Friday, March 30, 2012

Deadline for high school contest

Saturday is the deadline to enter the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club’s high school journalism contest. Here’s a link to the entry form. As the form explains, entries can be submitted online. Categories include best news story, feature story, sports story, editorial, news photo, sports photo, layout and design, website design and website content. The winners will be announced at a reception later this spring. The contest is presented by Hillsdale Shopping Center, Notre Dame de Namur University’s Journalism Program and the Press Club.

Bay Citizen, CIR merge — breaking news coverage to end, NY Times deal in limbo

The nonprofit website The Bay Citizen is getting out of the breaking news business now that it has merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley. Instead the combined news organization will focus on investigative reporting.

“There’s so much information, there’s so much newsgathering, there’s so much out there, and there’s so much clutter out there,” CIR executive director Robert Rosenthal told Adrienne LaFrance of NiemanLab. “Someone may have it first, but there’s almost no such thing as first anymore. News is a commodity. Information is a commodity.”

When The Bay Citizen was started in 2010 it had hoped to become an alternative source of news for the Bay Area at a time when Hearst was openly discussing the idea of closing the Chronicle.

Rosenthal also said CIR is currently re-evaluating The Bay Citizen’s relationship with The New York Times, noting that the deal carries an agreement of “exclusivity” that raises “concerns.” The Bay Citizen’s reporting currently appears twice weekly in the Bay Area section of The Times.

CIR is headed by Rosenthal, former managing editor of the Chronicle, and its board is chaired by former Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein.

"While technically a merger, a similar deal in the corporate world would be termed an acquisition, with Berkeley-based CIR assuming a dominant role on the board and in the management of the combined organization. No one from The Bay Citizen’s current senior editorial or technology management teams will have a leadership role in the expanded organization," wrote The Bay Citizen's Dan Fost.

Fost points out that the combined organization will have a budget of $10.5 million and staff of approximately 70, making it what CIR called the nation's largest nonprofit focused on investigative and watchdog reporting.

Bidding war erupts for 3 weekly newspapers

A Texas media investor had to raise his offer for the Tracy Press, Patterson Irrigator and Scotts Valley Press-Banner after the San Francisco Examiner outbid his original offer for the three weekly newspapers.

The papers, owned by the family of Bob Matthews, were eventually sold through bankruptcy court proceedings to H. Lee Wilcox of San Angelo, Texas, for $1.25 million. The Tracy Press reports that a bankruptcy judge in Sacramento approved the sale on Wednesday.

Wilcox had originally agreed to buy the three newspapers from the Matthews family of Tracy for a total price of $1.01 million. Wednesday’s hearing was held to determine if the bid was adequate and if any other bids would be submitted.

After representatives of San Francisco Examiner topped Wilcox’s original bid in court Wednesday, Judge Christopher M. Klein opened back-and-forth bidding, which concluded with Wilcox prevailing.

The San Francisco Examiner was purchased last year by a group that includes David Black, who heads Black Press, a Canadian firm that owns more than 170 community papers in Vancouver and northern Washington state as well as the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal and the Honolulu Star Advertiser in the U.S. The Examiner owners also include Todd Vogt, who serves as president and CEO, and Pat Brown, the company's CFO.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the ownership of the Examiner. This item has since been corrected.

March 2012 Press Club board minutes

March 14, 2012, San Mateo Daily Journal offices

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

The meeting was called to order at 6:40 p.m. Because we had six people, we did not have a quorum. Nothing was approved, although there was ample discussion about various topics.

MINUTES: Were not approved.

GREATER BAY AREA JOURNALISM AWARDS: Antonia reported that Manny Fernandez from The New York Times will be our keynote speaker. Our entries are up this year, with more categories entered compared to last year.

HIGH SCHOOL JOURNALISM AWARDS: The board discussed having the contest at Serra High School. A date that works for the Serra administration is Thursday, May 10. We talked about judging the contest and we’ll need a pretty fast turnaround. We also discussed scholarships and grants for high school students.

HIGH SCHOOL BOOT CAMP: The High School Boot Camp 2012 will be held Friday, October 26, 2012.

VACANT BOARD SEAT: We discussed possible board candidates. We will have a more in-depth discussion about this at the next meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Antonia Ehlers, Secretary

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Maddow feels burned by Stanford newspaper, which outed her when she was a student

In 1990, some 18 years before she would become a host on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow was a 17-year-old freshman at Stanford, and she thought it was kind of crazy that nobody else in her class of 1,000 was “out.”

She tells Newsweek/The Daily Beast that she agreed to do an interview with the Stanford Daily about her plans to publicly reveal she was a lesbian.
    I told the paper, “I will do this on the condition that you will not run the piece until after this weekend, because I will go home this weekend to tell my parents, and I want them to hear it from me instead of reading it in the paper.” 
    And they ran it before the weekend, and indeed some anonymous person helpfully clipped the article and mailed it to my parents — and that’s how my parents found out that I was gay. 
    They would have had a hard time with me coming out anyway, but this was a particularly nasty way for them to find out. They’re wonderful now, and couldn’t be more supportive, but they took it poorly at first, which I don’t fault them for. They were shocked and upset and hurt. 
    First of all, they were having to deal with the fact that I’m gay. Second of all, they were having to deal with the fact that I’m gay in the newspaper. And third of all, they were having to deal with the fact that they’ve raised some sort of horrific, callous rug rat who would tell the student paper before telling her family.
Maddow said she still feels emotional about being outed that way. “I feel acutely angry at myself for having put myself in that position,” she said.

Maddow graduated from Castro Valley High School and Stanford. She's a former San Francisco ACT-UP activist and hosted a show on the Air America radio network before she was hired by MSNBC.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Berkeley police chief sends sergeant to reporter's home at night to demand a correction

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan ordered an armed sergeant to an Oakland Tribune reporter’s home at 12:45 a.m. Friday to demand changes to a story he had filed hours earlier, the Tribune reports.

Reporter Doug Oakley had covered a raucous community meeting Thursday night in which Meehan attempted to explain to about 150 residents his department's failure to provide information to the public in the days after the Feb. 18 Berkeley hills beating death of Peter Cukor, 67. Residents were angry that police did not immediately respond to a first call for help from Cukor.

According to the Tribune, Oakley had written that Meehan apologized to the community for the department's slow response. Meehan though, said, he apologized only for not informing the public sooner about why the response was slow.

When the sergeant showed up at his door, Oakley changed two paragraphs in his story.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said the problem wasn't that Meehan wanted the article altered, but that he sent an armed police sergeant to Oakley's home in the middle of the night seeking the changes.

"It definitely crossed the line. It's a violation of the First Amendment, let's be perfectly clear,” Scheer told the Tribune. It "goes to such an extreme it's hard to imagine."

Even after Oakley made initial changes to the story Meehan early Friday continued to phone and email Oakley asking for additional changes. Oakley declined, saying he stood by his story.

City Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, who called the community meeting Thursday night, called Meehan's actions "a little extreme."

"On Monday, I will discuss it with the city manager," Wengraf told the Tribune. "I've never heard of that happening before. I understand it was probably really disturbing."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Police department encrypts scanner traffic, refuses to release tapes of transmissions

The following story isn't from the Bay Area, but it might be the beginning of a trend that could make reporting more difficult throughout the state.

The city of Pasadena digitally encrypted its police radio transmissions and won’t provide recordings of police radio transmissions to the local newspaper.

According to the Pasadena Star News, the police switched to digitally encrypted radios on Jan. 7, citing the need to increase officer safety. The move prevents criminals — and the public — from hearing police radio traffic.

Then police refused to provide the Star News with access to real-time radio transmissions and wouldn’t release tapes of radio traffic by using a loophole in the public records law allows it to claim that all calls for service remain under investigation well after those calls have been handled.

The Star News also reports:
    And while the California Public Records Act does not require the police department to provide recordings of or access to radio traffic, [open government advocate and attorney Terry] Francke called [Pasadena City Attorney Michele Beal] Bagneris' use of the investigative exemption "self-serving." 
    "Newspapers have never, N-E-V-E-R, in the history of the California public records act taken a police agency to court to force them to release law enforcement information," Francke added.
    Newspapers have always had a complex relationship with law enforcement agencies, where one side, the newspapers, have been dependent on information from the police and are hesitant to anger law enforcement officials, Francke said. 
    "My speculation is that the newspapers have not wanted to alienate and undermine the basic working relationship they have with the police department," Francke said.
The Press Club reported in January that the federal government is trying to get police and fire departments to upgrade their radio systems from analog to digital. Congress has been under fire for moving too slowly to implement reforms following 9/11, when firefighters had difficulties communicating at the World Trade Center disaster.

Also, police radio manufacturers such as Motorola have been lobbying Congress to provide grants to local agencies to replace their radio systems.

Once a city gets a digital system, going to the encryption mode is as simple as flipping a switch. And Pasadena is apparently the first city to flip that switch.

Laurie Sanders laid off as KOIT downsizes

All Access, the radio industry website, reports that KOIT owner Entercom is downsizing its staff at 96.5, showing the door to afternoon drive host Laurie Sanders. Her departure comes one week after celebrating her 20th anniversary at the station. Here’s a profile of her that Ben Fong-Torres wrote last October. He wrote, “She’s weathered the industry’s ups and downs, including the sale of KOIT and some severe budget cutting.” Also getting the boot were General Sales Manager Scott Bastable and Marketing Director Jude Heller. (Photo credit: Chronicle)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Attention, high school journalists and advisers

The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club is seeking entries for its annual high school journalism contest. This year it is even easier to enter — entries are being accepted entirely online. No more cutting and pasting. Click here to download the contest rules. And here's a link for uploading contest entires. Deadline to enter: March 31.

Watkowski returns to KGO-TV as news vp

Tracey Watkowski, currently the news director at ABC-owned KFSN in Fresno, has been named KGO-TV’s vp of news, replacing Kevin Keeshan, who was named ombudsman at NBC News in January. (Here's the news release.) Watkowski is familiar with ABC7. She was assistant news director there from 1999 to 2006. She has also been an executive producer and newscast producer at WCAU in Philadelphia and a news producer at WKRC in Cincinnati.

“Watkowski’s superb credentials as a journalist and news executive for more than two decades — and, in particular, her proven track record in San Francisco and latest accomplishments in Fresno — made her the natural choice for this senior post at KGO,” station president and general manager William Burton said, announcing the promotion.  “All of us here at ABC 7 are proud to welcome Tracey back to the Bay Area.”

Owner of the Tracy Press receives a $1.1 million offer for 3 weekly newspapers

A buyer has offered $1.1 million for the Tracy Press, Scotts Valley Press Banner and Patterson Irrigator, all weekly newspapers.

Robert S. Matthews, president of the Tracy Press Inc., said in a declaration filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento (case No. 10-37525) that he received an all-cash offer from H. Lee Wilcox of Phoenix Publishing of San Angelo, Texas.

Last July, Matthews put the parent company of the Tracy and Scotts Valley newspapers into Chapter 11 bankruptcy organization. The Irrigator, serving the Stanislaus County city of Patterson, is held by an estate and not apart of the bankruptcy action.

On March 28, U.S. District Judge Christopher Klein in Sacramento is scheduled to take up Matthews’ request to sell the papers to the Texas businessman.

"After many months of trying to sell the newspaper operations, this is the highest and best offer received to date,” Matthews said in his Feb. 24 declaration.

Wilcox is offering $758,500 for the Tracy Press and Scotts Valley Press Banner and an additional $90,000 for accounts receivable. He is offering another $251,500 for the Patterson Irrigator and $30,000 more for its account receivables.

The broker in the deal, JP Media Partners, will get an 8% commission.

The economy in the Tracy area collapsed after the mortgage meltdown. Thousands of homes built earlier in the decade are in foreclosure or have resale values far below their mortgage amounts.

The Tracy Press was a daily until August 2007 when it went to three days a week. Then in March 2008 it cut back to two days a week. Last June, it switched to once a week.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Daily News publisher takes job in Tennessee

Justin Wilcox is stepping down as publisher and advertising director of BANG's Daily News after two years to become publisher of the newspaper in Johnson City, Tenn., according to a report in that publication. In addition to heading the Menlo Park-based Daily News, Wilcox is also general manager of BANG's Silicon Valley Community Newspaper Group, which includes the Milpitas Post and Pacifica Tribune. In April, he will become publisher of the 30,000-circulation Johnson City Press, a paper that covers the eastern portion of that state. Wilcox joined BANG in September 2009 after serving as vice president of a group of Hearst-owned weeklies in San Antonio, Texas. No replacement has been named.

Bronstein may be a witness at Mirkarimi trial

Former Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein and his wife Christine are on the witness list for the domestic violence trial of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. The Chron’s Matier & Ross report that the Bronsteins are acquainted with Mirkarimi’s neighbor, Ivory Madison, who shot video of the bruise on the arm of Mirkarimi’s wife, former Venezuelan telenovela star Eliana Lopez. Phone records show that Madison called the former Chronicle editor twice after the New Year’s Eve incident in which Mirkarimi allegedly injured his wife. M&R also say that Christine attended a fundraiser that Madison helped put on for Mirkarimi during the sheriff's race last year. Madison and Lopez belong to A Band of Wives, an online women's social network that Christine Bronstein set up and now has 4,000 members. Bronstein said he was reluctant to talk about his phone conversations with Madison while he is under subpoena but would be happy to testify. He also vouched for Madison, saying, “I think Ivory was doing what she thought was the right thing. She agonized long and hard ... and she made up her own mind."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Stephen Buel to lead Examiner newsroom

Stephen Buel, former editor of the East Bay Express, has been named editor of the San Francisco Examiner, replacing Deirdre Hussey, who resigned. Buel has served as city editor of the Examiner since January 2011. He headed the East Bay Express for nine years and was a Mercury News reporter before that. Earlier in his career, he was at the Arkansas Democrat, where he covered Gov. Bill Clinton and other topics.