Friday, December 30, 2011

Bay Area MNG papers, Santa Rosa Press Democrat buyer have a common shareholder

One of the owners of the MediaNews Group’s papers in the Bay Area, billionaire Warren Stephens, is also a partner in the group that has acquired the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and 15 other newspapers owned by The New York Times Co.

Stephens Media Group owns 26.28% of the MediaNews Group papers in the Bay Area, such as the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Marin Independent Journal. Gannett holds a 19.49% stake and MediaNews is the majority partner with 54.23%.

The Press Democrat and the other papers in the Times’ Regional Media Group are being acquired for $143 million in cash by Halifax Media Holdings LLC.

The Press Democrat reported that Halifax’s investment group includes Little Rock, Ark.-based Stephens Capital Partners, headed by Warren Stephens, as well as Jaarss Media and Redding Investments. The portion of the company owned by each investor wasn’t disclosed in the article.

The PD quoted the Poynter Institute’s Rick Edmonds as saying that Stephens is clearly the deep pockets behind the purchase, and noting that Forbes lists Warren Stephens as being worth $2.8 billion.

Edmonds said he wouldn’t be surprised to see management from Stephens Media — which owns 11 daily and 64 weekly newspapers in nine states — brought in to help run Halifax as a stand-alone company or to merge it with Stephens Media.

Other points from the Press Democrat story about the sale:

1. The paper’s existing contract with the Guild expires on Saturday (Dec. 31).

2. Times officials are quoted as saying that the “vast majority” of the paper’s 330 employees will be offered jobs at comparable salary and benefits. Those who will be offered severance packages were to be contacted on Thursday.

3. The CEO of Halifax Media, Michael Redding, did not return a phone call from the author of the story, Press Democrat staff writer Kevin McCallum.

Vacaville opinion editor sees digital future

Karen Nolan, the opinion page editor at The Reporter in Vacaville, says in this column that the new manager of her paper’s owner, MediaNews, is on the right track when it comes to becoming a digital content provider. “Yes, we still have to serve our loyal readers who want a paper product at the breakfast table. But if we expect to be in business 20 or 30 years from now, we have to start serving the Internet generation's needs, too. And it's not just the 20-year-olds whose habits are changing. Even an oldster like me is changing the way I consume information.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Marion Softky, longtime Menlo Park Almanac writer, dies

Marion Softky in front of the Almanac's offices.
File photo from the Almanac.
Marion Softky, who wrote thousands of articles for the Menlo Park-based Almanac over more than 40 years, died at a Portola Valley nursing home on Christmas evening of complications from long-term abdominal cancer, the Almanac reports. She was 84.

Softky started at the Almanac in 1965 and her bylines continued to appear until two years ago. Her favorite topics included the environment, local history, the town of Portola Valley, science and San Mateo County government.

Here’s a link to a story about her career at the Almanac by her longtime colleague Majorie Mader, and here’s a YouTube video of Softky being interviewed by Portola Valley historian Nancy Lund. Softky’s son bill has posted many of her stories on this website.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Limbaugh jumps from KSFO to Clear Channel's 910

Clear Channel is beefing up the lineup on its 910 AM frequency, first by hiring fired KGO hosts Len Tillem and Gene Burns, and now by adding Rush Limbaugh. The new lineup starts Jan. 3. Limbaugh’s move was revealed publicly in a tweet by 910 morning hosts Armstrong & Getty.

There are two schools of thought about why Limbaugh is changing stations. One is that his show is expensive and KSFO’s owner, Cumulus Media, is cutting costs. That’s why they laid off most of the talk hosts at KGO and replaced them with less expensive news staffers. Another theory is that Limbaugh’s syndicator, Premiere Networks, is owned by Clear Channel, and it wanted him to throw his weight behind 910 to help it attract an audience.

Here's the schedule of KKSF 910 (formerly KNEW) starting Jan. 3: Armstrong & Getty 6-9 a.m., Rush 9-noon; Tom Sullivan noon-3; Len Tillem 3-4 and Gene Burns 4-7.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Former Los Gatos reporter to join PBS NewsHour

Christina Bellantoni, a former reporter for the Palo Alto Daily News and later chief of that paper’s Los Gatos bureau, has been named political editor of PBS’s “NewsHour.”

She has been associate politics editor at CQ Roll Call since October 2010, and she has appeared regularly as political analyst on “Hardball,” “Countdown,” “On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren,” “Reliable Sources,” “TopLine,” “The Rachel Maddow Show,” and “The Daily Rundown.” Bellantoni left the Daily News in 2003 for Washington and has worked at The Washington Times and Talking Points Memo.

KGO-AM paying for news tips

KGO Radio, which recently switched to all-news from noon to midnight, is opening its checkbook for news tips. “Become a part of the KGO 810 Mobile News Team and you could win $810!” the station’s website says. “Send us breaking news 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and at the end of each month we will pay $810 to the listener who submits the best story.”

Doug Wilks moving on to Deseret News

Doug Wilks, local/regional editor at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, is moving to Utah to become managing editor of the Deseret Media Companies News Division. In his new capacity, Wilks will oversee an integrated newsroom that provides content to the Deseret News, KSL-TV, KSL NewsRadio and their websites, all properties of the Mormon Church. Wilks has been at the Press Democrat for the past 12 years.

Press Democrat launches digital ad agency

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat has created a digital advertising and marketing agency that builds and hosts custom websites for local businesses.

The PD Media Lab, overseen by Digital Director Greg Retsinas, specializes in search engine optimization, mobile and tablet platforms, social media and reputation management, e-commerce and digital advertising.

“We've been building successful websites and mobile sites for our own business,” Press Democrat publisher Bruce Kyse said in a statement. “Now we can give other businesses the opportunity to benefit from our experience and expertise.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

Len Tillem, Gene Burns land at Clear Channel 910

Len Tillem and Gene Burns, two of the hosts KGO-AM fired when it switched to all-news from noon to midnight, have been hired by Clear Channel to do shows on the soon-to-be-reformatted 910 AM, according to media blogger Rich Lieberman.

Tillem, formerly KGO's "loyah," will do his show from 3 to 4 p.m., followed by Burns from 4 to 7.

CC is moving most of the KNEW 910 programming to its 960 frequency on Jan. 3, and moving the liberal talk "Green 960" format to KKSF-FM 103.5's HD2 channel.

Back at 910, Armstrong and Getty will continue to do the morning drive, simulcasting on KSTE-AM Sacramento. Two syndicated shows will be heard midday, Clark Howard from 10 a.m. to noon, and Tom Sullivan, noon-3 p.m.

The new 960 will air entirely syndicated programming: conservative Glenn Beck mornings, financial adviser Dave Ramsey 9-noon, liberal host Randi Rhodes noon-3, and conservative John Gibson during afternoon drive. Beck, Ramsey and Gibson had been on 910 a.m.

NY Times in talks to sell Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat is among the 16 local newspapers The New York Times Co. is in talks to sell to Halifax Media Holdings, a newspaper company based in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The Wall Street Journal quoted an analyst at Barclays Capital as saying that the 16 papers could fetch between $150 million and $175 million, based on their earnings.

The Times announced it was selling its regional papers just days after its CEO, Janet Robinson, announced she will resign at the end of the year. With the sale, The New York Times Co. would consist of the flagship Times newspaper, the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe and the About Group, a network of informational websites.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Top station has a new leader

Raul Rodríguez
Univision’s KDTV Channel 14, which has the highest rated newscasts at 6 and 11 p.m. (adults 18-49), has a new general manager and vice president.

Univision has hired Raul Rodríguez, whose previous jobs include general sales manager of Telemundo’s KSTS 48 in San Jose.

Rodríguez has been given a large portfolio consisting of:
    • Univision KDTV Channel 14; 
    • TeleFutura KFSF Channel 66; 
    • Latino Mix Radio (formerly La Kalle Radio) stations KVVF 105.7 Santa Clara and KVVZ 100.7 San Rafael; 
    • Estereo Sol stations KSOL 98.9 San Francisco and KSQL 99.1 Santa Cruz (format: regional Mexican music and talk shows); 
    • Recuerdo KBRG 100.3 San Jose (the oldest Spanish language station in the Bay Area) with boosters in Pleasanton and Sausalito; 
    • And the websites associated with the stations listed above.
Here’s the press release from Univision.

He replaces Marcella Medina, who headed the Univision's Bay Area operation for many years.

The release says Rodríguez will oversee news, programming, sales, promotion and community relations

He’ll report to Luis Patiño, senior vice president of Univision’s Television Group, and Peter M. Moore, senior vice president/western regional manager, Univision Radio.

Rodríguez most recently was GM and VP of Journal Communications, leading the company’s Palm Springs operations — KMIR-TV and KPSE-TV. Before that, he was director of Hispanic Sales for News-Press & Gazette, where he was responsible for the company’s Hispanic assets, including six TV stations and one radio station. Rodríguez was GM of KWHY 22 in Los Angeles from 2007 to 2010. He was previously general sales manager for KSTS 48, Telemundo’s San Jose station.

It should be noted that KDTV is a powerhouse that's often overlooked by Bay Area media, particularly by writers who cover the local TV scene. KDTV's local “Noticias Univision 14,” anchored by Maria Leticia Gomez and Alejandro Mendoza, is currently the No. 1 at 6 and 11 newscast among adults 18-49. The station also outperforms KNTV-NBC and KPIX CBS5 among sdults 18-34 in Monday through Sunday primetime. The station's offices are on the 41st floor of a building at Mission and Fremont streets in San Francisco's South of Market District.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Photos from the Press Club's Christmas Party

Press Club members, directors and elected officials enjoyed refreshments and conversation at the Press Club's holiday party in the press room of the San Mateo County Government Center on Wednesday night. Here are some pictures courtesy of Mike Venturino. The club event took on added significance because it was the last meeting for Micki Carter as a director of the club. She's stepping down after several years, and club members wished her well. Chuck Johnson, who worked in the San Mateo Times composing room, presented the club with an historic gift — the Nov. 22 1963 edition of the Times carrying the story of John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Back then the Times was an afternoon paper and
had the story the same day it happened.
Darryl Compton and Chuck Johnson
At right, Kristy Blackburn, a Press Club
director and Gunn High School newspaper adviser.
San Mateo County Manager John Maltbie.
Dave Price, a Press Club director
and editor of The Daily Post.
Center, Marshall Wilson, Press Club president
and San Mateo County communications director

Melissa McRobbie, a Press Club director
and managing editor of Bay City News.

Left, Paul Sakuma, Associated Press photographer.

Left, Peter Cleaveland, a Press Club director
and former KGO radio and TV newsman.
Right, Darryl Compton, the club's executive
director and former KRON news executive.

Wendy Sakuma

Micki Carter

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Examiner owner lays off 7 news staffers

The new owner of the Examiner has laid off at least seven newsroom employees, and possibly more, the SFWeekly reports. Most of the layoffs were copy editors. The ax fell on Tuesday.

Todd Vogt, the new publisher and president of the Examiner, confirmed to both the SF Weekly and Chronicle that there had been layoffs, but wouldn't say how many.

The layoffs weren't a surprise since the new owner had indicated cuts would be made after the sale closed on Nov. 30.

Correction: A previous version of this item incorrectly described the ownership of the Examiner. The paper is owned by a group that includes Canadian publisher David Black, Todd Vogt and Examiner CFO Pat Brown.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reporter's arrest under investigation

Los Angeles police are investigating the arrest of a wire service reporter during last month's raid to of an Occupy encampment at LA Cit Hall, the LA Times reports. Police initially said City News Service reporter Calvin Milam appeared intoxicated but now say the department's media relations department confused him with another arrest. Milam's attorney, Mark Geragos, rejected that explanation, saying he had several phone conversations with senior officials from the LAPD and city attorney’s office in the hours after Milam was arrested. “They knew exactly who he was," Geragos said. "They were lying then, and they are lying now.”

Press Club party is Wednesday

Where? Janet Parker Beck Newsroom, First Floor, plaza entrance.

Admission, non-perishable food items for the Second Harvest

It’s also our annual membership meeting, board election and collecting 2012 membership dues.
All are welcome, bring a friend and introduce them to the Press Club.

Protest planned over KGO 810 firings

The format change at KGO-AM and the firing of hosts such as Gil Gross, Gene Burns, John Rothmann, Len Tillem, Bill Wattenburg and Ray Talifero has sparked plans for a protest at the station, 900 Front St., on Thursday, Dec. 15, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Media blogger Rich Lieberman is encouraging people to bring signs. He writes, “Let the stooges know you won’t back down.” Here’s a link to the Occupy KGO page on Facebook. A second protest is set for Dec. 30.

In related news, KSCO-AM 1080 in Monterey (10,000 watts daytime, 5,000 nighttime) is offering jobs to all of the fired hosts, according to Wattenburg will be guest hosting the station’s morning show this week.

KSCO owner Michael Zwerling says the firing of the hosts is indicative of KGO owner Cumulus Media’s “contempt for both the talent and the listeners” and management’s “incredible, Darwin-award-winning stupidity.”

New MediaNews leader declares print is dead

The new leader of MediaNews Group, John Paton, declared in San Francisco on Monday that the print business model of newspapers is “irretrievably” broken. This report in MNG’s Mercury News says the company is embracing the new age of news gathering by relying more on user-generated content. He also said that the company will become more active as a venture capitalist by acquiring tech companies. The story says that Digital First, the company that controls MNG and the Journal Register Co., has about $1.4 billion in annual revenue, with 9% of that, or $130 million, from digital. He said digital advertising is enough to cover the newsgathering costs of the Journal Register’s 18 papers. He said the same is true for MNG’s Denver Post.

Blogging experiment succeeds for KQED, KAWL

A one-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Knight Foundation to pay for bloggers for 12 public radio station websites will expire at year’s end. But what’s called the ARGO experiment has proven to be a success for those stations, including San Francisco’s KQED and KAWL, according to Andrew Phelps of
    “Really, by hiring just one person, you can build an audience, build engagement, and demonstrate knowledge of a particular topic,” said Joel Sucherman, the project’s director at NPR. The first year of traffic for the whole Argo network surpassed published traffic numbers for startups such as the Texas Tribune and the Bay Citizen in their first years, he said. … 
    KQED and KPBS [Los Angeles] were the top performers, each averaging more than 100,000 monthly visitors. Both stations have committed to keeping the blogs alive next year. … 
    At San Francisco’s tiny KALW, for example, Rina Palta covers cops, courts, and communities for The Informant. Early on, Palta caught a good story: California was short on sodium thiopental, the lethal drug used for executions. She became a leading reporter on the story, not by writing one big investigative piece but by filing frequent, incremental updates, Thompson said. (Even Stephen Colbert cited her work.) Thompson calls it the quest: The body of work makes a bigger impact than any single post.

Special workshop planned for journalism students

Monday, December 12, 2011

New set for Univision 14 anchors

KDTV Univision 14, home of the Bay Area’s top rated 6 p.m. newscast, has a new set for anchors Maria Leticia Gomez, Alejandro Mendoza, Guillermo Quiroz and William Bonilla. The set is also being used by the station's morning team. It was designed by Aldo Alvarez of SACBA Productions. Alvarez has designed sets for other Univision stations, WPLG ABC Miami, and CNN. Photos from

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Three MediaNews papers drop Monday editions

MediaNews Group will stop publishing Monday editions of three Northern California newspapers: The Vacaville Reporter, the Vallejo Times-Herald and the Eureka Times-Standard.

The move is intended to cut costs and send readers on Mondays to the websites of those papers to find local news. MediaNews plans to drop the paywall on those papers’ sites on Mondays.

Three other papers dropping their paywalls on Mondays are The Oakland Tribune, the Fremont Argus and the Hayward Daily Review. The three East Bay papers have stopped home delivery on Monday, but they are still available that day in news racks and stores. For more information, see PaidContent and this announcement in the Eureka paper.

UC-Berkeley J-school seeks new dean

The UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is looking for a new dean after the resignation of Neil Henry last summer. Former dean Tom Goldstein is serving as interim dean.

The Daily Californian reports that a national search has started and that applications are due Feb. 12. The school hopes to have a new dean by July 1.

Advertisers dropping KGO-AM after format change

Media blogger Rich Lieberman was the first to report the shakeup at KGO 810. We earlier incorrectly said that Matier & Ross had the scoop. Rich has been following the story closely, getting a lot of reports from insiders. If you haven’t been to his blog, here’s a link.

He reports that Rector Porshe Audi, Airport Home Appliance, Just Remnants, Burgermeister and C Crane Radio have pulled their spots.

As for the mood at 900 Front St., Lieberman quotes on anonymous employee as saying:
    “It's been really bad. And unfortunate. They should have scheduled practice runs. There's lots of angry e-mails. And the number of listeners calling the station to protest the format switch has overwhelmed the newsroom phone system. There have been threats too.”
In addition to firing Gil Gross, Gene Burns, John Rothmann and Ray Taliferro, two other popular hosts were shown the door — Sonoma attorney Len Tillem ("How come you're cawlin' a loy-yuh?") and nuclear physicist and conservative Bill Wattenburg. Also fired was weatherman Lloyd Lindsay Young, replaced by ABC7 weather staffers.

Len Tillem.
Hosts who survived, in addition to the well-paid Ronn Owens (rumored to be making $1 million a year), were Pat Thurston, Karel and Brian Copeland.

Owens is on vacation in Hawaii this week and next week, and Copeland is filling in. Owens said his vacation was approved by management long before the shakeup, but for listeners tuning in between 9 and noon, it gives the impression that he was swept out the door, too.

Wattenburg, who has been on KGO since 1972, told blogger Ed Walsh that he was fired during a three-minute phone call. He said he viewed the switch to all-news in the afternoons as a mistake but he wished them luck.
Bill Wattenburg.
    “There are other stations that want to enter the talk radio business in the Bay Area and West Coast ... Killing KGO talk radio will make it much easier for new stations to build up instant audience very quickly. The hosts fired from KGO take with them a combined audience 10 times greater that any new talk radio station could hope to create in several years if they start with unknowns in the business. Surely, the new stations will have places for those released from KGO. And they will profit very nicely with no start up delays. Many of the talk radio sponsors want some place to go.”
Lieberman reports that shortly after Atlanta-based Cumulus Media acquired KGO in September, CEO Lew Dickey told Wattenberg that he had listened to him since Dickey was at Stanford, and that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Another casualty of the KGO shakeup is the ABC hourly news during daytime hours. Apparently the network on-the-hour newscasts will still air on weekends and overnight.

Meanwhile, KGO has moved the ABC Radio top- and bottom-of-the-hour news to :15 and :45 during daytime hours, and is promoting the fact that they now carry 10 minutes of Bay Area news at the top of the hour.

(Photo credits: Wattenburg shot by Michael Maloney of the Chronicle; Tillem from the JWeekly; Dickey from the Cumulus Media website.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

KGO-AM will go to news from 2 p.m. to midnight

In a stunning move, Cumulus-owned KGO-AM has decided to switch to all-news from 2 p.m. to midnight starting Monday, and has sacked hosts Gil Gross (2-4 p.m.), Gene Burns (7-10 p.m.), John Rothmann (10-1 a.m.) and Ray Taliaferro (1-5 a.m.).

Ronn Owens (9-noon) will survive as will Brian Copeland, who has a weekend show.

The story was first reported by media blogger Rich Lieberman, followed by Matier & has some interesting comments. (Earlier, we said Matier & Ross were first, but Lieberman beat them by a couple of hours.)

Radio-Info says the weekends will apparently stay mostly talk. As for overnights, there’s speculation that Cumulus Media-syndicated talker Doug McIntyre will take over Talifero’s slot. Talifero has been at KGO since 1977.

KGO had been the market leader for decades, but lost that position two years ago after KCBS added an FM frequency and moved up to No. 1.

The move means that the Bay Area will have three news stations, including KQED 88.5, which has added several local newscasts throughout the day.

Whether San Francisco listeners want that much news remains to be seen. Los Angeles can only support one all-news station, KNX 1070. Then again, KGO’s future might be brighter if Cumulus put KGO on one of its three FM stations.

With the switch, KGO is dropping its “Newstalk 810” label and replacing it with “KGO-810, the Bay Area news and information station.”

UPDATE, 10 a.m., Dec. 2: Peter Finch, the morning newsman on KFOG, will be joining KGO when it changes its format on Monday. Both stations are now owned by Cumulus Media.

Ronn Owens said on his show this morning that he has a sense of "survivor's guilt" for being the only major host to survive the shakeup. He said he feels sorry for his fellow hosts, who he regarded as his friends.

“When I heard about the new format, what we’re doing more news and all of that, if it included my friends, I’d be thrilled to death,” Owens said. “I’m still excited about the new format, but I feel guilty. I feel guilty being the one guy who is left."

Owens defended the format change, explaining that KGO had begun to slip in the ratings.

"This is an iconic station. We’ve been around forever. We’ve been known as the best station in the country. And all of a sudden we started to slip more and more and more. So management comes in and says, ’This is not working. We’ve got to do something that will work.’ They came up with a concept that I think will work," Owens said at the beginning of his 9'O clock hour today.