14-20, is an annual effort by the nonprofit, nonpartisan American Society of News Editors to promote open government, freedom of information and the public's right to know.

Two CSM journalism students win state awards

Two College of San Mateo journalism students have earned top honors in writing contests that included two and four-year college students throughout the state.

John Servatius, senior staff writer for the CSM newspaper and Web site The San Matean, will be among the three top winners for breaking news and Laura Babbitt, a former staff writer, is among the three highest winners for personal opinion writing.

They are being honored by the California College Media Association, which will provide details about the award rankings on April 17 during a presentation at Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Servatius’ entry was a report last March about the sentencing of a man in the 2006 slaying of Boris Albinder, 19, a student at Skyline College.

Albinder was slain in an off-campus fight over a parking space. The defendant, Sarith Soun, 27, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter after conviction in February, Servatius reported.

Babbitt is collecting honors for her opinion article “Returning student gets 2nd chance.” Judges counted entries from 38 college journalism programs, many of them four-year schools. This is the first time the CCMA has opened up competition to two-year colleges since 2004. CSM journalism students also entered contests in that year and were awarded an honorable mention for General Excellence for their newspaper, which is published every two weeks.

“It is wonderful to see our students excel in such a demanding field,” said Ed Remitz, CSM journalism adviser. “We value outstanding student achievement and it calls for even more celebration when skilled professionals honor student work.” Servatius also received top newswriting honors for his Albinder report last November during a journalism conference at San Jose State University by the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, an organization representing nearly every community college journalism program in the state. (Editor's note: Alex Farr of the San Matean submitted this item -- thanks!)

A different view of the war of the weeklies

The Stranger, an alt-weekly in Seattle, has a story about the legal battle between the SF Weekly and Bay Guardian.
    It's a war straight out of the last century in its ruthlessness and its destructive potential, and it continues to escalate even as, all around them, the entire words-on-paper industry is in a state of collapse. They're like dinosaurs, fighting over the rotting bones of a soon-to-be-extinct animal.

    On one side there's Michael G. Lacey, 61, the executive editor and a co-owner of Village Voice Media, a self-described "prick" who comes complete with "spiky gray hair, watery pale-blue eyes, and spreading shanty-Irish honker," as New York magazine memorably put it. On the other side is Bruce B. Brugmann, 74, editor and co-owner of the Bay Guardian, a classic San Francisco lefty who likens his civic role to that of a Revolutionary War pamphleteer and has made his own bearded visage a kind of logo for his business.

Hank Plant to retire at month's end

Hank Plante says he plans to retire at the end of March after 25 years as a reporter and anchor at KPIX. Plante told the media industry blog Newsblues that he and his partner, Roger Groth, will move Palm Springs.

Plante was one of the first openly gay TV reporters in the country though he never talked about it on the air. His coverage of the AIDS epidemic in its early stages helped Channel 5 win a prestigious Peabody award and two national Emmys.

Plante's announcement follows the announcement earlier this month that KTVU political editor Randy Shandobil plans to retire at the end of the year.

Plante's KPIX bio notes that his experience includes reporting and anchoring at TV stations across the country: KHJ-TV in Los Angeles, KRIV-TV in Houston, KMSP-TV in Minneapolis and WVEC-TV in Norfolk, Virginia. He also served as Assignment Editor at WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C., and News Editor at WRC (NBC) Radio, in Washington D.C. Prior to his broadcasting career, Hank worked in print journalism in Washington, D.C. at the Sentinel Newspapers, where he was Managing Editor, and at The Washington Post, where he worked on the City Desk.

Merc asks candidate to change ballot statement

A candidate for district attorney in Santa Clara County has agreed to seek a court order to amend his ballot statement at the request of the Mercury News. Jeff Rosen, a deputy district attorney, included in his statement the following:
    "'Jeff Rosen is the most respected career prosecutor in the office.' — San Jose Mercury News."
But Merc editor David Butler objected to the statement because it implied Rosen had been endorsed by the paper. The Merc said the quote actually appeared in a column written by Scott Herhold, a columnist and reporter.

Butler said "candidates must be careful to distinguish between the paper's editorial board and its columnists and reporters. Only the editorial board speaks for the paper as a whole." Rosen, who is challenging incumbent Delores Carr, said the mistake was unintentional.

Scheer: Papers should edit online comments

Lawyer and journalist Peter Scheer, who is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, says that newspapers should edit the comment sections of their Web sites. He says there's a misconception that if a newspaper moderates the comments, the paper will then become liable for what readers post.
    Section 230 of the act protects newspapers that operate their reader comments sections as a cesspool, permitting readers to post whatever they wish, no matter how libelous or harmful. Injured parties can sue the authors of those online comments, but not the newspaper. The newspaper is shielded, even if it has been given notice that statements in its comments section are false and it refuses to remove them.

    But newspapers are equally protected if they act responsibly, screening comments or editing them. The act was intended to overturn a court decision suggesting otherwise that had given news organizations a perverse incentive to refrain from editing user-generated comments.
Scheer's piece was printed in the Chronicle.

Coco Times added to e-reader platform

Sony has added a number of newspaper titles to its e-reader platform including the Contra Costa Times, Newsday in Melville, N.Y.; the Providence (R.I.) Journal, the San Diego Union-Tribune, Asahi Shimbun and The Guardian in the United Kingdom. The Mercury News is already available along with The New York Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.

March 2010 Press Club board minutes

March 16, 2010 — Board Room, San Mateo Daily Journal. The meeting was called to order at 6:40 p.m.

Present: Jon Mays, Micki Carter, Dave Price, Melissa McRobbie, Darryl Compton, Kristy Blackburn, Antonia Ehlers, Peter Cleaveland, Ed Remitz. Absent: Jamie Casini, Marshall Wilson

Minutes of February were approved as read.

Treasurer’s Report: Darryl noted that $9,040 has been collected so far from the Professional Journalism  Contest entries. A total of 398 entries were received.

Evening of Excellence: June 19 is the only Saturday in June that we can get the Crowne Plaza. Darryl offered several other possible venues but the Crowne Plaza on June 19 is our first choice.
A discussion on possible speakers followed. Jon will contact Dave Eggers of Panorama. Antonia suggested New York Times managing editor Bill Keller who is a Serra alum; she will email him.

High School Journalism Contest: Micki said the early date for the High School Contest Awards Reception (Wednesday, April 21, 4-6 p.m., Ralston Hall) will create a judging crunch. She will get the entries from Darryl on April 1 and deliver them to judges that day. She would like the results back within five days but April 10 is the drop-dead date to place the order for plaques with Alpine Awards.

Judges: Editorial — Jon: Columns — Ed; Photo categories — Erik Oeverndiek; Sports stories — Jon (for Nate); Layout — Micki; Features — Melissa; News — Jack Russell; Web site design and content — Jennifer Aquino.

Micki also announced that Hillsdale Shopping Center will again sponsor the awards, paying for plaques and catering. NDNU will donate the use of Ralston Hall.

High School Journalism Project: Nothing further since the last meeting. Jon suggested polling advisers at the Awards Reception April 21 about their interest in group ad purchases. Kristy will also post the idea on an advisers’ listserv to gauge interest.

CSM newspaper situation: Considerable discussion followed on how to help Ed Remitz preserve the San Matean at College of San Mateo. Jon suggested the idea that we all enroll in Ed’s class to boost figures. Micki suggested the possibility of creating a community advisory group that might bridge the gap between Ed and the administration. She will send an email to Susan Estes at CSM after running it by Jon and Ed.

Professional development workshop: It was decided to table discussion on the next workshop until this summer. The topic is slated to be finding public records at the courthouse. There might be further discussion of revisiting Bench Bar Media in the fall with questions for court officials.

Web site: Dave gave a rundown on the Web site, its revenue and traffic. Revenue is around $200, and visitors are slowly climbing. It went from 209,153 page loads in 2008 to 247,922 page loads in 2009. Dave also discussed his efforts in eliminating spam and inappropriate comments. Overall, the board expressed happiness with the site and Dave's efforts to post items and maintain it.

The meeting was adjourned at 8 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,Micki Carter, Secretary

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Village Voice Media $80 million in default

The parent company of the SF Weekly, Village Voice Media, has been declared in default on an $80 million loan it has from the Bank of Montreal, according to the Seattle alt-weekly the Stranger.

That means that both the bank and the Bay Guardian, which has a $21 million judgment against the SF Weekly and VVM, are sending letters to SF Weekly advertisers, saying they should receive payment for ads in the paper.

The attorney for VVM ran to court to get a temporary restraining order to stop the Guardian from collecting from the SF Weekly's advertisers.

"The confusion created by the Bay Guardian notice is causing advertisers to withhold all payment, to threaten to pull [their] advertising out of the SF Weekly, and, if Bay Guardian is permitted to continue this tactic, is likely to devastate SF Weekly's advertising business beyond repair ... No advertiser or potential advertiser will tolerate for long the burden of navigating confusing and contradictory legal notices in order to pay a simple invoice," SF Weekly attorney Randall S. Farrimond wrote in his request for a restraining order.

The Seattle paper reports that Farrimond's request for a restraining order was rejected and that SF Weekly ad revenue will be forwarded to a neutral bank account, according to Jay Adkisson, the Guardian's collection attorney.

Village Voice Media is a Phoenix-based chain of 13 papers including the OC Weekly in Orange County, Miami New Times, Seattle Weekly, Westword in Denver, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

SF Weekly ordered to give 50% of revenues to rival

Winning a lawsuit is one thing, collecting the money from the loser is another.

Two years ago, a lawyer for Bruce Brugmann's Bay Guardian convinced a San Francisco jury that the SF Weekly and its parent company were selling ads at below the cost of production in order to gain market share and run Brugmann out of business. A jury on March 5, 2008, awarded Brugmann $6.39 million. A judge added $9.2 million in penalties. Since then more than $5 million in interest has accrued, bringing the total to $21 million.

For the past several months, Brugmann has been attempting to collect his money. In January, he got a court order seizing two of the SF Weekly's delivery vans and he is allowed to collect rent from the SF Weekly's subtenants.

But that was nothing compared to the bombshell of an order Superior Court Commissioner Everett Hewlett issued on Tuesday that requires the SF Weekly and all of its advertisers to immediately begin remitting advertising revenues to the Bay Guardian.

The Assignment Order also requires SF Weekly’s credit card processing company to remit 100% of the credit card payments directly to Bay Guardian rather than to SF Weekly, according to the Guardian.

From now on, the Guardian will get to keep 50% of the Weekly's revenue.

Additionally, SF Weekly must turn over to the Bay Guardian a list of all its advertisers and the amounts that they currently owe to SF Weekly.

"The Village Voice folks first claimed that we would never collect anything, then they claimed that we would never collect more than a few thousand dollars, but the amount that we will now be collecting is certainly very significant," Brugmann said.

At a Feb. 11 hearing, the Weekly's parent company, Village Voice Media Holdings, argued that seizure of the ad revenue would violate the rights of Village Voice Media's main creditor, the Bank of Montreal, which has lent the chain $80 million, according to a Chronicle report.

Andy Van De Voorde, executive associate editor of Village Voice Media Holdings and the reporter who covered the 2008 Guardian-v-SF Weekly trial, denied this week that the ruling will force the chain of alternative papers into bankruptcy. He told a sister publication, Westword in Denver, that the company is optimistic about its chances in an appeals court, even though no hearing date has been set. He notes that the Guardian's lawsuit named the SF Weekly and New Times Media as defendants, but not the current holding company, Village Voice Media Holdings.

Van De Voorde also told Westword: "The Guardian is trying to drum up headlines and damage our business by creating the entirely inaccurate perception that we're going to start selling off papers in order to meet this judgment. And that's not going to happen."

Below is the text of a Van De Voorde memo sent to all Village Voice Media employees:
    March 10, 2010

    To: All Employees

    From: Andy Van De Voorde

    By now you may have seen news reports about the fact that a San Francisco court commissioner yesterday issued an order giving the Bay Guardian rights to 50% of SF Weekly's revenues.

    We have known for weeks that such an order might be issued, and we have a plan in place to deal with it. We also will be appealing the order to the California Court of Appeal.

    Despite uninformed speculation in certain publications, SF Weekly is not going out of business. Its day-to-day operations will remain unaffected...

    With regard to yesterday's ruling, this latest legal gambit by the Guardian is just another example of that company's flawed and increasingly desperate strategy: to try and collect whatever monies it can before the California Court of Appeal has even had a chance to rule on the underlying merits of the lawsuit.

    The near-manic intensity with which the Guardian is attempting to scrape together cash reflects the true nature of this case: That it is the Guardian, not the Weekly, that is struggling to stay in business, and which views these legal proceedings as its last hope.

    We fully expect to win the case on appeal, and we are heartened by the fact that the Court of Appeal has already advised us that it has read all of the briefs, is familiar with the facts of the case, has conferenced the case, and is ready to set oral arguments.

    The appeal briefs filed in this case make it clear that the Weekly is on the side of consumers -- in this case, local advertisers. The Guardian, on the other hand, is openly and unashamedly advocating against the interests of these consumers, fighting instead for its right to raise prices during one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen.

    That is a fight we are happy to wage, and we intend to win it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Women in Media discuss 'What’s Next?'

“What's Next? Women and the Changing Media Landscape” is the title of a panel discussion at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont on March 31 at 7 p.m.

The panel includes:
  • Ysabel Duron, weekend news anchor at KRON TV;
  • Rosy Chu, host of “Bay Area People”;
  • Renee Batti, news editor, The Almanac, a weekly in Menlo Park;
  • Staci Slaughter, VP of Communication, San Francisco Giants.
The event is free. For more information, call (650) 740-4824.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Eggers, Bronstein, Villalon, Wilson discuss SF Panorama tonight

Author Dave Eggers, Chronicle editor-at-large Phil Bronstein and Oscar Villalon, former Chronicle book editor, will talk about the SF Panorama newspaper at 8:30 tonight (Tuesday, March 9, 2010) at SF State's McKenna Theater. The talk will be moderated by Yumi Wilson, a former Chronicle and AP writer who teaches writing and reporting at SF State. The flyer for the event says Eggers will explain why newspapers as a print medium still have a strong future.

In her blog, Wilson discusses something that is frequently overlooked in the coverage of the changing news media — the people who have given their all in order to get the news.

Merc business staff wins 3 top awards

The Mercury News' business staff has taken three top professional awards, including one for overall excellence, in a contest sponsored by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

The awards recognize the best publications and Web sites and the best business news reporting for 2009. The Mercury News was the only Bay Area newspaper honored this year.

Brandon Bailey and Elise Ackerman won top honors in the breaking news category for their coverage of Carol Bartz's appointment as CEO of Yahoo.

Chris O'Brien won in the business columnist category for work ranging from a column on the behind-the-scenes players in Silicon Valley who make the region a center of innovation to a piece on the Silicon Valley executives who were the best "bargains" -- based on their pay -- for the value they delivered to shareholders.

The Merc won in the overall excellence category for papers of its size, an award that recognizes the work of the entire staff and is judged based on the submission of a number of editions from throughout the year.

Also honored for overall excellence in this category were The Des Moines Register and The Detroit News.

The awards will be officially presented at a SABEW meeting March 20 in Phoenix.

"It's gratifying to see the efforts of the Merc's excellent business reporting staff get this national recognition yet again," said Dave Butler, editor of the Mercury News and vice president for news for MediaNews Group. "Excellent business and tech coverage have been and continue to be one of the newspaper's primary ways to serve Silicon Valley readers."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rick Quan creates a second career

Dave Newhouse of the Oakland Tribune reports that former KPIX sportscaster Rick Quan is thriving in his new career as a producer of corporate videos, biographies and short documentaries. Quan, 53, was in broadcast news for 30 years and was at Channel 5 for 21 years when the station let him go two years ago. In addition to his video production work, Channel 7 hired him last fall as a fill-in sportscaster and he's anchored a half-dozen times since. (Photo credit: Kristopher Skinner, Bay Area News Group)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

UC-Berkeley student journalist arrested

The Daily Californian, the student paper at UC-Berkeley, reports that one of its reporters, freshman Cameron Burns, was arrested Thursday while recording video of a student protest over cuts to higher education. He was among those arrested on Interstate 980. Daily Cal reporter Stephanie M. Lee wrote:
    Standing on the freeway on-ramp, Cameron Burns realized he had forgotten his press pass. What he had on his hands instead was a video camera and a protest that was about to unfold. ...

    "They're running onto the freeway," Burns said over the phone to Joanna Brockhouse, the multimedia coordinator for the student newspaper's Web site. "Should I follow them?"

    Brockhouse's last words, according to Burns, were: "Go get the story-go get it!"

    So he did.

    For the intended business administration major from Carlsbad, Calif., what began as a filming of the long-anticipated protests against education cuts culminated in a stint in
Burns was released Friday from a jail in Dublin. He is charged with obstructing a public place and unlawful assembly, the same charges as 150 others arrested on 980 face.

Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va., told the Daily Cal that student and professional reporters alike are frequently confused for demonstrators -- with or without their press passes.

"The best thing a journalist can do, professional or student, to avoid getting arrested is to make sure every officer they interact with is aware they're a journalist," he said.

The Daily Cal says Burns' parents were surprised by his arrest but will "absolutely" allow him to continue working for the newspaper.  (Photo credit: Daily Californian)

KTVU, KPIX crowing after Winter Olympics

The February 2010 sweeps were supposed to be won by NBC, which paid $820 million for the broadcast rights (but managed to lose $250 million on the deal). Instead, KTVU and KPIX came out of the sweeps period smiling. Each station issued a press release touting how well they did in February. Here's KPIX's statement:
    In the face of Olympic competition, CBS 5 Eyewitness News ratings soar and are up in the Adult 25-54 demo (Monday-Friday) year to year in four out of six newscasts: 5 a.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. ... “This further validates a trend seen in the last several months and it is even more encouraging considering the challenging environment in February” said Ron Longinotti, president and general manager of CBS 5/The CW 44 Cable 12. Additionally, the Eyewitness News at Noon with anchors Juliette Goodrich and weather anchor Tracy Humphrey is number one in household ratings for the sweep period.[KPIX 1.7, KTVU 1.6] A25-54 ratings Monday-Friday percentage increase year to year:
      5 a.m. — up 67% 5 p.m. — up 43% 6 p.m. — up 29% 11 p.m. — up 7%
In a 14-page press release, KTVU reported that it continued to hold on to the first-place position in the late news race despite NBC11's Olympic surge. Here is one of the pages KTVU put out regarding its February ratings:

Here's how KTVU said the stations' newscasts fared overall in Feburary among adults 25-54:

Channel 2 reports it had double the audience of its competitors in the morning. Of course channels 5, 7 and 11 are handicapped by the fact that they must carry their network's morning show from 7 to 9, which is three hours old and produced in New York.

KTUV is also crowing about its Internet/Mobile ratings in February. It reports its Web site had 5.4 million page views in February, and that its top story of the month (the East Palo Alto plane crash) had 84,000 page views.'s Chinese New Year slide show drew 43,000 page views. The five-day forecast attraced 463,000 page views during the month.

The Press Club is well aware that stations dice and slice the ratings to make themselves look good. So if other stations have announcements about how they did in February, please forward them to us.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Date set for high school journalism awards

The Press Club is working to promote journalism at the high school level. Each fall we hold a boot camp with how-to seminars for student journalists. In the spring, the club holds a contest to recognize the best work at high school newspapers and Web sites. The Press Club will present this year's awards on April 21 from 4 to 6 p.m., at Ralston Hall, Notre Dame de Namur University, 1500 Ralston Ave., Belmont.

Thuy Vu wins Gracie Award

KPIX's Thuy Vu has won the “Outstanding Reporter/Correspondent” Gracie Award from the American Women in Radio and Television (AWRT). Vu won for her composite of three stories:
  • Mendota, a Central Valley town with the state's highest unemployment rate, nearly 42%;
  • Khmer Rouge survivors telling their stories publicly for the first time;
  • Re-opening of Angel Island.
The Gracies each year recognize "exemplary programming created for women, by women and about women in all facets of media and entertainment, as well as individuals who have made contributions to the industry."

In 2009, CBS 5 received two Gracie Awards for "Assignment Africa," the series of stories reported from Ghana by Dana King and Craig Franklin.

This year's awards will be presented at the AWRT's annual dinner on May 25th at the Beverly Hilton in LA.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Judge approves MediaNews bankruptcy plan

Lodovic and Singleton
The AP is reporting that a federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware today approved the bankruptcy plan of the parent company of the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times and other MediaNews Group papers.
    The confirmation of the reorganization plan in Delaware puts Affiliated Media, the holding company for MediaNews Group Inc., on track to emerge from bankruptcy protection by April 1 and possibly as early as March 18, company spokesman Seth Faison said.
    The company filed for Chapter 11 protection on Jan. 22. ... The quick approval produced a big payday for Affiliated's president, Joseph Lodovic IV
    He qualified for a $250,000 bonus by getting the plan confirmed before April. That comes on top of a $250,000 award he already got for putting together a plan that was approved by Affiliated's lenders before the bankruptcy filing. 
    Under the plan, privately held Affiliated will dump most of its $930 million debt in exchange for relinquishing ownership to dozens of lenders. 
    The lenders, which had been led by Bank of America, will hold 89 percent of Affiliated's common stock, with the remaining stake going to Lodovic and the company's CEO, William Dean Singleton
    Singleton, who is also chairman of The Associated Press, will retain control of the company's board. Heading into the bankruptcy filing, Singleton held a roughly 30 percent stake in Affiliated.
    Richard Scudder, who co-founded MediaNews with Singleton in 1985, surrendered his holdings as part of the reorganization. Another publisher, Hearst Corp., will give up half of the 30 percent stake that it acquired in Affiliated's newspapers outside the Bay Area as part of a complex $317 million deal in 2006.[More]
The Fitz & Jen column on the E&P site notes:
    Under the plan in the prepackaged bankruptcy, secured lenders holding about $950 million in debt will exchange it for about 89% of equity in the post-bankruptcy company. 
    In court filings, the company said lenders will recover from 29% to 36% of their claims. Subordinated noteholders, no surprise, didn’t make out nearly as well. Their $326 million in claims gets than an 8.25% equity stake, a recovery of about 2%. 
    Dean Singleton ... stays in control of MediaNews as well. Singleton has already picked his four people on the seven-seat board of directors: Singleton himself; his President Jody Lodovic; Affiliated’s general counsel, Howell Begle; and the founder of a chemical business, John Huntsman. The court’s okay turned Thursday into payday for Lodovic, who gets a $500,000 bonus because the plan was approved before the end of March.
Before today's approval, the company filed a declaration by CFO Ronald Mayo in which he said that "Any delay in emergence from Chapter 11 will damage the debtor's business, to the detriment of all parties of interest," according to a report in the Denver Business Journal.

And here's a blast from the past — A MediaNews press release nine months ago in which it flatly denied a report was going to file for bankruptcy.

    A media report on Wednesday, citing rumors from unnamed sources, reports that MediaNews Group has proposed a refinancing plan to its bank lenders that would cause a change in control of the company and possibly involve a bankruptcy filing. 
    The story is inaccurate in almost all respects. As previously reported, MNG is in discussions with its bank lenders to restructure its balance sheet, including an exchange of some of its bank debt for equity in the company. 
    Proposals to the company's lenders do not include a change in control of the company, nor do they include proposals for any bankruptcy filings, as the rumors suggest. MediaNews Group remains in compliance with its bank agreements while refinancing discussions continue.

Shandobil leaving KTVU at year's end

KTVU political editor Randy Shandobil, who has been at Channel 2 for 31 years, plans to leave the station after the November elections, media blogger Rich Lieberman reports. The images here are from You Tube -- 1984 and 2009. The 1984 image is from a live shot Shandobil did from a fire.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

'New' SM County Times becomes more local

Ever since Dean Singleton bought the San Mateo County Times from its local owners in 1996, the paper has run a lot of copy and ads from the East Bay, where his chain has other papers, such as the Oakland Tribune. Longtime Times columnist John Horgan announced Monday that after 14 years, the paper's content has been shifted from the East Bay to the Peninsula.
    On its face, that may not seem like a big deal. But it is. The move, effective this week, gives San Mateo County's daily newspaper a decidedly West Bay flavor once again.

    Some history is in order. The Times, whose origins stretch all the way back to 1889, had been a strictly Peninsula operation, controlled for decades by the heirs of Horace Amphlett.

    However, because of unrelenting financial pressures on the ownership, the three surviving adult children of the late J. Hart Clinton, it was sold to Dean Singleton's far-flung media empire in early 1996. It was then integrated into what once was the Alameda Newspaper Group, based in Oakland and Pleasanton.

    There were some problems with the new setup, the most obvious of which was content. Because of the East Bay connection, the Times contained a good deal of — some would say too much of — news and advertising devoted to unfamiliar communities, issues, people and businesses across the Bay.

    The culture clash created a unhappiness among subscribers, and readership declined. There has been a nagging concern that the situation could not be remedied in tough economic times for newspapers across the country. Still, Denver-based Singleton and his associates understood the issues on the Peninsula.

    Something had to be done. Now, it has. ...

    Today, the "new" Times is prepared to flourish under this fresh and, hopefully, reinvigorating arrangement. Coverage of local news will increase. So will local advertising, the lifeblood of any journalistic enterprise.

    The Internet, of course, remains to the future of the Times, the Mercury News and the rest of the newspaper industry. Gaining significant revenues from the online world, however, remains a challenge.

    Some things will stay the same. The Times' office is still in downtown San Mateo at the intersection of Ninth Avenue and South Claremont Street. Telephone numbers and e-mail addresses won't change.
We're told the paper's copy desk will remain in Walnut Creek, where other MediaNews Group papers in the Bay Area are edited.

Objections filed in MediaNews bankruptcy

When MediaNews Group, owner of the Mercury News and other Bay Area dailies, announced on Jan. 22 that it was filing a "prepackaged" Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition, it said in a news release:
    ... [the] prepackaged plan won approval from its lenders, which means that the plan can bypass any need for negotiation or debate in court, and instead can win approval with a minimum of delay.
Chief executive Dean Singleton went on to say, "We already have the support and approval of our lenders, so we expect our plan to proceed through this process swiftly and smoothly."

According to the Denver Business Journal and the Denver Daily News, three creditors have filed objections in U.S. District Bankrupty Court to Singleton's bankruptcy plan that would pay creditors 18 cents on the dollar but give his management group 20% of the new company that will emerge from the bankruptcy proceedings. More objections could come before Thursday's deadline.

According to the two Denver publications (which are following it closely because MediaNews is based there), the objections have been filed by:

• Greenco Inc., a subsidiary of the Tribune Co., which claims it is owed $8.4 million and intends to sue MediaNews for that amount of money. It still wants to be able to sue for the money after the bankruptcy.

• Bank of New York Mellon Trust Co., which says it is currently in negotiations with MediaNews in an attempt to be repaid for money it loaned. The amount due wasn't given. It was apparently filing an objection to protect its rights to the money.

• Warner Gateway Properties, landlord of the Los Angeles Daily News, which said it doesn’t want the newspaper company to assume its own lease without proof it can pay.

According to the Business Journal:
    The Los Angeles Daily News occupies about one-quarter of the Warner Gateway project in Woodland Hills. MediaNews Group holds a 15-year, $27.6 million lease that expires in 2022, according to the filing. 
    The filing says representatives of the debtor began discussing a possible lease modification in January, but never made an offer, and provided information showing that the Daily News had lost $5 million over the past two years. 
    In February, the landlord received a document indicating that MediaNews planned to ask the bankruptcy judge to take its name off the master lease and assign responsibility to Los Angeles Daily News Publishing Co. (LADN). 
    Warner Gateway says it never agreed to this. 
    “The only evidence of the assignee’s financial health is two years of consistent multi-million-dollar losses, totaling in excess of $5 million,” Warner Gateway said in its objection. “The debtor has refused to provide any other financial information about LADN, its assignee.” 
    Only $2.1 million has been paid so far on the $27.6 million lease, Warner Gateway officials said. No security deposit was made. Before the Daily News moved in, the landlord invested about $3.9 million for improvements designed specifically for the newspaper, according to the filing. 
    Warner Gateway is asking the judge to do one of three things: either force Affiliated Media to provide financial statements proving that LADN is capable of paying the lease; require Affiliated Media to accept its responsibility for the lease; or require Affiliated to provide a stand-by letter of credit for at least one year’s rent.
The Denver Daily News says that if Singleton's bankruptcy plan is rejected by the court, his No. 2, Jody Lodovic, would feel the pain. Documents filed previously in the bankruptcy case indicate that Lodovic will get a $500,000 bonus if the bankruptcy petition is approved. Documents also show that Lodovic could get as much as $2.25 million this year while chief executive Singleton is in line to get $1.49 million.

Oscar Villalon, McSweeney's publisher, exits

Joe Eskenazi of the SF Weekly is reporting that Oscar Villalon, the longtime former Chronicle book editor who accepted a buyout and then went to work as McSweeney's publisher has abruptly exited that position. Villalon, who started at McSweeney's last September, was responsible for shepherding the Panorama newspaper project into circulation. The SF Weekly says it's unclear whether Villalon jumped or was pushed.

ABC News to close San Francisco bureau

The LA Times (and others) are reporting that ABC News plans to eventually close all of its physical bureaus around the country except Washington and halve the number of its domestic correspondents.

That would include the network's San Francisco bureau, led by Laura Marquez (formerly of KGO-TV). The Times says the bureaus will be replaced by 20 to 25 digital journalists, who will shoot and edit their own stories.

Matea Gold of the LA Times says the mood was grim at the ABC News bureau in Los Angeles, the largest outside of Washington.
    The 40-plus staffers were told that only a few producers will remain and only two correspondents will be assigned to cover the West, down from a total of six who work out of Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Many functions that had been done out of the bureau will be handled by a "logistics desk" in New York.

    Demoralized employees, who did not want to be quoted by name for fear of losing their jobs, said the severity of the cuts will make it nearly impossible to swarm major stories such as the perennial wildfires in Southern California.

    [ABC News President David] Westin said that the network would cope with the reduced manpower on breaking news stories by hiring freelance crews and relying on its expanded team of digital journalists, staffers who will be able to handle multiple tasks.

    "I'm sure we will learn more as we go forward, but we have enough experience to be quite confident that we can not only maintain but in some cases enhance our editorial quality," he said.