Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Battle brewing over bill to allow in-person interviews of prison inmates

A bill by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, to allow journalists to interview prison inmates is running into opposition from state prison officials, the Chronicle reports.

Currently, journalists can arrange phone interviews of up to 15 minutes to prisoners who have access to phones. But the state Department of Corrections has barred pre-arranged, in-person interviews with prisoners since 1996. The Legislature has voted eight times to lift the ban, but the bills were vetoed by governors Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Department of Corrections says that setting up the interviews would be too costly and would “glamorize criminals.”

Ammiano told the Chronicle he wants to meet with the department’s administrators to overcome their objections.

His bill, AB1270, was approved by the Assembly on a 47-22 vote in January and is now before the State Appropriations Committee for a review of its costs.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Broadcasters hope to save KRE building

KRE Building
This year’s “Radio Day by the Bay” event, Saturday (July 21) at the art deco-style KRE Radio Building in Berkeley, is taking on special importance.

The California Historical Radio Society, which cleaned up the building and turned it into a home for the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame, is trying to raise $750,000 to purchase the building before a court-imposed deadline.

The site’s owner, Inner City Broadcasting, is in bankruptcy proceedings, and the society has to buy it now or lose the property. For more information, go to

Meanwhile, Radio Day is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The MC will be KCBS’s Stan Bunger. A “Fibber McGee & Molly” broadcast will be recreated by the Broadcast Legends, and there will be a live band. KRE is located at Ashby Avenue and Shellmound Street, near the Interstate 80-Ashby exit.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sentencing today for HP contractors who obtained reporters' phone records

Joseph DePante, left,
and son Matthew
A federal judge in San Jose is scheduled today to sentence the father-son private detective team who, as contractors for Hewlett-Packard, assumed false identities to get the phone records of journalists covering the company,  the AP reports. Matthew DePante and his father, Joseph DePante, are expected to be sentenced to three years of probation and six months of electronic monitoring as part of a deal with prosecutors. AP reported:
    The DePantes' allegedly used the illegal practice of "pretexting" or pretending to be someone else to secretly secure copies of private telephone logs. The firm directed other investigators posing as account holders or phone company employees to illegally obtain personal information including phone numbers, Social Security numbers, birth dates and call logs, authorities said.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chron caught up in fake byline controversy

The Chronicle has admitted that it has been publishing stories under fake bylines that were provided by a firm it had hired to produce stories for its real estate and SFiS sections.

The practice of using fake bylines was first revealed by Public Radio’s “This American Life.”

“The articles, which covered real estate transactions, were an amalgamation of work by researchers in the Philippines, editors in the United States and information culled from public records through automatic filters,” the Chronicle said in an unbylined story posted at SFGate.

The articles were produced by, which is owned by a firm is called Journatic. Journatic hires freelancers who live elsewhere in the U.S. or overseas to generate copy for its client newspapers at a lower cost than if the newspaper's staff were to produce the same content.

Clients include the Hearst Newspapers and the Tribune Co. In fact, Tribune is an investor in Journatic.

Journatic generates items such as police blotters, lists of real estate sales and reports on high school sports, for example.

“This American Life” reports that Journatic has 60 full-time employees and 200 freelancers including 100 people abroad.

The fake bylines were apparently used to disguise the fact that the stories were being written by people in places like the Philippines. When the freelancers interview their sources, they do so over the phone and have a number with a local area code.

The Chronicle says the use of fake bylines has been halted. However, it will continue using content from Journatic’s BlockShopper.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Oakland is a dangerous place to cover news

Oakland Tribune photographer Laura Oda was robbed of her laptop and camera Monday after she took pictures of a mural on San Pablo Avenue. On Thursday, a KTVU crew was robbed in the Oakland Hills. The Chronicle reports that this was the latest in a series of robberies of journalists in Oakland.
    KTVU reporter Debra Villalon was sitting in her news van Thursday night, waiting to go on the air with a story about a serious bike crash in the Oakland hills, when several men accosted her and cameraman Alan Leong. 
    "Shoot the bitch!" one yelled as the men pushed their way into the van on Redwood Road and stole Villalon's laptop computer and workbag, a camera and a tripod. Villalon called for help on her two-way radio as the men drove off, and station officials called Oakland police.
    Villalon and Leong were unharmed but shaken by the incident, one of several crimes in recent weeks in which members of the news media have been singled out in Oakland. 
    Cameras, laptop taken
    The latest holdup was Monday afternoon, when veteran Oakland Tribune photographer Laura Oda was robbed of her laptop and cameras after she took pictures of a mural on San Pablo Avenue near 35th Street. As in the robbery of the KTVU van, police have made no arrests.
    Journalists are no strangers to crime in Oakland. Several vehicles belonging to TV and radio stations were vandalized during recent Occupy Oakland protests, and a KGO-TV cameraman was hit on the head while covering a homicide near the Occupy compound outside City Hall last year. 
    Last year, another KGO-TV cameraman and reporter were attacked and robbed of a camera in East Oakland. Thieves have also broken into news vans parked in Chinatown and near the Coliseum, making off with expensive equipment. 
    "Sometimes you need combat pay to go into Oakland," said Associated Press photographer Paul Sakuma, president of the San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association. "They're definitely watching their back more than they used to." 
    Daylight robberies 
    Oda was robbed during the daytime, as were NBC Bay Area reporter Jodi Hernandez and cameraman Rich Goudeau. The two were working on a story May 14 at San Pablo Avenue near 20th Street when a man ran up, grabbed their camera and tripod, and sped off in a car. 
    "We've always felt generally safe covering the Oakland community, especially in the daylight hours," Hernandez said. "It was pretty rattling to fall victim to such a brazen attack." 
    The recent string of robberies, she said, "has us constantly on guard now, no matter what time of day or where in town we are." 
    Officer Johnna Watson, a police spokeswoman, said investigators were "seeing if this is a group of individuals who are targeting media, or if these are just random acts or crimes of opportunity."
    TV cameras are worth as much as $60,000 apiece, and tripods are about $7,000. There's speculation among reporters that the gear is being sold on the black market. 
    "These are very big, heavy, broadcast-quality cameras," said Janice Gin, KTVU associate news director. "The layperson might be able to figure out how to point and shoot. But they wouldn't know how to maximize the attributes of the camera."
    Heightened security 
    KTVU, which is based in Oakland, hasn't "made any changes as to how we cover the news, but clearly we are heightening our security measures," Gin said. That includes telling crews to give up their gear if confronted. 
    "If a guy wants your stuff, let them have it," she said. "We certainly believe that life is more important than property."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

UC settles suit by arrested photographer

The University of California is paying $162,500 to settle a lawsuit brought by an independent photojournalist, David Morse, who was arrested as he covered a 2009 Berkeley protest, according to the Bay Area News Group.

Morse was arrested and police confiscated his camera during a 2009 march to the campus home of UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. One photograph, of a police car approaching the protest scene, was deleted from his camera.

The settlement on Monday follows a state appeals court ruling in Morse's favor.

A UC-Berkeley spokeswoman told the Chronicle, "We are pleased to have reached a settlement that allows all parties to avoid the expense of trial. The university admits no liability in the settlement and continues to believe the police acted responsibly and effectively to protect" Birgeneau's mansion."

But police are going to modify their procedures "regarding acceptable means of seeking materials from a journalist," said Morse's attorney, Terry Gross.

KNBR to replace ESPN with new CBS

Cumulus Media’s KNBR 680 is dropping ESPN Radio and will be among the first affiliates of a new radio sports network being launched by CBS early next year. KNBR and sister station AM 1050 fill their off-peak hours with ESPN shows such as “Mike & Mike,” Colin Cowherd, “Nick and Artie” and “JT The Brick.” CBS is promising to deliver to its affiliates a “full lineup” of programs. What that means for KNBR isn’t known. The switch to CBS was decided at Cumulus headquarters in Atlanta, which signed up 67 of its stations with the new network.