Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chron biz editor Ken Howe takes buyout

Long-time Chron business editor Ken Howe has reportedly accepted a buyout offer from management and will be leaving the paper and moving to Hong Kong. That's according to the Ghost Word blog of Berkeley author Frances Dinkelspiel, who says Howe spent time in Asia on a fellowship last year and became fascinated by the region's rapid changes. Looks like he will be covering that story for somebody else.

Howe is the third big name to leave the Chronicle's business section this summer. Tech and media columnist Dan Fost is leaving this month. And consumer columnist David Lazarus has left for the LA Times. (Photo credit: BusinessJournalism.org)

• Departing Chron news staffers listed

Former Sunset publisher Mel Lane dies

Mel Lane, who along with his brother Bill owned and published Sunset Magazine for decades, has died of complications from Parkinson's Disease at age 85. The news of his death was announced today by Stanford, where he was a trustee from 1981 to 1991. Stanford said Lane died at his home in Atherton on Saturday.

Lane's father bought the struggling Sunset magazine in 1928 and, after serving in the Navy in World War II, Lane began working at the magazine with his brother. As the magazine grew, Sunset branched out into cook books and pioneered the home do-it-yourself movement.

The Lane family sold Sunset in 1990 to Time Warner. The Stanford obit noted that after the sale, Lane, who drove around Atherton in his 1971 Chevrolet convertible, told a reporter, "I don't plan to do anything different as far as the money goes. I told some friends that I might afford a new car."

A memorial service will be held in Stanford Memorial Church at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11.

In this picture by Chuck Painter (courtesy of the Stanford News Service), Lane is seen in Stanford's Memorial Church, which was restored after the 1989 earthquake with funds he helped to raise.

Monday, July 30, 2007

TV newsman Tom Snyder, 71, dies in SF

Newsman Tom Snyder, who spent his retirement in the Marin County town of Belvedere, has died at a San Francisco hospital from complications associated with leukemia at age 71, the AP reports. Snyder hosted a late-night interview show, "Tomorrow," from 1973 to 1982 following Johnny Carson on NBC. He returned several years later to do a similar show following David Letterman on CBS. Snyder was also a successful local news anchor in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

UPDATE (July 31): Former Newsday media critic Marvin Kitman says Synder was a "giant in the land of pygmies that is broadcasting ...
    "TV in the Twentieth Century was awash with talkers, but not interviewers like Tom. He was a master conversationalist. His secret was that he listened. I once saw him even listening to Markie Post talk about metaphysics. He had total confidence that whatever interested him will be of interest to you. ...

    He had fled the canyon life in LA for the even better life in Marin County outside San Francisco. He was living in a house by the bay (Belvedere) with his faithful sheep dog, his model trains, and his thoughts about the decline of western civilization. "American society all gone, " he explained. "Televisison all gone." It was terrible what was happening to network news. "Did you see what they were doing on the Today show this morning?" It was Halloween. "Those costumes. And they had accused me of running a circus."
UPDATE (Aug. 1): Investigative journalist Peter Barry Chowka recalls a 1987 radio interview with Snyder.
    "I was immediately struck by Snyder's warm and friendly welcome ... Snyder was dressed very casually and had the unassuming manner of entertaining a guest in his living room. I half expected him to offer me a drink. ...

    "Snyder didn't need a legion of producers and writers to get him on the air. I doubt that he was dependent, as are today's anchors and hosts, on the TelePrompTer. His career is also a reminder that at one time people on TV were not chosen almost solely for their youthful images and stunning good looks."

Friday, July 27, 2007

Guild fears it may be decertified

The East Bay Express's Robert Gammon, a former union official at the Alameda Newspaper Group, writes this morning that the planned merger of ANG's newsrooms with the Contra Costa Times might cause owner MediaNews to push for a decertification of the Guild at ANG. (Publisher John Armstrong described his consolidation plans in a memo posted here yesterday. Here's a link to a George Avalos story describing the consolidation.)

The merger would mix non-union employees at the Contra Costa Times with the unionized workers at the ANG papers, including the Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times, etc.

After the merger, if the combined news operation has more non-union than union members, the employees can circulate a petition calling for a decertification election of all employees in the bargaining unit. Gammon said Guild officials are counting heads.

Decertification means the Guild would no longer be the exclusive bargaining agent for employees, which would effectively end union representation.

Lazarus farewell praises Chron bosses

Chron columnist David Lazarus, in his farewell column this morning as he leaves for the LA Times, laments that the media has lost interest in consumer advocacy, and he quotes Ralph Nader to make his point. But Lazarus adds:
    "But some newspapers still get it, and The Chronicle is one of them. It hasn't always been easy. There've been times when I'm sure the paper's bosses wished I'd write about anything else.

    "But consistently, The Chron's editors have stood behind this column. A tip of the hat is due here to Editor Phil Bronstein, Deputy Managing Editor Steve Proctor and, most of all, Business Editor Ken Howe. They took enough heat on my behalf to boil soup.

    "So why is this my last appearance in these pages? I'm making the jump to another well-known newspaper that's beefing up its consumer coverage. It's an opportunity that couldn't be ignored."
[Press Club, July 20, Lazarus joining LA Times] [Press Club, Thursday, Lazarus will also quit KGO-AM gig] [Press Club, Feb. 23, 2006, A tip to CEOs: Take Lazarus to lunch]

Sentinel leaving Santa Cruz for Scotts Valley

The Santa Cruz Sentinel says it is leaving Santa Cruz after 150 years and moving to this office park in Scotts Valley in order to cut costs. Rumors about the move began circulating after the paper shut down its presses in Santa Cruz on April 30 and shifted the printing to the San Jose Mercury News. Both papers are owned by MediaNews Group.

The Sentinel’s Church Street building, home to the daily newspaper since 1967, was put on the market with a $6 million asking price earlier this year and is in escrow, the article said. The purchase price was not disclosed. The Sentinel was the oldest business in Santa Cruz.

Editor Tom Honig, who has worked in downtown Santa Cruz, said:
    "“It’s going to be tougher in some ways ... Being downtown means when you go to the deli at lunch you run into somebody and you get some information. We’re going to lose that. No question, we’re going to have to make a much greater effort to be out there.”
By the numbers:
    54,000 -- the size in square feet of the Sentinel's Church Street location

    18,000 -- the square footage of the space the Sentinel will lease at 1800 Green Hills Road in Scotts Valley

    150 -- the number of years the Sentinel has been in downtown Santa Cruz

    84 -- the current number of Sentinel employees. It's not known how many will move to the new location. Disribution will be done elsewhere.
(Photo credit: Dan Coyro, Sentinel)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Coco Times, ANG to reduce news staff

The Contra Costa Times and the ANG newspapers, including the Oakland Tribune, will reduce the size of their newsroom staff as the MediaNews Group-owned papers consolidate, Publisher John Armstrong (pictured) says in a memo to his troops. "It is our hope attrition will cover this reduction, but there is no guarantee that layoffs can be avoided," Armstrong wrote. Today, Armstrong and editors Kevin Keane and Pete Wevurski are meeting with their news staff. Armstrong's memo gave no numbers of positions that would be eliminated.

In a separate memo to employees last week, Armstrong said the combined revenues of the Contra Costa, ANG and Hills newspapers and their related products were $245.5 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30 — $21.3 million less than the revenue total in the previous fiscal year, a decline of 8 percent.

During the year, those papers cut their budgets by $16.8 million, he said, which means the papers' profits were reduced by $4.5 million. "Yes, we're still profitable, but that is a substantial decline in financial performance, one that we cannot afford to repeat in the fiscal year that started July 1," Armstrong wrote.

Armstrong also said the broadsheet papers will soon become one-half inch narrower in order to save on paper. The Hayward Daily Review, Fremont Argus and San Mateo County Times convert to the narrower size next Tuesday and the Contra Costa Times and its sister editions, Oakland Tribune, Alameda Times-Star, Tri-Valley Herald and San Joaquin Herald on Aug. 6. [Armstrong's Wednesday memo] [Armstrong's July 20 "How We're Doing" memo]

Partial list of departing Chron news staffers

Here is an incomplete list of Chronicle staffers who have departed the paper during the current round of layoffs (updated Aug. 1). This list is drawn from public sources as well as e-mails that have been sent to us. E-mail us if you know of other names.Union shop steward Carl Hall is quoted by the SF Weekly as saying that the Chron has close close to reaching its goal of eliminating 80 union positions in the newsroom through buyouts and resignations. In addition, 20 management positions have been cut. The cuts have reduced the newsroom from 400 to 300 staffers.

ABC7 creates Wilson journalism scholarship

ABC7, KGO-TV has established The Pete Wilson Journalism Scholarship to be administered and awarded annually by The Radio and Television News Director Foundation (RTNDF.) The endowment will provide an annual $4,000 journalism scholarship in perpetuity in Pete Wilson's name. It will be awarded to students from the Bay Area pursuing a journalism undergraduate or graduate degree. Individuals may add to the fund, increasing the annual scholarship amount, with tax deductible donations to the fund. Donations to the fund in Pete's honor can be made by check to:
    Pete Wilson Journalism Scholarship
    The Radio and Television News Directors Foundation
    Suite 700
    1600 K Street NW
    Washington, DC 20006

Individuals may also donate by credit card by calling 1-800-80-RTNDA (1-800-807-8632), extension 251.

KGO-TV President and General Manager Valari Staab said: "I strongly believe that Pete would approve of this scholarship as a legacy of his professional life. He believed in the important role that journalism serves in a free society and wanted the profession to continue to attract smart, passionate people."

David Lazarus will also quit KGO-AM gig

Chron columnist David Lazarus, who we reported July 20 was leaving for the Los Angeles Times, is also quitting his weekend radio show at KGO NewsTalk 810. His last show will be Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m. KGO-AM host Gene Burns said on the air Wednesday that management tried to persuade Lazarus to stay with the station after he moves to Southern California. He could do the program from home using an ISDN line like other hosts do at times. But Burns indicated that the Times has big plans for Lazarus and the columnist wouldn't have time to moonlight.

By the way, Burns had an op-ed in the LA Times on Wednesday where he advocated an across-the-board cut in the state budget rather than a raid on funds for transpotation and the homeless.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stanford issues statement on Wilson's death

After KGO's Pete Wilson died of a massive heart attack at Stanford Hospital during a routine hip-replacement operation, officials there refused to take questions from the media about what went wrong, citing privacy concerns. But KGO says that on Monday night, the hospital issued this statement:
    "[T]he procedure was underway when he suddenly experienced a massive heart attack.

    "When this occurred, we summoned to the operating room a special team that included a renowned heart transplant surgeon, cardiac anesthesiologists and cardiologists, who all worked unceasingly together for several hours to restore his heart function.

    "Mr. Wilson was placed on heart-lung bypass during these efforts and was subsequently transferred to the intensive care unit. Despite these extensive efforts, we were not able to save him.

    "Everyone involved in Mr. Wilson's care and in supporting his family -- is experiencing profound sorrow at this outcome."
Reporter Suzanne Bohan of the MediaNews Group newspapers writes:
    "An angiogram administered while Wilson was on life-support revealed a terrible surprise: Wilson had severely blocked coronary arteries, which feed the heart oxygen and nutrients. One was almost 100 percent blocked, and the other 70 percent obstructed with plaque, said [Wilson family spkesman Chapin] Day.

    "So how could a patient, surrounded by medical professionals in an elite institution, end up in surgery for an elective procedure when his heart was so ill-equipped to survive the challenge of surgery?

    "Because the field of cardiology still has far to go, said Dr. Ann Bolger, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a University of California, San Francisco cardiologist. 'We need to remember our job isn't done understanding cardiology,' Bolger said. 'There is still huge room for improvement.'"
KGO's Dr. Dean Edell, who worked with Wilson on radio and TV for many years, offered these observations:
    "There's an important lesson for everybody in this, what you look like is not what's going on inside. And if we had a perfect test that could predict who is going to have a heart attack in the near future and who's not, well I suppose we'd want to do it on everybody.

    "The only test that can do that is really angiography and we can't do it on everybody. If every patient undergoing surgery had an angiogram we would break our medical care system. They're very expensive and potentially dangerous.

    "As far as we know, he had no symptoms of heart disease ahead of time, no reason to be extra specially cautious. There was a cardiogram that was done the night before surgery and it was fine. Now, a cardiogram tells you if you have had a heart attack. That's what a cardiogram is good for, but it doesn't predict who's going to have a heart attack, and yet we use it as an inexpensive screening measure, very often in this particular situation. So everybody was taken by surprise with this."
Here is a screen shot from the close of Wilson's final newscast on Channel 7 last Wednesday. Next to him is anchor Carolyn Johnson, who wrote on her blog:
    "Wednesday evening we talked about his surgery. He was apprehensive, but looking forward to getting it over with, getting back to work and back on the golf course. When we left the studio at 7 o’clock, I wished him all the best and told him we’d be thinking of him Thursday. If only our thoughts and prayers could have carried him through."
For more on this, see our previous post on Wilson's death. (Top photo credits: WTMJ Milwaukee, mid-1970s; KGO-TV screen grab 1989; KGO-TV screen grab 2007)

E&P: Guardian among '10 That Do it Right'

Bruce Brugmann's Bay Guardian has been included in Editor & Publisher's list of the "10 That Do it Right" — "[A]n honor roll of newspapers shattering the perception that this is a slow-moving dinosaur of an industry that refuses to adapt to rising needs and fresh opportunities." E&P says:
    Love him or hate him, and plenty of San Franciscans line up on either side, Editor/Publisher Brugmann has taken the Guardian from the prototype to the archetype of the politically involved, locally focused alternative newspaper that's an alert and occasionally rabid watchdog.

Chron names online, interactive editors

Chron Editor Phil Bronstein has named Eve Batey as the paper's new online editor. She's a former blogger and public relations professional. Andrew Ross will be moving from his current position as Executive Foreign-National Editor to the position of Interactive Editor. He" will be responsible for getting the most out of the online "conversations" that take place between Chronicle journalists and our audience, and web conversations that occur as a result of our work," a memo from
Bronstein said. The memo, posted at Romenesko, outlines other changes as the Chron deals with the reduction of its newsroom staff from 400 to 300 positions. Here's the E&P story about it.

Berkeley awards 3 investigative fellowships

UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism has announced the winners for three post-graduate fellowships in investigative reporting: Andrew Becker, a 2005 UC Berkeley graduate; Marton Dunai, a 2004 UC Berkeley graduate; and Siri Schubert, a freelance business and financial reporter in San Francisco. The fellowships are for $45,000 each and last a year.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

KGO's Pete Wilson dies at 62

Veteran KGO-TV news anchor and KGO radio host Pete Wilson died Friday night at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto from a massive heart attack suffered during hip replacement surgery, the station announced today. The heart attack occurred during surgery on Thursday and doctors battled to save him for more than a day, but he was removed from life support and succumbed at 9:20 p.m. Friday.

Wilson, 62, is survived by his wife, Sandra, and son Brendan, who is in college.

On his last radio show Wednesday, Wilson said he was nervous about having surgery. [Link to mp3 of his monologue.] He said:
    "... I'm having hip replacement surgery tomorrow. I did this once before, 13 years ago. I was 49. And I barely thought about it then. I just did it. After all, it's not like it's open heart surgery. I'm just getting a wheel changed.

    "But this time I am driving myself nearly nuts with anxiety about this, and I don't know why. What's different? Maybe it's that I'm older and a lot closer to the tail end than the front. Mortality is now an actual thought on occasion, nevermind that they do 200,000 replacement surgeries a year in this country alone and there are very few disasters. But adrenaline is now playing havoc with my system. I'm nervous. My stomach is rumbling like a John Williams movie score and I'm producing more belches than an 18-year-old in a beer-drinking contest. And I guarantee you my blood pressure is 150 over 90 right now.

    "... Everytime I bring up the operation, or someone asks me when I'm going into the hospital, I'm immediately deluged with everybody's surgical nightmare stories. You know, 'They left a 3/8th-inch drill in my cousin's lung' (laughs). Or 'I remember Harry. He had the hip replacement and two weeks later Harry had a stroke.' That's the one I heard yesterday from a bunch of friends at the workout place. Or, 'I read the Internet the other day that 62 percent of Irish Catholics who have hip-replacement surgery wind up with one leg shorter than the other.' That's another one I was told."
This afternoon on KGO radio, host David Lazarus said he wasn't ignoring Wilson's death, but said management decided they wouldn't take calls from listeners about it until Monday when they could prepare a proper tribute. But Lazarus said it felt like a death in the family and was going to let a few calls slip through anyway.

On sister station KSFO, Barbara Simpson was taking such calls, with many listeners noting his passion and his efforts to be fair to people on both sides of a story.

Update: An on-air memorial is planned from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday on KGO-AM.
    KGO-TV ABC7 President and General Manager Valari Staab said: "Pete was one of the most valued and respected news professionals in the Bay Area and the country. For more than 30 years, he was welcomed into the homes of thousands of local viewers reporting on every major news event that touched their lives. This is a deep loss both, personally and professionally for all of his friends and colleagues at Channel 7 and for me. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sandy and Brendan."

    KGO Radio President and General Manager Mickey Luckoff said: "He was never fully satisfied just reporting the facts of a situation ... He constantly questioned and probed the logic behind the beliefs and views of those in the news."

    ABC7 V.P. of News Kevin Keeshan said: "Pete Wilson had a passionate commitment to ethical, responsible journalism. He never hesitated to question the status quo and take on the conventional wisdom of the day. His endless enthusiasm and love for political debate and discussion will be missed by everyone in our news room."
Born and raised in central Wisconsin, Wilson was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in journalism and creative writing. A Vietnam veteran, Wilson began his news broadcasting career on a small country-western station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin while attending graduate school.

Wilson came to San Francisco in 1983 and was the anchor who replaced the legendary Van Amburg at KGO-TV. Wilson remained at Channel 7 until 1990, when he moved to KRON Channel 4. In 2002, Wilson returned to KGO-TV.

He earned numerous honors, including Associated Press awards, five Emmys and he shared two Peabody awards.

During virtually his entire career, in addition to anchoring and reporting, Wilson has hosted talk and interview shows including the top-rated afternoon radio program on KGO-AM.

Wilson's family is asking people not to send flowers. Instead, they request you make a donation to the charity of your choice.

Update: Wilson's family said Sunday they appreciate the support from fans, friends, and colleagues. "We are overwhelmed, embraced and grateful for the expressions of sympathy and support we are experiencing. In a time of grief for our family we find comfort in knowing that Pete's larger family of friends, colleagues, viewers and listeners share this with us," Wilson's immediate family said in a statement.

Salt Lake trial awaits Singleton

"I have no problem going to trial." That's how the AP quoted MediaNews Group CEO Dean Singleton (pictured) regarding a dispute over the ownership of Utah's largest newspaper, the 128,000-circ Salt Lake City Tribune. MediaNews owns most of the paid newspapers in the Bay Area. Two trials are scheduled in September over the issue of who owns the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Coverage: AP (note that Singleton is chairman of the AP board), Salt Lake City Tribune (owned by Singleton's MediaNews), KUTV 2, owned by CBS.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Radio day is tomorrow in Berkeley

A reminder: Tomorrow (Saturday, July 21) the California Historical Radio Society will hold an open house from 10 to 2 at the newly restored KRE building at I-80 and Ashby Avenue in Berkeley. Admission is $5. The open house will include tours, live music and performances by the Bay Area's own Broadcast Legends. Pat Craig of the Contra Costa Times wrote this story about the event with the headline "Welcome to radio heaven." Craig notes:
    Perhaps the most famous occupant of the studio was the legendary disk jockey Wolfman Jack, who was sitting at the announcer's desk in 1972 for the filming of "American Graffiti." The scene was shot in the studio, and much of the equipment seen in the movie remains in the booth.
In the photo above is California Historical Radio Society President Steve Kushman during a tour of the KRE building. (Photo credit: Kristopher Skinner, Contra Costa Times. See series.) Here's a link with a shot of the exterior of the building before restoration.

Chron's David Lazarus joining LA Times

One of the Chron's star columnists, David Lazarus, is joining the LA Times in August, the media blog LA Observed is reporting. LA Observed learned about his move from a house ad in the Times under the heading, "He's Got Your Back." The copy read: "The playing field isn't always level. Business columnist David Lazarus will make sure consumers get a fair shake." [Feb. 23, 2006, "A tip to CEOs: Take David Lazarus to lunch"]

Journalists buzz about fake Steve Jobs

The Silicon Valley tech gossip site Valleywag is having a field day reporting on a fake Steve Jobs, who of course has his own blog. The blog lampoons the real Apple chief executive with headlines such as "Jesus didn't go to college either," "On being obscenely wealthy," "Just think of them as iAds" and "I feel like Martin Luther King."

CNBC columnist Jane Wells comments: "The true author is the object of much speculation inside the tech circle. The only clue we have is that 'Fake Steve' claims he (she??) 'invented the friggin iPod,' a jab at the real Steve Jobs. On the blog Fake Steve rips on everyone."

Says Brian Lam of Gizmodo, the gadget blog, " ... Fake Steve Jobs has always been very decent to me. He returns my e-mails, and is timely and cordial about it. I bought some t-shirts and a mug. I like his work, like we all do." But Lam says he can't help but wonder who the faker really is.

Mike Schramm of The Unofficial Apple Weblog or tuaw.com says when the fake Steve Jobs emerged, he wanted to find out his identity too. But many of his site's readers disagreed, saying it didn't matter who the author was as long as he wrote "strong, insightful (and often hilarious) pieces about what Apple was up to ..." Schramm says he now agrees with his readers, and won't try to unmask the Jobs doppelgänger. "FSJ is much more fun as FSJ himself, not some writer pretending to be him. And so we're pledging, to you, not to write any more speculation, ever, about FSJ's identity," Schramm writes.

Still Valleywag is doggedly pursuing the author's real identity. So much so that the fake Steve complained about "invasions of privacy [by a Valleywagger] that may or may not have crossed over the line of legality but definitely fall outside the boundaries of what most decent civilized human beings consider to be appropriate behavior." The fake Steve Jobs suggested he had private detectives and lawyers on the case.

Upon reading that, Jim Goldman of CNBC sarcastically remarked, "Hmmmm. That definitely doesn't sound like the man himself. " Goldman has also developed a theory of about the author's identity:
    "I've got a sneaking feeling that [Valleywag Editor Owen] Thomas and [Publisher Nick] Denton are behind all this. If not directly, then indirectly. I tried reaching Thomas this morning but he wasn't answering his cell phone. But if this is all about driving traffic to Valleywag, or hitching Valleywag to the Fake Steve Jobs gravy train, it's working. Valleywag goes after Fake Steve Jobs. Fake Steve Jobs protests. Loudly. Valleywag writes about it more. And then we all follow the drama. Pretty cool.
(Photo credit: Paul Sakuma, AP)

Columnist finds readers care about paper

Merc business writer Dean Takahashi asked readers what they wanted from their newspaper and he got dozens of responses, many of which are included in his most recent column. "The responses are heartening because they tell me readers actually care about the newspaper ... There is no single consistent piece of advice, unless it was to point out that hot-dog eating contests are not weighty enough for the front page." Some of the suggestions included:
    • Go "hyper local" with "micro news that is more relevant to the people in the specific communities where we circulate."

    • The same reader suggests turning the Merc into a non-profit dedicated to community coverage.

    • "Some say we should charge Google and others for reprinting our work, which we are doing or attempting to do in some form."
Other ideas readers offered: More investigative journalism. Add links to more information online. Print more reader letters. Write more follow-up stories. Reprint the most popular blog material that younger readers want.

Ex-Merc radio writer Brad Kava starts blog

Brad Kava, a victim of the Merc's most recent round of layoffs, has launched a blog, Kava's Radio Soup, where he resumes his coverage of the radio industry. (Actually he began his blog July 4, but we just discovered it today.) In his opening post he says:
    "This will be a place to read news, opinions and comments from radio listeners and station staffs, all unfiltered through the dull, lifeless and characterless editors that made you stop reading newspapers in the first place."

PlanetOut to cut 15% of staff, restructure

San Francisco-based PlanetOut, a media company focusing on the gay and lesbian community, is laying off 15 percent of its staff and is closing offices in Buenos Aires and London as part of a restructuring plan. PlanetOut employed 273 full-time workers worldwide as of December 2006. Last week, PlanetOut said it raised $26.2 million through the sale of about 56% of the company to outside investors, including Bill Gates' Cascade Investments, according to Digital Media Wire.

Monetizing a local Web site takes patience

Is anybody ever going to make money doing local news and ads online? We know of four attempts (Microsoft's Sidewalk, the Palo Alto Weekly's NeighborSpace.org, Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere and now Backfence) that haven't been able to create the local community necessary for an ongoing business. But the backers of Smalltown, a startup on B Street in San Mateo, say they'll succeed where others have failed, according to this article in the San Mateo County Times. Mangement explains why they're not like Backfence. But the key part is at the end:
    Anyone who wants to monetize a local Web community needs to have a great deal of patience, said [Dan] Payomo [formerly of the Examiner, then Backfence and now Smalltown]. And investors need to understand that even the most successful communities take years to turn a profit.

    "It's going to be a marathon," Payomo said. "It's not going to be a sprint."
The story gives favorable mentions to two local, homegrown sites: Burlingame Voice (Fiona Hamilton is quoted) and Barry Parr's Coastsider, which serves Half Moon Bay and the San Mateo County coast.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Press Club adds 'San Francisco' to its name

The Board of Directors of the Peninsula Press Club voted tonight (July 18) to change the organization's name to the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club to reflect a growing membership in all parts of the Bay Area. When the Peninsula Press Club began in 1974, it was an organization of professional journalists in San Mateo County. But over the years, the club attracted members from all 11 counties in the Bay Area. From time to time, this caused the board to consider changing the name to encompass a greater geographic area than just the Peninsula. But last year's closure of the San Francisco Press Club created an opportunity to incorporate San Francisco in the club's name. Tonight's vote was unanimous.

July 2007 Press Club board minutes

Meeting was brought to order at 6:35 p.m. by President Jamie Casini

Board members present: Peter Cleaveland, Jon Mays, Micki Carter, Dave Price, Ed Remitz and Jamie Casini. Executive Director Darryl Compton was also in attendance.

Absent: Aimee Lewis Strain, Diana Diamond and Jennifer Aquino were not in attendance.

Minutes: Minutes of June meeting were approved.

Treasurer's Report: New format was approved.

Old business

PPC Member Directory: Compton supplied the board with the new roster.

New business

Sept. 8 BBQ: Set for Carter's house.

Location of forum for high school students. The status is in flux. It may be at the Daily Journal offices, or CSM, or NDNU depending on the date and availability. It is set to be in October.

New business

Changing the name of the club:
To greater reflect its membership throughout the greater Bay Area, the board unanimously voted to change the club's name to the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club, a professional journalism organization serving the greater Bay Area.

Other

Web site:
Price said we have earned approximately $53 in ads from the Web site and will receive payment from Google when the mark is $100. Price suggested the club throw a party of sorts with the income. He also mentioned a change in which he moderated comments on the site.

Meeting adjourned at 7:18 p.m.

Next meeting is Aug. 8 at 6:15 p.m. at the San Mateo Daily News.

Minutes submitted by Secretary Jon Mays.

CBS 5's Samantha Mohr leaving for Atlanta

After six years at KPIX CBS 5, Chief Meteorologist Samantha Mohr (pictured) is leaving for Atlanta. She announced her departure on the air a few days before she was about to switch shifts with morning weather anchor Roberta Gonzales. The station moved Gonzales, previously the morning weather anchor, to the weeknight shows, and Mohr was going to take the morning shift. But before the switch took place, Mohr resigned. Her picture and bio have been removed from the CBS 5 Web site. In 2004 she won an Emmy for Best Weathercast in Northern California which included a report on the San Francisco Fog Phenomenon. In 2003 she won the AP award for Best Weathercast in Northern California, and the Radio-Television News Directors Award for Best Weather Segment/Story. She came to Channel 5 after 12 years at KTVK in Phoenix. She is originally from Georgia.

ABC7 offers 'futures market' for news

KGO ABC7 is promoting an online "futures market" where viewers can vote on the probability of certain outcomes of news stories, such as "When will the Waste Mangement lockout be resolved?" or "Will Ed Jew complete his term as a San Francisco Supervisor?" Based on voting, the possible outcomes to such questions rise and fall like stock prices.

The premise is that a crowd is more likely to generate an accurate answer than so-called experts. Matt Novak of the SF Weekly points out that the idea comes from James Surowiecki's book, "The Wisdom of Crowds." "Surowiecki identifies four key characteristics that make crowds smarter than experts: They're diverse, decentralized, networked and composed of independently minded individuals who execute decisions based on their own information gathering, rather than what others are doing," Novak says.

Nowak reports that the forum is a product of Inkling Markets., a Chicago company with seed money from yCombinator, a venture firm started by hacker Paul Graham.

Chronicle to be printed in Fremont

G.W. Schutz of the Bay Guardian tells us (see his comments under "Chronicle urged to go paperless") that Transcontinental, the Canadian company which has a contract to print the Chron starting in 2009, intends to build a 338,000-square-foot plant on Kato Road in Fremont. Schulz says his information is from a Chron source.

Chron Publisher Frank Vega announced last November that the paper planned to outsource its printing to Transcon under a 15-year contract worth $1 billion. Transcon would take over the printing when the Chron's current contract with its 237 Teamster printers expires. Transcon said at the time that it planned to invest $200 million in the new plant and presses. In April, Transcon announced it has bought three presses from MAN Roland, each capable of producing 36 broadsheet pages in full color or 48 pages with 24 in color.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Napa Sheriff goes to KGO to explain incident

The Napa County Sheriff has issued a memo to all field officers that reminds them of the rights of journalists when it comes to access at disaster scenes. This comes in the wake of the sheriff department's brief detainment of KGO ABC7 reporter Wayne Freedman and photographer Craig Southern while they were covering a brush fire on Wednesday. News Director Kevin Keeshan says in his blog that Sheriff Doug Koford personally met with him at KGO-TV to explain the situation and tell him that it was being investigated by two lieutenants. Joning Koford in the meeting were were Capt. John Robertson and Napa County Risk Manager Kerry Whitney.

In the memo to officers, Capt. Robertson bold-faces the part of the statute (PC 409.5 (d)) that gives the media access to disaster scenes:
    "Nothing in this section shall prevent a duly authorized representative of any news service, newspaper, or radio or television station or network from entering the areas closed pursuant to this section."
But Robertson also says in the memo:
    "Unprofessional behavior, on the part of the media, is just that; 'Unprofessional'. Any unprofessional behavior should be noted in the form of a memorandum and forwarded to the Napa Sheriff’s Office PIO for handling. The Napa Sheriff’s Office will advise their employer of their unprofessional behavior."
Freedman has posted his recollection of the incident. He concludes by saying:
    "I have been a reporter since 1971, and have covered every kind of story, in every imaginable situation. This is the most flagrant example I have ever seen of peace officers losing their cool, and abusing their power.

    "Their actions were without just cause, and overly forceful. They confiscated and broke newsgathering equipment and private property, including a camera phone. They restrained the news media from covering a story when we had every right to be there, and broke my equipment as I tried to document their actions in detaining us.

    "If this is how those Napa County Sheriff Deputies deal with accredited journalists carrying cameras and microphones who know the law, how will they treat average citizens in other situations?"
The Napa Valley Register has a story this morning that gives both sides of the clash. It also has a link to the complete memo issued by Capt. Robertson.

(Photo credit: Kim Komenich, Chronicle. Click here to see additional photos. Click here to see KTVU's raw video of the incident. Click here to see ABC 7's report of the arrest.)

Contra Costa Times editor explains page 1 ad

The Contra Costa Times has joined the ranks of newspapers, including the Chron, with ads on the front page. In this commentary, Executive Editor Kevin Keane explains why the MediaNews-owned paper did it.
    "In e-mails and phone calls, we received dozens of comments over the next few days about the ad. Some readers accused us of selling our collective news souls to the highest bidder, while others thought we were "cheapening" the day's headlines by running them alongside a paid promotion."
As Keene points out, papers including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today have started running page one ads. All of the free dailies in the Bay Area have had front page ads for years. And it looks like the LA Times will join in as well, according to this story on the LA Observed web site.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chronicle urged to go paperless

Business Week's Jon Fine (pictured) says it's only a matter of time until one of the nation's big dailies goes paperless and becomes an entirely online product — and he thinks the money-losing Chronicle should be the first to make the plunge.
    "On paper, San Francisco is perfect: a Web-centric town, a cash-drain daily, and private ownership. ...

    "All of this requires big thinking — and spending enough to create networks of local sites and a giant local portal. And it will take a brave man or woman to pull the plug on the presses.

    "It almost takes a William Randolph Hearst."
Fine also gives the downside to such a move -- that it would eliminate the estimated $23 million the Chron gets from selling papers and advertisers still pay more for print ads than online.

But this idea of going "paperless" isn't out of left field for Hearst Corp. In Seattle, where Hearst's Post-Intelligencer is in a joint operating agreement with the Seattle Times, talk of a "paperless" P-I abounded when the two partners got into a legal dispute earlier this year. Here's a link to a Seattle Times article from April 1 where the logistics of a "paperless" paper were analyzed.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

'If you take my notebook, you're going to court,' Freedman tells deputy

KTVU tonight has posted raw video of yesterday's arrest of ABC7 reporter Wayne Freedman and photographer Craig Southern by Napa County Sheriff's Deputies. (See earlier item below.) Freedman is heard on the tape yelling:
    "If you take my notebook, you're going to court.

    "And I want a lawyer now. Give us a lawyer now.

    "I am not giving up my [deleted] microphone. And I am not giving up my notebook.

    "And If you want to haul me to jail, you take me to jail, but you're not taking the microphone and you're not taking the notebook. You got it?! You are taking our property. That is a microphone.

    "You've taken our frickin notes and you've broken our phone."
As reported below, the Napa County Sheriff's Department has apologized but the station is pressing criminal charges and a civil suit. As Freedman promised, the deputy will end up in court.

BALCO leaker gets 2 1/2-year prison term

Attorney Troy Ellerman, who admitted leaking the confidential grand jury testimony of Barry Bonds and other athletes to Chronicle reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada, was sentenced today to two and a half years in prison, by far the harshest penalty to result from the government's sprawling probe of steroids in sports, the AP reports.

Press Democrat to cut 8% of workers

The 82,683-circulation Santa Rosa Press Democrat has announced it will eliminate 35 jobs, or 8 percent of its work force, in an effort bring its costs in line with falling revenue. Seven jobs in the paper's 93-person newsroom will be cut. Publisher Bruce Kyse said he hopes the staff-reduction goals can be met through voluntary buyout offers. If they cannot, however, layoffs in several departments -- including the newsroom -- will follow. All eligible newsroom employees, including both union members and managers, received buyout proposals Wednesday. A sluggish local economy and competition for classifieds from Craigslist and other Web sites were blamed for the slide in revenue. The paper's revenue dropped from $74 million in 2005 to $70 million last year.

Deputies handcuff ABC7 crew, take camera

Napa County Sheriff's Deputies detained ABC7 reporter Wayne Freedman (background) and photographer Craig Southern, seized their camera and intentionally broke their cell phone while the pair were attempting to cover a grass fire on Wednesday, the station reports.

News Director Kevin Keeshan said he will press criminal charges and file a civil lawsuit against the deputies.

“I’ve been a journalist for 30 years in California and never in my 30 years have we ever had a reporter or photographer arrested or detained for doing their job,” Keeshan told the Napa Valley Register. At left, a handcuffed Friedman is placed in a squad car.

Keeshan said Friedman and Southern were detained by deputies over an argument about whether the journalists were too close to the fire. Keeshan said deputies broke one of the men’s cell phones in half after he used it to film the other man being detained. Keeshan also said deputies confiscated their camera.

Both Freedman and Southern were handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car for 15 minutes, ABC7 said. A sheriff's department captain later apologized and both were released without being charged. (Photo credit: Kim Komenich, Chronicle. Click here to see additional photos.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

KGO 810 back on top, KCBS moves up

The latest Arbitrends for listeners 12 and older show KGO-AM NewsTalk 810 is back in first place. During the November-January period, KGO slipped out of the first place for the first time in 29 years. The new figures also show All News KCBS-AM 740 has moved up from fourth to third. These numbers (via AllAccess.com) reflect overall audience levels, while advertisers are more concerned about specific demographics.

The new page 1: BIG photos, soft features

Berkeley Daily Planet editor Becky O'Malley writes in her latest column that she's been talking to various friends at the Chronicle who have been discussing the Hearst-owned paper's future now that 100 of the paper's 400 newsroom jobs have been eliminated:
    One mentioned the general modus operandi of Hearst papers these days: no hard news at all on the front page because that might alienate the post-literate reader.

    The new Hearst style is BIG photos with soft features at the top of the front page, he said, and that certainly describes recent Chronicles. The universal target of horrified dinner table Chron critics was the day the big story over the fold was that women don’t really talk more than men, a psychological research result that had come out at least three days previously and surprised no one anyway. A close second was “It’s going to be hot tomorrow!” — and it wasn’t, by the way. No star reporters or brilliant editors are needed for front pages like these.
O'Malley isn't impressed at how MediaNews, which owns the rest of the paid dailies in the Bay Area, is covering news in her town:
    The news from the Berkeley City Council is now frequently supplied by one guy, a former gossip columnist who watches it on cable TV, and it’s often reprinted in several sister publications, for example, in the East Bay Daily Snooze, the “Berkeley” Voice (which with a different front page is also the Montclarion, the Albany Journal and many more), the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, and even (why would they care?) the formerly excellent San Jose Mercury News. When the guy gets things wrong, as he sometimes does, his mistakes are amplified a thousand-fold by his corporate empire.

ABC7's stories now available on cell phones

Would you like to see Dan Noyes' latest confrontation with SF Mayor Gavin Newsom on your cell phone? Or the stories of other Channel 7 reporters? KGO-TV and the nine other ABC owned-and-operated stations are launching free mobile-video services for cell phone users. (Here's a link to KABC's feed; we couldn't find KGO's this morning but trust it will be there in a day or two). It's free, but cell phone users will have to watch a commercial (called a "pre-roll") before they get to see Noyes asking the mayor some question that makes him run away from the camera.

Will San Jose be Dean Singleton's Waterloo?

Veteran journalist John Bowman, who resigned as editor of the San Mateo County Times rather than make draconian cuts demanded by owner MediaNews Group, questions whether the company's cost-cutting strategy will work in San Jose, where it bought the Mercury News 11 months ago.

MediaNews, the Denver newspaper chain headed by Dean Singleton, is in the midst of its second round of layoffs at the Merc in six months, which have reduced the scope and depth of the former Knight Ridder paper's news coverage. Bowman lives in San Jose. He tells Erin Sherbert of the alt-weekly Metro that readers in his town want more than city hall reports and police stories. They want in-depth investigations and news analysis, something readers are starting to lose in the wake of newsroom cuts.
    "I think San Jose is a market where we will have a real test of whether the readers will put up with just anything ... Maybe this is the one market where Dean Singleton can't get away with being Dean Singleton."
(Photo credit: Felipe Buitrago, Metro)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Palo Alto fire started in former Merc bureau

The July 1 fire that gutted a downtown Palo Alto building, causing $8 million in damage, was set in the office space previously used by the San Jose Mercury News, Palo Alto fire spokesman Dan Ryan told NBC 11. Police Sgt. Sandra Brown told the Palo Alto Daily News: "We're looking for somebody." But she added that police do not have any suspects. The Merc leased space in the University Avenue building since 1993. The MediaNews-owned paper closed the bureau a few months ago as a cost-cutting measure. (Photo credit: Dave Price)

Newspapers flounder amid strong economy

Christine Lias, a former copy editor at the Contra Costa Times and reporter at the Palo Alto Daily News, says in an op-ed in the San Francisco Daily that it is hard to understand why newspapers aren't doing better considering the strength of the local economy. "We live in one of the wealthiest media markets in the nation -- a cornucopia of potential advertising dollars for magazines, newspapers, radio stations and online sites to cultivate." She writes:
    The culture is changing: I'm in my young 30s and I see fewer people my age reading newspapers or magazines. I see fewer people my age reading, period. I see more people with iPods buds stuck in their ears. I see more and more young people talking aimlessly on their cell phones.

'Radio Day By The Bay' coming July 21

The California Historical Radio Society has been restoring the KRE buiding at I-80 and Ashby Avenue in Berkeley and plans to hold an open house on Saturday, July 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is $5.

The picture here shows the building before the restoration effort began. David F. Jackson's Bay Area Radio Blog says the building "has been lovingly restored by the volunteer members of CHRS and converted into a world-class museum of radio and television, including vintage broadcast and production studios, displays of classic radios and television sets, a research library, a working ham radio shack (W6CF), electronic theory school and repair shop, plus a museum store and archival audio transfer and restoration service."

Jackson says the open house will include tours of the facility, live music, and performances by the Bay Area’s own Broadcast Legends, as well as an auction of rare and unusual radios to help raise funds for CHRS’ continuing effort to preserve the history of broadcasting in the region. (Photo credit: Annie Rowe, Daily Cal)

Cop beat: Disclipinary hearings secret

Legislation that would increase Californians' access to police disciplinary records by rolling back a 2006 state Supreme Court ruling appears to have died, the Chron reports. SB1019 had the support of many community groups, newspapers, city officials, the American Civil Liberties Union and some members of police review agencies. But law enforcement unions -- who can "get out the vote" in elections -- pressured lawmakers to keep disciplinary records secret.

Hyper-local Web sites aren't dead

The "hyper-local" Web site Backfence has died, but three more — Smalltown, Mini-Cities and CitySquares — are alive and kicking. Or more accurately, alive and knocking on the doors of local advertisers. In many places, they're building local sales forces. The New York Post's Holly M. Sanders reports:
    These smaller players are drilling down into communities with so-called "hyper-local" destination sites that supply ZIP-code level news, business listings, blogging, social networking and citizen journalism.

    Their goal is to corral the huge but fragmented market for local advertising, which is estimated at more than $100 billion annually. Many small businesses have never advertised online and don't have Web sites.

    "It's an untapped opportunity with so many local ad dollars and no clear winner," said Mike Boland, a senior analyst with the Kelsey Group.

    All the online firms are going up against newspapers and traditional yellow pages directories that have huge sales forces and strong relationships with local merchants.

    "Newspapers and yellow pages have succeeded at this for decades, but they have lots of heavy overhead," said Hal Rucker, CEO of Smalltown, which has set up sites for San Francisco Bay Area communities such as Millbrae and San Mateo. "Our overhead is really, really low."

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Chron layoffs loom; too few take buyouts

Layoffs could be ahead in the Chronicle newsroom because the number of employees who have so far accepted buyouts has fallen short of the company's goals, local Guild president Michael Cabanatuan (pictured) tells the East Bay Express.

Before this round of layoffs began, the Chronicle had about 400 people in its newsroom. Management has said it wants to cut 100 newsroom employees — 20 from management and 80 from the union. The 20 managers were cut first. Cabanatuan says about 50 union workers have accepted the buyout offer, which is two weeks of pay for every one year of service, topping out at one year of pay. If layoffs were to occur, the Guild contract calls for employees with the least seniority to be cut first.

"The Guild is hopeful that layoffs can be averted and will work hard toward that end," Cabanatuan tells EBX. "Job reductions of the magnitude being carried out in the Chronicle newsroom are incredibly disspiriting not only for many of those who leave but for those who stay. The buyout process has been traumatic for many people but layoffs would devastate morale as well as the careers and lives of many fine journalists."

Cabanatuan says the following union employees have officially accepted the buyouts either voluntarily or at the request of the company:
    Anne Schrager, photo technician
    Christina Koci-Hernandez, photographer
    Elizabeth Mangelsdorf, photographer
    Glenn Martin, reporter
    Heather Jones, copyeditor
    Ilene Lelchuk, reporter
    Patrick Hoge, reporter
    Keay Davidson, reporter
    Kathy Seligman, features reporter
    Mike Weiss, features reporter
    Pia Sarkar, business reporter
(Photo credit: Northern Californ Media Workers Guild)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Valleywag gossip site gets a new editor

Owen Thomas (left), who most recently was at Business 2.0 but started his career at Suck.com, has taken over as the new editor of Valleywag.com, the Silicon Valley tech gossip site. He replaces owner Nick Denton, who has several such sites in different communities but has personally been editing Valleywag since Nov. 13, after giving the boot to the site's original editor, Nick Douglas.

Thomas, in a post announcing his appointment, says he got the job by bothering Denton [right] non-stop for two years. "The torment, of course, mostly consisted of repeatedly turning down the job of running Valleywag -- and then turning around and IMing Denton daily -- no, hourly -- no, minutely -- to tell him how, precisely, I thought he ought to do it."

Thomas's first day on the job was rough, if this report by CNBC's Jim Goldman is any indication. Thomas claimed that Google executive Susan Wojcicki lied when she said she invented AdSense, Google's advertising system. Google spokesman David Krane called Thomas's report "patently false," though he admits the name AdSense came from a company Google acquired. Thomas is standing by his story.

KPIX CBS5 weather anchors swap shifts

Beginning July 16, KPIX CBS5 weahter anchors Roberta Gonzales (left) and Samantha Mohr (right) are swapping jobs. Gonzales will become the evening anchor, moving to the 5, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts Monday through Friday, while Samantha Mohr joins Early Edition at 5 and 6 a.m. and the noon newscast.

Publisher of SF's 'The Recorder' sold

The publisher of San Francisco law journal The Recorder and 32 other publications has been sold to Incisive Media for $630 million, bizjournals.com reports. Law and real estate publisher ALM Properties Inc. -- which also owns American Lawyer and GC California -- was formed in 1997 when Lazard Ltd. Chairman Bruce Wasserstein paid $63 million for American Lawyer and $200 million for National Law Publishing Co. William L. Pollak, ALM president and CEO, is to join Incisive Media's board when the deal closes.

'Hyper-local' citizen journalism site closing

Another attempt at a "hyper-local" Web site has bit the dust. Backfence has announced it is shutting down its 13 sites including those serving Palo Alto, San Mateo and Sunnyvale. Paidcontent.org attributes the death to Backfence's inability to get any local traction editorially and a series of managment troubles.

When word leaked out that Backfence was coming to Palo Alto last year, the Palo Alto Weekly redesigned its Palo Alto Online site, adding blogs and weblogs. The Palo Alto Daily News also started putting its stories online for the first time and added a weblog element. However, 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. It folded about a year later.

American Journalism Review has a story on the prospects of such "hyper-local" sites.

Blogger Josh Wolf runs for mayor

Josh Wolf (pictured), the blogger and freelance news photographer who went to jail for 7 months for refusing to give law enforcement outtakes of a video he shot of a political protest, plans to run for mayor of San Francisco. If elected, Wolf, 25, said he plans to wear a video camera to broadcast mayoral business to the public. Wolf is one of 24 candidates who hope to defeat Gavin Newsom, who seeks re-election this fall. Wolf surrendered the videotape to authorities April 3 after spending 225 days in jail. Under a deal with prosecutors, he was not required to testify or identify any of the protesters shown in his video. (Photo credit: Jim Schneider, San Francisco Daily)

SF Weekly owner tries to stop pricing trial

The chain that owns the SF Weekly, Village Voice Media, has filed a motion attempting to stop a trial in which a jury of San Francisco residents would determine whether it sold ads at below cost in order to run Bruce Brugmann's (pictured) Bay Guardian out of business.

The SF Weekly, which has rarely written about lawsuit, now has printed a 2,700-word story about its motion to dismiss with the headline: "Unfair Lawsuit Act: SF Weekly moves to dismiss the Guardian's lawsuit, which is light on witnesses and evidence." The chain's motion claims the Guardian hasn't produced enough evidence to justify a trial.

The Guardian filed the suit in October 2004. Since then, the Guardian has frequently written about the lawsuit, and, in its most recent issue, reports that Village Voice Media is refusing to provide records it needs. The trial had been scheduled to start July 16 in the courtroom of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer. But Kramer has now rescheduled the trial to Oct. 15, the Guardian says. As for Village Voice Media's motion to dismiss, the Guardian says, "This type of motion is common at this point in civil suits, and most of them are denied."

BALCO source agrees to 33-month sentence

Troy Ellerman (pictured), the attorney and rodeo association commissioner who leaked grand jury testimony in the baseball steroids case to the Chronicle, has agreed to spend 33 months in prison, nine months longer than his original plea bargain, the AP. The original deal, calling for a 24-month term, was thrown out by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White as too lenient. Ellerman, who worked for BALCO founder Victor Conte, allowed Chron reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada to view the grand jury testimony of players including Barry Bonds, according to the plea agreement. One Ellerman admitted he was the source, the government dropped its case against Chron reporters Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. (Photo credit: Yahoo Sports, which was the first to reveal Ellerman's identity.)

Readers asked to help with paper's dilemma

After the layoffs of 31 colleagues and the resignations of 15 more, Merc business columnist Dean Takahashi (pictured) is asking readers for ideas on how the paper can tailor its product to meet their needs.
    "we can make the newspaper more useful to everybody and to make ourselves relevant to readers online. The problem is we’ve got two beasts to feed, our online and print products. The print product makes us most of our money. The online revenue is growing but it has serious competition. Our older readers like the newspapers the way it is. But if we don’t get young readers, then we’ll eventually become irrelevant. No one in our industry has figured out this problem."
Here's hisblog and the responses he got back.

Monday, July 2, 2007

A list of Merc staffers who were laid off

In case you missed the "comment" left on the item below, retired Merc ad man Lou Alexander has furnished the following list of employees who were laid off today by the MediaNews-owned paper. He says 31 people were laid off and 15 voluntarily resigned since the layoffs were announced on June 6.

Included in the layoff
    Peter Allen
    Stewart G. Applin
    Jennifer Aquino
    Morna Baird
    Michele R. Chandler
    Victor Chi
    Barbara J. Egbert
    Marilee S. Enge
    Robin C. Evans
    Kristen C. Folmar
    Rodney A. Foo
    Susanna L. Frohman
    Constance L. Gove
    Brian A. Griffin
    Terri L. Hart
    Brad Kava
    Dikran Keraghosian
    Anthony Lioce
    Marian Liu
    Thomas Moore
    Raymond Moses
    Kimberly Nauman
    John Orr
    Daniel Reed
    Janice Rombeck
    Colin Seymour
    Khanh Weinberg
    Nicole Wong
    Sara Wykes
    Steve Yvaska
    Steve Zuckerman


Voluntary resignations since the layoffs were announced on June 6th:
    Tim Ball
    Margaret Bethel
    Roger Cohn
    Dave Curtis
    Dylan Hernandez
    Jeff Hindenach
    Elizabeth Howton
    Wes Killingbeck
    Will McCahill
    Glenn Rabinowitz
    Akii Ramsess
    Elisabeth Rubinfein
    Meryl Simon
    Yomi Wrong
    Oie Yeh
Lou Alexander's list matches the list Robert Gammon of the East Bay Express posted this afternoon.

Arson suspected in former Merc bureau fire

Both of Palo Alto's newspapers are reporting on their Web sites (Daily News, Weekly) that arson is suspected in the four-alarm fire Sunday night that destroyed the University Avenue building that until recently housed the Mercury News' Palo Alto bureau. The newspaper moved out a few months ago.

Black Monday at the Merc

This morning, Mercury News newsroom staffers were to be told via phone whether they were going to be laid off. The San Jose paper is cutting 40 members of its newsroom. As the Guild points out in this posting, "This would be a blow at any time but it comes on the heels of nearly two years of deecost-cutting. Since 2000, the newsroom at the Mercury News has been cut in half from about 400 journalists to 200 full-time positions. This bloodletting has to stop." The Merc used this same procedure of calling employees at home to let them know they are fired during the last round of layoffs in January.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

3-alarm fire at former Merc Palo Alto bureau

A three-alarm fire tonight gutted the recently vacated Mercury News Palo Alto bureau as well as the Walgreens store below it. As of 11:25 p.m., firefighters were still attempting to knock down the blaze that was reported at around 9:30 p.m. A dispatcher said firefighters didn't believe anyone was inside the building at 310 University Ave. The cause has yet to be determined. The Mercury News had leased space for its news bureau in the downtown building since 1993, but closed it a few months ago as a cost-cutting measure. However, the Merc's sign facing University Avenue could be seen amid the fire truck ladders tonight. (Photo credit: Dave Price)

Chron's Dias: Ramirez's death inconceivable

Chron editorial page editor John Diaz says he wonders if the Merc's Rich Ramirez ever knew how much he was appreciated. Diaz writes about the painstaking work Ramirez did to organize the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in San Jose, which took place a few days before he was found dead of an apparent suicide June 20.
    "The convention was a huge success and no one seemed to be having a better time than Rich when I caught up with him at an opening-night reception. As always, he was quick with a smile and quick with questions about how things were going with my life and job.

    "Four days after the convention, Rich Ramirez was found dead in the backyard of his Livermore home, with a knife wound in his midsection. Police still suspect it was a suicide, by about the most painful and difficult method imaginable.

    "Those who knew Rich Ramirez could not say which was more inconceivable: That he would take his life or that someone would want to hurt a man who radiated such brightness and generosity. One could only speculate: Was it the angst and uncertainty that has gripped the profession he loved? Or was it a deeply personal pain that no one who thought they knew him ever recognized?"

Bruce Koon named KQED-FM news director

Veteran journalist and online editor Bruce Koon has been named KQED-FM's news director. Koon is a former reporter and editor for the National Observer, the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Examiner. In 1995, after 22 years in print newspapers, he moved to the San Jose Mercury News' Mercury Center and Knight Ridder's online division. Executive news editor for Knight Ridder Digital from 2002 to 2006, Koon developed the company's shared content operation, which edited and published news, sports, entertainment and feature content for 26 newspaper Web sites. (Photo credit: CNPA)