Friday, June 30, 2006

New illegal trade for Craigslist.com

San Francisco's Craigslist.com is being sued in Chicago for posting racist housing ads, it's been the focus of law enforcement or media exposes for helping prostitutes find customers in Boston, Seattle and Long Island, N.Y. And today the Orange County Register reports that people are buying illegal fireworks through Craigslist. The paper reports that police arrested a 27-year-old Newport Beach man who posted a Craigslist ad for illegal fireworks. Unlike newspapers, who have ad takers who screen out inappropriate ads, Craigslist lets users post their ads automatically, and then volunteers are supposed to review the ads after their posted for their legality. Apparently, Craigslist's system doesn't always work.

Hearsts aren't fans of TV's 'Deadwood'

The HBO Western "Deadwood" features actor Gerald McRaney (pictured) as George Hearst (1820-1891), the father of famed publisher William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951). George Hearst is portrayed as the biggest, meanest man in town. In one scene, he hacks off the finger of a saloonkeeper with a miner's pick. Mark McGuire, of the Hearst-owned Albany (N.Y.) Times Union, interviewed Hearst's descendants (including to top execs at his own paper) and found that most hated the show. Says Hearst Corp. chairman George Hearst Jr.: "There is no factual integrity in that type of programming." He's also not fond of the blast-furnace profanity that laces almost every lyrical utterance. "After nine years, five months and 29 days in the service (Army), I've heard all those words," he said. The chairman's son, George Hearst III, is watching -- "in the interest of staying informed." That, and because he's grown to like the show: "There are very colorful actors, and very good acting. I enjoy watching this show in spite of the crass language. It is entertaining." But Hearst III said people shouldn't mistake fiction for history. "The notion that ... (Hearst) is a darker type of soul than the rest of them in town is a stretch of the imagination," he said.

Singleton promises corporate philanthropy

MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton, whose company will own the San Jose Mercury News in four weeks, wants to follow in the footsteps of former owner Knight Ridder and Tony Ridder when it comes to philanthropy. According to Sal Pizarro's column in this morning's Merc, Singleton's $20,000 pledge to help sponsor the YWCA's annual luncheon on Nov. 2 with keynote speaker Mavis Leno, wife of ``Tonight Show'' host Jay Leno, increased the total raised for the event to $56,000. "MediaNews does believe in community involvement. We believe in giving back,'' Singleton said at a KR farewell party with Ridder in attendance.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Competitors may team up on Web site

MediaNews executives say they are discussing with Hearst Corp. a joint venture to begin a new Web site involving the online products of the Chronicle, Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and MediaNews publications in the Bay Area. That's according to a story in this morning's Contra Costa Times by George Avalos.

"We've talked conceptually about a joint venture to start up a new Web site, which would probably use the BayArea.com name," Joseph Lodovic, MediaNews president, told Avalos. "It's very preliminary. These are just exploratory discussions of things we could do together."

"That's news to us," said Peter Negulescu, vice president of digital media with SFGate, the Chronicle's current online operation.

Avalos said Hearst executives at the company's New York headquarters did not return a telephone call requesting a comment.

MediaNews's complex $1 billion purchase of four Knight Ridder newspapers includes $263 million in funds from Hearst Corp., which would go toward a stake in MediaNews's operations outside the Bay Area.

Other points in today's article:

• The sale of the Merc, CCTimes and other KR papers to MediaNews should be final in four weeks. The closing was originally set for June 27, but it was postponed when the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust division said it would need more time to complete its inquiry.

• The DOJ is concerned that MediaNews, which already owns the Tri-Valley Herald, will acquire the Valley Times. Both serve the Pleasanton-Livermore-Dublin-San Ramon area. DOJ guidelines prohibit one newspaper company from owning two dailies serving the same area in most cases. MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton suggested in today's article that the Herald could focus primarily on readers in the San Joaquin Valley, while the Times could concentrate on readers in Alameda County, San Ramon, Danville and Blackhawk.

• Singleton said "he will give his Bay Area publishers much more leeway in making entrepreneurial decisions than might have been the case in the more bureaucratic Knight Ridder structure."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Adviser removed from high school paper

The prinicipal at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill has removed the adviser to the student newspaper after it published controversial stories about student discipline, broken computers, teacher salaries and an ineffective job shadow program, according to the Contra Costa Times.

Adviser Andrew Nolan will remain on the school's staff as a teacher, but will only instruct English classes next year. Nolan worked as a staff writer on the UC Dvis student newspaper for three years and had hoped, when he landed the adviser job, that he could help the students take on more challenging stories than coverage of the prom.

While some stories were challenging at other times the paper made mistakes Nolan admitted were dumb, like running a staged picture of a fight between students.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said, "Some of those stories will be good stories, in the sense that they will contain accurate news and information about something important, though embarrassing ... And some of those stories will be dumb and wrong and highly offensive to certain people. But the first amendment requires that students be free to publish both the dumb stories with the good ones."

Teachers were disturbed by the principal's action. "I just think it's sending the wrong message," English teacher Joel Swett told the Coco Times. "It's discouraging us from doing our job."

At KR's HQ, only two people remain

Knight Ridder suite on the 15th and 16th floors of 50 W. San Fernando St. in San Jose has got to be a lonely place today. All employees were required to leave yesterday (June 27) by 4 p.m. The only two who will remain for a month are now former chairman Tony Ridder (pictured) and a receptionist. Here's a couple of stories about the final hours of Knight Ridder.

Lowell Bergman honored by Cal

Lowell Bergman (pictured), best known for his work investigating the tobacco industry for "60 Minutes" which inspired the movie "The Insider," has been named the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, the Chronicle reports. The $2 million endowment was seeded by a $1.5 million gift from Chicago philanthropists Reva and David Logan. Bergman, 60, has taught at Berkeley since 1991. In addition, Bergman is a reporter for the New York Times and won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for a series on worker safety in 2004. Bergman also produces stories for PBS's "Frontline." His new position accompanies an expansion of UC Berkeley's Investigative Journalism Program. (Photo by Craig Lee of the Chronicle.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

MediaNews willing to replace Hearst funds

MediaNews is ready to replace the $263 million it is getting from the Hearst Corp. to buy the Mercury News and other Knight Ridder papers if required by antitrust officials, according to a story in this morning's Merc.

MediaNews said it will "provide its own financing" for Hearst's part of the acquisition. MediaNews's stake in the deal is already leveraged. Of the $1 billion, $263 million is coming from Hearst. The rest, $737 million, will come from the California Newspaper Partnership, of which MediaNews owns a controlling 52.23 percent. Gannett and Stephens Media own the rest.

The $1 billion deal will give MediaNews a combined 727,284 daily circulation in the Bay Area compared to 398,246 for the Chron.

On June 20, McClatchy announced that while its purchase of Knight Ridder would be approved, and that closing would occur today (June 27) as scheduled, its planned sale of the Knight Ridder papers in Northern California to MediaNews was on hold until a decision by DOJ. According to MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton, DOJ wanted more information. "We've gathered data, we're still gathering some data, and we expect it to be done very soon,'' Singleton told the Merc on Monday. In the meantime, McClatchy is the owner of the Merc, Contra Costa Times, Palo Alto Daily News, Monterey Herald and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Dispatch.

Backfence tries a little 'shoe leather'

Mark Loundy, who has been hired recently to head up Backfence's Bay Area Web sites (first serving Palo Alto, then expanding to other Bay Area communities), told E&P's Steve Outing that a new community marketing manager will be spending lots of time giving presentations -- to chambers of commerce, parent-teacher organizations, etc. -- explaining what Backfence is about and why it's a good thing for people to use the company's sites to share news and information that's not covered by conventional local news media. "We're doing this the old-fashioned way," Loundy says, "with shoe leather."

PPC winners can order more plaques

Winners in the Peninsula Press Club's Greater San Francisco Bay Area Journalism contest can order additional plaques. Click here to download an order form, which can be faxed to (650) 372-0279. Deadline is July 1 (postmark). You can change the order of names or order a plaque from a past year. Call the Peninsula Press Club office if you have questions, (650) 341-7420. 

Monday, June 26, 2006

Legislation threatens local access channels

A bill in the Legislature, AB 2987, has drawn a lot of attention because it would allow phone companies to provide television to customers, creating competition to cable companies like Comcast. But AB2987 would also eliminate plans to create 86 digital video hubs in San Mateo County, sites from which live programming could be fed to local cable TV subscribers. Bob Marks, director of Peninsula TV, the county's local access station, says the bill would essentially eliminate the current franchise agreement with Comcast and reduce funding for channels like Peninsula TV. Reporter Susan Bohan of the San Mateo County Times interviewed Marks for this Q&A.

Corey Young, a reporter for the Argus-Courrier in Petaluma, writes that AB 2987 will hurt that community's public access station, known as PCA. It will also curtail TV service for low-income residents and possibly take away a city's ability to negotiate and obtain fees from TV providers. A state agency will be set up to negotiate TV contracts on behalf of cities, under AB 2987.

AB 2987 has already won approval in the state Assembly and now is before a Senate committee. The Sacramento Bee says the battle over the bill is the most expensive the Legislature has seen since electric deregulation.

Shareholders vote to sell Knight Ridder

The Mercury News reports that shareholders today have agreed to sell Knight Ridder to McClatchy Co. The votes were tallied this morning at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, next door to the soon-to-be-vacated KR headquarters. Eighty percent needed to vote for the sale and the number exceeds that percentage in preliminary tallies. The sale is scheduled to close at 4 p.m. Tuesday. [Reuters: Buyer for Wilkes-Barry Times Leader announced, last KR paper to be sold]

Knight relation 'shocked,' 'saddened'

As Tony Ridder prepares to sell Knight Ridder, many in the company have wondered what C.L. Knight and his son John S. Knight would have thought about it. The KR-owned Akron Beacon Journal interviewed Cynthia Knight, the widow of John Knight's son Lanny, who died in 2000 at age 75. "I was shocked and saddened that this marvelous empire that had begun here in Akron would no longer be,'' Cynthia Knight said. "(Bernard Ridder, Tony's father) and Jack (Knight) were of the same mind-set. They were dedicated to their empires,'' she said when asked her opinion of Knight Ridder's current management. "Other generations see things differently. That's as far as I'll go."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Chancellor takes life after stinging stories

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton (left), who had been the subject of a Chronicle series about perks and pay excesses in the UC system, jumped Saturday (June 25) from the roof of the 42-story Paramount apartment building (right) in San Francisco where her long time partner lived. The stories about Denton detailed the 2,600-square-foot house she was provided on the UC Santa Cruz campus, and the $600,000 in improvements she made -- and charged to the state. Included in those improvements was a $30,000 dog run. She was also at the center of scandal for hiring her longtime partner -- Gretchen Kalonji -- into a 192,000 a year job in the UC system. Kalonji has an apartment in the Paramount. The LA Times reported that Denton had been on a medical leave since June 15 but was scheduled to return to work on Monday. The Merc quoted sources as saying she recently had been "depressed and disengaged." [Chronicle story on her death] [Merc story] (Denton photo by Mike Kepka of the Chronicle; building photo by James Irwin, special to SFGate.com)

Ridder answers 9 questions from Miami

In his last week as chairman and chief executive of Knight Ridder, Tony Ridder answered questions from The Miami Herald, responding via e-mail to questions submitted in advance, on his lawyers' advice. He says he could have fought shareholders who wanted the company sold off, "but we were concerned about the effect a prolonged proxy fight would have on the company, which we knew would have been enormously destabilizing to our newspapers and Web sites." What would his father and grandfather, who built the company, say about his decision to sell? "I think they would understand how, given the circumstances, selling Knight Ridder was the right thing to do." What's your legacy? "Knight Ridder's legacy is outstanding journalism that has made a tremendous difference in all of our local communities and -- through our Washington Bureau -- nationally and internationally."

Bloggers converge on San Francisco

Peninsula free-lancer Chris Preimesberger, writing for eweek.com, covered the first day of a two-day convention of bloggers called BloggerCon IV at the CNet headquarters in SF's South of Market district. He said the bloggers were talking and blogging at the same time, discussing blogging tools, citizen journalism, blogging, standards for users, blogging and the emotional life of bloggers.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Ex-Ch. 2 GM Kevin O'Brien to head Ch. 20

The FCC on Friday (June 23) approved the sale of KBWB Channel 20 and a sister station in Detroit to an investor group led by former KTVU Channel 2 General Manager Kevin O'Brien (pictured) for $150 million. O'Brien is a legendary figure in San Francisco broadcasting, as this 2001 article by Chron TV writer John Carman attests.

O'Brien and now-retired Channel 2 news director Fred Zehnder built KTVU's "10'O Clock News" into a ratings powerhouse that was held out nationally as an example of how quality local TV news should be done. O'Brien paired anchors Dennis Richmond and Elaine Corral in 1986, and launched "Mornings on 2." O'Brien was instrumental in persuading KTVU parent Cox Broadcasting to buy a piece of the Giants in 1992 in an effort to stop the team from moving to Florida.

In late 2001, he took a job as president of Meredith Broadcasting, which owned 12 TV stations in markets such as Atlanta and Phoenix. Within a couple of years, he was credited with turning around a money-losing company. But on Sept. 23, 2004, one of the managers he supervised, who headed Meredith's Atlanta station, wrote a letter to O'Brien's boss accusing him of making negative comments to employees based on their race, sex and ethnicity. On Oct. 28, 2004, Meredith fired O'Brien. O'Brien denied all of the allegations and fought back in court. In May 2005, Meredith settled with O'Brien. Terms were not disclosed.

If O'Brien was a bigot, as some had claimed, then it was surprising that three months later an African-American owned company, Granite Broadcasting, would hire O'Brien as a consultant.

He led an effort at Granite to spin off its San Francisco and Detroit stations -- a move that would provide $190 million cash for Granite and allow some of Granite's shareholders to own a piece of the two stations, along with a consortium of investment groups. The proposed $180 million deal was originally disclosed in January, but it fell apart when the WB and UPN announced they were shutting down and would merge into The CW. Both the SF and Detroit stations were WB affiliates. The CW affiliations in Detroit and San Francisco were awarded to CBS-owned UPN stations.

The transaction approved by the FCC on Friday had a $150 million price tag -- $84.25 million for the Detroit station and $65.75 million for Channel 20 in SF. The buyer is DS Audible, a new company headed by O'Brien.

A footnote -- Jim Gabbert and Mike Lincoln sold Channel 20 to Granite in 1997 for $173.75 million. Gabbert now flys around on a Boeing 737 and does occassional talk-show shifts at KGO 810.

Commemorative T-shirts for KR employees

With the demise of Knight Ridder just days away, the blog Fort Wayne Observed, located in a city where KR owns a newspaper, is offering employees of the newspaper chain T-shirts that say "G'Knight" on one side and "Knothing Remains" on the other.

Chron reporter expects to avoid jail

Lance Williams (pictured) says he expects to avoid jail despite refusing to reveal his source of grand jury transcripts concerning the use of steroids by Barry Bonds and other star athletes. Williams, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, was back in his hometown Friday (June 24) to address the local SPJ chapter when Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Erardi asked him a few questions. “We think we will (be able to) find a judge to give us some relief,” Williams told Erardi. He also comments on e-mails that show steroid-maker Victor Conte probably leaked the transcripts to Williams' partner in the stories, Mark Fainaru-Wada: “(The e-mails show) a reporter trying to get information about an important case ... (Fainaru-Wada) is shaking every tree there is.” (Chronicle file photo by Mark Costantini.)

AP: KR's demise reflects sobering times ...

Here's a link to a story by Associated Press writer Michael Liedtke that explains the Knight Ridder soap opera for those who haven't been watching. CEO Tony Ridder, who used to be on the AP board of directors, declined AP's request to be interviewed for this story. But Liedtke points out that people's views of Ridder have changed from the days when he was viewed as "Darth Ridder" because he was trying to cut costs and boost profits to satisfy Wall Street. Liedtke quotes former Merc editor Jerry Ceppos as saying he thinks Ridder got a bum rap. "I never felt a lack of commitment or any wavering on the need to spend on quality journalism," said Ceppos. Jack Morton, the industry analyst who is always quoted in such stories, doubts another executive could have saved Knight Ridder. "Considering the hand Tony was dealt, he did about as good as he could," said Morton.

KR exec lands publisher job with McClatchy

Margaret Randanzzo, now a special assistant to three Knight Ridder executives at the company's headquarters in San Jose, has been named president and publisher of McClatchy Co.'s Modesto Bee. She will also oversee McClatchy's Merced Sun-Star. Her background is in accounting and she joined Knight Ridder when KR bought the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where she held a top management job.

'The San Francisco Call' going digital, online

You read that correctly. The San Francisco Call, which operated from 1856 to 1965, will soon have 100,000 of its pages digitized and added to the Library of Congress. Then the public will be able to view those pages online. That's according to Business First of Columbus, Ohio, which reports that the University of California, Riverside, has landed a $400,000 grant from the Library of Congress. The school has hired Online Computer Library Center Inc. of Dublin, Ohio., to scan the original bound editions.

According to the "Chronology of San Francisco Newspapers" by Jim W. Faulkinbury, the newspaper began in December 1856 as The Morning Call and was renamed the San Francisco Call in March 1895. In December 1913, the San Francisco Call merged with the Evening Post to become the San Francisco Call & Post. In Aug. 29 1929, it merged with the San Francisco Bulletin to become the Call Bulletin. In 1959, the Call Bulletin was merged with Scripps Howard's San Francisco News to become the News Call-Bulletin. In 1965, the paper merged with Hearst's San Francisco Examiner, and the News, Call and Bulletin names were dropped.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Ridder gets seat on McClatchy board

Tony Ridder won't be entirely out of the newspaper business when Knight Ridder sells its assets and closes on Tuesday. The Merc, quoting unidentified sources, says that the Knight Ridder chairman and chief executive will join the board of McClatchy Co., the Sacramento-based publisher that is buying Knight Ridder's 32 papers for $4.6 billion. The purchase agreement gives Knight Ridder two seats on the board. Who will fill the other seat is unknown. Ridder will be the second former Mercury News publisher on McClatchy's board -- the other is Larry Jinks, who was publisher from 1989-94.

Bronstein calls East Coast papers arrogant

Chron Editor Phil Bronstein, in an interview with MarketWatch's Jon Friedman, bristled at the attitude in New York and Washington newsrooms that his paper is a chronic under-achiever and not a particularly serious newspaper. "I have a similar view of THEM," Bronstein responded. He labeled them "insular" and "arrogant." Bronstein stressed that he'd prefer to edit a paper that was "interesting," not necessarily serious.

Fine asked Bronstein a great question -- Which San Francisco area stalwarts would he like to invite to a dinner party? His list included Ambrose Bierce, Mario Savio, Huey Newton, Sally Stanford, George Shultz, Carlos Santana, Will Hearst, Hunter Thompson, Amy Tan, Sandy Close, Julia Morgan, Lilllie Hitchcock-Coit, Daniel Handler, Dave Eggers, Cecil Williams, Harvey Milk, Nate Thurmond, Al Davis, Joe Alioto, John Keker, Francis Ford Coppola, Bill Graham, Peter Coyote, Bonnie Raitt and Mimi Silbert.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Technical glitch reveals reporter's e-mails

A technical glitch has revealed previously blacked out portions of a brief federal prosecutors filed yesterday in their attempt to force two Chronicle reporters to reveal their source of a grand jury transcript. The blacked out passages can be viewed by simply pasting the electronic document into a word processing program. The glitch was first discovered by New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein.

The blacked out portions of the brief appear to identify the Chronicle's source as Victor Conte Jr. (right), president of the lab that is alleged to have created the steroids that Barry Bonds and others used to enhance their performance.

The blacked out portions quote a number of e-mails between Chronicle reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada (left) and Conte. The e-mails were obtained by the feds in a raid of Conte's house. In one of the e-mails, Conte jokingly suggests that he should be placed on the newspaper's payroll in exchange for information about grand jury testimony.

The Sun's Gerstein mentions the technical flub in the eighth graf of his story published this morning, but doesn't go into any detail. But at 2 p.m. (Pacific) today (June 22), the New York Times posted on its Web site an extensive story by Adam Liptak about the once-redacted portions of the federal filing. It wasn't until 3:10 p.m. when the Chron posted its own story about the technical glitch at its sfgate.com Web site.

The Chronicle won't comment on the e-mails, but Editor Phil Bronstein thought it was "a little surprising and ironic" that the government, which is concerned about stopping grand jury leaks, didn't take more care to ensure that redacted information remained confidential.

The inadvertent disclosure raises a question -- why are the feds threatening these two reporters with jail if they already know who gave them the grand jury testimony?

UPDATE: At 2:07 p.m. Pacific, the AP moved its version of the story, saying that Conte was identified as "a source" of the grand jury transcripts.

UPDATE 2: At 3 p.m. Pacific, the Smoking Gun, a site that posts legal papers, posts its version, which begins: "In a remarkable Justice Department screw-up ..."

READ THE REDACTED PORTIONS OF THE BRIEF

• The New York Times has posted the entire brief of federal prosecutors as a PDF, with the redacted portions restored.

• Do it yourself. You can also download the redacted PDF brief from the Chronicle's web site. Find a blacked out portion of text and use the "Select" tool on the top tool bar to copy the blacked out portion of text. Then, using your cut-and-paste tools, open a blank document in your word processing program (Word, TextEdit, etc.) and paste the blacked out copy there.

KCBS wins four national Murrow awards

KCBS 740 has won four national Edward R. Murrow awards, the most of any station in the country. They were for overall excellence, use of sound, Web site and writing. In the radio category, the only other broadcasters to win four awards were networks -- CBS Radio News and ABC Radio News. In all, 55 news organizations won 80 awards out of an initial pool of 3,723 entries from 568 news organizations. No other radio or television station in the Bay Area received a national Murrow award.

In regional Murrow awards, KCBS won eight and KGO won two. KCBS won for continuing coverage (Hurricane Katrina), feature-hard news (Katrina's Wake), investigative reporting (Pot Clubs), news documentary (Hired Hands), overall excellence, use of sound (County Fair), Web site and writing. KGO-AM was honored for best newscast (KGO Morning News with Ed Baxter and Jennifer Jones) and sports reporting (Coach Carter). KFBK Sacramento won an award for news series. Northern California stations dominated the regional Murrow competition, winning 11 of 13 awards. The only Southern California stations to win were KFI-AM for spot news coverage of the Metrolink accident and KPCC-FM Pasadena for a feature story on psychedelic cancer treatment.

Bill stops censorship of college newspapers

The state Senate Education Committee on Thursday (June 21) unanimously approved legislation authored by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, prohibiting censorship of college student newspapers.

In a June 2005 decision, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court ruled that a college administrator in Illinois could require student editors of a state university’s newspaper to submit articles for prior review before the newspaper would be sent to the printer for publication. On Feb. 21, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the decision.

The case, known as Hosty v. Carter, prompted Christine Helwick, general counsel for the California State University system, to send a memo to presidents at each CSU campus that read, “The [Hosty] case appears to signal that CSU campuses may have more latitude than previously believed to censor the content of subsidized student newspapers.”

Assemblyman Yee's bill, AB 2581, would ensure such free speech protections for college publications, specifically prohibiting censorship of student newspapers at any UC, CSU, or community college, according to a press release from Yee's office. The bill would also prohibit any college, university or community college officials from disciplining a student who engages in speech or press activities.

“AB 2581 is essential in order for student newspapers in California to have the free speech protections they deserve,” Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said in the release. “Although we will continue to push for the Supreme Court to validate the rights of college newspapers, in California we are taking the proactive steps to make sure similar censorship does not occur at our colleges and universities.”

AB 2581 must be approved by the full Senate before heading to the Governor’s desk.

Gillmor wishes Ridder had bought the Merc

Metro, the San Jose alt-weekly, caught up with ex-Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor (pictured) and asked him a lot of questions about blogs, blogging, the blogosphere, etc. Perhaps the most interesting exchange in the Q&A was at the end.

    Metro: You famously suggested that Yahoo buy the Mercury News. Why do you think no local bidders came to the table?

    Gillmor: Famously? The L.A. Times said (paraphrasing) that the suggestion sank almost without a trace. I can't judge others' motives. But I'd guess that the valley powers-that-be (the real ones) consider the local newspaper business uninteresting if not ridiculous.

    I do think it's a shame that Tony Ridder obeyed his lawyers (OK, he had little choice) when they basically ordered him not to pursue a local buyout of the Merc while the Knight Ridder sale was under way.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Feds ask judge to make reporters talk

In papers filed today (June 21), federal prosecutors said a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling gives the government the right to force two Chronicle reporters, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams (both pictured), to divulge their source of a grand jury transcript in the Barry Bonds steroids case. "On a record similar to the one in this case, the court held that the public interest in effective law enforcement outweighed the uncertain adverse effects from requiring those few reporters who have evidence of a crime to give evidence,'' wrote Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian Hershman and Michael Raphael. The government had sought the information from "all reasonable sources'' before issuing subpoenas to the reporters. The Chron's Bob Egelko detailed the new filings on sfgate.com this afternoon. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White has scheduled a hearing for Aug. 4 on whether to enforce the subpoenas. If the judge decides to enforce the subpoenas, and the reporters may face jail time if they continue to refuse to reveal their source.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

DOJ review delays finalization of local sales

The U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust review of the MediaNews purchase of the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times will extend past the previously announced closing date for the sale. Knight Ridder plans to sell its 32 newspapers to McClatchy Co. on Tuesday, June 27. McClatchy then planned to sell the Merc and CCTimes, along with other papers, on the same day. McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt said in March he was hoping for a "simultaneous closing." But reporter Pete Carey of the Merc reports this afternoon (June 20) "That deal is still under antitrust review, and appears certain to run past next week's sale date for all of Knight Ridder."

That would suggest that McClatchy will own the Merc, CCTimes and other Knight Ridder assets in Northern California from next Tuesday until the MediaNews deal closes.

Carey reports, "The Justice Department is continuing to review MediaNews' $1 billion plan to purchase the four papers, and is specifically looking at overlaps between the Contra Costa Times and MediaNews' Tri-Valley Herald. It is also reviewing the involvement of Hearst in the MediaNews purchase, because Hearst owns the San Francisco Chronicle, which competes with MediaNews in the Bay Area. Hearst is spending $263 million for the Monterey County Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, but will trade the two papers to MediaNews in exchange for a stake in MediaNews' assets outside the Bay Area."

Carey also reports that DOJ has cleared McClatchy's sale of Knight Ridder, which was expected. McClatchy indicated it had DOJ approval in a June 14 in a press release. The one string the DOJ put on that approval was that McClatchy had to promise in writing that it would sell the St. Paul Pioneer Dispatch, since McClatchy owns Minneapolis Star Tribune, and owning both would apparently create an antitrust violation.

More contests to consider entering

The PPC gets mail from other organizations offering awards to journalists. We're passing along information on two such contests:

• The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society, is now accepting entries for the 2006 AAAS Science Journalism Awards. Deadline is Aug. 1. Contest year is July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006. Each winner will receive $3,000, to be presented at the AAAS Annual Meeting in February 2007 in San Francisco. The winners' Annual Meeting travel and lodging expenses will be covered by AAAS. The association is encouraging reporters at small daily and weekly papers to enter the contest this year. Please visit http://www.aaas.org/aboutaaas/awards/sja/index.shtml.

• The International Policy Network is offering a $10,000 prize to "writers whose published works promote the institutions of a free society: limited government, rule of law brokered by an independent judiciary, protection of private property, free markets, free speech, and sound science." Deadline is June 30. Please visit http://www.policynetwork.net.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Bay Area alt-weeklies win national awards

The East Bay Express and the Monterey County Weekly won first place awards in their circulation categories from the American Association of Alternative Weeklies, which held its annual convention in Little Rock, Ark., over the weekend. The association has a two-step procedure for presenting awards. First, the nominees in each category are announced. Then, at the group's annual convention, the order of finish in each category is revealed. The Bay Area winners are:

    • Arts Feature — First Place (circulation 50,000+), David Downs of the East Bay Express for "Roboscalper," about a computer that screws would-be concert-goers out of tickets.

    • Format Buster — First Place (circulation under 50,000), Jessica Lyons of Monterey County Weekly, "It's Our Water — The Heroic History of Measure W."

    • Food Writing — Third Place (under 50,000), Ella Lawrence of the North Bay Bohemian.

    • Music criticism — Third Place (50,000+), Rob Harvilla of the East Bay Express for columns headlined "Down in Front: The Titmaster Tommy Lee," "Race Against Rockism," and "Powerpop for Now People."

    • Cover Design — Third Place (50,000+), Darrick Rainey of the SF Weekly for "San Francisco Dog Court," "My Dinner with White Supremacists," and "Rise of the Podcasting People."

    • Format Buster —Third Place (50,000+), Tommy Craggs of the SF Weekly for "Remembering Our Camelot."

    • Investigative Reporting — Third Place (50,000+), A.C. Thompson of the Bay Guardian for "The Fall Guy."

    • Editorial Layout — Honorable Mention (under 50,000), Monterey County Weekly, "Inside Eden"

    • Feature story — Honorable Mention (50,000+), Will Harper of the East Bay Express for "A Man Named Sue," a profile of a vexatious litigant.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Control of newspapers going private

Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post says that the breakup of Knight Ridder is sparking interest in the idea of taking newspapers private -- out of the hands of Wall Street investors -- and into the hands of local business people. McClatchy Co., spun off 12 of the 32 Knight Ridder papers that it bought. Eleven of the 12 were bought by private owners. Dean Singleton, whose MediaNews bought KR papers in the Bay Area and St. Paul, Minn., said that with private ownership, shareholders are off your back, which allows management to take risks.

Journalism scholarships announced

Laura Fong, of Lowell High School in San Francisco, is one of 12 graduating high school students who will receive four-year scholarships of $25,000 each from the Asian American Journalists Association. The AAJA has given a total of $1.2 million to more than 500 students nationally and through its local chapters. Here is a complete list of this year's recipients.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Free newspaper theft bill advances

Legislation making it a misdemeanor to steal more than 25 copies of a free newspaper in California has been unanimously approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee and is now headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the California Newspaper Publishers Association's Legislative Bulletin. However, Sen. Carol Migden, D-San Francisco, and Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, were concerned that the bill could result in the prosecution of homeless people who use newspapers for warmth outdoors. They succeeded in getting the committee amend the bill to clarify that the law only applies to the "current issue" of a newspaper.

In 2002, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (pictured) stole copies of the Nov. 4 edition of the UC Berkeley student newspaper the Daily Californian which carried an endorsement of his opponent, Shirley Dean, one day before the election. Four students reported seeing Bates take the papers from Sproul Plaza, birthplace of the free speech movement. The theft didn't become public until after the election, which Bates won. Bates later apologized but refused to resign. At first it wasn't clear whether Bates would be prosecuted because no statutes existed dealing specifically with the theft of free products, but the Alameda County District Attorney's office countered that the papers had value since they contained paid advertising. In a plea bargain, Bates pleaded guilty to an infraction (a charge lower than a misdemeanor) and paid a $250 fine.

Craigslist CEO offers advice to newspapers

Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist, tells Wall Street Journal writer Brian M. Carney that the "demise of the newspaper has been overstated." In Buckmaster's view, newspapers would be better off being a little more like Craigslist: Go private, eschew Wall Street's demands for continually "goosing profitability" and give readers what they want.

Another point Carney makes: Newspaper executives, angry at how many classifieds they've lost to Craigslist, question why Craigslist doesn't charge for most of its ads (job ads in certain cities including SF are an exception). They wonder if Craigslist is run by "communists," as Carney put it. Buckmaster says Craigslist is more comfortable charging businesses, which pay with pre-tax dollars, than individuals, who pay with after tax dollars. Denying money to the government is hardly communistic.

The interview for this story is done in Buckmaster's "Spanish-style townhouse in San Francisco," and while most stories about Craigslist focus on founder Craig Newmark, this one is exclusively about the views of Buckmaster, who is CEO, CFO and COO of Craigslist. (WSJ illustration of Buckmaster by Ismael Roldan.)

This week, Craigslist will increase the number of cities it serves from 150 to 300, the story says. The site currently has more than 10 million visitors per month. Revenues run at $25 million a year and it's been in the black since 1999. If Craigslist ran a few banner ads, it could probably take in $500 million a year, the article says.

Friday, June 16, 2006

KQED news staffer quits City Council

David Gorn has resigned from the Half Moon Bay City Council because he said his council job had caused a conflict with his other job as deputy news director at KQED-FM, and his family was suffering for it. According to columnist John Horgan of the San Mateo County Times, Gorn said his supervisors at the public radio station limited the topics he could report on, including the California Coastal Commission, because of conflict-of-interest concerns. Gorn said he was forced to support his two children ever since. Gorn joined the council in April 2005 and his term was to expire in November 2007. Horgan noted that "slow growth" environmentalists on the coast believe they have lost a crucial ally with Gorn's departure.

SF Weekly looks at KNBR ownership change

For the second time in three weeks, a newspaper has done a major story on KNBR 680, the all-sports station. On May 29, the Chronicle's Tom FitzGerald looked at the station's relationship with the Giants. Today (May 16), the SF Weekly's Martin Kuz examines the station as it changes ownership. Kuz interviews Bruce Macgowan, John Shrader and Bob Agnew, all of whom used to work at the station. The story also hints at ratings problems for the station that is traditionally strong in the prized demographic of men ages 25 to 54. Kuz only touches upon perhaps the best known gaffe at KNBR in memory -- the failure of the microphone of Giants announcer Dave Fleming when Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run to pass Babe Ruth. Kuz writes that "the early reign of [KNBR's] new owners suggests a parent company struggling to adapt to big-market radio."

East Bay Express admits using fake byline

Steven Buel, editor of the East Bay Express for the past five years, has admitted in an "editor's note" that he put a fake byline on an article that ranked various reporters for the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and the Alameda Newspaper Group in case jobs are cut when the papers are combined under the same ownership. Buel writes, "The article was my idea and I’ll take responsibility for that, but I regret not killing it when the writer demanded no byline at the last minute. It was chickens*** for us to call people out by name when we weren’t willing to sign our own name to our criticisms. My fault." The byline he used was "Jimmy Olsen," who is well known to people over 50 as a member of the same news team that included Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Perry White.

In his editor's note, Buel said he also blew it by not getting ANG's comment on any of the stories the Express published May 31. That issue was devoted to the sale of the Knight Ridder papers in the Bay Area to Dean Singleton's Alameda News Group. Buel said that, as a remedy, the Express interviewed ANG Executive Editor Kevin Keane in its May 14 issue.

Finally, Buel writes, "I am truly sorry that we did not call attention to some of the good work done by reporters at ANG. Since Keane arrived a few years ago, I believe the overall quality of its papers is improved. Many of their reporters do a fine job on tight deadlines, and some of their coverage — Douglas Fischer on our growing chemical “Body Burden,” Ian Hoffman on Alameda County’s computerized voting machines, Sean Holstege and Jill Tucker on the Bay Bridge welding scandal — has been truly noteworthy."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

June 2006 Press Club board minutes

Call to order at 6:25 p.m.

Meeting was brought to order by Board President Micki Carter at 6:23 p.m.

Board members Peter Cleaveland, Jon Mays, Ed Remitz and Executive Director Darryl Compton were present.

Board members Aimee Lewis Strain, Jack Russell, John Kane, Dave Price and Jamie Casini were absent.

The minutes of the May meeting were approved.

The treasurer's report was approved.

Old business

Professional journalism contest. It was agreed that the awards banquet went well overall. Discussion centered on some improvements such as: Awarding third place awards instead of honorable mention and removing the possibility of multiple honorable mentions; awarding by category and not by division to keep award presentations dispersed throughout the evening rather than grouped in one time; asking for pdfs of the entries rather than tear sheets; increasing outreach to the Mercury News so more award winners show up; possibly moving the dinner to Saturday so it does not conflict with production and ease with travel for those outside the Peninsula.

Scholarship committee. Some improvements were noted for the scholarship contest next year with some discussion centered on how best to split the award categories. It was agreed to bring up the discussion at an upcoming board meeting with more members present.

Summer picnic date was set for Sunday, Aug. 27

No reportable action on Bench/Bar Media

Christmas party was set for either Dec. 6 or Dec. 13.

New business

Carter reported Diana Diamond wants to join the board, yet there are no available slots.

Remitz reported on CNPA's Journalism Days 2006 in Palo Alto and that there was an offer for the PPC to co-sponsor the event with no strings attached.

The meeting was adjourned by Carter at 7:25 p.m.

Minutes submitted by secretary Jon Mays.

DOJ extends probe of Merc, CCTimes sales

The U.S. Department of Justice plans to take more time to investigate MediaNews Group's proposed purchase of the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times from McClatchy Co., according to a press release McClatchy posted on its Web site Wednesday (June 14). DOJ told McClatchy it also needs more information about the sale of the two papers. The release wasn't specific about the information the government is seeking. Nor was there any mention about whether the June 27 closing date would change. However, the expansion of the inquiry would not affect the sale of Knight Ridder to McClatchy, the release said. "We are moving diligently to provide the requested additional information and are working to close the MediaNews transaction as quickly as possible," Karole Morgan-Palmer, McClatchy vp and general counsel, said in the release. Meanwhile, McClatchy's sale of Knight Ridder's Philadelphia newspapers got a green light from DOJ.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Palo Alto editor hired by competitor

Two months after she was fired by the Palo Alto Daily News, Diana Diamond has taken a job with the Palo Alto Weekly as a columnist and blogger. The Weekly has frequently criticized the Daily News for practicing yellow journalism, but in a statement Weekly publisher Bill Johnson and Editor Jay Thorwaldson both said they felt it was important to retain Diamond's "often controversial voice in the community."

"Diana and I began talking about something like this since shortly after she left the Daily News," Thorwaldson said. "We've been friends for years, and I look forward to working with her in maintaining her presence in the community. Even though we don't always reach the same conclusions about community issues, she is knowledgeable, asks penetrating questions and writes thought-provoking columns," he said. "We hope and assume her columns and blogs will be a catalyst for instructive community discussion on a range of local issues."

Diamond's arrival at the Weekly comes as both papers are improving their Web sites to deal with competition from Backfence.com, which has community news and discussion sites in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and is opening a site for Palo Alto. Last November, the Daily News launched a community forum for readers to post comments and discuss issues and a week ago the Weekly created its own forum. Backfence also relies heavily upon reader contributions. Both Thorwaldson and Diamond will have blogs on the Weekly site while former Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor is already blogging for Backfence.

Backfence opens Palo Alto news site

Backfence, the company that has created "do-it-yourself" community news sites in Maryland and Virginia today (June 14) launched one for Palo Alto. The site says it gets news "by going directly to the best source of information: the community members themselves."

Daniel Payomo Jr., former advertising vp for the San Francisco Examiner and Independent newspapers, is general manager of Backfence for the Bay Area. He has also held executive and management positions at the Mercury News, AOL’s Digital City and eTour.

Backfence plans to have sections devoted to summer camps, a guide to real estate professionals, places of worship and a directory of business services. Restaurant reviews are on the first page of the site -- so far there's 4 stars for Peninsula Creamery and 5 stars for Buca di Beppo. The site also has an ad for a local advertising sales person -- for Backfence. On the Backfence sites out east, perhaps the most popular feature is a gallery of photos contributed by readers. This site has that same capability.

To compete with Backfence, the Palo Alto Weekly has redesigned its Web site and added a blog by editor Jay Thorwaldson and a weblog like the one the Palo Alto Daily News launched in November. The Daily News has said it plans to redesign its Web site, too.

Student press association fires top 2 execs

The National Scholastic Press Association, which organized April's high school journalism convention in San Francisco, has fired its executive director, Tom Rolnicki, and its associate director, Ann Akers, due to a lack of adequate financial controls in the nonprofit's organization. Rolnicki "failed to exercise necessary care and prudence in managing financial processes, expense reimbursements and federal tax filings," a statement from the association said. Chris Worthington, former managing editor and former business and technology editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, has been appointed NSPA's interim Executive Director.

Online contest deadline is Thursday

Thursday, June 15, is the deadline for the national Online Journalism Awards sponsored by the Online News Association. Categories include public service, general excellence, breaking news, speciality journalism, investigative journalism, service journalism, online commentary, outstanding use of multiple media and student journalism. Entries can be submitted online, of course.

Burkle now sets his sights on LA Times

Billionaire Ron Burkle, who has fought in the courts and in the legislature to reduce access to public records, is one of three investors who is reportedly interested in buying the Los Angeles Times from the Tribune Co., which is looking to shed some of its assets. LA Times Staff Writer Joseph Menn reports this morning (June 14) that Burkle along with former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth and homebuilding tycoon Eli Broad are interested in either buying the paper or see it in local hands. While Times publisher Jeff Johnson says the paper isn't for sale, a rift between the Tribune co. and its second-largest shareholder, the Chandler family of Los Angeles, former owners of the Times, has put the paper in play. Burkle attempted to buy the Knight Ridder newspapers McClatchy put on the market on behalf of the newspaper Guild. In 2005, he had his employees buy every copy available of an edition of the Los Angeles Business Times that detailed his divorce case, preventing the public from reading the newspaper. He also fought unsuccessfully in the courts to have financial information in his divorce case sealed. He also unsuccessfuly attempted twice to get the state Legislature to pass laws sealing such information. Burkle made headlines when he had his security staff videotape a New York Post gossip column freelancer who allegedly attempted to blackmail him. So far, authorities have not charged the writer.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

2 local stories make Casey Center's list

The Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families didn't award any medals to Bay Area journalists this year, but two received honorable mentions. Jondi Gumz of the Santa Cruz Daily Sentinel received an honorable mention in the single story category for papers under 75,000 circulation for her piece headlined "Amazing Journey: How a teacher and $1,000 changed Maria Rodriguez's life." The Casey judges said Gumz's story was a "deft combination of both reporting and writing. The reporter didn’t just tell readers why the college-bound program is worthwhile, she showed them." In the non-daily newspaper category, the Jonathan Kaminsky of the East Bay Express received an honorable mention for his story headlined "Wounded Warriors." The judges said it was "[a]n insightful, unflinching look at a football team in a bleak neighborhood, the story shed light on the challenges the players and the coaches face and captured the difficulty of giving hope to teenagers who need it." Newspapers receiving Casey medals this year included the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, Christian Science Monitor, Rocky Mountain News, Balitmore Sun and Memphis Commercial Appeal among others.

Mixed decision in paper's suit for records

A judge has denied a request by the Palo Alto Weekly for reports written by an outside investigator about a scandal that rocked the Palo Alto city Utilities Department, resulting in the discipline of 19 employees including six who lost their jobs. The employees were accused of doing private jobs for homeowners, often using city equipment, while on the clock for the city. Judge Kevin McKenney granted two of the paper's requests -- for documents regarding time-card falsification and personnnel records for each employee "disciplined for inadequate or abusive management." But two reports written by an outside investigator are to be kept confidential due to attorney-client privilege. According to the Palo Alto Daily News, the Weekly requested 1,900 pages of documents and the judge released just 25 pages, or about 1 percent. Weekly publisher Bill Johnson called the ruling a "split decision" and said he is considering an appeal. The Weekly said up front that it wouldn't seek the names of the employees who were disciplined, and the judge agreed the paper wouldn't be getting that information.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Scheer sees ironic twist to chasing leaks

Peter Scheer of the California First Amendment Coalition notes that it is ironic the U.S. Justice Department, along with several media organizations, is paying a settlement to Wen Ho Lee, who accused the government of leaking damaging information about him to the press. Scheer points out that this is the same Justice Deparment that is currently investigating leaks to the New York Times and Washington Post, and has indicated that news organizations could be prosecuted criminally for stories based on leaked national security information. Scheer, a journalist and an attorney, views the $1.6 million settlement with Lee to be a victory for the press, and he points out that he media is not without blame in this case.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bonds withdraws suit against Chron

The lawsuit Barry Bonds (pictured) filed against the San Francisco Chronicle, two of its reporters, Sports Illustrated and Gotham Books has quietly been withdrawn, the Mercury News reports. The suit wasn't a libel action but rather a complaint under California's unfair business practices laws, claiming the defendants would be unfairly enriched by using stolen grand jury transcripts. The Chron has argued that when it comes to using stolen grand jury transcripts, the ends justifies the means, in that the benefit of the stories exceeds the harm done by breaking the law.

The suit was all but dead on March 24 when San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren refused Bonds' request to appoint a receiver to monitor book sales and take custody of all profits, according to the Chronicle's account of that hearing. The judge said he saw no justification for any such action and said he feared the lawsuit would raise "serious First Amendment issues."

Bonds' attorney who filed the suit and then withdrew it was Allison Berry Wilkinson.

Another attorney for Bonds, Michael Rains, told the New York Daily News that his client will cooperate with a Congressional investigation into baseball and steroids if Bonds is assured that his testimony is not used by prosecutors, who are now investigating him for perjury. "I'd like Barry to cooperate with Sen. Mitchell," Bonds' attorney, Michael Rains, told the Daily News in New York. "We believe Sen. [George] Mitchell will be fair, thorough and impartial. But here's the problem: Anything that happens there can become fodder for the federal government and for another book that will make reporters rich."

Union puts best face on KR sales

Newspaper Guild President Linda Foley (pictured) is questioning whether her union's bids to buy the 12 Knight Ridder newspapers McClatchy put up for sale, including the San Jose Mercury News, received the same consideration as those of other bidders. But in an interview with the Akron Beacon Journal, one of 12 KR papers that will be sold next month, Foley conceded that the other bidders "were willing to pay more." Foley said the union's bids, while unsuccessful, will shape the process of employees will buy businesses in the future.

The union teamed up with Yucaipa Companies, the investment banking arm of Ron Burkle, a billionaire who has attempted to reduce access to California court records and last year had his employees buy every copy of Los Angeles Business Journal so the public couldn't see details of his divorce.

Foley said the union spent $175,000 to retain Duff & Phelps Securities LLC. of Chicago and Ownership Associates Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., to advise it on what are commonly called ESOPs, or employee stock ownership programs. Other costs involved in the union's bids weren't disclosed in the story.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Craig says legislation would destroy his firm

Craig Newmark of SF-based Craigslist says his company would be destroyed by legislation passed by the House Thursday that would allow Internet service providers to play favorites among different Web sites. In order to have people easily find your Web site, you'd have to pay the ISPs and telecoms millions. Here's how Newmark explained it in a commentary posted on CNN's news site: "Let's say you call Joe's Pizza and the first thing you hear is a message saying you'll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away. That's not fair, right? You called Joe's and want some Joe's pizza. Well, that's how some telecommunications executives want the Internet to operate, with some Web sites easier to access than others. For them, this would be a money-making regime." Telecoms and ISPs say they'd be fair to all Web sites, but Newmark isn't so sure. The bill now goes to the Senate. He's encouraging people to organize against this legislation and contact their Senators. [A second op-ed by Newmark appeared in Sunday's Chronicle, this one comparing the proposed legislation to attempts to shut down Gutenberg's first printing press.]

KR to take trip down memory lane

Pete Carey of the Mercury News says that Knight Ridder is preparing a commemorative video and booklet for each of its 18,000 employees before the company closes on June 27. Each Knight Ridder paper will carry a farewell message from chairman and CEO Tony Ridder (pictured). In addition, staff at KR's San Jose headquarters will have a "community service day" sprucing up a YWCA child care center. "The company says it wants to go out celebrating its values and history, rather than vanishing in silence as some news groups have done following a merger or breakup," Carey's story says.

Singleton takes over as local publisher

It looks like MediaNews chief executive Dean Singleton (pictured) will personally manage the newspapers he owns and will soon acquire in the Bay Area. A story in Saturday's Contra Costa Times by Geoge Avalos said that Fred Mott, publisher of the Alameda Newspaper Group, has "left" the company, and will be replaced by Singleton. Avalos said MediaNews had no comment Friday on the reasons for Mott's departure. Mott started at ANG in December 2005 after retiring following a 26-year with Knight Ridder. Mott replaced John Schueler, who was ANG publisher for 14 months, from July 2004 to September 2005.

Singleton's decision to appoint himself as publisher is consistent with the report in May that he planned to buy a second home in the Bay Area, while maintaining his main residence in Denver, because he planned to spend a lot of time here. "The newspaper industry is undergoing a monumental sea change, and we hope to make the Bay Area a model for what our industry's future will be," Singleton said in the statement.

The CCTimes story indicated that Singleton will keep his other jobs as chief executive officer and vice chairman of MediaNews. ANG includes the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, Fremont Argus and other Bay Area newspapers. MediaNews' acquisition of Knight Ridder's CCTimes, Mercury News, Palo Alto Daily News Group, Monterey Hearld and other assets is supposed to close in July.

Friday, June 9, 2006

NY Times reviews Hearst's new HQ

As the Chron considers selling is Fifth and Mission offices and leasing space elsewhere in SF, its parent, Hearst Corp., has opened a 46-story office tower in New York that received a glowing review from The New York Times this morning (June 9). Reviewer Nicolai Ouroussoff gushes: "This 46-story tower may be the most muscular symbol of corporate self-confidence to rise in New York since the 1960's, when Modernism was in full bloom, and most Americans embraced technological daring as a sure route to social progress." What will it be like to work at headquarters? "[M]ost offices have sweeping views to the north and south. The building's exterior diamond-shaped pattern results in lovely canted glass walls in the corners of each floor that serve as communal areas for office employees. On the top level a corporate dining room offers a view to the east framed by two-story-tall triangular braces."

Craigslist used to push prostitution in NY

San Francisco-based Craigslist.com is being used on Long Island to promote prostitution, police say. Nassau police have been monitoring the site and made five arrests this week. Newsday.com has the details. Craig Newmark (pictured) didn't respond to Newsday for comment, the paper said. Newsday notes that "Craigslist has long been criticized for allowing unmonitored, and in some cases illegal ads, to be posted. Arrests stemming from sex ads posted there are occurring across the country." Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, is quoted as saying that Craigslist isn't liable for what appears on its site under federal law.

Thursday, June 8, 2006

'Hyperlocal' site days away from launch

Backfence.com, which operates four "hyperlocal" web sites in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., says it is just days away from launching a similiar site in Palo Alto. The Internet company had previously said it was launching here in May. But President and CEO Susan DeFife and Executive VP Mark Potts said in a statement posted last night: "We have undertaken a major redesign of our user interface and product functionality in preparation for our launch, and you can see the early results of that in the Backfence communities in Washington, D.C. We’ve hired some of our key team members in the Bay Area, and we’re now gathering content for our opening, which we anticipate being just a few days away." They've hired former Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor as one of their writers. The site will combine news, items posted by readers, event listings, classifed and display ads and photo galleries by readers.

Chron settles suit over mislabled photo

He isn't saying how much he was paid, but San Francisco cab driver Jack Neeley (right) has settled his lawsuit against the Chronicle, which ran his picture and identified him as Sgt. John Haggett, who had been accused of brutality. (In a file photo from January, Police Chief Heather Fong (left) holds up the page from the Chronicle showing Neeley.) Neeley's lawyer, Daniel Bacon, said today (June 8): "My client is very pleased and satisfied with the settlement." Neeley had complained that his life had been turned upside down because people were accusing him of being Sgt. Haggett. The Chronicle has refused to say how the error occurred, who committed the error or what was done to prevent it from happening again. But KGO-TV said tonight that Chron editor Phil Bronstein might make a statement about the error on Friday. [Chron's report] [KGO's report by Vic Lee] [Bay City News report] [Statement by Neeley's attorney]

Former publisher in run-off for supervisor

Tracie Cone, former owner and editor of the Hollister Pinnacle newspaper, will be in a run-off in November for a seat on the San Benito County Board of Supervisors against incumbent Reb Monaco. Neither candidate in a three-way race received more than 50 percent, which was necessary to win the seat Tuesday. Cone, in her first run for elected office, came within 41 votes of the incumbent, not including absentee ballots which still must be counted. Monaco had 652 votes (36.53%), Cohn had 611 (34.23%) and John Hodges had 520 (29.13%). Cone, 48, quit her job as a Mercury News staff writer in 1999 and bought The Pinnacle in Hollister. She sold it in 2004 to MainStreet Media, which has acquired other nearby papers including the Gilroy Dispatch. She stayed on for a year as publisher before a family health crisis caused her to quit. She said that when the health issue cleared up, she decided to run. The run-off is Nov. 7.

Judge stops release of Marin County salaries

It took several months of pressure by the public and the press, but the Marin County Supervisors in March dropped a policy that kept secret the salaries of most county government employees. But now a union representing some of those employees has convinced Marin Superior Court Judge Vernon Smith to impose a temporary restraining order to block the release of those salaries until a June 29 hearing, according to the Marin Independent Journal. The question is whether the employees had an expectation of privacy. "The union says the data was never disclosed, the IJ says routinely and the county of Marin says occasionally — we need a full evidentiary hearing and discovery to determine the true facts,” said Donald Ramsey, attorney for the Marin County Management Employees Association, a union representing about 300 county middle managers. The privacy question came up last year when the Contra Costa Times sued the city of Oakland after it refused to release the names and salaries of workers who make over $100,000 a year. The CCTimes won at trial, and appeals court upheld the verdict, and now the case is before the state Supreme Court.

Radio's Ken Berry returning to SF

Radio and Records is reporting that Ken Berry, who held a number of posts at ABC's KGO-AM from 1980 to 2001 including news director, is returning to San Francisco to serve as program director of ABC's KSFO-AM. Berry assumes programming duties that have previously been handled by Jack Swanson, who will continue in his role as Operations Director for both KSFO and News/Talk clustermate KGO, according to Radio and Records. “It’s great to be back with [ABC Radio/San Francisco President/GM] Mickey Luckoff and Jack Swanson," Berry says. "They have built an incredible radio station in KSFO and it’s an honor to be a part of the operation. KSFO is one of the great success stories in radio and I’m delighted to be joining such a powerful and dynamic radio station.”

Alice's morning show No. 1 in key demo

The Spring Arbitron radio ratings are out for the San Francisco and San Jose markets, and it's no surprise that KGO remains No. 1 followed by KOIT-FM, KCBS-AM, Classical KDFC, and urban KMEL-FM. Those have been the top 5 stations for a long time. But in the key 25-54 demographic, CBS-owned Alice Radio (KLLC-FM, 97.3) is now No. 1 in the morning drive with the show "Sarah and No Name." Brad Kava of the Merc writes that “Sarah and No Name” have filled the void left by Howard Stern, who departed for satellite radio last fall. Kava also says Alice has benefited from an improved playlist that's younger and hipper. Station manager Greg Nemitz tells Kava that Alice is oriented "more toward more of a Marina [district] professional who is 32, rather than a soccer mom."

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Bay Guardian site knocked out on 6-6-6

Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond says a "denial of service" attack appears to have shut down his paper's Web site on primary election day (June 6) -- a day when voters might be checking the paper's endorsements before they go to the polls. The left-wing Daily Kos blog did a poll of its readers, and 48% percent (54 readers, as of 10 a.m. on June 7) felt the outage was due "probably (to) Republican election malfeasance and interference." The 6-6-6 prophecy was second with 25 votes. Third, with 22 votes, was the opinion that it was just a normal technical issue. The outage would have forced those wishing to reference the Guardian's endorsements to get a printed copy of the newspaper.

Willie Jurado, Filipino paper publisher, dies

Willie Jurado, founder of The Eye International Newspaper and of The Philippine National Press Club, died Friday at his home in Daly City at age 85. Carmen C. Hernandez, writing on the ABS-CBN News web site, says Jurado had a distinguished career in journalism and public service that spanned 60 years. "He took the most pride in being a hard-hitting journalist who edited and published the groundbreaking The Eye tabloid," she wrote.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

John London, others sue CBS, Penn Jillette

Three personalities who were fired by Free FM 106.9, including afternoon host John London (left), have filed suit against station owner CBS and magician Penn Jillette (right), also a host on the station, according to a press release issued by the plaintiff's lawyers today (June 6). London and co-hosts Dennis Cruz and Chris Townsend claim in the suit they were fired after they defended Mother Teresa from comments made by Jillette. Jillette said on his April 7 show that Mother Teresa had a "weird kink that I think was sexual about seeing people suffer and die." London, whose program followed Jillette's, offered $5,000 to any listener who killed Jillette, and an additional $2,000 "if there's some suffering attached to it." When Jillette heard what London had said, he called CBS radio president Joel Hollander and demanded that he fire the three. The three claim they each had a "no-cut" contract that ran through Oct. 19, 2007. The trio's attorney, Stephen Bickford of the law firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott, said he found it ironic that the head of CBS Radio would "support Jillette's trashing of Mother Teresa over those wishing to defend her through a humorous spoof, especially since Jillette preaches the gospel of free speech. I guess he's in favor of free speech for himself, but not for others."

Monday, June 5, 2006

Alt-weeklies nominated for prizes

The East Bay Express today (June 5) received three nominations, SF Weekly two and the SF Bay Guardian one in the American Association of Alternative Weeklies annual contest. The association has a two-step procedure for presenting awards. First, the nominees in each category are announced. Then, at the group's annual convention (this year June 15-17 in Little Rock, Ark.), the order of finish in each category is revealed. The Bay Area nominees are:

    • Arts Feature — David Downs of the East Bay Express for "Roboscalper", about how a computer screws would-be concert-goers out of tickets.

    • Feature story — Will Harper of the East Bay Express for "A Man Named Sue," a profile of a vexatious litigant.

    • Music criticism — Rob Harvilla of the East Bay Express for columns headlined "Down in Front: The Titmaster Tommy Lee," "Race Against Rockism," and "Powerpop for Now People."

    • Cover Design — Darrick Rainey of the SF Weekly for "San Francisco Dog Court," "My Dinner with White Supremacists," and "Rise of the Podcasting People."

    • Format Buster — Tommy Craggs of the SF Weekly for "Remembering Our Camelot."

    • Investigative Reporting — A.C. Thompson of the Bay Guardian for "The Fall Guy."

Topix.net to compete with its owners

Palo Alto's Topix.net -- a news aggregator purchased last year by Knight Ridder, Gannett and Tribune -- will launch a free classifieds service intended to compete against Craigslist, according to E&P and Editor's Weblog. However, by giving classifieds away, its classifieds will also compete against the paid classified sites of the newspaper companies that own Topics.net. "This is a big move for Topix.net," wrote Edelman PR guru Steve Rubel in his blog Micro Persuasion. "It puts them squarely up against Craigslist - the giant that is eating away much of the newspaper biz' revenue base. At the same time, it curiously provides a free alternative to existing paid services these companies run independent of their Topix JV [joint venture]." Topix won't be limited to posting ads in its classified sections; it will be able to put, for instance, apartment listings for a particular city next to stories about that city. (Knight Ridder is expected to sell its share of Topix.net to McClatchy when the sale of its newspapers closes next month.)

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Woo's family sets up press freedoms fund

The family of the late William Woo, a Stanford journalism professor and advocate for press development and greater press freedoms in Asia, has set up a memorial fund at Hong Kong University for aspiring journalists in his honor, according to the Hong Kong newspaper The Standard. Woo, former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a mentor to hundreds of young journalists, died April 12 of colorectal cancer at age 69. The Standard reports in Monday's edition (June 5) says that Woo had strong ties to Hong Kong University's Journalism and Media Studies Center and became its first visiting professor in 1999. Those wishing to donate to the memorial fund may send U.S.-denomination checks to Friends of the University of Hong Kong, a US-based organization, in care of Monica Yeung, executive director, 1321 Sydney Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94087. Donors can also e-mail usfriend@hku.hk.

Marin IJ names new online director

Scott Henry, a Marin Independent Journal employee since 1987, has been named director of the newspaper's online operations. He will report to publisher Ken Svanum. Henry, 52, was previously the paper's photo and new media editor.

Ex-union official slams ANG's pay scale

Robert Gammon, a former reporter for at Dean Singleton's Alameda Newspaper Group, says low pay has reduced the quality of news coverage at those newspapers. Gammon, who sat on the union's negotiating committee, says in this opinion piece for the East Bay Express that "ANG's five newspapers now have fewer than two dozen really good reporters, who are surrounded by dozens of completely inexperienced ones, along with veterans not good enough to jump to a better paper." Gammon describes ANG's lead labor negotiator, Jim Janiga, as being "vengeful," "bullheaded," having a "volcanic temper" and being "virulently anti-union." Gammon said the union negotiated 12 years with ANG and ended up with a contract in 1998 that called for a starting reporter at ANG's Oakland Tribune to make $26,000 a year. Gammon notes that the Merc's contracts with three of its five unions, including the Guild, expire June 30. The sale that would give Singleton the Merc and other Knight Ridder properties in the Bay Area is due to close in July.

• Also in the May 31 edition of the East Bay Express is a profile of Singleton adapted from a 2001 profile that appeared in Denver's alt-weekly, Westword (which is owned by the same chain as East Bay Express).

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Papers beef up sites as Backfence.com starts

Palo Alto residents will soon have three local news Web sites competing for their attention. Backfence.com -- which last year started local sites in four Washington, D.C., suburbs -- has announced that it is coming to Palo Alto. It's Palo Alto site could be online as soon as Tuesday (June 6). It will provide news, event listings, classifieds and retail display adverting. Residents are strongly encouraged to post their own opinions and photographs. Backfence has hired former Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor to write for the Palo Alto site.

Perhaps in response, the Palo Alto Weekly has redesigned its web site, http://www.paloaltoonline.com, adding a blog by editor Jay Thorwaldson and a web log, where residents can post comments.

Last November, the Palo Alto Daily News put a web log on its site, where readers post topics and then comment on those topics. The topic with the most views (2,474 as of June 2) was headlined "Bring Back Diana Diamond!" referring to the paper's former editor. Other topics include "Gays in Los Altos," "John McCain sells out," "Shrub makes a good move," and so on. The Daily News, which was acquired by Knight Ridder last year, says it will launch a redesigned web site in a couple of weeks.

The Backfence approach of a "hyper-local" web site has been tried before in Palo Alto. The Palo Alto Weekly launched Neighborspace.org in 1999. Here's the editorial announcing it. It folded about a year later due to a lack of participation.

A look at Backfence's sites in the D.C. suburbs doesn't show a lot of participation either. On the news page of Backfence's Arlington, Virginia site, for instance, there were 10 news items on Saturday (June 3), none with any comments from readers. Five of the news items were press releases from local nonprofits, two dealt with the weather, one was a link to the police department's web page, another was about a school board agenda item on extending recess, and there was a plea for readers to post items of their own. The site had only a few classifieds posted. One part of the site that showed public participation was the photos page, where eight people had posted their favorite pictures.

Ironically, it was a lack of participation that caused Dan Gillmor (right) to throw in the towel on his Bayosphere "citizen journalism" project earlier this year. Now Gillmor is going to Backfence.

How will Backfence promote itself in Palo Alto? Will either the Palo Alto Daily News or Palo Alto Weekly accept ads from a would-be competitor? Both newspapers accepted double-truck ads from the Mercury News two years ago when the Merc was trying to build its print circulation in Palo Alto (and before the Daily was purchased by Merc parent Knight Ridder). But promoting a rival web site might be a different issue.

Newspaper launches news and politics blog

San Jose's Metro Newspaper has created a blog, www.sv411.com, that reads a lot like that paper's "The Fly" political column, but is updated on a real time basis. With the June 6 primary just around the corner, the site's launch couldn't have been more timely, with lots of gossip about the races for Santa Clara County D.A, San Jose City Council and SJ Mayor. Here's one comment from sv411.com about the mayor's race: "There’s the possibility that RON GONZALES could become the first mayor in modern San Jose history to resign in disgrace rather that face criminal charges. His wife GUISSELLE just quit her job at Transmetrics, which was seeking BART contracts ..." Gonzo was a big proponent of bringing BART to San Jose. Another posting: "The hot subject of speculation this week is whether the mayor of San Jose will be indicted or resign." Another item gives the addresses of the election night parties the candidates will hold.

Assembly OKs improvements to records law

The state Assembly, in an 80-0 vote, approved bill that would require state agencies to post more data on their web sites, including conflict of interest statements, litigation settlement documents and written denials of access to records, according to the California Newspaper Publishers Association's Legislative Bulletin. Assembly Bill 2927, carried by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would also correct weaknesses in the California Public Records Act. However, the Assembly removed a provision that would subject public employees to $100-a-day fines, for which they would be personally liable, if they made bad faith decisions to withhold public records. The bill still allows penalties for agencies that violate the law and caps penalties at $10,000. CalAware is working on amendments, to be taken in the Senate, to add an alternative dispute resolution system that would require the attorney general’s office to, upon request, review a public records request that has been denied to determine if the rejection is supported by the law.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards

Bay Area print journalists, photographers, radio and television personnel and public relations professionals were presented with 226 awards of excellence in 90 categories at the Peninsula Press Club's 29th annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards dinner in Foster City tonight (June 1).

The winners were selected from 578 entries from media professionals in the 11 Greater Bay Area counties. Competition was for work done in 2005. Entries were judged by the Florida Press Club, Milwaukee Press Club, the Press Club of Cleveland, and the Press Club of Southeast Texas. The photography staff of the Oregonian, Portland, Ore., judged the photo entries coordinated by Paul Sakuma of the Associated Press.

Also, $3,600 in scholarships were presented. Two $1,500 scholarships in the name of the late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen were awarded to Josh Hoffman, Burlingame High School, and Alexis Terrazas, College of San Mateo. A one time $600 scholarship in the name of the late Peninsula sportswriter Merv Harris was awarded to Emmanuel Padilla, Jefferson High School, Daly City.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Kevin Fagan presented a short keynote on his award-winning "Shame on the City" series.

Here is the complete list of awards.

How different news organizations reported the awards: NBC11, Marin Independent Journal, Mercury News, Palo Alto Weekly, San Mateo County Times, San Mateo Daily Journal.

Deal reached in campus distribution battle

Ryan Tracey (pictured), editor-in-chief of the conservative Stanford Review, reports today that a compromise has been reached in the paper's battle to distribute door-to-door at the dorms on campus. A student court found the paper guilty earlier this year of distributing, in violation of a ban that the paper called unconstitutional. Tracey reports that after spring break, Dean of Student Affairs Greg Boardman agreed to take the decision about how newspapers are distributed to dorms out of the hands of a faculty panel and instead let each dorm vote on how they want papers delivered. If a dorm votes against door-to-door distribution, mailboxes would be set up for students and papers could be distributed there. "Although the provisions fall short of The Review’s ultimate goal for unconstrained distribution, the new policy is a significant victory for The Review and other student publications," Tracey wrote. Tracey goes on to quote Martin Luther King Jr., "“Give us the vote. That’s all we need. If we only have the vote, everything else will fall into place.”

Epoch Times says rival has communist ties

As an aside in its story about candidates running for the California Legislature, the Epoch Times accused its competitor, the Sing Tao Daily, of "having strong ties to the CCP," or Chinese Communist Party. The Epoch Times cites a 2001 study by the Jamestown Foundation that says Sing Tao has "financial connections" to the Communist Party, and says that its deputy chief editor, Larry Lee, is a former editor of the CCP "mouthpiece," the People's Daily.

The thrust of the story is that SF Supervisor Fiona Ma, who is running in Tuesday's Democratic primary for Assembly, is on the side of the Falun Gong religion, which is strongly opposed by the Chinese Communist government. The government is alleged to have killed 2,862 practioners of the faith. The story says that Ma's support of the Falun Gong has angered powerbroker Rose Pak, head of the SF's Chinese Chamber of Commerce, who is now supporting Janet Reilly in the primary. (Reilly is married to real estate developer Clint Reilly, who challenged the sale of the Chronicle to the Hearst Corp. in court in 1999.)

The Epoch Times story also claims that Leland Yee, an Assemblyman who is running for state Senate in Tuesday's primary, has flip-flopped on the Falun Gong, allegedly at the urging of Pak, and now opposes the religion.

The Epoch Times supports the Falun Gong and opposes the Chicoms. Alex Ma, editor of the Epoch Time's SF edition, says his house was burglarized twice last year, and that his relatives in China were visited at their homes by state security agents, who told them to tell Ma to stop his "activities." Another Epoch Times employee in Georgia claims he was attacked three men associated with the Chicoms.