Friday, December 29, 2006

Columnist Ray Orrock retires after 35 years

Ray Orrock, whose quirky weekday columns have entertained East Bay readers since 1971, has retired from ANG Newspapers and says he plans to spend more time with Marlene, his wife of 54 years, his five children, eight grandchldren and favorite author, Mark Twain. Orrock turns 78 on on Jan. 8. ANG Reporter Karen Holzmeister wrote this story about a columnist who found plenty to write about though he never touched the subjects of religion or politics. Here are some of Orrock's recent columns. And, since Orrock loved trivia, here's a trivia column about him written by ANG reporter Don Buchholz. At left is a photo from the 1970s of Orrock and at right is a recent photo by ANG's Anda Chu.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Caen 'outed' SF man who saved Ford's life

The death of former President Ford brings to mind a story about Vietnam War veteran Oliver "Billy" Sipple, who was in the crowd on Sept. 22, 1975 when Ford came to San Francisco and was nearly assassinated. Sipple pushed away the 38-caliber pistol of would-be assassin Sara Jane Moore, becoming an instant hero to the nation.

The first reporter to interview Sipple was the (Hearst) Examiner's Norman J. Melnick, who realized during the interview that Sipple was gay. Sipple asked Melnick and the other reporters who would later interview him not to mention that fact. Melnick and the others did not.

Then fabled Chronicle columnist Herb Caen (pictured) decided to publish the private side of Sipple's life, including the fact that he was gay.

Sipple's family back in Michigan -- even his own mother -- turned away from him. He sued the Chronicle and the six other papers which carried Caen's column for $15 million, but the newspaper's lawyers got the case dismissed.

In a ruling upheld later by the California Supreme Court, a Superior Court judge said publishers can "satisfy the curiosity of the public as to its heroes, leaders, villains and victims.''

Sipple's health deteriorated and he drank himself to death. He was found dead Feb. 2, 1989 in his Mission District apartment. Police at the time said they believed he had been dead for two weeks.

The Web site 365Gay.com noted yesterday that not far from where Sipple's body was hung a framed letter of gratitude from President Ford.

"I want you to know how much I appreciated your selfless actions last Monday. The events were a shock to us all, but you acted quickly and without fear for your own safety. By doing so, you helped to avert danger to me and to others in the crowd. You have my heartfelt appreciation," it read, according to 356gay.com.

Only 30 people attended Sipple's funeral. He was laid to rest in Golden Gate National Cemetery.

TV20 parent gets $13m in suit against WB

Time Warner, owner of the defunct WB network, has agreed to pay $13.2 million to the parent company of San Francisco's TV20 to settle a lawsuit, the Detroit Free Press reports today. Parent company Granite Broadcasting Corp. was planning to sell TV20 and a Detroit station to a group led by former KTVU general manager Kevin O'Brien for $180 million when the WB announced it was canceling its affiliation agreements and shutting down. The loss of the WB network in San Francisco and Detroit caused the deal with O'Brien to fall through. So Granite sued WB and its parent, Time Warner. Since the suit was filed, Granite entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, and it decided to settle the suit now for $13.2 million "to avoid the necessity, inconvenience and attendant risk and expense associated with further litigation," according to papers that were filed Friday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. [Press Club, Dec. 20: KGO-TV to launch 9 p.m. news on TV20]

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Attorney, radio host falls to death at hotel

Attorney Paul Sanford, who hosted several radio programs over the years in Monterey County, fell at least nine floors to his death at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside on Sunday, the Monterey Herald reports today. Police called his leap a "probable" suicide. The criminal defense lawyer made headlines in 2005 when he joined the White House Press Corps and was the first reporter to ask then-press secretary Scott McClellan whether the leaking of CIA employee Valerie Plame's name was an act of treason. The question caused Beltway bloggers to incorrectly describe Sanford as a reporter for the liberal Air America radio network. At the time, he was associated with KOMY, an Air America affiliate. Station owner Michael Zwerling later sued Sanford, saying he was not authorized to represent the station as a reporter. The case was headed for trial in February. More recently, Sanford and fellow attorney Shawn Mills were co-hosts of a show on Seaside station KRXA 540.

Merc, Chron downplay merger secrecy story

If you're curious about what news coverage will be like if MediaNews and Hearst join forces, Bay Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann (pictured) offers a glimpse in his blog, where he examines the coverage (or lack thereof) of his lawsuit to pry open the court files in the Reilly v. Hearst case. Reilly v. Hearst is the lawsuit in federal court in which San Francisco real estate developer and one-time mayoral candidate Clint Reilly is suing Hearst and MediaNews, claiming they are violating antitrust laws by jointly selling advertising and combining circulation departments. At the request of Hearst and MediaNews, all of the documents in the case are being sealed from public view unless they are already public documents. Normally newsppaers fight such secrecy orders in high-profile cases, but this time they're barely reporting that such an order even exists. And Brugmann, who has been fighting the Chronicle for years, suggests this is what news coverage in general will be like in the future if the two companies start working together.

SF Weekly looks at fight between free dailies

The SF Weekly has a report on the battle between the San Francisco Daily and the Examiner's new sister paper, the City Star. Weekly reporter Martin Kuz reports that the Examiner is using its new paper is copying the SF Daily and selling ads at prices below those of the SF Daily. (KPIX story).

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bill Mann: KFRC was always interesting

East Bay media writer Bill Mann offers some recollections about KFRC, which CBS Radio pulled off the air Sept. 22. He ways that in its heyday, the Top 40 station was powerful and influential but it also had a great news department, launching the careers of many local newsies including Ken Bastida (KPIX) and Vikki Liviakis (KRON). The station also was responsible for starting the national careers of Bay Area music groups such as Journey, Huey Lewis and The News, Greg Kihn and Eddie Money.

FBI confirms it is checking into Balco leak

AP says the FBI has confirmed it is looking into allegations that an attorney who worked for Balco founder Victor Conte leaked federal grand jury testimony to the San Francisco Chroncle. The wire service quotes FBI spokesman Joe Schadler as saying: "We do have an investigation on those allegations that (Troy Ellerman) was responsible for the leak." The story about Ellerman possibly being the leak was first reported by Josh Peter of Yahoo Sports.

Friday, December 22, 2006

What was Herb Caen doing 70 years ago?

R.E. Graswich of the Sacramento Bee offered this memory of legendary columnist Herb Caen (pictured) in his column today:
    Reporter Herb Caen wrote, "Late one night, when the police chief of North Sacramento was shot to death, an old Chicago hand named H. Lee Watson and I put out an 'extra' all by ourselves. We were so proud of our feat that we stayed up all night and got drunk -- not an easy thing to do in Sacramento at that time -- but the publisher almost fired us the next day for squandering money." That was 70 years ago. Today almost no reporters drink, squander money and almost get fired. And nobody uses extra editions as an excuse. Extras are like Tower [Records, which is closing today]. In 2007, we'll drink lightly and look for new excuses.

Publisher of Ex's City Star lasts a month

John Gollin, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner's new City Star, has resigned a month after the new free daily started. No replacement has been named. Billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz, who bought the Examiner in 2004, launched the City Star on Nov. 9 to undercut the San Francisco Daily, a free daily started by former Palo Alto Daily News owners Dave Price and Jim Pavelich in May. According to a report in the SF Daily, Gollin stopped coming to work shortly after the new paper started. At the time, Gollin denied rumors that he had been fired, and told the SF Daily he was undergoing minor surgery and expected to return to his post. Gollin has now left the paper for good, said Brian Underwood, head of human resources for the Examiner. A call to Gollin was not returned. Gollin had been at the Examiner for several years. Previously he was general manager of the Bay Guardian and before that worked for the Fang Family's Independent. [Press Club, Dec. 5: War erupts in SF between 2 free dailies]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Lawyer named as source of Balco leaks

Josh Peter (pictured) of Yahoo Sports reports that the FBI suspects a defense attorney, Troy Ellerman, leaked confidential grand jury information in the Balco steroids case to the San Francisco Chronicle. Peter attributes his information to a private investigator who was recently fired by Ellerman. Peter said he also has other sources identifying Ellerman as the FBI's target. Ellerman initially represented Conte, who founded Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), the company at the center of the steroid distribution investigation. It isn't known whether the Justice Department would drop its case against Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams if their source were discovered. The two are out of jail pending an appeal of their 18-month jail sentence. The next hearing is set for Feb. 12.

Judge asked to unseal merger records

Bruce Brugmann's Bay Guardian and the nonprofit Media Alliance today moved to intervene in the federal court case over newspaper consolidation in the Bay Area and to ask Judge Susan Illston (right) to make public key documents in the lawsuit.

The motion seeks to unseal records in the case of Clint Reilly v. Hearst Corp., a suit challenging the legality of MediaNews Group’s purchase of the Contra Costa Times, the San Jose Mercury News and some 30 other local papers. The suit, filed by San Francisco developer and political activist Clint Reilly, has also resulted in an order prohibiting MediaNews and Hearst from collaborating on national advertising sales or distribution until the case goes to trial in April.

On Sept. 14, Judge Illston granted a motion by MediaNews and Hearst Corp. to seal all records in the case unless they are already public record. An attorney for Reilly, Dan Shulman, was quoted in September as saying Reilly had little choice but to agree to the confidentiality in order for a trial in the case to proceed swiftly and begin Feb. 26. Still, the irony of the situation was inescapable -- for years both companies had gone to court in various cases seeking to unseal records as part of their efforts to gather the news.

Brugmann (left) points out that the few documents that have been discussed in open court so far show the companies are discussing joint printing, ad sales and other business deals.

“The courts are supposed to operate in public, and there’s a clear public interest in this information,” said Brugmann. “Our intent here is to ensure that the nation’s biggest newspaper chains, as they move to destroy daily competition and impose a regional monopoly on the Bay Area, cannot do so in the dark of night with sealed records that set a terrible precedent for the free press, the First Amendment, and open government."

[Bay Guardian: Opening the secret files -- Guardian, MediaAlliance file legal motion to open key Hearst-Singleton newspaper merger records] [PDF of Motion to Intervene] [Press Club, Sept. 14: Documents sealed in Reilly's antitrust suit] [Press Club, Sept. 15: Details on Hearst-MediaNews secrecy order] [E&P: Guardian will ask court to unseal Hearst-MediaNews documents] [AP: Judge urged to unseal files in newspaper antitrust case]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sacramento Bee closing LA, SF bureaus

The Sacramento Bee announced today it is closing its bureaus in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Two reporters work in San Francisco, Claire Cooper and Herbert Sample. The paper has one reporter in Los Angeles, Laura Mecoy. "We're not laying them off; we're recalling them," said Executive Editor Rick Rodriguez. "If we need to go down there and do stories, we will." In addition, the Bee is offering buyout packages to 9 of its 300 editorial employees as it struggles with declining revenue and circulation.

KGO-TV to launch 9 p.m. news on TV20

Three months after KRON 4 dropped its "Nine O'Clock News," KGO-TV plans to fill the void with an hour newscast in that time slot that will be shown on KBWB-TV Channel 20 starting Jan. 8. Dan Ashley, who co-anchors KGO's 11 p.m. news, will solo anchor the new 9 p.m. hour. He will be accompanied by Sandhya Patel with weather and Larry Beil on sports. The newscast will also include contributions from 7 On Your Side, the I-Team and Dr. Dean Edell.

This isn't the first primetime newscast TV20 has tried. A few years ago, KNTV Channel 11, then an ABC affiliate focused on the San Jose market, produced a 10 p.m. news for Channel 20 anchored by Cheryl Hurd and Lisa Kim. At the time, both stations were owned by Granite Broadcasting, which later sold Channel 11 to NBC. The 10 p.m. news on Channel 20 didn't have much of a chance competing against Channel 2's long-established "10 O'Clock News."

"We are excited at the opportunity to provide a local newscast to Bay Area viewers in primetime where there has been a demonstrated appetite for news," said KBWB TV 20 president and GM Bob Anderson in a statement. "And we couldn't be happier to be working with ABC7's outstanding news organization to make it happen."

"The launch of ABC7 News at 9 on Your TV20, furthers our goal of providing Bay Area viewers multiple, convenient options for getting their news, weather, and sports." said KGO-TV president and GM Valari Staab in the same statement.

"All of the resources of ABC7 News will be tapped to produce this new newscast." said News Director Kevin Keeshan. "We are excited to have this new venue to continue to tell the Bay Area stories that need to be told."

Hearst asks some employees for blood

We don't know if this program has reached the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle, but workers at Hearst's Houston Chronicle are being asked to provide blood samples in return for lower health insurance premiums. Apparently such programs have helped employees spot life-threatening diseases, but Houston Chronicle columnist Loren Steffy writes: "Giving blood to stave off higher premiums is just one more indignity in the modern workplace. We can't get a job without handing over a cup of our urine to a prospective employer. ... Under the guise of "wellness," a little more of our private identity falls away, consumed by an ever more intrusive public domain. It may make us healthier, but we pay the price as surely as if we'd posted our Social Security number on the front door."

Judge won't delay Guardian trial

A judge has refused to delay the start of the trial in the Bay Guardian's lawsuit against the owner of the SF Weekly and East Bay Express. The trial is set to start July 16, 2007. A request by the SF Weekly's owner, Village Voice Media, to delay the trial until September 2007 was rejected by Judge Richard A. Kramer, according to a report in the Guardian. The Guardian, owned by Bruce Brugmann (pictured), claims the SF Weekly is selling ads at below cost in order to steal the Guardian's customers away and drive the alt-weekly out of business. The SF Weekly's owners have denied the claims. Both sides plan to start subpoenaing witnesses.

Judge halts Hearst, MediaNews joint efforts

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston yesterday extended an order she issued Nov. 28 that bars the Chroncle's owner and the owner of the San Jose Mercury News and other Bay Area papers from jointly selling national or Internet ads, or consolidating their distribution departments. The order was requested by Joe Alioto, the attorney for San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly (pictured), who is suing the newspaper companies, claiming they are violating antitrust laws by fixing advertising prices and consolidating distribution departments. Illston extended the ban until April 30 when Reilly's lawsuit against Hearst and MediaNews Group goes to trial in San Francisco.

Illston was surprised at an earlier hearing when Alioto produced a April 26 letter signed by Hearst and MediaNews executives that showed the two companies planned to collaborate on selling national advertising, Internet ads and distribution. The judge had claimed previously they had no intention of pursuing a joint venture. The judge indicated she had been misled.

"The April 26 letter is in the form of a potentially binding agreement, and defendants have expressed the desire, if not the intent, to pursue cooperative agreements discussed in the letter," Illston wrote in yesterday's order. "The Court therefore wants to leave no confusion as to its expectation that defendants will comply with their stated intent not to pursue any of the agreements at issue; the only way to do so definitively is to issue the preliminary injunction."

Alioto yesterday ridiculed the companies' assertions that they were not planning to collaborate. "You'd have to believe in the tooth fairy before you could believe in that,'' he said.

Illston has made it clear previously that she has the authority to un-do MediaNews' purchase of the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times if she finds that those newspapers were purchased with the intent to violate antitrust laws.

The order only applies to the two companies Bay Area activities and doesn't stop Hearst from buying the 68,000-circulation Torrence Daily Breeze in suburban L.A. and giving the paper to MediaNews to operate. That $25 million deal closed on Friday. Bloomberg: Hearst, MediaNews plan to jointly sell ads is haltedBay City News: Federal judge freezes MediaNews/Chronicle tiesChronicle: Hearst-MediaNews ruling extended Sacramento Business Journal: Judge blocks Bay Area newspaper agreement Mercury News: Papers must delay joint effort; ads, circulation hinge on April antittrust trial

Monday, December 18, 2006

Chron takes swing at free papers, flyers

It's not often that a newspaper will print an argument calling for restrictions on the First Amendment, but the Sunday Chronicle carried just such an op-ed -- written by a former assistant managing editor at the paper, Alan Mutter. Mutter says San Francisco should set up a program like the do-not-call list that would permit residents to stop the delivery of "menus, advertising circulars, business cards, pamphlets, political propaganda, phone directories or giveaway newspapers."

Mutter doesn't come out and say it directly, but such a program would apply to the Chronicle's competitor, the Examiner, which is now free and delivered door-to-door. Residents who don't want the Examiner have had a difficult time stopping delivery. An Examiner executive acknowledged the problem in September, saying the same situation exists in the other two markets served by the conservative paper, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In Baltimore, a resident took the paper to court to get it to stop delivery to his home. (San Francisco's other major free papers -- SF Weekly, San Francisco Daily and Bay Guardian -- are not delivered to homes.)

The italicized note at the end of Mutter's piece doesn't mention that he used to work at the Chronicle. Nor does it say he used to be in the free newspaper business -- he was one of the investors in the San Mateo Daily Journal and the original Berkeley Daily Planet, which opened in 1999 and shut down in 2002. (In 2003, the paper's name was sold to Becky and Michael O'Malley, who resurrected it as a twice-a-week publication.)

Freelancer balks at Army's subpoena

A freelance reporter based in Oakland says her abilty to report the news will be damaged if she is forced to comply with a subpoena from the U.S. Army, which wants to know if she will verify the quotes she attributed to a soldier who is refusing to go to Iraq. "If conscientious objectors know that they can be prosecuted for speaking to the press and that the press will participate in their prosecution, it stands to reason that they would think twice before being public about their positions,'' Sarah Olson told the Chronicle. "What we need in this country now is more dialogue and not less.''

The Chronicle points out that the Army doesn't want Olson to reveal any confidential information -- which is the crux of the case against Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, are appealing prison sentences of up to 18 months for refusing to reveal their sources of grand jury testimony in the Balco steroids case. She is only being asked to verify the accuracy of the quotes she attributed to 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who faces up to six years in prison if convicted of refusing to deploy with his unit. Olson said she feels like she is being used as a tool of the prosecution. [Press Club, Thursday: Oakland freelancer gets military subpoena] [AP: Army subpoenas journalists over officer's Iraq quotes]

Haener to replace Griffith at Channel 2

It's not exactly a surprise, but KTVU Channel 2 today officially announced that Julie Haener will succeed Leslie Griffith as co-anchor of "The Ten O'Clock News." Haener, who will co-anchor with Dennis Richmond, has been at the Fox station for nine years and has won three Emmys. She's been co-anchor of the station's 6 p.m. news since 2000.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

McClatchy CEO could get $2.5 million in 07

McClatchy Co. chief executive Gary Pruitt (pictured), who led his company's effort to buy Knight Ridder and then decided to sell KR's Bay Area papers to Dean Singleton's MediaNews, could earn nearly $2.5 million next year in salary and bonus, according to documents filed Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He's guaranteed to make $1.1 million in 2007, a 4.8 percent increase from his salary this year. But he could earn another $1.38 million from an annual bonus if he reaches performance goals that have yet to be set. The Form 8-K filed by the Sacramento-based newspaper company also said vice presidents of operations Bob Weil and Frank Whittaker will each earn $600,000 next year, with a maximum bonus equal to 60 percent of their base salary ($360,000 each). Vice president and chief financial officer Pat Talamantes' salary will be $500,000 with a 55 percent maximum bonus. Vice president of news Howard Weaver will earn $400,000 with a bonus of 50 percent of his salary.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Oakland freelancer gets military subpoena

Sarah Olson, an independent journalist and radio producer based in Oakland, says that she has been subpoenaed by the U.S. military to testify as a witness for the government in the prosecution of Army Lt. Ehren Watada, who is being court martialed for refusing to serve in Iraq. Olson interviewed Watada in May about his reasons for refusing to go to Iraq and she published her story on the TruthOut.org Web site.

"This morning at 8:45 someone came to my house and delivered a subpoena," Olson told the Inter Press Service News Agency, or IPS. "It's absolutely outrageous. It's a journalist's job to report the news. It is not a journalist's job to testify against their own sources."

Also subpoenaed were Dahr Jamail, a freelancer who also reports for Inter Press Service, and a reporter with the Honolulu Star Bulletin, whose name wasn't mentioned in the IPS report.

Joe Piek, a spokesman for the Ft. Lewis Army Base in Washington state where Lt. Watada is stationed, told IPS that the military "does not seek reporters' notes or original transcripts but simply wants to verify the accuracy of the story they reported."

Olson tells IPS, "What is happening at this point is that the army is using journalists to build its case against Lt. Watada and build its case against speaking to the press. It's very important to look at it in that light."

Monterey publisher takes leave of absence

The Monterey Herald announced today (Dec. 14) that its president and publisher, Jayne Speizer, will take a temporary leave of absence due to health-related concerns. Speizer, 56, said that although her heart condition has improved during the past few years, it recently took a turn for the worse. A search will begin in January for someone to fill in for Speizer while she recuperates, said George Riggs, president of the MediaNews-controlled California Newspaper Partnership, which has oversight of The Herald. Speizer has headed the 34,000-circulation daily since 2003.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

MediaNews, Hearst get cozier

The relationship between the Bay Area's two major newspaper companies, Hearst and MediaNews, is getting much closer, according to the Bay Guardian. The Guardian reports that Hearst senior vice president James Asher revealed in court papers that the two companies were jointly planning to acquire "one newspaper in the Northeast." As reported here on Friday, the two companies are teaming up to buy the 70,000-circulation Daily Breeze in Torrance, Calif. Hearst will put up the $25 million cash for the deal but let Dean Singleton's MediaNews management team run the paper. Eventually, MediaNews will buy the paper from Hearst. The two companies did the same thing when they acquired the Monterey Herald and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press in August. The Guardian, quoting Hearst executive James Asher, said MediaNews is considering using Hearst's Shared Services Center in North Carolina, where the Hearst employees would handle some of Singleton's accounting. San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly is suing the two newspaper companies, saying they are violating antitrust laws. The case goes to trial in April. Until then, Judge Susan Illston has ordered the two companies not to discuss any plans they might have to combine distribution or coordinate the sales of national advertising.

MediaNews story discloses Gates loan

An Oakland Tribune story today by Grace Rauh about the philanthropy of Bill Gates includes a paragraph that says Gates' foundation loaned money to the Tribune's owner, MediaNews Group, in order to buy the San Jose Mercury News and other former Knight Ridder newspapers in the Bay Area. The disclosure is new for MediaNews. On Nov. 19, the Mercury News ran a story by John Boudreau about Gates receiving the Tech Museum's "Humanitarian Award" without any such disclosure. But in the Merc's defense, they did report on Aug. 25 that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with General Electric Capital Corp., several banks, insurance companies, mutual funds and other entities, loaned $350 million to MediaNews. (The Gates' loan was first reported here on the Press Club Web site Aug. 11.) How much of the $350 million came from Gates' foundation has not been reported by MediaNews.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

TV20's owner files for Chapter 11

Granite Broadcasting, owner of San Francisco's KBWB "TV20" and 22 other stations nationwide, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to allow it to reorganize its $275 million in corporate debt and take the company private. The company's stations plan to stay on the air during the reorganization, which is expected to last until mid-2007. A big part of Granite's problems can be traced to the demise of the WB network, which reduced the value of TV20, now a network-less independent. Granite planned to bail itself out by selling TV20 and a Detroit station to an investor group headed by former KTVU executive Kevin O'Brien. But after WB announced it was shutting down, the stations' value dropped and the deal was called off. In September, it was sued by syndicators of programs such as "The Drew Carey Show" and "Friends" for nonpayment. Here's Granite's statement about the bankruptcy filing.

Monday, December 11, 2006

24 states back Balco reporters

Two dozen states have filed a brief on behalf of two Chronicle reporters who are facing jail for not revealing the source of a grand jury transcript in the Balco steroids case. According to the AP, the states argue that the public interest demands the recognition of a journalist's right to protect confidential sources. Most of the two dozen states have some type of media shield law. They urged the court to adopt a reporter's privilege in federal court, where one does not exist. In August, a judge found reporters Lance Williams (center left in the Chronicle file photo above) and Mark Fainaru-Wada (center) in contempt of court and were sentenced to up to 18 months in prison. But they remain free while their case is being considered by the San Francisco-based appeals court. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Metro prints excerpt from Gary Webb book

The San Jose alt-weekly Metro this week is running a 3,160-word excerpt from the new book about the career and apparent suicide of Gary Webb, whom Metro calls the Merc's most controversial reporter.

Webb, who died Dec. 9, 2004, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter whose August 1996 three-part series "Dark Alliance" asserted that the CIA knew cocaine was being imported into the United States, and that the profits were funding the Nicaraguan contras. Webb's story was blasted by the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Eventually, Webb's editors stopped defending his series and published a mea culpa May 11, 1997. Webb was later demoted to one of the Merc's bureaus, then left the paper and held a number of jobs, his final being for a weekly in Sacramento. Author Nick Schou notes that all of Webb's editors were promoted.

However, on July 23, 1998, the Justice Department released a report by the Inspector General that confirmed many of Webb's most serious allegations, but the same large newspapers that attacked his work gave short shrift to the findings.

Not only was Webb's story controversial, but so too was his death. He died of two gunshot wounds to the head, an unusual scenario for a suicide.

Click here to read the excerpt from Schou's "Kill The Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb."

• For another view of Webb's work, here is a link to an article by former AP reporter Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s. Parry says Webb's allegations were correct and the national media was derelict in not investigating the story themselves.

Ask the lawyer about the Balco source


In an open letter to the judges hearing the Balco appeal, Peter Scheer (pictured) of the California First Amendment Coalition has a suggestion: If they want to know who gave Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams a federal grand jury transcript, they should ask the newspaper's lawyer. Of course the appeals court won't do that, Scheer points out, because it honors the concept of lawyer-client privilege. So why shouldn't that concept apply to the relationship between a reporter and a source?

Another point Scheer makes is that the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to give a hearing to the argument that a federal "common law" privilege exists for journalists and their sources. "A ruling by this court in favor of the reporters and the Chronicle would set the stage for an historic Supreme Court decision," Scheer writes. "At last, a case on which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court should, I hope, be able to agree."

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Speculation about Singleton's exit strategy

A Southern California newspaper report speculates that Hearst Corp. is positioning itself to take over MediaNews when its chief executive, Dean Singleton, retires.

That would mean nearly all of the Bay Area's daily newspapers would be acquired by Hearst, owner of the Chronicle. Singleton's MediaNews has owned the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, Marin Independent Journal and five other dailies for several years. In August, MediaNews acquired the region's former Knight Ridder papers including the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times.

The speculation appears in the last two paragraphs of a story in the Torrence Daily Breeze about that paper's sale to Hearst for $25 million. Hearst's plan is to have MediaNews operate the Breeze and, eventually, sell the paper to MediaNews.

MediaNews has given Hearst a 30 percent stake in its non-Bay Area assets, valued at $300 million. In return, Hearst bought the Monterey Herald and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, and turned those papers over to MediaNews.

San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly is challenging the MediaNews-Hearst deal in court on antitrust grounds. A trial is set for April.

The Daily Breeze ended its story with these paragraphs:
    One knowledgeable industry source who asked to remain anonymous speculated that the arrangement between Hearst and MediaNews was part of an exit strategy for MediaNews CEO William Dean Singleton when he eventually chooses to retire.

    "This arrangement with Hearst suggests that Hearst is interested in ultimately being Mr. Singleton's successor with the company," the source said. "That is speculation. But you look at everything together here, that certainly is a part of it."
The 55-year-old Singleton (DOB 8-1-51) hasn't revealed his retirement plans publicly, but the Columbia Journalism Review said this in 2003:
    One morning in 1986, [Singleton] woke up with numbness in his legs, and was soon diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He remains extraordinarily active, but he says that each year his legs get progressively weaker, and he has confided to friends that on certain mornings he has trouble getting out of bed.
And the New York Times wrote this about him in May, after the news broke that he would be acquiring the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times:
    Mr. Singleton received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 1986. He travels constantly, but his walk has slowed and he says that sometimes his legs give out, leaving him to shuffle or just sit still. This has led some to suggest that his investments in the business stem from a desire for a positive legacy.

    "He's paving his way to heaven," said David M. Cole, editor of NewsInc., a newsletter about the industry. "He's trying to salve the wounds of Dallas and Houston, and the cuts he made in newspapers that upon reflection maybe he shouldn't have made."
(Photo by George Frey for the New York Times.)

Friday, December 8, 2006

New press club board elected

At the Peninsula Press Club's Christmas Party some business was conducted. Members heard an annual report on the club's activities, the board's plans for 2007 and the results of the board election. Elected were:
    President: Jamie Casini (Palo Alto Daily News managing editor)
    Vice President: Dave Price (San Francisco Daily editor/publisher)
    Treasurer: Ed Remitz (San Mateo County Community College journalism instructor)
    Secretary: Jon Mays (San Mateo Daily Journal editor)

    Directors - two year terms
    Jack Russell (retired, San Mateo Times)
    Jennifer Aquino (San Mateo County Times executive editor)

    Directors - one year term
    Aimee Lewis Strain (Bay City News managing editor)
    Diana Diamond (Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal special sections editor)

    Director continuing second year of term
    Peter Cleaveland (retired, ABC-KGO)

    Ex-official members (without vote)
    Past President - Michelle Carter (Notre Dame de Namur University journalism instructor, former San Mateo Times managing editor)
    Executive Director - Darryl Compton (former KRON news executive, current staff for RTNDA and Broadcast Legends)

Members were told that the club's income for the year was $24,018.39, its expenses were $17,995.30 and the net was $6,236.28. Assets total $31,587.04. The scholarship fund totals $6,993.41.

Members were reminded to send in their membership dues form. It was in the last newsletter or can be downloaded here.

Activities for the year included:

    • 29th Annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards, June 1
    • The presentation of two Herb Caen scholarships
    • High school journalism contest
    • Summer picnic, Aug. 27
    • Christmas party, Dec. 6
    • Participation in the Broadcast & Newspaper Museum of Northern California
    • On The Record (newsletter)
    • Web site
    • Daily Press Club e-mail (Feed Blitz)
Plans for 2007:

    • 30th Annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards. Contest information coming in January. The deadline will be at the end of February.
    • Bench-Bar-Media returns -- a roundtable discussion for journalists, law enforcement, judges, lawyers.
    • Aid to high school newspapers
Outgoing President Michelle Carter told the members that the board is concerned about the number of high schools that have discontinued their student newspapers in recent years. She pointed out that most of the journalists in the room got their start on a high school newspaper. The board intends to meet with high school teachers and principals in the coming year to determine what assistance the club may provide in keeping these student newspapers going.

Board members thanked Carter for her service as board president. Darryl Compton was also recognized for his work as the board's executive director, especially his work organizing the club's annual contest.

Hearst, MediaNews expand relationship

The Bay Area's two biggest newspaper companies, Hearst and MediaNews, are teaming up to buy the 70,000-circulation Torrance Daily Breeze in Southern California. Hearst, owner of the Chronicle, will buy the paper for $25 million and turn it over to Dean Singleton's MediaNews to operate it, according to a report today in the Daily Breeze. It's the same arrangement the two companies have regarding the Monterey Herald and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press.

Hearst disclosed its intention to buy the Daily Breeze in a document filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The filing said Hearst's long-term plan is to sell the paper to MediaNews, but the filing didn't explain why Hearst was buying the paper now on MediaNews's behalf. The sale is expected to close on Monday.

The filing was made in the lawsuit filed by San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly, who claims the two companies intend to fix prices for advertisers in the Bay Area. A judge has issued a temporary restraining order forbidding the companies from selling national advertising or combining distribution. A trial is scheduled in April.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Santa Cruz Sentinel changes hands

An Alabama chain of 94 daily newspapers, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., announced Tuesday that it has completed its purchase of the 25,000-circulation Santa Cruz Sentinel and five other papers from Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones & Co. for $287.9 million. Sentinel managers were quoted in their own paper as saying that they didn't expect any changes or layoffs. The new owner is privately held (unlike Dow Jones) and it is expanding at a time when much of the industry is contracting. One of the unsuccessful bidders for the Sentinel was MediaNews, which has been buying up Bay Area newspapers. [PPC, Aug. 29: Sentinel up for sale] [PPC, Sept. 16: Sentinel attracts 3 bidders]

Hearst, MediaNews plan to go to trial

Rather than backing down and changing their business plan, MediaNews Group and Chronicle owner Hearst Corp. plan to go to trial and fight charges that they are conspiring to create a Bay Area newspaper monopoly, the AP is reporting.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston granted a temporary restraining order sought by San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly (left) to stop the two companies from merging their distribution and national ad sales departments. MediaNews, headed by Dean Singleton (right) owns most of the Bay Area's dailies including the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Palo Alto Daily News Group and Marin Independent Journal.

Illston said such a move could pave the way for "price manipulation" and make it harder for new competitors to enter the market. Today the AP is reporting that "he publishers said they planned to move forward with the consolidation by winning the right to do so at trial by proving the plan is not anticompetitive."

"Riley's allegations are hyperbole and don't have any substance," Hearst attorney Daniel Wall said in an interview. "We do intend to prove, at trial, that nothing we contemplated would be unlawful."

Joe Alioto, Riley's attorney, said the publishers "have no chance" of pulling that off.

"It's a price-fixing agreement. They're gonna fix the prices of advertising," he said. "This is first-year law school stuff."

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Body of missing CNET editor found

The body of James Kim, a CNET editor and former host of programs on Tech TV, was discovered today, 11 days after is family car became stuck on a side road in the snow and four days after he ventured off to look for help. Investigators believe he traveled about eight miles in total, and said there was no way he could have reached the car directly from where he was found. Above, Kim is seen with 7-month-old daughter Sabine and 4-year-old daughter Penelope.

Press Club Christmas Party Tonight

Whether you're a member or not, everybody in the news business is invited to the Peninsula Press Club's Christmas Party and Annual Meeting tonight (Dec. 6) from 6 to 8 at Harry's Hofbrau, 1909 El Camino Real, Redwood City. The party will feature hot and cold hors d'ouevres and a no-host bar. Members and guests are asked to pay $10 and bring non-perishable food items which Press Club Vice President Jack Russell will take to the Second Harvest Food Bank after the event. The party will also serve as the Press Club's annual meeting. Members have been asked to bring completed ballots (in the November newsletter) for board of directors.

Grim day at the Mercury News

Holiday greetings were hollow for 35 Mercury News workers who were laid off Monday and Tuesday in the first major cost-cutting move by new owner Dean Singleton of MediaNews Group. "It's pretty grim," reporter and local Guild president Becky Bartindale told the Chronicle. "These are your colleagues and friends and they're out the door." It could have been worse. A 20-hour negotiating session reduced the number of layoffs from 69 to 35 in return for concessions from the union on benefits. Going forward, workers will pay more for their insurance under a new health plan. The agreement still must be ratified by the Guild's remaining 450 workers. The number of newsroom positions cut was in dispute, with the Guild saying 16 workers were eliminated while the company saying the number was 10. (Photo credit: Paul Sakuma of AP.)

KGO-AM shows Krueger the door

KGO-AM 810 is looking for a sportscaster. The Chronicle reports this morning that the station has not renewed the contract of Larry Krueger (pictured), who was doing afternoon sportscasts. Krueger landed at KGO after he and two other KNBR employees were dismissed in August 2005 following his remarks about the Giants' "brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop." Krueger said he didn't hear any criticism of his work at KGO. KGO news director Paul Hosley tells the Chron that he has not settled on a replacement.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

War erupts in SF between 2 free dailies

While many newspapers are laying off reporters and cutting budgets, KPIX CBS5's Mike Sugerman reports that a war has erupted in San Francisco between two free daily newspapers.

Sugerman: "The story begins with the new San Francisco Daily, a pip-squeak of a paper, really, compared to the big boys of the Bay Area. It was started in May by Dave Price* and a partner [Jim Pavelich], after they sold a chain of papers [Palo Alto Daily News, San Mateo Daily News, etc.] that were given out free and covered just local news in several communities around the Bay Area."

Price: "All these major metropolitan papers are folding, and singing the blues, I still think people still want to read newspapers, it's just that they want a different format. They want a format that gives them news about the community, folks in the community, tells them what their doing."

Sugerman: "It's doing well enough that one of the bigger papers in town, the San Francisco Examiner, has put out a paper called the City Star. It copies the Daily formula, right down to the format. ..." More

*Full disclosure: Price is the Press Club's Webmaster.

Monday, December 4, 2006

New contract at Merc, layoffs reduced

The San Jose Newspaper Guild reports that following a 20-hour bargaining session that ended at 7:45 a.m. today (Dec. 4), management and the union have tentatively agreed to a two-year contract that will reduce the number of union jobs to be cut tomorrow from 69 to 27.51 full-time equivalent positions. The company promised no more layoffs through June 30. In the bargain, the union agreed to switch to a new health plan that will require employees to pay 20 to 30 percent of their premiums. Other reductions in benefits are also spelled out in the Guild memo. A $1,000 signing bonus is included in the deal to ease the transition to the new health plan. The agreement also calls for 2 percent wage increases each year. As noted previously on the Press Club blog, newsroom employees have been told to stay home tomorrow from 8 to 10 a.m. when management will call those who are being laid off.

Wife, daughters found -- editor still missing

The wife and young daughters of CNET editor James Kim were found alive in the snowbound mountains of southern Oregon today after they disappeared nine days ago, but Kim -- who left his family two days ago to find help -- remains missing. Rescuers were using a heat-detecting helicopter to hunt for him last night. Follow links to coverage from the Chronicle, KCBS Radio and CNET News. Above, Kati Kim holds her daughter, 7-month old Sabine, in the back of a helicopter after they and her other daughter, Penelope, 4, were rescued yesterday. AP photo by Jim Krois.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

CNET editor, family last seen in Oregon

Searchers are focusing on roads between I-5 and the southern Oregon coast in an attempt to locate
CNET editor James Kim, 35, wife Kati, 30, and their daughters Penelope, 4, and Sabine, 7 months, residents of SF's Noe Valley neighborhood. The family disappeared Nov. 25 -- the Saturday after Thanksgiving -- on a road trip during a snow storm. Earlier on Nov. 25, the family shared a meal with a friend in Roseburg, Ore., and the last phone call from Kim's cell phone was made at 3 p.m that day, apparently while the family was on the road in their Saab stationwagon. Here's CNET's coverage, a Chronicle story posted at tonight and the SFPD's missing persons report.

Merc union supporters to wear black

The Newspaper Guild has issued a press release urging a "Day of Action" on Dec. 11 to preserve quality journalism, but union supporters at the Mercury News are being asked to get started early by wearing black on Monday (Dec. 4), the day before 40 newsroom workers are to be told over the phone whether they have been laid off.

Valleywagger to cover media for HuffPo

Nick Douglas (pictured), who was shown the door at the Silicon Valley gossip site ValleyWag, has landed on his feet at the liberal Huffington Post blog, where he will contribute to Eat The Press. Joining him will be Melissa Lafsky, proprietor of opinionistas.com. Here's how HuffPo covered Douglas's hiring and here's how his old boss, Nick Denton, covered it. Did you catch the snide line about "original reporting is a new concept for a young blogger ..."?

Ax to fall at Merc on Monday, Tuesday

Negotiations have failed to produce a new contract for Guild workers at the Mercury News and management plans to layoff 101 employees on Monday night and Tuesday morning. According to the Guild Web site, managers will call business-side employees at their homes on Monday night between 6:30 and 8:30 to tell them they have been laidoff. Editorial staffers will be called Tuesday morning between 8 and 10 at home. All newsroom personnel have been told to stay home during those hours on Tuesday.

Laid-off employees will lose access to their computers when they are told they're losing their jobs, so the Guild has advised its members to "retrieve all personal files and information from the Mercury News computers and store them on a non-Mercury system" before the ax falls.

Had the union been able to reach a contract deal with management, the company would have reduced the number of union workers laid off from 69 to 42. Of the total 101 to be laidoff, 40 jobs will come from the newsroom.

    Merc executive editor Susan Goldberg (right) told employees that she decided to call people at home instead of doing it at the office to avoid publicly embarrassing the laid-off employees, according to the East Bay Express. "But her plan has some people wondering whether her real motive is to avoid possible major disruptions at the paper when staffers learn who gets the ax," wrote Express blogger Robert Gammon, a former ANG union leader.
Gammon also notes that the union plans to challenge the legality of the layoffs in court, saying the company didn't provide the required 60 days advance notice. The union's argument is when the company announced the layoffs, it used the word "may" instead of "will."

MediaNews might also outsource printing

The Chronicle might not be the only Bay Area daily to shut down its presses and outsource printing to an outside company. The trade publication Newspapers & Technology says it has been told by sources that MediaNews could be a likely customer of the plant Transcontinental Inc. will build to print the Chronicle. As the PPC reported Nov. 17, the Chronicle signed a contract to have Transcon, Canada's largest printing company, print the newspaper beginning in 2009, a move that will allow the Chron to shed 237 Teamster press-operator jobs and about 200 others in the mailroom and other areas. MediaNews publishes the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Marin Independent Journal, San Mateo County Times and other dailies. MediaNews also owns the Palo Alto Daily News and its chain of free dailies, whose printing has been outsourced for several years to Southwest Offset in Redwood City.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Chron's page 1 has more features, culture

The current issue of the SF Weekly has a 5,350-word story by Michael Stoll on how the Chronicle is transitioning from a printed newspaper to a multimedia company. Breaking news is moving to the paper's SFGate Web site while the print edition's front page now has more culture and feature stories. The number of page 1 stories has been reduced to make room for bigger graphics and bolder headlines -- headlines that contain more powerful words and phrases like "death plunge." The moves come as the Chronicle, suffering from declining circulation and advertising, is losing $1 million a week, according to Stoll, citing court testimony.

It's worth noting that while alt-weeklies typically trash their town's local daily newspapers every chance they get, Stoll's article has lines such as: "In 36 years, Bronstein has risen to the very pinnacle of the region's news hierarchy with a combination of talent, charm, pluck, and luck." In fact, the article says that Bronstein stopped an interview with the SF Weekly because he smelled a hit piece coming. "Assured a fair hearing, he resumed enthusiastically when asked to discuss his own passion, investigative reporting, most prominently the investigation of performance-enhancing drugs used by professional athletes ..., " Stoll wrote. The article has some criticism, but "... journalists in and around San Francisco were reluctant to go on the record with their true feelings about the Chronicle," Stoll wrote. "Many have ongoing relationships with the paper, its editors, and its reporters, or hope to write, edit, or consult for it one day. Other journalists we talked with said they didn't want to be seen as kicking the paper when it was down."

Lawyer: Letter was more than a smoking gun

A day after U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ordered two rival Bay Area newspaper companies -- Hearst and MediaNews -- to stop collaborating on advertising and distribution, both sides in the case offered their spin on her ruling.

Illston said she was influenced by a previously undisclosed April 26 letter from a Hearst executive to MediaNews that said the two companies would work together on selling national advertising and newspaper distribution. She issued a temporary restraining order to stop the companies from working with each other -- saying it might constitute an antitrust violation. The case goes to trial in April.

Attorney Joe Alioto, representing San Francisco developer Clint Reilly who is suing to stop the consolidation of the newspapers, told E&P that the letter "isn't just a smoking gun -- it's the bullet coming out of the gun."

MediaNews President Jody Lodovic told E&P that critics are reading way too much into the letter. "If it truly was a quid pro quo for your investment, wouldn't you want more than a letter saying that you're willing to talk about (collaborating)?," he said.

Lodovic said the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Justice Department saw the letter, "and they weren't troubled by it." DOJ, which granted MediaNews permission to buy the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times four months ago, has yet to rule on whether Hearst can give MediaNews $263 million as part of the deal.

Lodovic denied the judge's ruling would cause Hearst to back out of the deal. But Alioto said he thinks the deal will unravel as a result of the judge's decision.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

NY Post coming to Bay Area

The Press Club has learned that Rupert Murdoch's New York Post will begin distribution in the Bay Area next week. The Post is a true tabloid, heavy on crime and celebrity news. It also has a conservative editorial page. The New York Post has been printed and delivered in South Florida for many years. This year, it expanded into Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. The Post will be printed in San Francisco on the presses of another conservative newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner.

Judge temporarily blocks newspaper deal

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston today temporarily blocked any attempts by Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group, owner of the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, from jointly selling advertising or distributing newspapers with Hearst's San Francisco Chronicle. [Click here for a PDF of the 14-page ruling.]

The newspaper companies can contest the ruling at a Dec. 6 hearing. If the judge isn't persuaded to change her mind at that time, the restrictions will remain in place until the case goes to trial in April.

The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by San Francisco real estate developer and political insider Clint Reilly (left), who contends that the two companies are conspiring to fix ad rates and divide up the market. Reilly pointed to Hearst's decision to buy the Monterey Herald and St. Paul Pioneer Dispatch for $263 million and then give those papers to MediaNews in exchange for a 30% interest in MediaNews's holdings outside the Bay Area.

Evidence cited by the judge in her ruling included an April 26, 2006 letter from Hearst senior vice president James Asher to MediaNews President Jody Asher that Reilly's lawyers showed to the judge. Asher says in the letter that the two companies have agreed to "offer national advertising and internet advertising sales for their San Francisco Bay area newspapers on a joint basis, and to consolidate the San Francisco Bay Area distribution networks of such newspapers ..."

Illston suggests that, after reading the April 26 letter, she was misled by MediaNews and Hearst. "First, the Court accepted defendants representations that Hearst's involvement in the transactions was solely that of a passive equity investor. Though defendants offered no explanation why Hearst was willing to help finance an acquisition that would only make its competition stronger, the Court did not understand that Hearst expected, or would later receive, any quid pro quo. ... However, the April 26 letter suggests, at the very least, that Hearst's investment was specifically tied to an agreement by MediaNews to limit its competition with Hearst in certain ways."

Illston later writes, "... the April 26 letter casts doubt on the Court's earlier finding that 'The San Francisco Chronicle is a strong source of competition for CNP's (California Newspaper Partnership, majority owner MediaNews) newspapers, even after the MediaNews acquisition is finalized.'"

The judge also said it might be possible that the plan of the two companies to sell national advertising together is illegal.

Illston rejected a request by Reilly to stop MediaNews' consolidation of the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other papers the company owns in the Bay Area. Those papers are laying off workers and shutting down offices. Reilly argued that these changes would be irreversable and the judge needed to stop it. The judge disagreed. "While consolidation of some aspects of the papers may make divestiture more difficult, it will not make it impossible. The San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times continue to exist despite recent events, and could be divested."

Coverage:

Monday, November 27, 2006

Free Josh Wolf event on Dec. 7

Journalists, political activists and elected officials are scheduled to appear at an event on Dec. 7 to call for the release of Josh Wolf, the blogger and freelance news photographer who has been jailed because he refuses to provide a videotape he shot of a political protest to federal prosecutors. Speakers at this event will include Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, San Francisco Supervisors Chris Daly and Ross Mirkarimi and SF Bay Guardian Publisher Bruce Brugmann. An independent filmmaker, Kevin Epps, will screen a short documentary about Wolf. The event takes place Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Balazo Gallery, 2183 Mission Street at 18th Street, San Francisco. Sponsors are SF Bay Guardian, The Free Josh Wolf Coalition, League of Young Voters, Reporters Without Borders and Youth Radio. A $10 donation is requested.

Recent stories about Wolf include:

Radio's Dennis Erectus suffers heart attack

Former KOME host Dennis Erectus suffered a massive heart attack on Thanksgiving and remains unconscious at the San Mateo County Medical Center, All Access reports today. Erectus, aka Dennis Netto, was one of the radio industry's earliest shock jocks. He worked for legendary San Jose station KOME in the 1970s, was fired, rehired in the 1980s and fired again in the early 1990s. More recently he has ben at KBAY and KEZR. All Access quotes KBAY/KEZR program director Dana Jang as saying, "I first started working with DENNIS in 1977 AT kome. He is one of the more creative air personalities I've ever worked with. He took mass-media and tied it into the music and the content of his show. All his friends -- current and former employees -- are wishing the very best in his recovery."

Number of newsgathering subpoenaes soars

Hearst Corp. general counsel Eve Burton, second from left, tells The New York Times that she has seen a staggering increase in newsgathering subpoenaes -- from maybe four or five a year for all of Hearst's publications and broadcast stations to 80 in the last 18 months. In a story printed today, the Times says, "Within the news business, there is a consensus that the roof is caving in on the legal protections for working journalists." The story notes that Burton is preparing an appeal that will be filed Friday on behalf of Chronicle reporters Lance Williams, right, and Mark Fainaru-Wada, left, who face up to 18 months in jail for their refusal to reveal who leaked grand jury information in the Balco steroids case. The appeal hearing will be held on Feb. 12 and the pair faces longer prison terms than any of the actual Balco defendants. (Sept. 21 photo by Darryl Bush of the Chron. Also pictured is Editor Phil Bronstein.)

Four quotes from Burton tell the story:
    • “The government is apparently willing to spend three years and millions of dollars putting two reporters in jail."

    • “The culture of the press as an independent body is now under attack and if this continues, will come to be seen as an investigative arm of the government.”

    • “My 15-year-old is constantly reminding me that no one cares about this stuff but reporters, but I don’t think the public understands what is at stake here ... Everyone knows that what was revealed in that story about Major League Baseball and steroids was important, but I don’t think that they understand that they could lose that. That story could not be told today.”

    • “In terms of the public’s right to know what the government does and doesn’t do, it is huge. If the government wins in this case, every reporter’s notebook will be available to the government for the asking.”

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Journalists should take Wolf case seriously

Thomas Peele, a Contra Costa Times investigative reporter and winner of numerous awards, writes in a column printed today: "It is time for all journalists and the people who value them to take the U.S. government's imprisonment of Josh Wolf much more seriously and call it what it is: a blatant assault on the First Amendment." Peele notes that some journalists think less of Wolf because he's a blogger and freelance video photographer: "Journalists have always been mavericks and independents, the best among us raking muck and raising hell."

• ALSO ON THE OP-ED PAGES SUNDAY was a piece in the Chron by William Bennett Turner, a San Francisco lawyer who teaches a course on the First Amendment and the press at UC Berkeley. He says he used to tell his students on the first day of class that America had the freeest speech and press in the world. Now, he says, he can't do that anymore -- he says press freedom has been slipping away since 9/11.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

KGO-AM drops noon news, adds lawyer

KGO NewsTalk 810 has canceled its noon-hour news program, anchored by Bret Burkhart and Lynn Jimenez (both at right). It will be replaced with a legal advice show hosted by Len Tillem (at left), whose weekend shows have strong ratings. KGO made the announcement during Friday's noon news. Starting Monday, Len "The Lawyah" will be heard Monday-Friday 12-12:45 p.m. and Sunday 4-7 p.m. Chronicle consumer columnist David Lazarus, who has been substituting for vacationing hosts at KGO, will replace Tillem on Saturday 4-7 p.m. Tillem has been a host at KGO since 2000 and the station says his show has consistently topped the ratings among Bay Area listeners on weekend afternoons, with almost twice as many listeners as the No. 2 station. Interviewed about the switch on Friday, Tillem said: "Everybody says, 'I love the information you give us.' To hell with the information, I like to make 'em laugh, too." KGO has aired a noon-hour newscast for six years. Burkhart and Jimenez will remain at KGO, doing stories for both the morning and afternoon news. ABC Radio's Paul Harvey will remain at 12:45 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Editor, columnist Thomas Fleming, 98, dies

Thomas Fleming, a columnist and editor for San Francisco's Sun Reporter, the African American newspaper he helped start in 1944, died Tuesday at a retirement home in San Leandro of congestive heart failure at age 98, the Chronicle reports. He died just a few days before he was to have celebrated his 99th birthday. His friends plan to turn his planned birthday party on Saturday into a celebration of his life, according to the Chronicle obit, which gives details. (Chronicle file photo, 2004, by Paul Chinn.)

Judge may halt plans of Singleton, Hearst

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston (left) said Wednesday (Nov. 22) that she may temporarily halt MediaNews Group and Chronicle owner Hearst Corp. from collaborating on national advertising sales and newspaper distribution in the Bay Area, according to a report by Karen Gullo of Bloomberg News. Illston said she may grant a temporary restraining order to real estate investor Clint Reilly, who claims in a lawsuit that Dean Singleton's MediaNews and Hearst are conspiring to fix newspaper ad prices and eliminate competition in the Bay Area. The companies deny the claims. Singleton acquired the Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, the No. 2 and No. 3 Bay Area papers, from the McClatchy Co. in August. The $1 billion deal included at least $263 million from Hearst in return for a 30 percent interest in MediaNews's assets outside the Bay Area. MediaNews and Hearst plan to attract national ad revenue by offering one contract for all three papers, lawyers said. The two companies have also said they plan to collaborate on delivery of newspapers.

Before Wednesday's hearing, Editor & Publisher Online carried an interview with Joe Alioto, the attorney representing Reilly, who said that he would submit a new motion for a temporary restraining order that was based on new evidence he uncovered since a previous hearing, when Illston shot down his request for a TRO halting the $1 billion deal. Alioto said he would like to reveal the new evidence publicly, but Hearst and MediaNews obtained a court order in September sealing all documents in the case that had not previously been made public. "[W]e're very upset about and that we can't understand why media companies are not coming to the court and advocating for making public these documents just as they are in any other case," Alioto said. [Chronicle's version of the story] [MediaNews/Mercury News version]

Reynolds named ME of Oakland Tribune

Martin Reynolds has been named managing editor of The Oakland Tribune, replacing longtime ME Leanne McLaughlin, who moves on to a new assignment at the Contra Costa Times, according to the California Newspaper Publishers Association bulletin. Reynolds, 38, was formerly assistant city editor and special projects editor for The Tribune. He is a Berkeley native, Berkeley High School alum and West Oakland resident who began at The Tribune as a Freedom Forum Chips Quinn Scholar in 1995. After attending San Francisco State University, he was hired as a reporter. He was promoted to assistant city editor in 2000, and in 2005 was elevated to special projects editor for ANG Newspapers, which also includes The Daily Review in Hayward, The Argus in Fremont, the Tri-Valley Herald and the San Mateo County Times.

Local papers part of Yahoo deal

The Chronicle, Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and the other chain-owned dailies in the Bay Area are apart of an advertising partnership with Sunnyvale-based Yahoo, according to numerous media reports. The partnership will let newspaper advertisers place recruitment ads on Yahoo's HotJobs site and in return Yahoo will provide search software for newspaper Web sites and distribute their stories.

"Newspapers never jumped into technology with both feet,'' Andrew Swinand, president of Chicago-based Starcom Worldwide, a media-consulting firm, told Bloomberg News. "What newspapers have is local advertising relationships that a company like Yahoo cannot match.''

"Newspapers are essentially saying, 'We haven't done a great job moving online, and therefore, we can't do this on our own,'" UBS analyst Benjamin Schachter said. "Yahoo sees itself more as a media company than Google, so it makes sense they were able to do this."

MediaNews, owner of the most of the dailies in the Bay Area, is a partner along with Chronicle owner Hearst Corp. and several other newspaper chains. The country's two largest newspaper publishers, Gannett Co. and Tribune Co., aren't taking part. Along with McClatchy Co., the three companies jointly own CareerBuilder.com, the country's largest help-wanted Web site.

Google earlier this month announced a test of advertising sales for 50 newspapers. The Mountain View, California-based company is taking bids for advertising space in newspapers owned by New York Times Co., Washington Post Co., Gannett, Tribune and McClatchy.

Yahoo's willingness to help the Chinese government prosecute journalists apparently did not play any role in the decision by the newspaper companies, or at least it wasn't mentioned in any of their stories about the Yahoo partnership.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Judge denies Thanksgiving release for Wolf

Bay City News reports that U.S. District Judge William Alsup has turned down a request by freelance news photographer and blogger Josh Wolf (pictured) to be released from jail on a Thanksgiving furlough. Wolf, 24, has been imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution in the East Bay city of Dublin for 93 days on Alsup's order for refusing to give a federal grand jury unaired portions of a videotape of an anarchist demonstration in San Francisco last year. Prosecutors say the unaired tape might show who torched a police car and injured a police officer. Wolf says the tape doesn't show that, and he has offered to screen the video for the judge. Before denying Wolf's bid for a Thanksgiving release, the judge said: "I hope you'll take to heart that judges, no matter how sympathetic they may be to you, are sworn to uphold the law ... Consider that this great country that has allowed you to be a journalist sometimes asks for something back." (Photo by Luke Thomas of Fog City Journal)

A couple of sidebars:

Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame event Dec. 6

The Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame's first class of inductees will be celebrated as part of the Broadcast Legends' Annual Holiday Party on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center at the Berkeley Marina. The event is open to the public. Organizers say they are expecting a terrific turnout -- many of the notable stars of local radio and TV have already RSVPed -- so they're urging people to make reservations now online or by calling (650) 341-7420. For more information, go to the Broadcast Legends luncheon page or download the PDF flyer. Here's a complete list of inductees. Also, Ben Fong-Torres discussed the Radio Hall of Fame in his radio column Sunday.

San Mateo County Times building to be sold

The San Mateo County Times building at 1080 S Amphlett Blvd., which has an orange sign that can be seen from Highway 101 near the Third Avenue interchange, will soon be for sale, employees of the paper have been told. MediaNews Group will begin testing the printing of the Times at its Hayward plant at 3317 Arden Road, 15 miles across the Bay. If the tests are successful, the printing will move to Hayward in December. After that, management plans to move the news and sales offices to a Peninsula location that has yet to be identified. At that point, the Times building will be put up for sale.

The news follows another round of layoffs at the San Mateo County Times and other MediaNews properties in the Bay Area. The number of layoffs wasn't disclosed, but more than 20 graphics jobs at the Contra Costa Times are being outsourced to India.

As the PPC reported Nov. 4, the MediaNews-owned Oakland Tribune is leaving the Tribune Tower in downtown Oakland. The Tribune's news, sales, IT and internet staffers are moving to the Airport Corporate Center on Oakport Drive on I-880 across from the Oakland Collesum. MediaNews will lease about 15,000 square feet there compared to the 65,000 square feet it now has in the Tower. MediaNews is also setting up a "shared services" office in San Ramon to handle business functions for its papers.

The Wave launches visitor guide

The Wave Media, publisher of The Wave Magazine, has introduced a second publication, City Guide South Bay | San Jose, which will focus on the needs of South Bay tourists and business travelers. The City Guide will be distributed to more than 20,000 hotel rooms. The publication promises the "most comprehensive up-to-date information about the culture, lifestyle, and events in the Greater San Jose Area. It will be the savvy visitor’s most used resource when deciding where to eat, where to shop, and how to entertain themselves while in the South Bay." B. Peter Brafford, President and Publisher of The Wave Media, said: "We recognized the need for this type of resource and thought we were well-positioned to produce it, considering our understanding of the market and our vast archive of information about San Jose and the South Bay ... And from the overwhelmingly positive response we've received from the business community, it looks like we were right on target."

South Bay papers drop cartoonist DiCenzo

After 14 years, Silicon Valley Community Newspapers has dropped staff editorial cartoonist Steve DiCenzo. SVCN management cited cost-cutting as the reason for his termination last week.

Griffith may do documentary on TV news

The Chronicle's Matier & Ross report that Leslie Griffith, who resigned Friday as co-anchor of Channel 2's "10 O'Clock News," is buying property in Colorado and has been talking to colleagues about doing a documentary on a subject she knows well: "The state of television news today." After 20 years at Channel 2, Griffith wanted out for a variety of reasons, according to previous reports, including frustration over the station's changing newsroom personnel, the pressures of added broadcasts and shorter news stories, and greater news control being exerted by the station's ownership in Atlanta -- plus tensions with longtime co-anchor Dennis Richmond.

Correction on Centanni ransom story

We need to correct an item on this blog Nov. 15 that stated a story by World Net Daily claimed Fox News paid a $2 million ransom for two of the network's employees, photographer Olaf Wiig and reporter Steve Centanni (pictured), a former Bay Area journalist. The World Net Daily story by Aaron Klein didn't say that Fox News paid the ransom. It only says that money was paid to organizations such as Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees, but the source of the funds was not identified. Several news outlets jumped to the same conclusion as we did, and Klein has written a follow-up story in which he says he is "horrified people have falsified and misrepresented my article to attack Fox News." Klein also says that since his original story was posted online, other sources have confirmed that money was paid by somebody to obtain the freedom of Wiig and Centanni. "As outlined in my article, the indications are the exchange was brokered by a government or political party since certain quid pro quos were reportedly made, such as assurances against further kidnappings of Americans," Klein writes.

Merc names interim business editor

The Mercury News has appointed Maria Shao was interim business editor and hired three reporters to replace those who have left in the past few months, according to the Society of American Business Editors and Writers Web site. In addition to being appointed interim editor, Shao was promoted to deputy business editor/enterprise. She has been at the Merc since 2000 after previously working at the Boston Globe, Business Week, Asian Wall Street Journal and the Wall Street Journal. Todd Woody resigned as business editor in May after seven months on the job to become assistant managing editor of Busines 2.0.

Despite the fact that the Merc has announced that it will cut 40 jobs from its newsroom by December, the paper has hired three business reporters:
    • Constance Loizos, who previously worked at the Venture Capital Journal and Private Equity Week, will cover venture capital and startups, succeding Matt Marshall, who is leaving to write his blog VentureBeat (which the Merc will syndicate).

    • Ryan Blitstein, formerly of SF Weekly and Red Herring, will become a general assignment business reporter.

    Troy Wolverton, formerly of The Street.com, will cover consumer electronics and entertainment, succeeding John Boudreau, who will now cover globalization, a new beat.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ch. 4's Folsom described as sexy, loud

On the air four hours a day, five days a week, there's probably no other Bay Area TV anchor who gets more air time than KRON 4's Darya Folsom, a Novoto resident who was profiled in this morning's Marin IJ. "Cute, sexy, bright, articulate, funny and, by her own admission, loud, Novato's Folsom, who is 41 and perhaps 5 feet tall, walks into a room and takes it over. If not always by volume, invariably by a presence that turns heads and stops conversations," writes the IJ's Don Speich. Besides her work on TV, Folsom has become a fascination to some on the Internet. In 2004, she did a full-body photo shoot for a cover article in San Jose Magazine, and the shots are all over the Internet. Several sites and blogs show multiple frames from her newscasts as well as comments from bloggers that are unseemly, Speich writes. (Marin IJ photo by Jeff Vendsel.)

Clear Channel boots several SF employees

Ben Fong-Torres, in his radio column in today's Chron, reports that Clear Channel has terminated about a dozen employees including Star 101 program director James Baker, KNEW program director Clark Reid, KNEW news director Ellen Hyatt and KQKE promotions director Mike Capozzola. CC's local president and market manager, Kim Bryant, says the company isn't cutting jobs, pointing out that she's added new sales and Internet jobs.

Fong-Torres also notes that CC's KQKE 960 has dropped Al Franken (left), the biggest name on the financially-troubled Air America network, and replaced him with syndicated host Thom Hartmann (right) in the 9 a.m.-to-noon slot. KNEW program director Bob Agnew described Hartmann as a rising star. Other changes at the progressive station including moving Randi Rhodes from afternoons to the 9-11 p.m. slot. She's being replaced in the 3-6 p.m. period by Rachel Maddow and a new "Progressive News Hour" with John Scott from 5 to 6 p.m. Also on the move is Betsy Rosenberg's "Eco Talk," which will now be heard at 11 p.m.