Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nonprofit consortium buys Point Reyes Light

A consortium of West Marin residents has purchased the Point Reyes Light from Robert Plotkin (pictured), who had promised to turn the weekly into a New Yorker magazine of the West but encountered hostility from residents and community leaders.

The Chronicle says Plotkin sold the paper for far less than the $500,000 he paid David Mitchell for the paper five years ago. Mitchell, who won a Pulitzer in 1979 for public service reporting, feuded with Plotkin over the past few years.

The nonprofit, called the Marin Media Group, has received $350,000 in donations from 75 people including Wells Fargo heir F. Warren Hellman and the descendants of the family that previously owned the Chronicle. Members of the nonprofit's board includes Mark Dowie, a former publisher of Mother Jones magazine and a UC-Berkeley journalism professor; anti-globalization activist Jerry Mander, and author Norman Solomon, according to a report in the Marin Independent Journal.

Plotkin fired off an angry statement after the sale was announced, saying:
    "I am glad she is marrying into West Marin's hippy oligarchy, who can more easily support her spendthrift habits. ... 
    "Sadly, West Marin did not want editorial excellence. They did not want to see behind the curtain. They wanted a newspaper that would record their births, celebrate their accomplishments and habitually congratulate them on living here. But most of all, the neo-romantics of West Marin took themselves too seriously."

Mitchell, whose column was dropped by Plotkin, told the Marin IJ that he will be writing for the Light again after the sale. (Photo credit: Chris Stewart, Chronicle)

High school in Sunnyvale may lose student paper

The principal of Sunnyvale's Fremont High School is threatening to eliminate the journalism class that produces the student newspaper because too few students are signing up — only 17 instead of the 31 or 32 needed to continue the course, the Mercury News reports.

Students are protesting the move, saying that if they lose the paper, they lose their voice. The students are going around with duct tape over their mouths.

The principal, James Maxwell, says the students can always form an after-school journalism club to keep the paper going. But the club won't provide the academic credit many of the students are presumably seeking.

For what it's worth, Merc columnist Scott Herhold is taking principal's side in the dispute, saying that if the school keeps a small sized journalism class, it will mean other classes will have to be larger, and that's not fair in his book. Herhold says the enrollment reflects larger trends in society.

Above, from left, Lucia Tran, Chelsey Singh, Vered Hazanchuk and Alishia Forkapa protest in front of Fremont High School. (Photo credit: Maria J. Avila, Mercury News)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bay Citizen, a nonprofit news project, launches

With $5 million from Wells Fargo heir F. Warren Hellman and $3.7 million from other donors, The Bay Citizen launched its website today. It carried stories about the region's worst global warmers, the battle in Oakland over restraining orders aimed at gangs, the low property tax bills of some of San Francisco's richest residents, and the Chinese exodus from San Francisco.

In sports, the Citizen reports that the Warriors got eight bids, some topping $400 million, but not Larry Ellison's. The Citizen also has sections on the arts and opinion. The environment appears to be a major focus.

CEO Lisa Frazier said in an introductory blog post:
    At The Bay Citizen, we are focused on three things: enhancing local news coverage in the Bay area, stimulating innovation in journalism, and fostering civic engagement. We believe that the more informed we are about local civic issues and cultural events, the more apt we are to participate, which strengthens the fabric of our community.

The Citizen has 24 paid staffers including a newsroom of 16 led by Jonathan Weber, co-founder of The Industry Standard and a former LA Times staff writer.

The nonprofit plans to go beyond a website and eventually offer news through podcasts, radio and TV.

The New York Times used some of the Citizen's stories on its website today, and more are expected to be published in the Times' Bay Area Section. A partnership with the Times has given the Citizen "instant credibility," the Chicago Reader remarked in a story about the Citizen's launch. But the Reader quotes David Greising, head a similar nonprofit news cooperative in Chicago, as saying:
    "They are going to learn a lot about what it's like to deal with the New York Times, which will be an awakening for them, ... The Times has very exacting standards. It has taken us quite some time to really understand what the Times wants, and how our report fits into the rest of the Times national report."

Greising predicts that the Bay Citizen staff is in for "considerable discussion with their clients in New York."

Steven T. Jones, writing in the Bay Guardian, said he's heard some detractors in the local media grumble that the Citizen's presentation seemed “banal” and unworthy of their big budget.

"I don't agree," Jones writes, "Personally, I think The Bay Citizen strikes the right tone and balance, emphasizing solid journalism rather than flashy gimmicks, while also drawing on multimedia tools such as the video of yesterday's protests against President Obama's visit to SF."

On the eve of its launch, the Citizen announced that it had obtained $3.7 million in donations to supplement the $5 million in seed money from Hellman. The new money (actually some of it dates back to February, but wasn't revealed until now, according to the Business Times) came from the Don Fisher family, the Knight Foundation, Jeff and Laurie Ubben, Diane Wilsey, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, Arthur Rock, Lynn Feintech and Anthony Bernhardt, and the San Francisco Foundation.

The Citizen said it has also raised $65,000 from more than 750 people who paid $50 or more to become founding members.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Court says its Prop. 8 camera ruling was a mistake

The federal court overseeing a lawsuit challenging California's same-sex marriage ban said today that a ruling was mistakenly posted on the court's website denying a request for closing trial arguments to be broadcast on television and streamed on the Internet, according to AP.

A clerk for Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco told lawyers representing several media outlets that no decision had yet been made and indicated that a court official earlier Tuesday had mistakenly posted what appeared to be a ruling on the matter.

PR guy rubs KGO-TV crew the wrong way, literally

A PR man for San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital repeated patted Dan Noyes with a hand as the KGO reporter attempted to interview Hospital Director Mivic Hirose about irregularities with the Patient Gift Fund. The video shows what PR man Marc Slavin did — he not only repeatedly touched Noyes but also his female photographer. Here's Noyes' story. After the incident, Slavin's boss, Public Health Director Mitch Katz, admitted Slavin's behavior was "unprofessional." Katz wouldn't say if Slavin would be disciplined or whether he continues to work for the hospital, calling it a personnel issue.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Newspaper saved by killing website, adding staff

Conventional wisdom in the newspaper business is that papers should shrink their newsrooms and expand their websites in order to survive. When Denver's Rocky Mountain News folded last year, political reporter M.E. Sprengelmeyer lost his job. So he got in the car and drove south to New Mexico, where he grew up. He bought a weekly, the Guadalupe County Communicator, where he did precisely the opposite of the conventional wisdom: He increased the staff by 40% and killed the paper's website, saying it was hurting street sales. CNN's Tom Foreman picks up the story from there.

East Bay journalist Rich Riggs dies at 65

Bay Area News Group reports that Rich Riggs, a former Hayward Daily Review reporter who tenaciously covered government and business, courts and politics for more than 25 years, died Tuesday in his Hayward home. He was 65. Riggs succumbed to complications from liver cancer, which had been diagnosed in early 2009. According to the obit:
    A highlight of his reporting career were the stories he wrote about Mafia hit man Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno, who lived in Hayward, Fremont and San Mateo County. 
    Because of those stories, and because of his slender build, Riggs's colleagues nicknamed him "Richie the Pencil." 
    Riggs was particularly proud of his 1975 work on a reporting team that investigated the relationship between a Redwood City development company and a Hayward city councilman. The councilman, who approved the firm's Hayward hills subdivision and building plans in the late 1960s and early 1970s, received what Riggs and fellow reporter Lance Williams described as favorable lease-purchase arrangements on an expensive, company-built home.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

USA Today drops MediaNews as Bay Area printer

Gannett has decided to stop printing USA Today at MediaNews Group's Marin Independent Journal in Novato. USA Today is switching its printing to Southwest Offset, which is opening a new plant in San Jose.

Southwest, based in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena, plans to move its Redwood City printing operation to the new San Jose plant.

Gannett has been printing USA Today at the IJ for more than 10 years. Gannett was the previous owner of the IJ. Gannett prints USA Today at 36 plants across the country.

The switch is a blow to MediaNews Group, whose papers in the Bay Area are owned by a partnership that includes Gannett. The California Newspapers Partnership is comprised of MNG (54.23%); Stephens Media Group (26.28%) and Gannett (19.49%). The partnership's Bay Area papers include the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Marin IJ, San Mateo County Times, Palo Alto Daily News and Pleasanton's Tri-Valley Herald.

Media wants to televise closings in Prop. 8 trial

Local TV stations and other media outlets are asking Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to allow televising of closing arguments in the trial involving a legal challenge to Prop. 8, California's ban on gay marriage.

According to the Merc and BCN, the media outlets argue that concerns about witnesses being shown on TV are not relevant during closing arguments, when only the lawyers talk. The media outlets also argue that TV should be allowed in this case now that the court has established rules for televising federal court proceedings.

The 12 organizations making the request are Cable News Network, In Session (formerly known as Court TV), Fox News, NBC News, CBS News, Hearst Corp., Dow Jones & Co., Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, McClatchy Co., KQED Public Radio and the Northern California Chapter of the Radio & Television News Directors Association.

Memorial Saturday for Ron Fimrite

A memorial for former Chonicle and Sports Illustrated writer Ron Fimrite will be held Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Washington Square Bar and Grill, 1707 Powell St., San Francisco. Fimrite died April 30 of pancreatic cancer at age 79.

FCC to hold workshop on media ownership in Stanford

As part of its 2010 review of media ownership rules, the Federal Communications Commission will hold a public hearing on the impact of media consolidation and technological innovation on journalism on Friday, May 21, in Stanford.

Panelists for the public workshop include:
  • Tim Westergren, founder, Pandora Music;
  • Eddy W. Hartenstein, publisher and CEO, Los Angeles Times;
  • Jim Joyce, president, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians;
  • and vice president, Communications Workers of America and
  • Alan Mutter, media analyst.
The full agenda can be found here:

The FCC said in a press release that it is evaluating its media ownership rules in the context of ongoing growth and innovation in online news access. The ownership rules govern the number of outlets that can be owned by a single company in a single media market. The rules are intended to encourage a diversity of voices and opinions and to minimize media consolidation.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Search warrant shows Apple pressured cops

The affidavit a special law enforcement task force used to search the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen was released this afternoon by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan.

The affidavit is 10 pages, and probably the lede of the story is that Apple pressured cops into finding the missing next-generation iPhone that wound up in Chen's possession.

There's even some conversation between Steve Jobs and a Gizmodo employee in the affidavit.

Interestingly, there's no mention in the affidavit of Chen's status as a journalist, which raises the question of whether the judge would have authorized a search if he had known police would be searching the computers and cameras of a newsman. Federal and state laws prohibit such searches under most circumstances.

Here's AP's story on the affidavit:

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Brian Hogan's world closed in fast almost as soon as he sold the next-generation iPhone he found in a Silicon Valley bar to a popular technology Web site for a stack of $100 bills, according to court documents released Friday. 
    By April 19, Hogan's roommate was cooperating with investigators, Apple's top lawyers were meeting with police to press for criminal charges and Steve Jobs himself was personally demanding the iPhone's return. 
    The saga began March 25, when Apple engineer Robert "Gray" Powell left the iPhone prototype in the bar area of Redwood City's Gourmet Haus Staud restaurant, according to a sworn statement by San Mateo Sheriff's Detective Matthew Broad that was unsealed Friday. 
    Broad's 10-page statement was used to obtain a search warrant for the home and car of Jason Chen, an editor with the technology website Gizmodo. It said Gizmodo paid Hogan $5,000 for the device, cracked it opened and posted images of it on April 20 despite a phone call from Jobs the day before demanding website editors return the gadget. 
    Gizmodo promised Hogan an additional $3,500 bonus if Apple formally unveiled the device by July, according to Broad. 
    Now, Chen is under investigation for theft, receiving stolen property and damaging property, according to the affidavit. The affidavit also suggests Hogan and a third roommate, Thomas Warner, may also face criminal charges, and alleges the two panicked and attempted to hide evidence when they caught wind of the criminal investigation. 
    Shortly before midnight on April 21, the affidavit said, Hogan's roommate Katherine Martinson called investigators and told them that Hogan and Warner were removing evidence from their apartment. 
    Investigators found Hogan at his father's Redwood City house and he directed them to nearby Sequoia Christian Church, where they recovered Hogan's computer and monitor. 
    Nobody, including Chen, have been charged with any crime, but the investigation has prompted ethical debate over whether he should be shielded from prosecution by California's so-called shield law, which protects journalists from having to turn over to police unpublished notes and the names of anonymous sources. But the shield law doesn't immunize journalists from breaking the law. 
    The investigators themselves have come under fire as well for apparently launching the investigation at Apple's behest. Detective Broad belongs to a special high technology task force called the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team, which is comprised of investigators from several jurisdictions and investigates crimes against technology companies. 
    According to Broad, task force investigators met with two high-ranking Apple executives and outside lawyer George Riley on April 20, the day Gizmodo published the images. 
    Riley told the task force the that Gizmodo's action were "immensely damaging to Apple," because consumers would hold off buying iPhones until the new version was released. Riley didn't estimate a dollar figure, but said losses were "huge," according to the affidavit. San Mateo County prosecutors had argued to keep the affidavit under seal to protect the identities of witnesses and the ongoing investigation. 
    But The Associated Press and several other media companies convinced a San Mateo County superior court judge to make the document public, arguing disclosure was necessary to ensure that the raid of a journalist's home was proper.

Judge unseals warrant in Apple iPhone search

Bay City News reports that a judge today has unsealed the search warrant that law enforcement used to raid the house of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen, taking his computers, cameras and notes as part of an investigation into a missing prototype of the next-generation Apple iPhone.

A number of media organizations had petitioned to have the affidavit in support of the warrant released over the objections of the San Mateo County District Attorney, which argued the document would identify informants.

We'll post more details when they become available.

Chauncey Bailey murder inspires film

The 2007 murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey has inspired a movie that's hit the film festival circuit, the Chronicle reports. Carmen Madden, a lifelong Oakland resident and English teacher at Ohlone College, raised $300,000 to produce "Everyday Black Man," which she wrote and directed. Its official theatrical premiere is at the historic Bal Theatre in San Leandro, next Friday and Saturday.

KQED-FM No. 1 in key demographic

Ben Fong-Torres, in his Chronicle radio column today, notes that in the key demographic that interests advertisers, listeners 25-54, non-commercial KQED 88.5 is No. 1, followed closely by KOIT and KSAN ("The Bone").
     4. KIOI ("Star 101.3")
     5. KSOL
     6. KCBS
     7. KRZZ ("La Raza")
     8. A tie between KBLX and KMVQ ("Movin' ").
    10. KYLD ("Wild")
    11. KLLC ("Alice")
    12. KFOG
    13. KKSF ("The Band")
    14. A three-way tie among the South Bay's soft-rocker KBAY, the iconic KMEL, and KITS ("Live 105").
    17. KISQ ("Kiss"), which just got Renel back.

The overall numbers, where listeners age 6 and above are tallied, aren't of much use to advertisers, but they often are published in news reports about radio ratings. Those overall numbers have shown KGO-AM 810 at the top for about 30 years.

But in the most recent overall ratings, KGO fell to No. 3. On top is KCBS, which benefits from the addition of an FM signal and possibly from the new Portable People Meters that Arbitron is using. In second is KOIT and KQED is fourth.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

iPhone search hearing set for Friday

Bay City News reports that there will be a hearing at 9 a.m. Friday (May 14) in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City on a request by media organizations to unseal a search warrant affidavit that law enforcement used to search the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen to look for Apple's next generation iPhone.

A number of news media organizations want that search warrant affidavit unsealed, but the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office is hoping Judge Clifford Cretan will opt to keep it sealed, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

"The district attorney's office wants to keep it sealed so it doesn't affect the investigation," he said.

Attorneys for the news organizations including the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Cnet, the Los Angeles Times,, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, and the First Amendment Coalition will be requesting the search warrant be unsealed, Wagstaffe said.

The hearing will take place in Department 6 at 9 a.m.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Media seeks to open up Huckaby case

The Associated Press says it and two other news organizations are asking a judge to lift a gag order and unseal court records in the Melissa Huckaby case. She's the former Sunday school teacher who has admitted to killing an 8-year-old girl in Tracy.

The AP, Bay Area News Group and the Record of Stockton cited public interest in the filing Wednesday. They are challenging San Joaquin County Judge Linda Lofthus' decision to keep the orders in place after Melissa Huckaby on Monday pleaded guilty to murdering Sandru Cantu in March 2009.

The filing says Huckaby's admission removes the need for a gag order and that other court records may shed light on the plea agreement.

A hearing is set for May 24 in Stockton.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Press Club board meets tomorrow

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
6:30 p.m.
San Mateo Daily Journal
800 S. Claremont St., Ste. 210, San Mateo

1-Approval of Minutes
2-Finance and Membership Reports
3-Annual awards contest: Guest speaker, additional details
4-High school journalism: Awards update, assistance efforts
5-Other business as needed

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

News outfits seek to have Gizmodo document unsealed

Several news organizations are asking a judge to unseal the search warrant affidavit used to raid the Fremont home of a editor Jason Chen, who posted pictures and details of an iPhone prototype, the AP is reporting.

Court documents listing the legal reasons for searches are usually made public within 10 days. But the affidavit supporting the April 23 raid of Chen's house and car remains sealed, according to the Associated Press.

The brief was filed by the AP, Bloomberg News, CNET News, the Los Angeles Times,, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the First Amendment Coalition.

They argue that the affidavit will help determine whether the raid was appropriate. California law protects journalists from having to turn over certain material during a search.

Fake Bruce Brugmann busy on Twitter

The SF Weekly says that there's a fake Bruce Brugmann on Twitter (@Bossy_Brugmann) who gives the impression that he's an overbearing drunk. Brugmann, of course, is the owner of the Bay Guardian, the Weekly's rival and creditor due to a $21 million debt stemming from a lawsuit the Weekly lost. Despite all that, the Weekly says it didn't create the Bruce impostor.

Bothun refuses probation, goes to jail

Former Palo Alto Daily News editor Brian Bothun was sentenced Tuesday to 204 days in jail on a misdemeanor conviction of possessing obscene material and, in an unusual move, refused early release on probation. Because probation would give the police in Bothun's hometown of Atherton the right to search his house and computer for the next three years, he decided to serve the entire sentence in the county jail, defense attorney Daniel Barton told the Daily News.

Atherton police and Bothun have had a strained relationship since 1999 when Bothun broke the story about then-police chief Steve Cader committing voter fraud. Bothun had maintained during court proceedings that he didn't download the images found on his home computer, but a friend who had access to the computer reported Bothun to police. In addition to his employment at the Daily News from 1996 to 2005, Bothun also worked at the Palo Alto Daily Post for about a month in 2008 and was an intern at the Palo Alto Weekly in the early 1990s. [Disclosure: Press Club Webmaster Dave Price was Bothun's boss at the Daily News and Post.]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Home of Tikkun magazine editor vandalized

Bay City News reports that the home of a Berkeley rabbi who is the editor of the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun was vandalized overnight.

Vandals glued four posters on the home of Rabbi Michael Lerner. They attacked him both and liberals and progressives as being supporters of terrorism, said Lerner's assistant, Will Pasley.

Berkeley police Officer Jamie Perkins said her department is investigating the case as an act of vandalism. No one has claimed responsibility, but the magazine believes the vandals to be "right-wing Zionists."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Scheer: Gizmodo editor subjected to virtual strip search

Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, says in a commentary posted at that the San Mateo County District Attorney's decision to use a search warrant on the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen was the equivalent of a strip search.
    Use of search warrants against journalists is devastating because it demonstrates that they can't keep [promises of confidentiality to sources] -- it is beyond their power. And the damage is not confined to the journalist who is the subject of a warrant, but extends, logically, to all reporters who have confidential sources. 
    ... It didn't have to be this way. The DA could have, and should have, served Chen with a subpoena for records relating to the iPhone story. Use of a subpoena, unlike a warrant, gives the recipient an opportunity to hire a lawyer, to consider his options, and to assert any defenses or privileges that might be available. 
    Even if those arguments fail, and the reporter is ordered to produce records and information, the harms from a search conducted pursuant to a warrant -- including the jeopardy to journalists' access to confidential sources -- are avoided. 
    For these reasons, two laws, one federal and the other a California statute, require prosecutors' use of subpoenas, rather than warrants, to obtain information from journalists in criminal investigations.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ron Fimrite, master story teller, dies at 79

The Chronicle reported this morning that Ron Fimrite died Friday of pancreatic cancer at age 79. He was part of a famous stable of Chronicle columnists that included Herb Caen, Art Hoppe, Stanton Delaplane and Charles McCabe. He later moved on to Sports Illustrated where he covered 16 World Series, two Olympic Games and several Super Bowls. Here's a bibliography.

He was married three times, to Joan von Briesen, former Chronicle writer Blake Green and Linda Baker Fimrite (shown above). Linda Baker Fimrite died last year after 24 years of marriage. He is survived by his son, Chronicle staff writer Peter Fimrite of Mill Valley; daughter Debbie Fimrite of Berkeley; and two grandchildren. (Photo credit: Fimrite family, Chron)