Thursday, December 27, 2007

More local journalists switching to PR

Chris Lopez, Paul Feist, Tom Honig, Lynda Gledhill, Kate Folmar and Charlie Goodyear are among the Bay Area journalists who have switched sides and now make a living doing public relations. That's according to a Bay Guardian story by G.W. Schulz, who says "MediaNews set the trend this year for pushing career journalists into public relations." MediaNews bought several Bay Area newspapers in 2006 and then proceeded to cut jobs in their newsrooms. Hearst also reduced the size of the Chronicle's newsroom from roughly 400 to 300 in the past year. Tom Honig stepped down as editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel in November, saying he hoped his departure would stop MediaNews from making further layoffs. He told his former staff that he wasn't betraying the values of news reporting by going into public relations: "Just because you're in public relations does not mean you're a liar," the Sentinel quoted Honig as saying. "What I do now is tell people's stories. This is just another way to tell people's stories."

City College of SF offers journalism courses

City College of San Francisco plans to offer a variety of journalism courses for neophytes, veterans and everyone in between, in the spring semester starting Jan. 14. Maybe you know someone who'll be interested.

Course titles:
    J19 Contemporary News Media
    J21 News Writing and Reporting
    J22 Feature Writing
    J23 Electronic Copy Editing
    J24 Newspaper Laboratory
    J26 Fundamentals of Public Relations
    J29 Magazine Editing & Production
    J31 Internship Experience
    J37 Intro to Photojournalism
All are 3-unit courses, except the internship, which is 2-unit.

Additional details are in the attached PDF. For more information, call department chair Juan Gonzales at (415) 239-3446 or see http://www.ccsf.edu/Departments/ and put "journalism" in the search box.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

DOJ asks reporters for help in Perata case

The Chronicle says the Department of Justice has asked two of its former reporters, Robert Salladay and Christian Berthelsen, for help with its investigation of Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (pictured) of Oakland. 

In a Feb. 17, 2004 story, Salladay and Berthelsen quoted the senator as saying he was paid about $100,000 a year by Timothy G. Staples, a political adviser who has been Perata's friend since college. The reporters also wrote that a consulting firm Staples headed was paid $313,000 by campaign committees affiliated with Perata or by corporations who were also Perata contributors. By law, legislators are prohibited from using campaign contributions to enrich themselves.

Both reporters later left the Chron for the LA Times. Salladay quit the Times last summer and now is a writer in Sacramento while Berthelsen is still at the Times.

Salladay is quoted in today's Chron story as saying he "chucked all the notes." Berthelsen would only confirm that he had been contacted by a prosecutor. The FBI and DOJ also refused comment. 

Staples' lawyer, William Goodman, found it odd that prosecutors would be contacting reporters, but speculated that they're trying to find out more than what was in the article. (Photo credit: AP, Rich Pedroncelli)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Private eye nabs newspaper theft suspects

Higher prices for recycled newsprint have caused a surge in newspaper thefts, the Berkeley Daily Planet reports. The thefts have prompted publishers to form a coalition to push police to enforce a new state law prohibiting such thefts and persuade recycling centers to not accept large quantities of newspapers with recent dates on them. The thefts also led the East Bay Express to hire a private investigator to catch the perpetrators. Zelda Bronstein of the Planet writes:
    "On his first night out, early on Dec. 12, the private detective caught and filmed the man and an accomplice in the act. The thieves ended up in front of KMC Paper, a recycling business on Oakland’s Poplar Street, where they were met by eight police cars. The man lacked a driver’s license, and his pickup truck had no license plate. He was issued a citation, and his vehicle was impounded."
According to East Bay Express president Hal Brody, the truck contained more than 500 copies of the Express and nearly that number of Bay Guardians, as well as substantial numbers of the Daily Planet, the East Bay Daily News, Bay Area Business Woman, Classified Flea Market, El Men-sajero, El Avisador Magazine, Diablo Dealer Auto Mart, Bay Classifieds, and Jobs and Careers.

One underlying difficulty is ignorance of the law on the part of recyclers, the general public and even some police, the Planet notes. The Express’s private investigator spent 20 minutes on the phone convincing the Oakland Police dispatcher that stealing free newspapers is a crime. It became a crime in California last January, when AB 2612 went into effect.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Health care cost hike helps union effort

The Guild's $500,000 campaign to unionize workers at the combined Contra Costa Times-ANG newspapers wasn't attracting much interest from employees until last month when their health care premiums jumped, the SF Weekly reports. Employees quickly discovered that the increase wasn't as sharp for unionized employees at the Mercury News, which is also owned by MediaNews. Now, the unionization effort is gaining momentum, the SF Weekly reports. The Weekly quotes one unnamed Contra Costa Times employee as saying she might become the newsroom's Norma Rae, who would lead the effort to organize workers like the textile worker played by Sally Field in the 1979 movie. The would-be Norma Rae is quoted as saying:
    "Every day some new crap happens that nobody can believe. We always felt protected here because the Times was profitable, but health care increases showed us how vulnerable we are. MediaNews is going to do what suits them and we really don't matter."
Now Chronicle reporter and union organizer Carl Hall (pictured at Guild headquarters in San Francisco) says he is convinced he has enough support to call for an official vote, which requires 30 percent of BANG employees to sign cards saying they want the Newspaper Guild to represent them. But actually winning a vote is much more uncertain. "If we held the election today, we'd have 100 votes," he says. "We need 50 more." By the way, Hall is taking six months off from his job at the Chronicle in order to work full time on organizing the Times-ANG news operation.

The SF Weekly says management held a Nov. 5 seminar for top editors to give them talking points if the union campaign comes up: Editors first assure the employees that it is absolutely their right to unionize. Next, they should seamlessly segue into the poor financial health of the newspaper industry and how there is nothing a union can do about that. Finally, they should politely bring up how the ANG union did so little for its members. Wages and benefits in the previously unionized ANG newsroom were about the worst in the Bay Area.

The Guild says it wants to cooperate with management and work to reinforce quality journalism. MediaNews chief executive Dean Singleton is skeptical, saying:
    "I've been in the newspaper business for three and a half decades, and I've never had a union work for me. Management has its own responsibilities, and for the life of me, I've never seen a union contribute to those."
(Photo credit: Jen Siska, SF Weekly)

Student settles Apple suit by shutting site

After a long battle with Apple Inc., a Harvard University senior said today that he would shut down Think Secret, the Web site known for landing scoops about the company's latest products, the LA Times reports. Apple, based in Cupertino, was peeved by the leaks and sued blogger Nicholas Ciarelli in 2005. Among other things, Apple wanted Ciarelli to reveal his sources — which he has refused to do. The site's demise has prompted outrage from some Apple followers, but Ciarelli got his own happy ending: freedom from having to run the site anymore. Ciarelli, 22, (seen above at Harvard) graduates this spring and told the Times he was more than ready to abandon the site he had run since he was a 13-year-old Mac fanatic.

Ciarelli also received a payment from Apple, the Times said, quoting an unnamed person close to the case. Both sides declined to discuss details of the agreement.

"I'm pleased to have reached this amicable settlement, and will now be able to move forward with my college studies and broader journalistic pursuits," Ciarelli wrote on his site. (Photo credit: Jonathan Finer. Washington Post)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Henry to temporarily lead Berkeley J-school

Neil Henry, a longtime Washington Post reporter and Newsweek staff writer who joined UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism faculty in 1993, has been appointed to serve as dean of journalism, pending approval by UC President Robert Dynes and the Board of Regents.

Henry has served as interim dean of journalism since July 1 and has agreed to fill the post for up to 18 months, heading the school in preparing for a transition to new permanent leadership, according to a press release from the university.

The Contra Costa Times' Matt Krupnick points out that Henry was a finalist for the job earlier this year when Dianne Lynch, dean of Ithaca College's communications school, agreed to succeed former Dean Orville Schell at Berkeley. She pulled out of the job -- for the second time -- last month without a public explanation. As Krupnick reported in November, UC Berkeley officials stonewalled him when he tried to find out why she withdrew for a second time. The J-school even asked its students not to ask questions about it, he reported.

'Rosey' to lead investigative reporting center

Robert "Rosey" Rosenthal, who stepped down as managing editor of the Chronicle in May just as layoffs began, was named today executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley. The nonprofit has produced hundreds of investigations for print, television, radio and Web since it opened in 1977.

"We conducted an extensive, nationwide search and Rosey delivered on all fronts -- a great reporter, unquestioned integrity and strong management experience," said CIR Board President Tom Goldstein in a press release. "He's the perfect choice to lead CIR as it enters its fourth decade of hard-hitting, investigative reporting," he added. Rosenthal was the No. 2 editor at the Chronicle for five years. Before that he was at the Philadelphia Inquirer for 22 years.

Pappas may put TV stations on the market

KTNC Channel 42 may soon be up for sale along with 26 other TV stations owned by Pappas Telecasting of Visalia. Chairman and chief executive Harry Pappas says that after 40 years in broadcasting, "the time has come to simplify my life and spend more time with my family.” He's hired Moelis & Company to explore options for selling the privately held company that includes network affiliates in several smaller markets. One of the Pappas assets that apparently is not on the block is San Francisco's KTRB-AM 860, a 50,000-watt station that hit the air in February.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Will MediaNews buy a Bay Area TV station?

The FCC decided today to let companies own newspapers and TV stations in the same city in the nation's 20 largest markets including San Francisco — a change long sought by MediaNews chief executive Dean Singleton.

Singleton — whose chain of newspapers includes the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and most of the other dailies in the Bay Area — has been pushing to own print and broadcast properties in the same market in order to combine newsrooms and save money by eliminating redundant jobs.

"You take the high cost of news gathering and spread it across multiple platforms and you get multiple revenue streams," Singleton said in a 2006 interview with The Washington Post.

A 2003 FCC vote to relax cross-ownership rules was rejected by a federal appeals court. Today's vote was aimed at getting around the court's objections, the Denver Business Journal noted. Singleton told The Washington Post last year that he had several TV stations under purchase contract in 2003, but when the appeals court blocked the rules change then, he had to back out of the deals.

MediaNews only owns one TV station, a CBS affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska. Hearst Corp., owner of the Chronicle, owns about 80 percent of the stock in Hearst-Argyle Television, which has 26 stations including Sacramento's NBC affiliate, KCRA Channel 3.

Commissioner Kyle Copps, a Democrat, (shown above in the foreground with fellow commissioner Kevin Martin, Republican, in the background) blasted the decision as being "terrible" for those who want local news.
    "In the final analysis, the real winners today are businesses that are in many cases quite healthy, and the real losers are going to be all of us who depend on the news media to learn what's happening in our communities and to keep an eye on local government."
On the other hand, the three Republican commissioners argued that with the Internet and cable TV, there are more news outlets today than ever before.
    "We cannot ignore the fact that the media marketplace is considerably different than it was when the newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership (rule) was put in place more than 30 years ago," said Kevin Martin, according to a Dow Jones report.
Under the change, if a newspaper acquires a TV station in the same city, the station can't be one of the four largest in the market. The rule change also grants permanent waivers to media companies that already own TV stations and newspapers in the same city, such Tribune Co. in Chicago, Gannett in Phoenix and News Corp. in New York.

San Francisco's only newspaper-television combination was the Chronicle and KRON-TV. But the families who owned both sold the newspaper in 2000 to Hearst and the TV station to Young Broadcasting Co. (Photo credit: Gerald Herbert, AP)

Space available for watchdog training

Space is still available for the "Better Watchdog Workshop" offered by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) on Jan. 19 in San Francisco. IRE says the Better Watchdogs workshop will offer practical nuts and bolts instruction for reporters, especially those at small- to medium-sized newsrooms and in bureaus of larger news organizations. The instructors will be experienced journalists and trainers from IRE. The workshops will also cover the guiding of reporters in the effective use of the Internet, open-records laws, computer-assisted reporting and anonymous sources. The workshop is hosted by KQED in association with National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Fee: $40 professional, $20 student. Follow this link for information and registration.

TV20 to try more interactive programming

Look for more interactive programming on "Your TV20" KBWB in the coming year. Broadcasting and Cable magazine has a story about the plans of Don Cornwell (pictured), chief executive and chairman of Granite Broadcasting, which owns nine stations including TV20.

Last year at this time, Granite was trying to get out of debt by selling its UHF stations in Detroit and San Francisco to a group headed by former KTVU general manager Kevin O'Brien. But the deal fell through when the WB network announced it was shutting down. Now, with the backing of an investment banking firm, Granite has gone from selling its assets to buying them.

Broadcasting and Cable reports:
    The company is particularly keen on KBWB, which recently brought in Comcast sales vet Craig Coane as president and general manager. Granite execs won't offer specifics about the station's plans, but do say its independent affiliation allows them to try something truly experimental. “There's a unique opportunity to create an interactive TV station unlike what the other folks are doing,” says [chief operating officer John] Deushane, who adds that KBWB will introduce a series of new features in the next nine to 10 months.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Savage tells NY Times he's carrying heat



Bay Area radio host Michael Savage is licensed to carry a pistol and does so, The New York Times reports in today's edition. The Times said it was allowed to sit in on his broadcasts if it agreed to not "reveal the location of the waterside house where he was broadcasting that day, or of two other homes where he has studios and which he treats as virtual safe houses" due to death threats Savage said he has received over the years. The topic of the story was Savage's lawsuit against the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR.

The Times' Jacques Steinberg writes:
    "With his suit, Mr. Savage has put himself in an odd position for someone who makes his living talking and is a fierce advocate for free speech: He is complaining about others quoting him."
Savage contends that the council violated the copyright protections on his broadcast by using his words, in effect, to raise money. “If they are trying to hang me by my own petard, they have no right to use my petard,” Savage told the Times. “It’s my petard, not theirs." He claims he has lost millions of dollars in advertising revenue because CAIR is asking advertisers to pull their spots from his show. CAIR claims the suit is a publicity stunt. (Photo credit: Jim Wilson, The New York Times)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Owens' music protests Bernie gag order

The person who picks the music bumpers for Ronn Owens' 9-noon show on KGO 810 has a sense of humor. Owens (pictured) got back from vacation yesterday and was on the air for the first time since fellow KGO host Bernie Ward was indicted on child pornography charges. Owens began his show by briefly mentioning the station's policy forbidding its hosts and callers from discussing the case for legal reasons. Owens said he disagreed with the policy but would follow it. Then, after the next break, the bumper was "Our Lips Are Sealed" by the Go Gos. After that it was:
    • Gwen Stefani's "Don't speak. I know what you're saying. So please stop explaining. Don't tell me because it hurts."

    • Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence."

    • Cliff Richard's "It's so funny how we don't talk anymore. It's so funny why we don't talk anymore."

    • Bonnie Raitt's "Let's give them something to talk about."
Later on, Owens credited the music selection to engineer Chris Hernandez and producer Mark Silverman.

Young's TV column ends, blog hits high gear

Susan Young's final print column on television is scheduled to appear this Sunday in the papers formerly known as the Alameda Newspaper Group including the Oakland Tribune and San Mateo County Times. She's been the TV critic for ANG for 14 years, longer than anyone else now covering television in the Bay Area. She's also was the only woman writing a TV column in the Bay Area.

With the merger of the Contra Costa Times and ANG news operations, the CCT's Chuck Barney will take over the TV criticism. The only ANG critic to retain his position was music editor Jim Harrington.

Young will become a member of the merged papers' new entertainment team. She said she's learning to shoot and edit video. "Who says you can't teach an old hound new tricks?" she said.

She will also continue to write the TV blog, which is adding readers every day. "There's so much freedom there, and ... so much more space to do what you want," Young said in an e-mail. And since she can post items on her blog instantly, she breaks a lot of news about the local TV business.

To subscribe to her blog, go to http://feeds.feedburner.com/iba_unscripted. She said she hopes to bring people to the blog who previously enjoyed her column in print.

Palo Alto editor elected to Press Club board

Jay Thorwaldson, editor of the Palo Alto Weekly, is the newest member of the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club's board of directors. The club's membership elected Thorwaldson and reelected Peter Cleaveland and Jennifer Aquino as directors. Also reelected were President Jamie Casini, Vice President Dave Price, Treasurer Ed Remitz and Secretary Jon Mays.

In the 1960s and 70s, Thorwaldson was an award-winning reporter and editor with the Palo Alto Times and Peninsula Times Tribune.

Information he uncovered in 1967 helped Menlo Park police infiltrate and break up a neo-Nazi terror and bombing group in early 1968 — he received an award for his coverage of the arrests. In 1970, he drafted an editorial suggesting creation of an open space district to preserve Skyline Ridge lands, which led to creation in 1972 of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. A 1971 series on ambulance-service problems resulted in creation of the Palo Alto Fire Department’s paramedics team.

From 1977 to 1982, he taught journalism at Stanford part-time and in 1980-81 he helped oversee the effort that ultimately contributed to the preservation of the historic Stanford Theater in downtown Palo Alto. He served as director of public affairs for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation for 18 years.

In 2000, Thorwaldson returned to the newspaper business as editor of the Palo Alto Weekly, which has won numerous awards under his leadership. He points out that this fall marked the 50th anniversary of his first byline, in the El Gato student newspaper at Los Gatos High School.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bernie Ward defense fund, blog established

Supporters of KGO-AM talk show host Bernie Ward have established a legal defense fund as he battles child pornography charges, and they've set up a Web site, http://home.comcast.net/~supportbernieward/site/. Lynne Sloan, who produced Ward's Sunday morning "God Talk" show, revealed the site and the fund in a posting on the Democratic Underground site. "I am writing to you to thank you for your support, care and concern for Bernie," Sloan writes. "Your abundant well wishes and prayers are of great comfort to the Ward family."

KICU 36 to launch 7 p.m. news in January

KTVU Channel 2 plans to launch a 7 p.m. newscast in January anchored by Gasia Mikaelian (pictured) that will air on sister station KICU Channel 36.

Titled "The Bay Area News at 7," the 30-minute program will focus on local news and is aimed at viewers who don’t return home from their evening commute until the 6 p.m. newscasts are over. The new newscast will be broadcast in high definition, as are all of KTVU's other newscasts. “This newscast will benefit from all of KTVU’s news resources. It will be high quality, high energy and it will include all the KTVU Channel 2 News coverage that Bay Area viewers have come to know and expect from us,” said Ed Chapuis, KTVU Channel 2 news director.

With the announcement of the new newscast, KTVU has given Mikaelian a new role at the station — solo anchor of the new 7 p.m. cast and co-anchor with Frank Somerville of the Channel 2 news at 5 p.m.

Mikaelian, a Livermore native, is a graduate of San Diego State University. Since 1997, she has worked in television in Yuma, Ariz., Huntsville, Ala., San Diego and Houston. She joined KTVU in March 2005 as a reporter and fill-in anchor, and was promoted to weekend anchor in July.

With Mikaelian's promotion, KTVU is looking for two weekend anchors. Channel 2's other weekend anchor, Sara Sidner, is headed to CNN, where she will be assigned to a bureau in India.

The addition of a 7 p.m. newscast means that Bay Area news junkies will have a live local newscast every hour from 4 to 11 on weekdays with the exception of the 8 p.m. hour.
    4 p.m. — Channel 4
    5 p.m. — 2, 4, 5, 7, 11
    6 p.m. — 2, 4, 5, 7, 11, 14
    7 p.m. — 36 (produced by KTUV)
    8 p.m. — none
    9 p.m. — 20 (produced by KGO-TV)
    10 p.m. — 2
    11 p.m. — 4, 5, 7, 11, 14
The Bay Area market isn't the only one with a new local newscast at 7 p.m. In September, WNBC in New York replaced its traditional 5 p.m. newscast with one at 7 p.m. in what it calls a response to changing viewer habits, according to The New York Times.

"Not only has WNBC jettisoned its 5 p.m. newscast, with the rationale that fewer people are home at that time to watch it, but the solo-anchor format for [Chuck] Scarborough [right] will rely more heavily on news than on the typical local formula of news, sports and weather," the Times wrote. The WNBC 7 p.m. program is titled “New York Nightly News” and it is designed to look and feel like "The NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" which precedes it at 6:30. (Photo credits: top, KTVU; Gabriele Stabile , NYT)

Was Bernie Ward reporting on child porn?

Two commentaries discuss Bernie Ward's claim that he was acting as a journalist when he was caught trading three child pornography images online. In the Chron, author and KKGN "Green 960" host Peter Laufer asks: "... if Bernie's story is correct, it is odd that he was so naive as to think what he was doing couldn't haunt him — even as journalistic research. But what would be the safe method for a lifelong journalist like me to report on this, or any similar story, without inherently running the risk of arrest?"

On the left-wing blog CounterPunch, New York journalist Debbie Nathan compares Ward's case to two others:
    "Ward’s case is strikingly similar to that of Larry Mathews, a media figure who faced child porn charges in the late 1990s. Mathews was a Washington DC-area radio reporter in his late 50s. He had won press awards and was known for covering social issues, including the problem of internet child porn. When arrested, he said he had acquired illegal material because he was impersonating a pedophile in order to do another story.

    "The government countered that Mathews had no notes or story assignment from a media outlet. The ACLU, National Public Radio, and other press and First Amendment organizations spoke out for him and filed supporting legal briefs. But an appellate court later ruled that journalists have no right to acquire or distribute child pornography while doing research. Mathews was convicted and served several months in a halfway house."
But Nathan points out that a New York Times reporter, Kurt Eichenwald, wasn't prosecuted during his investigation into child porn even though he said he accidentally accessed a few illegal images. However, Eichenwald went on to write a major Times story that led to congressional hearings and stronger legislation against child pornographers. He also took a 14-year-old victim he located to federal authorities.

Nathan concludes: "Journalists need some kind of system or First Amendment permit to allow them to do their reporting. Otherwise, the public will remain ignorant about what’s really going on with child pornography. And media people trying to find out will risk indictment, or worse."

Tracy Press's battle for e-mails escalates

More than a dozen newspaper companies and press organizations have filed court briefs on behalf of the Tracy Press in its attempt to obtain e-mails written by a Tracy City Council woman to officials with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

While previous cases have established the principle that e-mails written on government accounts are public record, council member Suzanne Tucker wrote the e-mails in question on her personal account using her personal computer.

The Tracy Press lost the first round in this battle when San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Lauren Thomasson ruled in August that because the e-mails were created and kept on Tucker's personal computer, they are not public documents. The newspaper appealed. On Oct. 18 the appeals court ordered the city to explain why the Tracy Press has no right to the e-mails.

Now the city of Tracy has hired a $380-an-hour attorney, Ann Taylor Schwing of McDonough Holland & Allen, who is said to be an expert on appeals.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association, California First Amendment Coalition and The Associated Press have filed briefs in support of the Tracy Press, as have the following newspapers and newspaper companies: San Francisco Bay Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Copley Press, McClatchy Company, Bakersfield Californian, Herburger Publications, Bay Area News Group-East Bay, Sierra Nevada Media Group, The [Stockton] Record, Metro Publishing Inc. and the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Also read:

Nominees wanted for Madison awards

The Society of Professional Journalists Northern California chapter is seeking nominations for its annual James Madison awards for organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of freedom of information and expression. The awards are presented at a ceremony in March. Here's a link with details.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Examiner blogger accused of plagiarism

The SF Weekly's Matt Smith reports that an unpaid contributor to the San Francisco Examiner's Web site, Sharon Gray, has been filling her blog with stories from other news sources verbatim and without attribution.

"Gray created the appearance of being an unusually industrious investigative reporter, writer, and photographer, when in fact much of her work consisted of material taken from elsewhere on the Internet," Smith writes. "This cut-and-paste technique allowed her to post 19 stories in November alone, many of them consisting of news essays of more than 1,000 words with quotes from multiple interviews, and illustrated with numerous photographs taken from around California."

Examiner Executive Editor Jim Pimentel told Smith that nobody edits the blogs on his paper's Web site, though the Examiner reserves the right to right to remove blogs that include libel or plagiarism. And Gray's blog disappeared shortly after Smith started asking the Examiner about it.

Bernie Ward turned down plea bargain

Federal prosecutors pursuing a child pornography case against liberal KGO radio talk host Bernie Ward were pressuring him as far back as a year and a half ago to accept a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for five years, the Chron's Matier & Ross report, citing "knowledgeable sources."

Ward tells M&R that he was only researching a book when he downloaded child-porn images in December 2004 and transmitted them to a woman with whom he had been communicating on a chat line.

Meanwhile radio critic Brad Kava says that the only people not talking about the Bernie Ward story are KGO-AM's talk show hosts. While KGO's news side covered it, talk hosts on the station have been discussing topics such as Mitt Romney's religion or the CIA cover-up of torture tapes. To Kava, such topics "sounded anemic compared to the Ward case. What was on most minds was whether the station's most vocal liberal host had done something gruesome and illegal."

Ward points out that KGO-AM hosts didn't shy away from discussing Rush Limbaugh's arrest for buying illegal pain killers.

"Just imagine how would the station be covering Gavin Newsom or Barry Bonds in the same situation?" Kava asks. "Talk wallpaper, right?" (Photo credit: MSNBC)

Kava scoffs at executive-of-the-year story

Former Merc music and radio writer Brad Kava (left), now an independent blogger, says you can tell a lot about how a media outlet covers itself. His column is mostly about how KGO-AM 810's talk hosts are ignoring the arrest of fellow host Bernie Ward on child porn charges (see items above and below).

But while on the subject of how the media outlets cover themselves, he notes that his former paper left out some facts when it reported that its previous publisher, George Riggs (right), was named executive of the year by the California Press Association. Kava writes:
    "The guy's paper lost a third of its circulation, and its deputy managing editor says the community hates it because it has no personality ... but he wins a big award and no one questions it or raises any irony in the story covering the award. You know they would if this were some other industry patting itself on the back.

    "That's one reason bloggers are getting so much more powerful. They can ask: how did they give this award out? Random drawing?"
Riggs, longtime publisher of the Contra Costa Times, was brought in to head both the CC Times and Merc in 2005. In 2006, he became president of MediaNews Group's California Newspapers Partnership, overseeing more than 30 daily newspapers. In 2007, Riggs handed the Merc publisher post to former ad director Jeff Kiel while remaining head of the California partnership.

Riggs said he was surprised to get the California Press Association award, joking that "this must have been a year with a dearth of candidates. But in all seriousness, recognition like this is very special."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Ceppos named dean of Nevada J-school

The University of Nevada, Reno, has named former Merc editor and Knight Ridder vp Jerry Ceppos as its new journalism dean, heading a school with 500 students and 15 full-time staff. In addition Ceppos will be a full professor with tenure and the holder of endowed chair. He starts in January. Ceppos, a resident of Saratoga, is an adjunct professor at San Jose State University and a consultant for Leading Edge Associates. Ceppos was the only remaining finalists after two others withdrew their names.

Ceppos told Sean Webby of the Merc that he hopes to focus the school's faculty and students on the rich environmental and legal reporting topics in the Lake Tahoe area. He also wants the next generation of journalists to sharpen their analytical skills on a broader issue: "How did the media end up in this mess?"
    "None of us, including me, foresaw how much our lives would be changed by the new media," said Ceppos, 61, a fellow at Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. "The next time the new delivery method comes along, it's important that everybody doesn't sit around and worry and not take any action."
But Ceppos said he is still hopeful about the future of journalism: "We are still going to need reporters and editors no matter what the medium is," he said.

[Link to University of Nevada, Reno, press release]

New Sentinel editor makes changes

Don Miller, who was just promoted from managing editor to editor of MediaNews Group's Santa Cruz Sentinel, has replaced the paper's city editor, dropped a weekly entertainment section and started Web sites about local schools and sports, according to a Q&A the Sentinel published.

Julie Copeland, who was the paper's Watsonville editor, will replace Kurtis Alexander as city editor. Alexander will become the Sentinel's political editor.

Miller said the Sentinel has stopped printing The Guide, a weekly entertainment section that started about two years ago, because it wasn't able to attract advertisers as it competed against Santa Cruz's two weeklies, Good Times and Metro.

Miller said he doesn't believe more layoffs are on the way, even though the previous editor, Tom Honig, said he resigned to spare the newsroom from budget cuts. Honig, after 35 years at the Sentinel, took a job with the Monterey-based Armanasco Public Relations firm. (Photo credit: Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Par Ridder quits, MediaNews gets $5 million

Par Ridder, the 39-year-old son of former Knight Ridder chairman Tony Ridder of Woodside, has resigned as publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and that paper has agreed to pay at least $5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by MediaNews over his hiring.

In March, the Star Tribune hired Ridder from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which the Ridder family had run for several generations until it was sold in 2006 to MediaNews. Then MediaNews filed a lawsuit that accused Ridder of breaking a noncompete agreement, hiring Pioneer Press executives away from the paper in violation of other agreements and taking a laptop computer containing confidential Pioneer Press data.

In September, a judge removed Ridder from the job as publisher. On Friday Ridder formally resigned although he hadn't been at work since the judge's order in September. Both papers (Star Tribune, Pioneer Press) report the suit has been settled. Terms weren't fully disclosed although it was reported that the Star Tribune will pay MediaNews Group's legal fees, said to be about $5 million.

SacBee to outsource ad work to India

The Sacramento Bee says it will outsource its advertising production work to India. Earlier this year, MediaNews Group's Contra Costa Times and ANG newspapers made the same move. They're all using Express KCS, with facilities in Gurgaon and New Delhi, India. The Gurgaon office is shown here. "We are sort of following the lead of some other papers that have done this successfully," said Ed Canale, the Bee's vice president of business development. The move, scheduled to be completed next summer, will eliminate 13 out of 24 artists' jobs at the Bee. (Photo credit: Newspapers & Technology)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bernie Ward indicted for child pornography

Liberal talk show host Bernie Ward has been indicted on child pornography charges and surrendered to federal authorities this morning. Specifically he is charged with two counts of allegedly transmitting and receiving child pornography by way of the Internet three years ago. Ward, who is married and the father of four, could face up to five years in prison if convicted on each of the two counts.

Ward's lawyer, Doron Weinberg, said the pornography was related to research Ward was doing for a book three years ago on hypocracy in America. As part of the research, Ward downloaded "a few images" of child pornography, and, Weinberg told the Chronicle, "it came to the attention of the government in late 2004."

Details of the allegations are sealed as part of the federal indictment and there was no immediate explanation from prosecutors as to why the indictment came now, three years later.

"Obviously this is not a dangerous man, obviously not a predator, and the government knows that or they wouldn't have waited three-plus years to act," Weinberg told KCBS-AM 740. (KCBS Podcast of Weinberg interview)

"He's devastated by this," Weinberg added.

Jeannette Boudreau, Ward's agent, told KCBS (KCBS podcast) that it is possible he is being targeted by federal prosecutors. "That does spring to mind. He is a very vocal, anti-Bush administration talk show host who has a wide audience and a big reach, especially at night [because] KGO is a 50,000-watt station, and it wouldn't surprise me ... it's hard to avoid that conclusion."

Ward, 56, is a former Roman Catholic priest who, in addition to his weeknight show, also hosts "God Talk," a religious program, on Sunday mornings.

Jack Swanson, KGO's operations director, said in a statement: “Bernie Ward has been a valued, long-time employee of KGO Radio. We were just recently made aware of these serious charges and are surprised and concerned by their nature. As the matter is currently pending in federal court, we will have no additional comment at this time. A substitute host will do the 10 p.m.–1 a.m., Monday–Friday broadcast and the Sunday morning 'God Talk' broadcast."

UPDATE, 5:15 P.M. — The FBI searched Ward's house and seized his computer in 2005, Weinberg tells Bay City News. The search never made the news; Ward has apparently been aware that he was under investigation since then.

Weinberg said that since Ward's computer was seized, he was not able to finish his book. It was not immediately known if prosecutors attempted to seize computers Ward used at KGO.

Weinberg told BCN that the indictment was issued in late October but prosecutors agreed to keep it sealed while Ward conducted his annual Thanksgiving Charities drive, which raises thousands of dollars annually for hungry and homeless people in the Bay Area.

Weinberg said he expects the indictment to be unsealed within the next few days, following Ward's court appearance today.

Weinberg said that the case stems from an "error of judgment" Ward made when he spent a few days in 2004 looking at pornography images and exchanging images with other adults when doing research for a book on hypocrisy.

The attorney said, "It's really tragic that the government has decided to prosecute him for a judgment he made as a journalist and to treat him as a child pornographer when he is not." (Photo credit: Vince Maggiora, Chronicle, 1995 file photo, via AP)

'Save the News' topic of panel discussion

In the wake of layoffs at large newspapers and the shift to the Internet, a panel discussion next Wednesday, Dec. 12, in San Francisco will explore alternative business models for reporting the news. Speakers will include Rose Aguilar of KALW-FM, Guild leader Carl Hall, Coastsider.com's Barry Parr, SJSU's Michael Stoll and Josh Wilson of Newsdesk.org. Questions the group will answer include:
    • With all the high finance and power plays, how do communities actually get news that matters?

    • Amidst layoffs and shrinking newsrooms, how can reporters and editors do their jobs and serve the public interest?

    • What future awaits young journalists graduating from the Bay Area's j-schools?
The Dec. 12 panel runs from 7:30 to 10 p.m., CounterPulse, 1310 Mission St. (cross of Ninth Street). Here's a link. It's sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists -- Northern California, RedwoodAge.com, Independent Arts & Media, Newsdesk.org and Shaping San Francisco.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

CBS5 reveals online stories it will cover

There was a time when newspapers, radio and TV newsrooms wouldn't tell anyone what they were covering. They wanted to scoop the competition. The Internet has changed all of that. Today you can sign up to get headlines from several TV newsrooms. The Chron posts stories around the clock at SFGate. And now KPIX CBS5 Assignment Manager Brian Dinsmore, at about 11 a.m. every weekday, reveals the stories he has assigned his crews. Here's a link.

Bob Agnew out as leader of KNEW, KKGN

Bob Agnew is among the dozen Clear Channel employees in San Francisco who will be leaving the company due to budget cuts, according to Radio Online and AllAccess.com. He was program director of conservative KNEW-AM 910 and liberal KKGN-AM 960. Before that he was program director of KNBR-AM 680 but was ousted along with host Larry Krueger after Krueger's on-air comments about the Giants' "brain-dead Caribbean hitters."

Also exiting is Mario Butzner, KKSF and KNEW production director. The names of the others who have left CC SF were not immediately known. (Photo credit: Christina Koci Hernandez, Chronicle, 2006)

Examiner page one: Meet Santa's Raindeer

Here's the front page of Monday's Examiner: "Meet Santa's Reindeer." Santa's Reindeer is an ad for the SF Zoo, and the news actually begins on the third page. The Examiner has given over its front page to advertisers for several months. Still, it is jarring to see an ad dominating front of the once great Examiner. The Examiner has given up on trying to grab readers with catchy front page headlines.

CBS News blogger faults fired Benicia editor

The knee jerk reaction of many journalists, when they hear a colleague was fired in an editorial dispute with management, is to defend one of their own. But Matthew Felling, who writes about the media on his CBSNews.com blog "Public Eye," says that in the case of fired Benicia Herald editor Les Mahler, maybe his boss had a point. (For background, here are our previous posts on the case, Nov. 1, Nov. 3 and another one on Nov. 3.)

Mahler quoted an anonymous letter in his column that was critical of a City Council candidate. The candidate demanded a meeting with the paper's ad director. After that meeting, a retraction was printed and Mahler was reprimanded for violating the paper's policy on printing anonymous letters. Mahler says the reprimand was an infringement on his freedom of speech. Mahler was later fired and the paper is now seeking a new editor.

CBSNews.com's Felling writes:
    First, if the newspaper has a policy of not using unsigned letters, then that’s something you need to stick to. Second, it would be a lesser sin if committed by a younger staffer unfamiliar with the rules, but Mahler is/was the editor and should have known better.

    Why the policy against using unsigned letters? Accountability. The motiviation for the rule being: What’s to stop a reporter from sending himself – or having a friend send him – an e-mail that reinforces his point, creating some faux consensus?

    This writer is all for strong views and critical words that advance the debate, but it seems to me that Mahler could have made his point just fine on his own, or even used the tried-and-true “… and some pointed e-mails have come into this newsroom that said …” Or even gotten in touch with the writer to get clearance to run his text. Any of these would have been within the newspaper’s guidelines.
Felling quotes Jim Ewert, a lawyer for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, who says, "Employees don't have absolute First Amendment rights in any workplace."

Merc assistant editor: "No one likes us"

We know the drill. When two newspapers inhabit the same town, they attack each other. They toss the ordinary rules of journalism ethics aside and slam the competition. That's the way it has been done since Ben Franklin was a newspaper publisher.

That said, San Jose Metro has printed an extraordinary quote from Matt Mansfield, the Mercury News deputy managing editor assigned to helping "rethink" his paper: "The problem we have is, no one likes us."

Apparently he spoke alongside the paper's executive editor, Carole Leigh Hutton, to a crowd of Santa Clara University students wondering about the future of journalism. Here's how Metro reported it:
    "While Hutton spent a half-hour whining about hemorrhaging ad revenues like a brusque businesswoman, Mansfield cut to the heart of the matter. He's in charge of finding out what readers want — a novel idea — in the hopes of revamping the newspaper's image. All this while the paper's news content and staff have been shaved to a skeleton of what they used to be. Market studies revealed what we've known all along. 'The Mercury News has no personality,' Mansfield said. His point of comparison? 'The Metro has attitude.' What's really going on, Mansfield says, is that people don't want to make the time to read something boring. Always an important, reminder, true, but doesn't San Jose's daily have bigger problems right now? Like front-page hot-dog contest stories, maybe?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Savage sues Islamic group over canceled ads

Bay Area radio personality Michael Savage has sued the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, saying it violated his rights by wrongfully using segments of his show in a letter-writing campaign to advertisers.

In the Oct. 29 broadcast, Savage called the Muslim holy book "a throwback document" and a "book of hate," the AP reports.

Savage — who broadcasts from the studios of KNEW 910 in San Francisco or from his home in Tiburon (pictured) — said he strongly supports freedom of speech, but "it's another thing to take away a man's millstone and try to put him out of business."

A CAIR spokeswoman, Amina Rubin, called the suit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, "bizarre, sloppy and baseless."

Bill Crawford, a spokesman for Talk Radio Network, which syndicates the Savage show, said "there have been advertisers who've canceled Michael's show because of the CAIR situation." He refused to identify the companies or reveal the amount of lost revenue. Savage said he's lost at least $1 million in revenue. (Photo credit: John Storey, AP)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Comcast exec Craig Coane to head TV20

Former Comcast executive and one-time KPIX sales manager Craig Coane was named today president and general manager of KBWB TV20 replacing Bob Anderson. Coane has been Comcast's director of sales in the Bay Area for the past four years. Before that he was at KPIX as sales manager and account rep. He also was an account executive at CBS Radio in San Francisco. Coane joins the station as its parent company, Granite Broadcasting Corp., enters the final phases of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Santa Cruz editor quit to reduce budget cuts

Tom Honig says he resigned as editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel in the hope his departure would lessen budget cuts and layoffs at the MediaNews publication. The 59-year-old Honig, who has been at the Sentinel for 35 years, says he anticipated further cuts. He says he was not asked to resign but "nobody tried to stop me either," according to a story in the Sentinel. He is taking a job with the Monterey-based Armanasco Public Relations firm.

Ch. 14 wins 6 p.m. news battle in key demo

It's not news that Spanish-language KDTV Channel 14 has the highest ratings of any station airing news at 6 p.m. in the San Francisco market. It's been that way since 2002 (as this Press Club item from January points out). But now, for the first time, "Noticias Univision 14" was Nov. 1 in November in the key 25-to-54 demographic desired by advertisers, according to the Chronicle. Pictured above is Anchor Maria Leticia Gomez. (Photo credit: Liz Hafalia, Chronicle)

The Chron story also quotes KTVU Channel 2 News Director Ed Chapuis as saying his station will try to tap into the Spanish-speaking market by unveiling some new programming — not necessarily of the news variety — in the next few weeks. He declined to be more specific.