Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why the Chron dropped a story about a billionaire UC regent's possible conflict of interest

The Bay Guardian this week printed journalist Peter Byrne’s account of why the Chronicle’s editors didn’t print his story about possible conflicts of interest in UC investment deals.

The story suggested that UC regent billionaire Richard Blum, husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, had a conflict of interest because he was overseeing university investment deals in which he had a personal financial stake.

Byrne’s original story, "The Investors Club: How University of California Regents Spin Public Money into Private Profit,” was published in September 2010 by the journalism website Several publications including the Los Angeles Times ran stories about Byrne’s report. Then, in October 2010, the Chron’s Nanette Asimov offered Byrne $350 for a 800-word version of his story.

After the Chronicle took nearly a year to edit and lawyer his story, Byrne felt frustrated and complained to the Bay Citizen that his story wasn’t being printed. He gave the Bay Citizen e-mails between himself and Chronicle staffers.

When the Bay Citizen called Chron editors to ask what happened to Byrne’s story, the Chron apparently decided to drop Byrne’s piece and even suggested they were being blackmailed.

The Chron’s Nanette Asimov wrote in an e-mail to UC instructor Kathryn Klar, who had inquired about the status of Byrne’s story:
    I worked for nearly a year to get Peter Byrne's — frankly awful — story in good enough shape to run in the Chronicle. It was poorly written and confusing. He will tell you how hard I worked to get that thing ready for publication. ... By the end of July, the story was in great shape and the lawyers were taking a final look. 
    And then Peter did the unthinkable. He forwarded a year's worth of my private correspondence to another journalistic organization — not a newspaper — who then contacted me and others at the paper threatening to write a story about how the Chronicle had suppressed Peter's story. ...
    They behaved like blackmailers. Of course they had no story to write, and they didn't. Needless to say, Peter's story will not run in the Chronicle now. But it was his actions, not ours, that led to its death. We, my editors included, liked the story and were pleased that it was finally in great shape. Even the lawyers agreed. 
    It’s such a shame.
Chron managing editor Steve Proctor told the Guardian that they weren’t intimidated by any threats made to the paper. “After reviewing Mr. Byrne's previously published articles and his interactions with the Chronicle, we decided that we were not comfortable publishing his work.” Proctor didn’t explain why the Chron bought Byrne’s story in the first place if that was the paper’s concern.

The Bay Citizen, which provides copy to The New York Times’ regional edition, also decided not to pursue a story about the Chron refusing to run Byrne’s piece. “After much reporting we ultimately decided that Peter's story was a lot less interesting than he thought it was, and wouldn't make for a very worthwhile column in the NY Times,” reporter Elizabeth Lesly Stevens told the Guardian.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

SFWeekly reportedly lays off 4 news staffers

The SFWeekly has laid off four staffers including reporter Matt Smith in what appears to be a budget-cutting move by parent company Village Voice Media, Eve Batey of the SFAppeal reports.

The layoffs come month after the rival Bay Guardian let go three of its editorial staffers, about a third of its staff.

The SFAppeal quoted one unnamed SFWeekly staffer as saying, "Apparently, it's across the board in all Village Voice Media, but SF Weekly was hit the hardest because they lose a lot of money."

The Appeal story said those who were laid off include Web editor Jake Swearingen, foodie bloger W. Blake Gray, Matt Smith and calendar editor and blogger Hiya Swanhuyser.

Earlier this year, the Guardian received an undisclosed sum from Village Voice Media to settle a lawsuit that alleged the chain sold ads in the SFWeekly at below the price of production in an attempt to run the Guardian out of business.

September 2011 Press Club board minutes

Sept. 14, 2011
San Mateo Daily Journal offices

Present: Darryl Compton, Jon Mays, Kristy Blackburn, Dave Price, Melissa McRobbie, Micki Carter, Antonia Ehlers Absent: Marshall Wilson, Ed Remitz Guest: Laura Dudnick

The meeting was called to order at 6:40 p.m. by Past President Jon Mays. Melissa took over when she arrived.

MINUTES: The July minutes were approved as read.

FINANCIALS: Darryl presented the financials which showed a checking balance of $15,504.12 with no debits outstanding. A total of $11,110.81 stands in the scholarship fund. Micki and Darryl are planning to move that fund from United American Bank to another bank.

BOOT CAMP: Here’s the text of the email Micki sent out after the meeting regarding the Oct. 21 high school journalism boot camp, summarizing the decisions made at the board meeting:
    Ed tells me that he's pretty sure we can get eight classrooms and perhaps 10 for the breakout sessions but they may not all be in the theater complex. 
    Nonetheless we will operate on the assumption that we will have those classrooms. However, if they are not in the same area, I think we should make passing time 15 minutes instead of 10. What are your thoughts on this? 
    We would then have four 45-min sessions. As it stands now, we will ask Jim Wagstaffe to take the first session (1-1:45p) and I will ask Kristy and Antonia to put together a student panel on finding stories (and managing staffs?) for the last session (4-4:45p). I have attached a list of high school winners from last year's contest so that they can try to get winners to serve on the panel. I don't have personal emails for any of them so they will have to go through the school advisers. This task is entirely in Kristy and Antonia's hands. Keep us posted. 
    With 10 classrooms for the middle two sessions (2-2:45p and 3-3:45p), here is a proposal for handling the breakouts:
      Session 2
        1. Camera (both still and video) Paul Sakuma and friends 
        2. Page design (Micki Carter) 
        3. PhotoShopping for print (Erik Oeverndiek) 
        4. Sportswriting (Nathan Mollat) 
        5. Interviewing techniques (Marshall Wilson) 
        6. Media Panel (on accuracy and quoting??) 
        7. Writing ledes (???) 
        8. Online media (Laura Dudnick, Jennifer Aquino) 
        9. Critiques (Melissa McRobbie, et al) 
        10. Headline writing (Dave Price)
      Session 3
        1. Camera (both still and video) Paul Sakuma and friends 
        2. Page design (Micki Carter) 
        3. Transition to college media (Ed Remitz) 
        4. Online media (Laura Dudnick) 
        5. Critiques (Melissa McRobbie, et al) 
        6. Headline writing (Dave Price) 
        7. Careers in media (Antonia Ehlers) 
        8. Interviewing techniques (Marshall Wilson) 
        9. Flash (Jennifer Aquino) 
        10. Advisers' gathering (Kristy Blackburn)
BOARD OPENING: Laura Dudnick of (San Mateo and Belmont) was nominated to fill the board position created by Jamie White’s move to Boston. She was elected to that position. Micki Carter also announced that she will not be continuing on the board when her term concludes this year.

SAN MATEO TIMES WAKE: Micki announced that a “wake” is planned for Nov. 1 (at a place still to be determined) to honor the end of the nameplate and the destruction of the Amphlett Boulevard building of the old San Mateo Times.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:50 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Micki Carter, Secretary

Thursday, September 22, 2011

KTVU's Bob MacKenzie dead at 75

Bob MacKenzie, whose storytelling was a hallmark of KTVU newscasts for more than 30 years, lost his long battle with cancer today. He was 75.

MacKenzie joined KTVU Channel 2 News in 1978 as a feature reporter for "The Ten O'Clock News" and ultimately was instrumental in the development of KTVU's popular "Segment 2" and "My 20th Century" franchises, which gave MacKenzie the perfect forum for his inimitable style.

"When Bob told his stories, you felt like you were on the edge of your seat. He was one of a kind," said Tom Raponi, KTVU vp and gm.

"For more than 30 years, Bob’s stories graced KTVU’s newscasts and stood out like gems," added KTVU news director Ed Chapuis. "His writing was witty and masterful. His expert use of words, paired with natural sound and moving images, evoked a sense of great artistry as much as great journalism."

MacKenzie was a graduate of UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Journalism. Shortly after graduating in 1962, he spent a year as editor of the Seaside News Sentinel in Monterey County. He returned to his Bay Area roots when he joined the staff at The Oakland Tribune, where he worked for 14 years, including a long stint as the paper's television columnist.

"Bob was one of a kind. I always marveled at how easily he could craft a sentence or tell a story, especially with humor," said fellow KTVU reporter Rita Williams. "He could take the simplest of subjects and make them memorable. He transitioned to hard news with equal ease, but with his mischievous smile, I was always waiting for the punch line."

Bob MacKenzie is survived by his wife Miyuki, his daughter Dana and two grandchildren, his sister Jean and his brother, Chief KTVU Photographer John MacKenzie.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cops mistakenly raid reporter's home

Priya David Clemens
The Alameda home of CBS News Correspondent Priya David Clemens and her husband Alex Clemens was mistakenly targeted by police and FBI agents during a drug raid to arrest a suspect across the street, according to KPIX and the Chron. Alex Clemens says weapons were raised and he was about to be handcuffed when officers realized the mistake.

Officers were looking for 43-year-old Sang Ung when they showed up at the couple's house on Wednesday. But the home was sold months earlier and Ung rented a house across the street. Martinez police Lt. Jon Sylvia says officers quickly realized the mistake and apologized to the couple. Then, they got a new search warrant, walked across the street and arrested Ung.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

CBS5's new set is drenched in blue

Blue is the new color for KPIX CBS5. The station has unveiled a new set that’s drenched in blue. The set has been under construction for the past two months, and the Channel 5 news team has been doing the news on a temporary set with a fabric background of the old set during construction, so that viewers wouldn’t notice. These photos are from The set was designed by Jack Morton PDG and built by FX Group. FX's KRON set won an Emmy in 2004 for design.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Former San Mateo Times building demolished

The former home of the San Mateo County Times at 1080 Amphlett Boulevard has been demolished and will be replaced by a 74-unit housing development and 30,000-square-feet of commercial buildings. After 43 years at this location, the Times moved to an office park on Ninth Avenue in 2007. MediaNews Group, owner of the Times, announced last month that it plans to drop the paper's name from its front page and replace it with the flag of the Mercury News. Photo by Dave Price.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Weber stepping down as Bay Citizen editor

The editor of nonprofit news website The Bay Citizen, Jonathan Weber, announced today that he is stepping down after 18 months.

His departure was first reported by SF Appeal, which said he was going to Reuters. But Weber would only say in his announcement that he plans to "pursue a new opportunity, the details of which will be announced shortly."

Pulitzer-winner Steve Fainaru, a former Washington Post reporter, will take over as interim editor. Fainaru has been with The Bay Citizen since March 2010.

Weber, a former LA Times staff writer, later co-founded The Industry Standard.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

John Paton replaces Singleton as MNG's CEO

John Paton
John Paton, a career newspaper executive who currently heads the Journal Register Co., was named today chief executive of MediaNews Group, replacing Dean Singleton, who will become chairman.

Paton will head both MNG — owner of 51 dailies including the Mercury News, Denver Post and St. Paul Pioneer Press — and Journal Register Co. (JRC), a chain of 18 newspapers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. His Digital First Media Inc. will manage both chains.

Paton has a blog where he imparts his philosophy about the news business. Some bullet points from his blog:
    • "Digital dimes can replace Print dollars. And if our dailies continue on the trend they are on right now, by the end of the year they will have brought in more digital revenue than the costs of running their newsrooms." 
    • "All of us have one goal – to preserve quality journalism in the communities we serve." 
    • "In Q2 of this year, 10 of JRC’s 18 dailies are up year over year in advertising or within 2% of last year’s ad revenues because of digital advertising growth. JRC newspaper digital revenue grew more than 81% year over year in Q2. That’s against an industry average of less than 10%."
Alden Global Capital is a major stockholder of both MNG and JRC, and it appears he was picked by Alden as the CEO. Singleton announced his intentions to step down after Alden put three of its representatives on the MNG board last year.

"Alden Global Capital is in the driver's seat here," media analyst Ken Doctor of Burlingame told the AP. "Potentially, with a big line under potentially, this could result in the first truly national newspaper company of local properties."

Publishers are looking for efficiencies in printing, advertising sales and other costs, he said. "The new economy favors scale and efficiency. That's the reason this deal came together," Doctor said.

Paton said it's too early to say what changes to expect at MediaNews, but Doctor predicted layoffs of some management and corporate staff.

MediaNews said in a news release the arrangement with Digital First provides immediate cost benefits and the ability to leverage the combined scale and expertise of MediaNews and Journal Register to benefit both companies. reports that Paton is an opponent of paywalls, a concept MNG is rolling out at more than 20 of its 51 papers. The paywalls will stay in the short term, he told PaidContent.

Paton also told PaidContent that he was not told in advance about MNG's consolidation plans in the Bay Area, in which a dozen or so newspapers will shed their distinct identities and adopt one of two new brands, the East Bay Tribune and the Times. MNG also plans to lay off 120 employees, amounting to 8% of its Bay Area work force of 1,500.

"I was not made aware of the Bay Area consolidation prior to that initiative. Again, I have to come up to speed on the rationale before making a comment," Paton told PaidContent.

Also see:

• Paton will report to Alden Global Capital, which has acquired major stakes in several other newspaper companies.

• Alden is headed by Randall Smith, a Wall Street investment banker who keeps a low profile and hasn't given an interview to a journalist since the 1980s, according to Poynter's Rick Edmonds.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

'Contagion' scene shot at Evangelista's desk

Benny Evangelista at his desk.
Benny Evangelista says that his desk in the Chronicle newsroom was used for a scene in the upcoming movie “Contagion.” Director Steven Soderberg is believed to have picked out the desk, which sits in the middle of the newsroom and, by Evangelista’s own admission, is in a constant state of clutter. Evangelista notes that he used to have a sign that read, “A Clean Desk is the Sign of a Sick Mind,” but he can’t find it anymore. Jude Law was filmed using the desk. He plays a San Francisco journalist named Alan Krumwiede in a thriller about the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors who combat the outbreak. The scene in the Chronicle newsroom was filmed on a Sunday morning earlier this year. (Photo credit: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle)

High School Journalism Boot Camp set for Oct. 21

Attention, high school journalism advisers. Please save Friday afternoon, Oct. 21, for the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club's High School Journalism Boot Camp at the College of San Mateo. The hours will be 1-5 p.m. and again will take over the CSM Theatre and surrounding classrooms for presentations by professional journalists.

This year we are tying the Boot Camp to participation in the spring High School Journalism Contest. Every school that participates in the Boot Camp will be eligible to enter the contest; those schools that do not participate in the Boot Camp will not be eligible for the contest. This will eliminate geographical boundaries for the contest (and the Boot Camp).

More information will be available in a few weeks. We look forward to hearing that you will be sending students on Oct. 21.

AP, Google offer digital media scholarships

Many in the news business don't see Google as a friend, but the Mountain View company has nonetheless teamed up with the AP to offer $20,000 scholarships to foster digital skills in student journalists. The money will go to six undergraduate and graduate students for the 2012-13 academic year pursuing or planning to pursue degrees at the intersection of journalism, computer science and new media. Here are the details.