Friday, September 28, 2012

Dennis Rockstroh retires from Merc

Dennis Rockstroh, who has been writing for the Mercury News since 1973 and most recently was its Action Line consumer reporter, has retired. His last column appeared today.
    So there had to be a favorite column, right? There was.
    One day, my editor walked over and asked, "Whatever happened to the Carol Doda sign?" That famous or infamous sign of the legendary beauty hung larger than life in front of the Condor Club in San Francisco's North Beach. Most noteworthy were the two blinking red lights on her chest. So I headed for San Francisco's striptease neighborhood and carefully began my investigation.

    It turned out that the sign had been removed in two parts. A man from Sausalito bought the blinking top part. But Carol Doda's bottom was missing. I called her up and told her what I was doing. "I can't find your bottom," I informed her. And she replied without hesitation, "Well honey, I've been working out." 
    So I'm done here, 70 years old and time to fade away.

    Action Line will go on hiatus while the editors consider its future.

    For me, every day becomes a Saturday. 
    As Bob Hope used to say: Thanks for the memories.
The photo below was posted by the Merc today with Rockstroh's final column.

Dennis Rockstroh, far left, poses with Mercury News staff members who were working on Christmas Eve 1973. Also shown are: Jack Calhoun, assistant city editor (seated), and from left: Connie Skipitares, reporter; Eric Kammersgard, copy clerk; Bob Weaver, reporter, assistant city editor; Stan Moreillon, reporter; Judy Telfer, reporter; Ron Burda, photographer; Willys Peck, assistant city editor; Carolyn Foley, reporter; and Frank Sweeney, reporter/assistant city editor. (Photo by Dick Wisdom).

Cancelled journalism program wins awards

College of San Mateo’s Journalism program, cancelled this fall for low enrollment, collected an array of honors Saturday at a regional journalism conference in Sacramento.

Students in the program, which produced The San Matean, the campus newspaper and website, collected awards for their work over the last two semesters in enterprise reporting, video reporting, editorial writing, advertising and photography.

The awards were presented during the Northern California conference of the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, a statewide group. About 20 colleges and 200 students attended the event at CSU-Sacramento. Students from JACC member colleges compete in dozens of journalism categories for the awards.

“The awards were an amazing outcome for the students, given the climate the students had while doing their work,” said Ed Remitz, the graduates’ former journalism professor and adviser (and a member of the Press Club's board of directors). Remitz, who attended the Sacramento event, retired from CSM after the program was terminated. “The students carried on to the end, never abandoning their strong work ethic and dedication to serving their community.”

The award for enterprise reporting is given for in-depth work of great value to the public. It is not ranked, but noted as a Meritorious, or general excellence, award. The staff of The San Matean were cited for their eight-page series last spring about garbage management in the college district. The San Matean has received numerous awards in this category in previous years, among the most prestigious in the contests.

Students Kayla Figard and Alex Pulisci also were awarded second place for Web/Broadcast Journalism for their video about garbage management that accompanied the series. Pulisci and another student, Erasmo Martinez, were awarded Honorable Mention in the Web/Broadcast Journalism category for their video report about a music event at the CSM Theatre.

Student Ryan Patron was awarded third place in the Photo Illustration category for his creation of a surfer riding a wave of plastic trash.

The staff of The San Matean received first place for another ad which parodied TV’s “World’s Most Interesting Man” campaign with a staffer extolling the virtues of The San Matean with such assertions as “If the First Amendment had a mascot, it would be The San Matean.”

Jeffrey Gonzalez, now a journalism major at San Jose State University, collected third place honors in Feature Photo for his shot of students in a hopping contest. Gonzalez also collected third place honors for Student Designed Advertisement for his humorous program promotion — “We Like Puppies — Do you? The San Matean — Do It for the puppies.”

The staff also received an Honorable Mention for Editorial Writing for an article about First Amendment rights on campus.

Student Shaun Carmody collected two Honorable Mentions in sports coverage, one for Sports Game Story, the other for his Sports Feature Photo.

CSM Journalism graduates Margaret Baum and Yasmine Mahmoud, both journalism majors at San Jose State University, and Kayla Figard, a journalism major at San Francisco State University, attended the event to conduct a workshop about First Amendment rights for students. Baum and Figard are recipients of $1,500 Herb Caen Scholarships from the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club.

New publisher to charge for online news

Declaring “the news isn’t free,” the new publisher of the Gilroy Dispatch says in a story printed today that his paper will start charging online readers.

The new publisher is Tony Allegretti, 67, who is also CEO and co-founder of Mainstreet Media Group, owner of 14 newspapers in California. He will also serve as publisher of the Dispatch’s sister papers, the Morgan Hill Times and Hollister Free Lance.

After living in La Jolla for four years, Allegretti has returned to Gilroy to replace his business partner of 21 years, Steve Staloch, who resigned as chief operating officer and senior vice president. Allegretti and Staloch co-founded Mainstreet Media Group in 2004.

Allegretti said he is happy to be back in Gilroy and that newspapers are on the rebound. He said he agreed with Warren Buffett, who said newspapers have made a mistake by giving away their news online. In May, Buffett bought 63 newspapers for $142 million.

“Every major newspaper company in America is going to go to paid websites,” Allegretti explains. “And we will also.”

Here’s a link to the Dispatch story that explains the paywall to readers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

SF Public Press gains nonprofit status

After more than two and a half years, the IRS has awarded 501(c)3 nonprofit status to the San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial local news organization that publishes online at and quarterly in a newspaper. (Here's the announcement from the SF Public Press.) The ruling allows the Public Press to directly accept tax-deductible donations from individuals, and elevates the organization to the same legal status as NPR, the Associated Press and the Center for Investigative Reporting, among many others. It enables the startup news organization to solicit more grants from foundations.

Chron SF City Hall reporter Rachel Gordon to become spokeswoman for city agency

The SF Appeal reports that Chronicle City Hall reporter Rachel Gordon has been hired by San Francisco's Department of Public Works as its communications director.

The SF Appeal, an online news outlet headed by Eve Batey, points out that the job opening wasn't advertised, and the job was offered only to Gordon. City Hall HR rules require such jobs to be advertised.

But DPW special projects manager Mindy Linetzky told the Appeal that the job is a temporary position, and therefore exempt from those rules. However, the email DPW director Mohammed Nuru sent on Sept. 11 announcing the hiring of Gordon didn't state she was a temp, and in fact pointed out that she was replacing an "interim" communications director.

Nonetheless, Linetzky said that within six months, the communications director job will be advertised as part of a job search by DPW. So, it appears Gordon has traded her full-time gig at the Chron for a temp job, if the folks at DPW are to be believed.

Palo Alto Weekly co-founder buys Marin's Pacific Sun

The Pacific Sun, a weekly newspaper in Marin County, has been sold to a Menlo Park man with roots in the newspaper business.

Embarcadero Media — the parent company of the Palo Alto Weekly, Mountain View Voice, Pleasanton Weekly and The Almanac in Menlo Park — has sold the Sun to Bob Heinen for an undisclosed price. Heinen, a co-founder of the Palo Alto Weekly in 1979, previously held a stake in Embarcadero Media, but he gave up his interest in the company to become sole owner of the Sun. That's according to a report in the Marin Independent Journal.

Founded in 1963 by Merrill and Joann Grohman, the Pacific Sun was sold in 1966 to Steve McNamara of Mill Valley, who owned the newspaper for nearly four decades. McNamara sold the paper in 2004 to Embarcadero Publishing (now Embarcadero Media).

The Pacific Sun and its 18 employees will remain in San Rafael except for Publisher Gina Allen, who will move to Embarcadero's office in Pleasanton. Heinen said he plans to move to Marin but has not chosen a city.

Former TV reporter runs hardware store

Jim Wieder, who worked for 30 years in TV news including the last 10 at KGO, now owns an ACE Hardware store in Hayward. Does he have any regrets about changing careers? He told the Chron's Peter Hartlaub, "That's hard for some broadcasters, when they're not in the business anymore ... Going to the grocery store, people say, 'What are you doing now?' A lot of people tend to think that because you're not doing what you were doing, it's the end of the line. Nothing could be further from the truth. You're just doing something else."

KFOG's Annalisa gets morning gig at KFOX

KFOX (98.5 and 102.1) has hired former KFOG personality Annalisa for the morning drive to replace Greg Kihn, who departed on Friday. KFOX is also adding a commercial-free, advertiser-sponsored music block weekdays from 9 to noon, and it is expanding its music library to include hits from the 80s and 90s. So along with the station's core artists of Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and the Beatles, KFOX‘s playlist will now include artists from Pearl Jam to Nirvana to Bob Marley to Stevie Wonder. (Here's the press release from station owner Entercom.)

Beginning Sept. 24, KFOX’s lineup will include:
    • 5-9 a.m. – Annalisa 
    • 9-noon – commercial-free music block 
    • noon-3 p.m. – Laurie Roberts 
    • 3 to 7 p.m. – Big Rick Stuart 
    • 7-midnight – Webster
"Annalisa has been a radio icon in the Bay Area for over 16 years and she consistently had the highest rated show on KFOG," said KFOX Program Director Garner Goin in a press release. "Her enthusiasm, passion, and music knowledge will be a refreshing choice for morning drive in the Bay Area. We are equally excited about improving the listening experience for our audience, from our larger music library to a dedicated commercial-free music block every day."

Friday, September 14, 2012

KFOX drops morning man Greg Kihn

KFOX-FM 98.5 and 102.1 has decided not to renew the contract of longtime morning man Greg Kihn. His last show was this morning.

Kihn has been doing the morning drive at KFOX for 16 years after a music career that included the MTV video hits such as "Jeopardy" and "The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'em Like That)."

Management decided not to renew Kihn's contract, and the parting was amicable, said his manager, Joel Turtle.

When a station is looking to cut costs, those who are getting paid the most are vulnerable, Turtle said.

Kihn, 63, is a creative guy who, in addition to music and broadcasting, has written four novels and a book of short stories. He has a fifth novel in the works titled "Rubber Soul." He also has a screenplay in development for a cable series about how the mafia ran the New York City music industry in the 1960s. “I’ll be back on the air soon doing what I love to do most," Kihn said in a statement yesterday.

Palo Alto High School's Ellen Austin named national journalism teacher of the year

The Dow Jones News Fund has named Ellen Austin of Palo Alto High School as its 2012 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year.

Austin advises the award-winning "Viking" sports magazine and website and co-advises "INfocus," the live daily news show.

She will accept her award and address her peers Nov. 17 at the National High School Journalism convention in San Antonio.  She will spend the coming year speaking to scholastic and professional media groups and writing a column for Adviser Update.

She is a graduate of the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in marketing and holds a master's in secondary English from the University of Minnesota. She chairs the Student Press Law Center's steering committee and served as a Journalism Education Association regional director from 2008 to 2011.

September 2012 Press Club board minutes

Sept. 12, 2012, San Mateo Daily Journal offices

PRESENT: Darryl Compton, Melissa McRobbie, Antonia Ehlers, Peter Cleaveland, Dave Price, Jon Mays, Marshall Wilson, Ed Remitz, Kristy Blackburn, Laura Dudnick.

The meeting was called to order at 6:40 p.m.

MEMBERSHIP AND FINANCE: Darryl reported on finance and membership. The club is slightly in the red by $632.

AWARDS BANQUET DEBRIEF: The board was happy with the outcome of the awards dinner. The turnout was impressive, as were the variation of awards and categories. The one drawback to the current venue is loud music from the adjoining ballroom. We discussed the possibility of changing venues next year, possibly to the Elks Club, the Basque Cultural Center or Poplar Creek, depending on cost.

RECRUITMENT FOR OPENING ON BOARD: There is one seat open on the board. The board discussed potential candidates and recruiting a new member. Marshall will take the lead on recruitment.

COLLEGE OF SAN MATEO JOURNALISM PROGRAM UPDATE: Board members are disappointed about the cancellation of the CSM journalism program and The San Matean. Board members voted 7-0 to oppose the decision, with Ed Remitz abstaining and Jon Mays exempt.

Board members wish to issue the following statement:
    “Directors of the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club board are disappointed about the cancellation of journalism classes at CSM. We have questions regarding the decision-making process that led to the elimination of the program, and are asking for a revival of the program at the school. Members of the board are deeply concerned about the future of journalism for Peninsula college students and hope to work with the CSM administration to find solutions.”
HIGH SCHOOL JOURNALISM BOOT CAMP OCT. 26: The Boot Camp is scheduled for Oct. 26 at the College of San Mateo. The board agreed to ask attorney Jim Wagstaffe to be the keynote speaker again. Antonia suggested journalist Greg Vistica as a back up. Kristy will develop a panel of high school students. Board members discussed workshop topics and logistics.

ANNUAL PICNIC: The annual picnic will be from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, at Darryl Compton’s house. All local journalists are invited to attend. Darryl will take care of the barbecue, and guests are asked to bring a side dish or a dessert.

OTHER BUSINESS: Antonia spoke about a new book that is about to be released, “The Four Gifts: How One Priest Received a Second, Third, and Fourth Chance at Life,” by Father Joe Bradley. According to Antonia, it is a remarkable journey about the human spirit. Father Joe, who inspires so many as a priest at St. Gregory Parish and as the Chaplain of Serra, also is a recipient of a heart transplant.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Antonia Ehlers, Secretary

Thursday, September 6, 2012

MediaNews sister company files for bankruptcy

The Journal Register Co., a chain of East Coast newspapers managed by Digital First, which also runs MediaNews Group, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for a second time in three years. The bankruptcy filing will allow a major investor in Journal Register and MediaNews, Alden Global Capital, to buy the troubled chain and eliminate its $160 million in debt. It will also allow Journal Register to cancel expensive leases and dump pension plans. Here’s the email to employees from Digital First’s John Paton, who heads Journal Register and Media News.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Amendment group to fight to unseal documents in Apple-Samsung case

The San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition on Tuesday entered into the Apple v. Samsung patent infringement lawsuit in order to advocate for public disclosure of confidential financial records that Apple and Samsung filed in court under seal. (Here's a link to the coalition's announcement.)

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose ruled Aug. 9 in favor of a request by Reuters to unseal most of the records in the case.

But when Apple and Samsung said they would appeal her decision, Reuters said it wouldn't fight the appeal, meaning the records would stay secret.

 Now the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to free speech and open-government, filed a motion to intervene in the appeal on Tuesday.

Apple and Samsung, although disagreeing on just about everything else in this case in which Apple won a $1 billion jury verdict, are in full accord about wanting to maintain total secrecy for their respective financial records, according to the First Amendment Coalition.

SacBee to charge online readers

The Sacramento Bee announced this morning that it will begin charging readers to read its online coverage at, such as the blogs turned out by the Bee’s political writers. Digital access will start at 99 cents a month.

The Bee’s approach is different approach from that of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, which limit readers to 15 stories a month unless they have paid for a subscription.

“The Bee’s online coverage includes video, photo galleries and databases not available in print, as well as the opportunity for readers to weigh in on civic affairs through our online comments,” said a front page “To Our Readers” announcement in this morning’s Bee. “Our digital offerings include the e-edition replica of the printed newspaper, available on multiple devices, and various smartphone applications, as well as news alerts delivered directly to your email.”

Saturday, September 1, 2012

SF startup Talkwheel offers new tool to engage readers on Facebook

A San Francisco startup called Talkwheel helps journalists do a better job of engaging with readers on social media sites such as Facebook with a minimal time commitment. Nicole Martinelli of (International Journalists Network) took Talkwheel for a spin to see how it works. Here’s her review. She writes:
    The circular design allows you to see at a glance where most people are commenting and focus on that, rather than scrolling through chronological nested replies. In addition to the conversation wheel, the app has a left-hand panel with topics, which is handy if you want to see what's going on in a hurry.
Talkwheel’s vp of business development, Patrick Randolph, says the product’s design increases Facebook chatter by 40%.