Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Merc's business section harder to find

For the past two days, the Merc hasn't had a standalone business section. Instead two pages of business have been added to the back of the local section. Each day a business story has appeared on the front of the local section.

The first page of business this morning had a 4 column by 10 inch Pet Club ad on the bottom right. The second page had stock tables and jumps. All four stories were from the wire, including the one about how the health rumors swirling around Steve Jobs have hurt Apple's stock. That's the kind of story the Merc would have reported with its own staff in the past.

A few months ago, the Chronicle began combining the sports and business sections on many days of the week, with business on the back page and sports on the front.

KRON drops film reviewer Jan Wahl

Entertainment reporter and film reviewer Jan Wahl said Tuesday that KRON has decided not to renew her contract, according to the Daily Post in Palo Alto.

She said she learned she had been dropped last week, before a controversy erupted over News Director Aaron Pero's decision to bar from her show Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic Howard Rosenberg and former CNN correspondent Charles Feldman. Wahl had invited Rosenberg and Feldman to come on her program and discuss their new book, “No Time To Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle.” (See item below.)

Wahl distanced herself from Pero’s decision to dump the guests.

“It’s strange and bizarre and not what journalism is about,” Wahl said. “I think it’s indicative of how the industry is changing — the people who are running TV news are different now.”

While her contract isn't being renewed, Wahl said she still hopes to appear every other Thursday on KRON to discuss movies. And she is looking for a new TV or radio gig.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

KRON un-invites TV news critics

In a bizarre series of events, KRON invited Pulitzer Prize-winning former LA Times TV critic Howard Rosenberg and former CNN correspondent Charles Feldman to appear on Jan Wahl's Jan. 3 interview program. Then Wahl told the pair that they had been canceled due to a format change. But the format didn't change. Instead KRON News Director Aaron Pero, in a remarkably candid e-mail, admitted the authors were bumped because they wrote a book (titled "No Time to Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle") that is critical of television news.

“I am not all that interested in a book that is going to be critical of what we do as a business,” Pero wrote in an e-mail to the author's publicist.

Here's a link to the media blog LA Observed and a story appearing in this morning's edition of the Palo Alto Daily Post:
    KRON bans TV critics
    BY IAN S. PORT
    Daily Post Staff Writer

    A Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic and a former CNN correspondent have written a book critical of TV news, but a local TV news station won’t let them discuss it on the air.

    KRON 4 has canceled the Jan. 3 appearance of Howard Rosenberg and Charles Feldman, after News Director Aaron Pero said he didn’t think such a conversation was fit for the airwaves.
    “I am not all that interested in a book that is going to be critical of what we do as a business,” Pero wrote in an e-mail to the journalists.

    Feldman blasted Pero’s decision in an interview with the Post last night, saying he didn’t care about the missed opportunity to promote the book but was appalled at the reason for the cancellation.

    “It’s disgusting, that’s what it is,” Feldman told the Post. “It’s a paternalistic approach that says we know what is best for our viewers and we need to shield them from anything that’s critical of the industry. It is a betrayal of the public trust.”

    Rosenberg, a former TV critic for the L.A. Times, and Feldman, a veteran former CNN correspondent, published “No Time To Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle” in October. Feldman said the pair were invited by KRON host Jan Wahl to discuss the book on a Jan. 3 interview segment, after she said she read and enjoyed the book.

    Wahl and Pero did not return requests for comment last night. The segment would have aired on KRON’s Saturday morning news show.

    Feldman said he and Rosenberg had already purchased their plane tickets when Feldman got a voice mail from Wahl on Sunday saying that the format of her show had changed and the journalists were no longer wanted.

    “It didn’t make any sense,” Feldman said. “If she no longer does interviews on her show, what would she do?”

    Later, the authors got an e-mail from Pero explaining the real reason for the cancellation.
    The authors sent Pero an outraged e-mail that was published next to Pero’s note on the blog LAObserved.com.

    “If they really are that nervous that two authors are going to come on and be critical of the industry and that’s going to somehow make their audience go away, they really have to seriously sit down, look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves what they’re doing wrong,” Feldman told the Post.

    He said that the book focuses on the coverage of international networks like CNN — not local stations like KRON.

    “It’s really more about the big boys than it is the small boys, but maybe the small boys just can’t take the heat,” Feldman said. “(Pero) is censoring something he hasn’t even read.”

    Feldman, who now lives in L.A., said he’s open to appearing to discussing the book other TV and radio stations in the Bay Area, but hasn’t gotten any invitations yet.
UPDATE: Late last night, KRON offered to interview Rosenberg and Feldman for a news story that would appear Jan. 3, though the sit-down interview was still off. Rosenberg and Feldman turned down the offer, saying it was insincere and the brief amount of time given to such news stories would not allow them to discuss their book in depth.

While Rosenberg and Feldman have done interviews in other markets, they have not been invited to appear on either the Ronn Owens or Michael Krasny programs -- the venues one might expect to hear such authors.

SFgate's "World Views" digest signs off

Edward M. Gomez bid farewell to readers today in his unique SFGate blog "World Views," which is ending as the Chronicle reduces its staffing to meet a Hearst edict of cutting 125 newsroom jobs by Dec. 31. Writes Gomez:
    Numerous other, familiar features of this website will also be disappearing, and a notable number of employees from the S.F.Gate/San Francisco Chronicle editorial team will be leaving the print/electronic newspaper as its editorial-production staff is dramatically downsized. ...

    Big thanks to the many local and national advertisers who, working with S.F.Gate's ad-sales team, have chosen to place their ads on this part of the website. In these difficult economic times, that kind of advertiser support is crucial to any journalistic enterprise. I believe advertisers who support journalistic efforts that strive to deliver a high-quality product to readers in turn deserve an audience's support. Something to consider, perhaps, as the recession continues to unfold...
(Photo credit: SFGate.com)

Geist writes about father's Alzheimer's

Former KGO-AM 810 anchor Mary Ellen Geist, who left radio in 2005 to become a caregiver for her Alzheimer's-stricken father, has now written a book about her experiences titled "Measure of the Heart: A Father's Alzheimer's, A Daughter's Return." She was interviewed Sunday on KCBS's "In Depth" program (here's a link to the 30-minute program).

Geist left her spot as co-anchor of KGO-AM's morning news in 2004 for CBS Radio in New York. A year later, she asked CBS to be let out of her contract so she could return home to Michigan when her father's Alzheimer's got to be too much for her mother to shoulder alone.

KGO-AM bumps Paul Harvey to KSFO

"Hello Americans, I'm Paul Harvey. You know what the news is. In a minute, you're going to hear ... the rest of the story."

Paul Harvey, age 90, is apparently moving to KSFO 560, according to promos airing on the conservative talk station.

For years, Harvey's folksy (and right-wing) news and commentary has been heard on KGO-AM 810 where it has seemed out of place given that station's more urbane news-talk format. Harvey has been a mainstay of the ABC Radio Network since 1951, and apparently its owned and operated stations were required to carry him. Both KSFO and KGO-AM are owned by Citadel Broadcasting, which purchased ABC's radio stations earlier this year.

Harvey's 15-minute shows are airing on KGO at 8:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. weekdays. What time slots they will occupy on KSFO isn't known. If KSFO plans to carry his midday program, it will either have to end Rush Limbaugh 15 minutes early at 11:45 or start Dr. Laura 15 minutes late at 12:15.

The move, however, will free up more time on KGO's morning and afternoon news programs, and give Len Tillem a full hour at noon. Tillem's legal advice show now ends at 12:45 to make way for Paul Harvey.

While we're on the subject of right-wing broadcasters, Bill O'Reilly's "Radio Factor" show is leaving the air Feb. 27, though he will still continue on cable's Fox News Channel. Here's a press release touting "the biggest lauunch in the history talk radio" for his program in 2002. O'Reilly currently airs on KNEW 910 from 10-noon.

Guild to appeal NLRB layoff decision

The Guild's Northern California chapter will appeal the National Labor Relations Board's decision to throw out its complaint about the firing of three union members at the Contra Costa Times. The NLRB's regional director in Oakland, Alan B. Reichard, ruled Nov. 28 that the union had not proven its claim that the newspaper had fired the three because of their union activities. The union reported on its Web site Dec. 24 that it was authorizing its lawyers to take the case to the NLRB in Washington, D.C.

The Guild also said that it hopes to keep some of the information in the case from becoming public.

"Much of the information in the complaint is sensitive," the Guild stated. "The filing is confidential, except to the parties involved. We hope to avoid a public vetting of the details both because it’s inappropriate to disclose much about a matter under investigation by the NLRB, and because the material involves personal details."

The three fired employees are Sara Steffens, who is union chair for the East Bay Bay Area Newspaper Group, Rebecca Rosen-Lum and Geoff Lepper.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Daily Post out of SF, to focus on Peninsula

[Full disclosure: The editor of the Press Club blog, Dave Price, is also an owner of the Daily Post]

In the next few weeks, the Daily Post plans to stop circulating in San Francisco and expand its distribution on the Peninsula, the paper reported. The Post, which operated during most of its run as the San Francisco Daily, focused on the city's neighborhoods particularly the Marina, Fillmore, Castro and North Beach sections. The Examiner, apparently feeling threatened by the Post, created a separate paper called the City Star ((KPIX story) which, in the opinion of the Post's owners, mimicked their paper.

"They copied everything we did," said Jim Pavelich, who owns the Post with Dave Price. "They copied our look, our distribution patterns and pressured our advertisers. They offered everybody at our paper jobs and took two of our reps."

The Examiner and City Star are owned by billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz, a conservative Republican who used the front page of the Examiner to endorse John McCain and Sarah Palin.

The Post plans to take the copies it was distributing in the city and circulate them on the Peninsula.

Friday, December 26, 2008

KFRC's oldies format returns to AM

CBS Radio SF market manager Doug Harvill announced today that the KFRC oldies format is moving to 1550 AM on Thursday, Jan. 1, a month after it was replaced at 106.9 FM by all-news KCBS. KFRC was originally an AM station in the 60s and 70s when the songs it now plays were new.

Scott Shannon will produce and host the syndicated oldies format, featuring hits from the 50s to 80s.

By the way, KCBS's addition of an FM signal has fueled speculation that KGO-AM will make a similar move. But while CBS had FM stations available for KCBS, KGO-AM parent Citadel doesn't own any FMs in this market. So Citadel would have to buy or lease an FM station. However, the tightening of credit markets has pretty much stopped mergers and acquisitions.

Press Club contest right around the corner

It's nearly time to begin preparing entries for the Press Club's annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards competition. Here's a brief description of how the contest works.

In January, the Press Club will distribute to members (and any other journalists or PR professionals in the Bay Area) a "call for entries" that lists the categories and rules for the contest. The call for entries will also be posted on this Web site: www.penpressclub.org. The contest is open to both members and non-members.

The rules and categories will not be much different from last year. Here's a list of last year's winners.

The contest period is for work done in the previous calendar year.

The deadline for entries hasn't been set, but it usually falls at the end of February.

The Press Club will accept entries from online, TV, radio and magazine journalists as well as PR professionals.

The contest is judged by press clubs in other U.S. cities.

First, second and third place winners are informed via-email that they have won an award and are welcomed to attend the Press Club's awards banquet. The date of the banquet has not been set, but in previous years it has been held in late May or early June.

Last year the Press Club received 519 entries and handed out 224 awards.

Stanford's Lessig: Scrap the FCC

Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig says in an Newsweek opinion piece that one of the first things Barack Obama should do when he becomes president is get Congress to shut down the FCC. He says the agency stifles innovation and protects large corporations.
    "America's economic future depends upon restarting an engine of innovation and technological growth. A first step is to remove the government from the mix as much as possible. This is the biggest problem with communication innovation around the world, as too many nations who should know better continue to preference legacy communication monopolies."
[More]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Newspaper shuns Web, and thrives

While everyone in publishing is talking about new "business models," New York Times' media columnist David Carr reports on a weekly in Monmouth County, N.J., that is making money with an old business model -- print!
    "Why would I put anything on the Web?” asked Dan Jacobson, the publisher and owner of [the TriCityNews]. “I don’t understand how putting content on the Web would do anything but help destroy our paper. Why should we give our readers any incentive whatsoever to not look at our content along with our advertisements, a large number of which are beautiful and cheap full-page ads?” ...

    TriCityNews employs 3.5 people (the half-time employee handles circulation), has a print run of 10,000, and has a top line that can be written in six figures. Still, by setting rates low almost 10 years ago and never raising them or offering a Web option, Mr. Jacobson has built a reliable cadre of advertisers who call for ads, sign up for full pages, and pay in advance. There are no people working for sales commissions." [More]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Brinkley offers prescription for newspapers

Stanford Professor Joel Brinkley offers this idea to save newspapers:
    The newspaper industry should ask the Justice Department for an antitrust exemption that would allow publishers to collaborate on a decision to begin charging for their Web sites. No paper would have to charge, and each paper could determine its own price. But if most papers in a region — San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, for example — began charging for Web access at more or less the same time, many readers would likely subscribe."
Here's a link to his entire op-ed. Brinkley became a visiting professor in Stanford's Department of Communications in 2006 after a 23-year career with The New York Times. He's a Pulitzer winner and the son of the late TV anchor David Brinkley.

Jeanette Pavini jumps to NBC11

Consumer reporter Jeanette Pavini is jumping from KPIX CBS5 to KNTV NBC11 where she will have a 11 a.m. weekday program titled "The Real Deal" starting Jan. 6. She spilled the news of her switch Friday afternoon while doing a consumer segment on KGO 810. Her bio has already been pulled from the CBS5 talent Web page. She is a five time Emmy-Nominated reporter, 2005 Peninsula Press Club-first place public affairs show, first place interview show, 2004 Peninsula Press Club-first place serious feature, first place public affairs show, and first place interview show.

Newspaper publisher laid off to save money

"Since we've always been very lean, it made financial sense to eliminate my position. This will give the papers a cushion in difficult times." And with that David Cohen (pictured) has stepped down as publisher of Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, a group of 11 weeklies in Santa Clara County that includes titles such as the Los Gatos Weekly Times, Cupertino Courier, The Campbell Recorder and Sunnyvale Sun.

SVCN became an independent company on Dec. 17, 2001, when Cohen spun off six community newspapers from the San Jose alt-weekly Metro, which he co-founded in 1985. In October 2005, Cohen sold the group to Knight Ridder. A year later, McClatchy acquired Knight Ridder and sold its Bay Area papers to MediaNews.

Cohen remained as group publisher until now.

Today's Merc quoted its publisher, Mac Tully, as saying the decision to lay off Cohen "was a tough decision because we realize how respected David is in the community, and he's done a great job of keeping SVCN profitable in a difficult economic environment. The bottom line is, this was a decision based on a restructuring of the business due to an extremely challenging economy."

December 2008 Press Club board minutes

Minutes of the Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008 San Francisco Peninsula Press Club annual membership meeting

Meeting was called to order at 6 p.m. by President Jamie Casini.

Board members present: Jamie Casini, Jon Mays, Dave Price, Michelle Carter, Peter Cleaveland, Jack Russell, Marshall Wilson, Executive Director Darryl Compton was also in attendance in addition to several members or the organization. Board member Ed Remitz and Jay Thorwaldson were excused.

New business:
    1. Board introductions.

    2. Ballots for officers and directors.

    3. Finance report. Compton reported year to date income of $22,969, expenses of $22,242, net $726.  Asset totals: $38,770 in the general fund and $7,017 in the scholarship fund.

    4. Membership report. It was reported that membership is 172, down 10 from 2007  Renewal notices were sent in the last newsletter.

    5. Activities of the year. Casini recounted the club's activities for the year including the annual awards program for professionals and high school students; assistance for the Carlmont High School newspaper and the updated Web site with increased activity.

    6. Plans for 2009. Casini announced plans for the upcoming year including the annual contests, scholarships and Aid to High School Newspapers project.
Open agenda
    Election results were announced. They were as follows:
      President: Jon Mays
      Vice President: Dave Price
      Secretary: Michelle Carter
      Treasurer: Ed Remitz
      Directors elected for a two year term Jack Russell and Marshall Wilson
       
      Peter Cleaveland and Jay Thorwaldson have another year to serve as directors. Immediate past president Jamie Casini and executive director Darryl Compton serve on the board as ex-officio members.  The board will appoint a person to complete the one-year term of director Jennifer Aquino.
Meeting was adjourned by President Casini at 6:10 p.m.

Friday, December 19, 2008

San Jose Guild leader stepping down

With the merger of the San Jose Guild and Northern California Guild, Luther Jackson will be stepping down after 14 years as executive officer of the San Jose Newspaper Guild. The San Jose Guild's Web site has an article summing up his career.

Jackson, 53, said he is not certain what he will do after Jan. 30. “I’d like to give consulting a try. I like the concept of the flexibility. The new world, they’ll be fewer employees and more contractors. That’s just reality. And so the question for me is: Can I thrive in that environment that’s very different than this environment?”

Whatever he does, he wants his new job to be family-friendly. He intends to spend more time with his wife, Cecilia Deck, who teaches journalism at DeAnza College, and his two sons, Martin, 11, and Alex, 15. (Photo credit: San Jose Newspaper Guild)

Watergate's 'Deep Throat' dead at age 95

Mark Felt, the man who helped bring down President Richard Nixon as the infamous “Deep Throat” for investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, died at his Santa Rosa home Thursday, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports.

In 2005, more than 30 years after his whistle-blowing helped topple a presidency, Mark Felt, once a top FBI official, held a press conference on the front steps of his Santa Rosa home.

Felt, then 91, revealed that he was “Deep Throat,” the anonymous source who leaked information to Washington Post reporters about the Watergate scandal that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1972. [More]

(Photo credit: Press Democrat file photo)

Chron to launch colorful, photo-filled classifieds

"There are other promising bursts of innovation across our newspaper company," Steve Swartz, the new head of Hearst Newspapers, says in a memo to employees (picked up by Romenesko). "Early next year, both our Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle will launch a totally revamped weekend classifieds sections, transforming what have been gray and tiny listings into vibrant color and photo-filled, catalogue-like sections complete with the kinds of data readers need to continue their search online."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reporter cited after photographing arrest

Metro, the San Jose alt-weekly, says that one of its reporters was ticketed by San Jose police after taking pictures of people arrested for fighting outside a downtown nightclub early Sunday morning.

The unidentified reporter snapped a couple of iPhone pictures of a handcuffed arrestee who was being held face down on the pavement by a police officer, Metro reported in its Wednesday edition.
    "An officer on the scene decided that was a little too much of the First Amendment for him and ordered the iPhotographer out of shooting distance. The iPhotographer held up SJPD press credentials and snapped one more photo. The officer cited the photojournalist for California Vehicle Code Section 21956 (b), which is intended to keep pedestrians from wandering out into unsafe traffic. (Traffic was not a problem since the street was closed at the time, since the suspect was lying next to the road striping in the center of First Street.)"
Police Sgt. Mike Sullivan told KLIV 1590 that the officers were dealing with a dynamic situation. He said the person taking the photos was asked several times to get back on the sidewalk, so they cited him for being in violation of the vehicle code by standing in the roadway. Sullivan told KLIV that the department respects the rights of the media and is reviewing the citation.

Chron's new target audience: Seniors

"If the Chron was a political party, its current business strategy would be described as playing to its base. In the case of the modern American daily newspaper, the base is made up of people who qualify for senior discounts at Denny's," writes the SF Weekly's Will Harper. "Evidence of this older-is-better strategy can be seen by the gray-haired columnists Bushee has anointed since he became editor like Carl Nolte and Andrew Ross."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

GOP leader blasts Eshoo over Fairness Doctrine

Palo Alto Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's call to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, which would force conservative talk radio stations to air opposing views, has drawn fire from House Republican Leader John Boehner.

“The so-called Fairness Doctrine would restrict free speech on the public airwaves, stifling dissent at a time when an open national dialogue about our country’s future is essential,” Boehner said in a press release Tuesday. “The American people do not believe the federal government should be in the business of dictating or restricting the content of political speech.”

In an interview Monday with the Palo Alto Daily Post, Eshoo told the Post she not only supports the Fairness Doctrine, but would expand it beyond radio and TV to cable and satellite programmers.

“It should and will affect everyone," said Eshoo, a Democrat.

The doctrine, which was in effect from the 1940s until it was abolished by Reagan's Federal Communications Commission in 1987, required broadcasters to provide equal time to opposing points of view. It did not apply to news programs but anytime a broadcaster aired political opinions, the station was required to give those who opposed the opinions equal time, usually during the same time slot. Talk radio hosts fear that stations will not want to give away free air time and decide to cancel political programs.

“I’ll work on bringing it back. I still believe in it,” Eshoo said Monday.
But Boehner said that he was troubled by Eshoo’s comments, “and my hope is that President-elect Obama will speak out against efforts by members of his party to use their majority power to limit free speech and dissent.”

Obama has not recently commented on the Fairness Doctrine, but on June 25, Obama’s press secretary sent an e-mail to the industry journal Broadcasting & Cable, saying: “Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters.”
Eshoo called the present system “unfair,” although she said broadcasters were still opposed to the doctrine, saying it limited what they can do on the air and also said it violates their First Amendment rights.

“There should be equal time for the spoken word,” she added.

Madoff scandal hits investigative center

The Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting was one of several Bay Area nonprofits that received grants from a charity whose funds were managed by Bernard Madoff, who was arrested for running an alleged $50 billion ponzi scheme.

The New York-based Justice, Equality, Human Dignity and Tolerance (JEHT) Foundation provided grants to the center to do stories about human rights.

“Not every foundation supports journalism and they had a real interest in making sure that organizations like CIR, in terms of their role in democracy, succeeded," the center's executive director, Robert Rosenthal, told KCBS-AM.

Correction of the day

How well is MediaNews Group's Santa Cruz Sentinel covering its former hometown from the new editorial headquarters in Scotts Valley? The paper named the wrong person mayor. Twice. In two different stories on different days, both on page one.

Here is today's correction:
    Setting it Straight: Dec. 16, 2008

    Santa Cruz City Councilman Ryan Coonerty was misidentified in a story about the tree-sit at UC Santa Cruz that appeared on Page A1 of Sunday's edition and again on Page A1 Monday in a story about Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Coonerty is the immediate past mayor; the new mayor is Cynthia Mathews.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rep. Eshoo to push for Fairness Doctrine

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (pictured), D-Palo Alto, said Monday she will work to restore the Fairness Doctrine and have it apply to cable and satellite programming as well as radio and TV.

“I’ll work on bringing it back. I still believe in it,” Eshoo told the Daily Post in Palo Alto.

The Fairness Doctrine required TV and radio stations to balance opposing points of view. It meant that those who disagreed with the political slant of a commentator were entitled to free air time to give contrasting points of view, usually in the same time slot as the original broadcast.

The doctrine was repealed by the Reagan administration's Federal Communications Commission in 1987, and a year later, Rush Limbaugh's show went national, ushering in a new form of AM radio.

Conservative talk show hosts fear the doctrine will result in their programs being canceled because stations don't want to offer large amounts of air time to opponents whose response programs probably wouldn't get good ratings.

Eshoo said she would recommend the doctrine be applied not only to radio and TV broadcasts, but also to cable and satellite services.

“It should and will affect everyone,” she said.

She called the present system “unfair,” and said "there should be equal time for the spoken word." (Photo credit: Ian Port, Daily Post)

Pappas to lose Channel 42 to creditor

The Bay Area's KTNC-TV Channel 42 is among 10 television stations owned by Central Valley broadcasting titan Henry Pappas that will soon change hands as the result of a bankruptcy court auction.

The successful bidder was Pappas' largest creditor, Fortress Capital Corp., which will turn the stations over to a company called New World T.V. Group LLC, according to an e-mail bankruptcy trustee E. Roger Williams sent to employees of the stations. The e-mail was posted online by newspapertree.com in El Paso, Texas, where one of the 10 stations, CBS affiliate KDBC, is located.

According to Williams, New World is headed by Dan Sullivan and Bert Ellis, who have been in the station business for many years. Bert also owns KDOC-TV in Anaheim, an independent that serves Orange County.

The e-mail didn't disclose any changes planned at the stations, which include CBS, Fox and CW affiliates (list). Currently, KTNC is apart of Pappas' independent Spanish language network, TuVision. Pappas purchased the station in 1996 from a religious broadcaster who put Channel 42 on the air in 1983. KTNC is licensed to Concord and has a transmitter on the north peak of Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Xmas party at Redwood City press room

For the first time in several years, reporters in the press room at the San Mateo County Hall of Justice in Redwood City are throwing a Christmas party. It starts at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17. All local media are invited. County officials will be on hand, we're told.

Singleton sees a turnaround in San Jose

Dean Singleton, MediaNews chief executive, tells The New York Times that in the long run, California — particularly the Bay Area — is the place to be. “I have no doubt that The Mercury News’s revenue base will perform better when things turn around than almost any newspaper in the country ... California has always been bigger than life, in the upturns and the downturns ... This thing will turn around.”

The Times described the Merc this way:
    The Mercury News, the Silicon Valley paper that was long considered one of the nation’s best, began shrinking years before MediaNews took over, under the now-dissolved Knight Ridder chain. The news staff, from a high of more than 400 people early in this decade, has fallen below 150, producing a much slimmer, more locally focused paper.

    It no longer has a movie reviewer. The science and book sections are gone. Most national and international news comes from wire services. ...

    “And this building is pretty rundown,” [Editor Dave Butler] said, waving his arm across a sprawling newsroom where some employees are surrounded by empty desks. The dinginess is made plain on his unadorned office walls, where lighter-colored rectangles show where pictures used to hang.

KRON back on Dish TV after fee dispute

Dish TV has restored KRON Channel 4 and other stations owned by Young Broadcasting after a three-day interuption sparked by Young's demands for payment from the satellite company. There was no word Sunday on which side gave caved. Multichannel News, which had been on top of the story over the past week, didn't have an explanation.

Young had stated on its stations' Web sites that it was asking Dish for about 1 penny per day for each Dish customer. Previously Dish had been retransmitting KRON and the 10 other Young stations for free. While KRON is an independent and has relatively low ratings compared to network stations in the Bay Area, the other Young stations are network affiliates in their markets, and the interruption of their signals might have resulted in a lot of complaints to Dish TV.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

MediaNews making cuts in Detroit, Denver

MediaNews Group, owner of 11 dailies in the Bay Area, reportedly plans to cut home delivery to three days a week in Detroit and has told unions in Denver that they need to re-open their labor contracts immediately in order to cut $20 million.

The proposed cuts in Denver come a week after E.W. Scripps announced it would close the Rocky Mountain News as early as January if nobody buys it. The Rocky reported Saturday that during a closed-door meeting with union officials, MNG chief executive Dean Singleton made it clear that he believes Scripps will close the Rocky, leaving MNG's Denver Post as the sole survivor of a joint operating agreement where the papers share business operations but have separate newsrooms. "Scripps is going home," Singleton was quoted as saying.

In Detroit, MNG's Detroit News and Gannett's Free Press are leaning toward ending home delivery on all but the most lucrative days — Thursday, Friday and Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. A pared-down version of the newspapers would be available in racks and in stores on the other days of the week. The New York Times, which reported the story Saturday, said it was also possible that home delivery could be reduced to just two days — Sunday and either Thursday or Friday. Both the the Journal and Times emphasized that the changes were not final and that an announcement was planned on Tuesday.

The Times reported:
    Across the country, a handful of papers have dropped print entirely, becoming strictly online news outlets, including The Christian Science Monitor and The Kentucky Post.

    A few relatively small papers have stopped printing on the weakest advertising and news days of the week, like The East Valley Tribune, in the Phoenix suburbs, which will soon go from seven days to four. Industry analysts say they think some major papers will make similar moves, but are divided on whether it makes sense.

    Cutting back on printing and delivery saves money, but it also accelerates the migration of readers to the Internet, where papers have found vastly expanded audiences and paltry revenue.

Plans to outsource Chron printing on track

Despite the recession and a downturn in the newspaper industry, the company that plans to take over the printing of the Chronicle is moving forward with opening a new $200 million plant in Fremont.

Montreal-based Transcontinental on Friday reported a loss of $94 million for the quarter ended Oct. 31, compared to a profit of $38 million in the same period a year earlier. One reason it gave for the loss was the shutdown of some of its junk-mail operations in the U.S. Transcon eliminated 460 jobs at a junk-mail plant in Pennsylvania last month.

Still, Transcon chief executive François Olivier said in a statement Friday that his company will benefit next year from the 15-year contract to print the Chron.

When presses at the Transcon plant begin rolling, the Chron plans to close its remaining printing plants in San Francisco and Union City, eliminating more than 200 Teamster jobs. A Business Journal article from August points out that the 350,000-square-foot, 300-employee Transcon plant will be able to print more than just the Chron, creating some competition for commercial printers such as Fricke-Parks in Union City and Southwest Offset in Redwood City.

It's not known exactly when the new plant will open. Originally the plan was to open in February 2009, but more recently recruiting ads have said the opening will occur in the summer of 2009. The plant is being built on Kato Road near the Dixon Landing-880 interchange.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Press Club party is Sunday 4-7 p.m.

The Press Club is holding its annual meeting and holiday party this Sunday (Dec. 14) from 4 to 7 p.m. at the home of past president Michelle Carter in Belmont (E-mail her for directions).

Every Press Club member or visitor to our Web site is warmly invited to the party. But bring your own adult beverages and an item or two for the Second Harvest Food Bank.

The party is also the club's annual meeting where the results of the board election will be announced. Board members will be on hand to answer questions and talk about plans for the coming year. You can even meet the guy who posts items on this Web site.

The Press Club sponsors:
    • the Greater Bay Area Excellence in Journalism Contest,
    • a high school journalism contest,
    • college scholarships,
    • a high school journalism boot camp,
    • bench-bar-media discussions, and
    • this Web site.
The club's contest for professionals kicks off in January when a call for entries is posted here and sent to newsrooms in the area. The deadline for entries is usually at the end of February, though the exact date for the upcoming contest has not been set. The entries are judged by members of press clubs in other cities across the country. The winners are announced at an awards banquet in late May or early June.

The Press Club is always looking for journalists or PR professionals who want to help with the programs listed above. If you're interested in helping in any of these areas, please e-mail Executive Director Darryl Compton.

Dish TV won't pay KRON, drops Channel 4

Young Broadcasting has failed to convince Dish TV that it should pay for the signal of KRON Channel 4 and its other stations in the Midwest, and the satellite company has dropped those stations from its lineup.

KRON is telling Dish TV viewers to switch to DirecTV, cable or over-the-air TV.

KRON gives six talking points on its Web site, including the argument that Dish charges viewers for local stations like KRON, so some of those revenues should be passed along to those local stations.

According to Multichannel News, Dish TV blasted Young Broadcasting for “demanding unreasonable contract terms and an excessive rate increase” in a statement released to media in all 11 markets impacted by the impasse.

“To protect customers from unreasonable rate increases and to ensure they pay only a fair amount every month, Dish Network draws the line at such excess and challenges strong-arm tactics,” the DBS provider said in a statement.

“It is unfortunate that Young Broadcasting has forced us into this situation and caused this disruption to our customers,” said Eric Sahl, Dish Network’s outgoing senior vice president of programming in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to remain the best value for our customers and in order to do this, we need fair contracts with competitive pricing for the channels our customers want to watch. This is why we refuse to accept Young Broadcasting’s unreasonable terms.”

Dean: We're OK, Hearst owns our debt

Dean Singleton is lashing out at reports (see below) that MediaNews Group is too heavily leveraged and is at risk of default. Singleton told the Rocky Mountain News in Denver that MediaNews is different from most newspaper companies, in that Hearst Corp., which has an interest in some MediaNews papers, "owns the largest piece of our debt." Hearst, of course, is the owner of the Chronicle while MediaNews owns 11 other paid dailies in the Bay Area. Should MediaNews default on its $962 million in debt, Hearst will be the biggest creditor.

According to the Rocky, the Moody's report said the privately held MediaNews has seen a 16 percent decline of total sales during the third quarter and has a "significant weakening in its liquidity profile." It added the company has a senior credit agreement coming due in December 2009 that poses a "refinancing risk."

CBS begins layoffs at SF-based CNET

CBS is cutting jobs at its interactive division in an attempt to consolidate operations after its acquisition of San Francisco-based CNET for $1.8 billion in May. The number of jobs that will be cut isn't known, though some bloggers have speculated that it could be as much as 20 percent of the company's work force.

"The streamlining initiative involves combining CBSNews.com and CNet into a single newsgroup in which the two CBS Interactive properties will merge newsrooms and share resources while continuing to maintain separate Web site," mediapost.com says.

One casualty has already been announced: Patrick Keane, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of CBS Interactive, will clean out his desk today. Keane joined CBS in February 2007 from Google, where he led advertising sales strategy. He'll be replaced by Mickey Wilson, senior vice president of marketing at CNet.

Ex-Merc editor to head LAT's state desk

John Hoeffel is the new state editor of the Los Angeles Times, supervising the paper's bureaus in San Francisco and San Diego and the paper's reporters on the Central Coast. Previously he was the Times' co-director of presidential campaign coverage. Hoeffel came to the Times in 2004 from the Mercury News, where he held jobs as government and politics editor, deputy city editor and national and foreign editor.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Moody's says MediaNews at risk of default

Moody's has lowered the bond rating of MediaNews Group three levels from B3 to Caa3 on a 21-notch scale, a rating that suggests a "substantial risk" of default, E&P reports today.

MNG's leverage ratio is now 8 times debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Tribune Co. went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday when it began to approach a ratio hit 9 times EBITDA. By comparison, Gannett's ratio is 2 times EBITDA.

MediaNews' revenue fell 16 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30, according to Moody's. The rating agency said continued ad sales declines increase the likelihood that MediaNews won't be able to meet terms of its debt agreements.

MediaNews owns 11 daily newspapers in the Bay Area including the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times and Marin Independent Journal.

Moody's said the outlook for MediaNews remains negative:
    "The downgrade of the PDR to Caa3 reflects Moody's view that MediaNews faces a heightened risk of near-term default under the financial tests of its recently-amended senior secured credit agreement as well as the refinancing risk posed by the December 2009 maturity of its revolving credit facility.

    "The Caa3 CFR incorporates MediaNews' heavy debt burden, high leverage (calculated by Moody's to exceed 8 times debt to EBITDA at the end of September 2008), and the weak level of debtholder protection indicated by current newspaper valuation multiples. In addition, the rating incorporates the secular pressure facing the newspaper publishing sector and the impact of current recessionary market conditions which have gripped virtually all of MediaNews' geographic markets. The rating is
    supported by the diversification of MediaNews' geographic and customer base, the reputation of its mastheads, and the continuing support "provided by its largest partner, The Hearst Corporation.

    "The continuing negative outlook underscores Moody's concern that a potential restructuring or recapitalization could result in further ratings downgrade."

Singleton won't outsource news to India

Dean Singleton, head of the MediaNews chain, made news back in October when he suggested his company might outsource some newsroom jobs to India, where the company already does pre-press and ad-building work. Now it appears Singleton has backed down from that idea. He tells the Denver alt-weekly Westword:

    "We've explored outsourcing copy editing and page makeup in India, too, but we probably won't do that. I think we're finding we can consolidate within our newspapers and get the same savings we can offshore. We probably won't put any news operations there -- and we weren't talking about reporting and editing. We were talking about copy editing and page design, and I think we've found we can do it just as well ourselves here.

    "Would we do it if it made a lot of sense?" he asks. "Sure we would. It doesn't mean we're going to -- but we're not alone in thinking about it. I happened to be the one giving the speech, but virtually every newspaper company in America is exploring the same thing."

Dish TV may drop KRON in fee dispute

Dish TV tonight (Thursday, Dec. 11) may drop KRON-TV Channel 4 if the two sides cannot make a deal over whether the satellite company should pay the San Francisco independent station for its signal.

(Correction: An earlier post on the Press Club blog said Dish was going to drop KRON because a deal hadn't been reached by a deadline of 12:01 a.m. today. However, KRON says on its Web site that the deadline has been extended to 7 tonight.)

“We have made some progress in our effort to reach a new agreement with Dish,” KRON said on its Web site today. “Based on this we extended our contract with Dish until 7 p.m. tonight. We will continue to make every reasonable effort to reach an agreement. KRON-TV4 will keep you updated.”

Dish Network couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

KRON and other Young Broadcasting stations want to charge Dish for the right to rebroadcast the company's stations, and Dish doesn't want to pay.

KRON points out that Dish customers are charged a fee for KRON. "We believe Dish should be willing to pay a small, but fair, portion of the fees you pay to DISH for the program content we provide to you," KRON says on its Web site.
    "The fair compensation that we are asking for as part of our contract with DISH is about a penny per day per subscriber. We believe that a penny per day per subscriber is a reasonable demand for our award winning news, sports and entertainment programming. It is considerably less than the amount paid by Dish to less popular satellite/cable networks."
KRON is asking its viewers to call Dish TV to complain. So far, Dish has not publicly responded to KRON's talking points.

Berkeley paper considers going nonprofit

The Berkeley Daily Planet co-owner Becky O'Malley suggests in a column printed Wednesday that her paper might become a nonprofit, switching to a business "model familiar from public broadcasting and arts organizations." She admits that the Planet hasn't made money in the six years she and her husband Michael have owned it.

She writes:
    "If this paper is to continue to serve this community, it’s long past time for us to think about how to make it self-sustaining without our own contributed labor or even our financial subsidy. We’re by no means fabulously rich, and we’ve spent enough money by now that prudence and the larger economy require us to significantly reduce our contribution."

    "...As far as we’re aware, there’s no newspaper now in a community like Berkeley which is supported by its readers rather than by advertising. Subscriptions have long since stopped paying for newspapers. Even the New York Times has been forced to raise cash by taking a loan on its headquarters building.

    "We could, with effort, develop a model for a sustainable community newspaper which could be replicated elsewhere, at least in cities like this with a high proportion of educated and engaged residents."

Soccer mom asks Keane about outsourcing

The Walnut Creek focused "Crazy in Suburbia" blog was concerned after reading Maureen Dowd's column about a Pasadena publisher who hired reporters in India to cover local news by using the Internet and phone.

Dowd went on to quote MediaNews Group chief executive Dean Singleton as saying he favored outsourcing including possibly having one news desk for all of his papers, "maybe even offshore.” MediaNews is the majority owner of the Contra Costa Times.

That prompted the Crazy in Suburbia blog to ask Kevin Keene, executive editor of Media News Group's papers in the East Bay including the Coco Times, whether coverage of Walnut Creek City Council meetings and other local news will be outsourced to India.

In an e-mail, Keene told her "no."
    “The Contra Costa Times has no plans to outsource reporting or editing positions to India, although we are exploring other options to reduce costs during the current economic recession.”
Soccer mom wrote:
    "That’s good news. I’m a daily reader of both the Times’ print and online editions. I’m actually one of those old-fashioned types who enjoys my morning cup of coffee while turning the actual newsprint pages of both the Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Yes, the Times often drives me crazy, especially because of all the cool stories I think it doesn’t cover in Walnut Creek. But it would be a tragedy for this newspaper to go out of business, or for its coverage to be provided by writers half a world away—both for the people I know who work at the Times and for the East Bay community. We need local news, both from the Times and from bloggers like claycord.com," a local news blog for Concord and Contra Costa County.
As for the picture, that's what Soccer Mom has posted on her Web page, but she explains in the "About Me" section that it's not her in the photo (it looks like Victoria Beckham). "I'm not that skinny and I'm not rich. However, I do have a son who plays soccer ..."

Former Merc editor to head children's theater

Merc columnist Sal Pizarro reports that Ann Hurst, a former senior editor at his newspaper for 15 years, has been hired as the managing director of Children's Musical Theater San Jose. Pizarro says Hurst's tenure at the Merc included a decade as the editor of the annual Holiday Wish Book. Since leaving the paper in 2000, she has had her own communications firm, specializing in strategic communications and Web site content development.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nick Peters enters baseball Hall of Fame

Nick Peters, who covered the Giants for 47 seasons, was elected yesterday to the Hall of Fame in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the Chron and other papers report. Peters, 69, wrote primarily for the Oakland Tribune and Sacramento Bee but he also covered baseball for the Chronicle and served as a correspondent for Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News in addition to authoring five books on the Giants. He retired from the SacBee last year.

"It's very humbling," Peters told the Chron's John Shea. "It means a lot because I never was one to seek national attention. I always wanted to be a baseball writer, even in high school, but I never aspired to anything like this. It's a true surprise.

"I might be the last of a dying breed, a career baseball writer. I mean, I did it because I loved the game."

Swartz replaces Irish at Hearst Newspapers

George Irish, 65, yesterday announced yesterday he is stepping down as head of Hearst Newspapers and will be replaced by Steven R. Swartz, 46, a Hearst vp who earlier in his career was a reporter with the Wall Street Journal.

The announcements were made by Frank A. Bennack Jr., vice chairman and CEO of Hearst Corp., and will be effective Jan. 1.

The press release from Hearst says that under Swartz's leadership, Hearst played a key role in founding the newspaper industry's consortium with Yahoo, launching the industry's partnership with the online real estate company Zillow and forming quadrantONE, a national online sales network co-owned by Hearst, The New York Times Company, Gannett and Tribune.

Before joining Hearst in 2001, Swartz was president and chief executive of SmartMoney, the magazine, Web site and custom publishing business co-owned by Hearst and Dow Jones. Prior to becoming CEO in 1995, Swartz had been the magazine's founding editor since 1991.

Swartz began his journalism career as a reporter with the Wall Street Journal in 1984 after graduating from Harvard. He served as an editor on the Journal's Page One staff from 1989 to 1991.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Untold story: Newspapers still profitable

Reports of Tribune Co. entering into Chapter 11 and The New York Times being forced to mortgage its new headquarters, overshadow the fact that most newspapers are still making money. Santa Cruz Sentinel Editor Don Miller writes in his column:
    ...[T]he untold story about newspaper companies is that most continue to be profitable -- although today they're not making enough money to satisfy lenders and investors. According to industry analyst John Morton, revenues at publicly traded newspaper companies for the first nine months of 2008 are down nearly 11 percent and operating profits are down nearly 40 percent. Overall operating profits for these companies are slightly above 11 percent -- about half of what they were at the industry's peak, reports Morton.

    Nevertheless, many businesses -- hello, automakers! -- would crawl over broken glass for such a margin. Profitable businesses are nothing to sneeze at in the current economic climate. This would suggest the industry, although financially weakened, indeed does have a future, even as it adapts to changes in how readers and advertisers read and use their products.

Hearst throws a holiday party in New York

Hearst Corp., which has been cutting jobs at the Chronicle, threw a party last night in New York in the lobby of its new headquarters for CB Richard Ellis, the commercial realty firm that is trying to lease vacant space in the building, The New York Observer reports. Partygoers were forced to enter through and tour a retail space on the building's first floor in exchange for free food and drinks, the Observer says. Back in October, New York Magazine reported that Hearst announced that it would not be holding a party for its employees because of the need to tighten the privately-held company's budget.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ex-San Mateo editor goes into real estate

Former San Mateo County Times executive editor John Bowman, who abruptly quit the MediaNews Group-owned paper in disgust last year, has become a real estate agent. "I'm not a journalist anymore; I'm a Realtor. For 31 years, I would have laughed if you had predicted I would someday utter those words. But someday has arrived," Bowman wrote on his blog, where he has been criticizing MediaNews since leaving the Times.

Critic Steven Winn files final Chron column

In his final Chron column after 28 years, Steven Winn described the power he felt as a critic.
    One of the first shows I covered here, in the summer of 1980, was an all-male production of "Mame" at the Kabuki Theater in its pre-movie days. I rode the train from Menlo Park to the Chronicle offices the morning my review appeared. A man across the aisle and a few rows up was paging through the Datebook section. He came to my review and read it. I could tell — I was watching closely. It was, at first, a moment of supreme vanity. How potent and important I felt!

    And then, as the train clacked along and my fellow rider continued reading, another realization dawned: My piece was surrounded by many others. There may have been a movie review by Judy Stone and a Terrence O'Flaherty television column that day, a modern dance review and something on pop music. And there would be another paper tomorrow, with different things in Datebook and in Sports and Business and the front section. I was part of something big and in constant motion, its route and destination unknown. The trees and back lots of the Peninsula flashed along outside the window.

    I was going to work. [More]

Friday, December 5, 2008

Save the date: Press Club party Sunday, Dec. 14

Press Club members are warmly invited to the annual holiday party, set for Sunday, Dec. 14, at the home of past president Micki Carter in Belmont. (E-mail Micki for directions.) The party is also the club's annual meeting where the results of board elections will be announced. Board members will be on hand to answer questions and talk about plans for the coming year. If you're going, please bring an item for the Second Harvest Food Bank and something to drink.

Marshall Wilson joins Press Club board

Marshall Wilson has been elected to the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club's board of directors.

Wilson currently serves as public communication manager for San Mateo County, where he is focusing on providing more opportunities for public involvement and developing new ways to communicate with and to hear from residents. Public relations professionals have long been apart of the Press Club's membership.

Prior to his current position Wilson spent more than 10 years at the San Francisco Chronicle. He spent five years as a reporter covering the Peninsula and five years as an assignment editor on the news desk. He also helped to create and edit the Chronicle Cars section with staff-written reviews and features and reader-submitted articles.

From 1989-1996 he worked as a reporter and writer at the San Mateo Times. Prior to that he worked at the Gilroy Dispatch for nearly a year.

Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from the Stanford University Department of Communication and a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He grew up in San Carlos and attended Carlmont High and the College of San Mateo.

Wilson replaces Aimee Lewis-Strain, who resigned from the board. The board has another vacancy as the result of Jennifer Aquino's resignation.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Chron editor to appear on KQED-FM this morning

Michael Krasny is scheduled to interview San Francisco Chronicle editor Ward Bushee today (Thursday, Dec. 4) at 9 a.m. on 88.5 FM. If you're reading this after the interview, he's a link to the place where audio of the program would normally be posted. Bushee has headed the Chronicle newsroom since January after serving as editor of the Gannett-owned Arizona Republic.

David Perlman isn't thinking about retirement at 90

The new issue of the American Journalism Review has a profile of Chron Science Editor David Perlman, who says he has no thoughts of retiring as he approaches his 90th birthday. Perlman says his passion for journalism began 78 years ago when his mother took him to see an original stage production of "The Front Page" in New York. "I am a man with a single-track mind, so to speak," Perlman says. "I never considered doing anything else. Being a reporter is what I really wanted to do, and that's why I'm still doing it." (More)

Gil Gross adds a second job

Gil Gross, who replaced the late Pete Wilson at KGO radio last year, will soon add a national weekend program to his workload. The National Association of Realtors says it has hired Gross to host its "Real Estate Today" program. "The show aims to increase consumer confidence in the long-term value and benefits of ownership, provide information for people in all stages of homeownership, and reinforce the vital role that Realtors play in any real estate transaction," a press release from the Realtors association says. No word yet on the date of the program's launch or which station will air it locally.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Buyout sex" at the Contra Costa Times

Former Contra Costa Times movie reviewer Mary Pols (pictured) wrote this steamy essay for The New York Times about "buyout sex" — a final fling with a co-worker before accepting a buyout offer. She doesn't identify the guy other to say that he was divorced and had been at the paper since at least 1999. Obviously this has led to all sorts of speculation at the CCTimes.
    Sexy Ribbon on the Buyout Package

    By MARY POLS
    IN the current American workplace the threat of layoffs doesn't just nip at your heels, it gnaws on them. So when my employer offered buyout packages some months ago, I didn't hesitate. I'd been happily working as a reporter for 15 years, the last eight as a movie critic, but I wasn't blind to reality. The newspaper was going to start shedding employees — a lot of them. With a buyout, I would at least get six month's salary and a decent health care package.

    What I didn't know is that I'd also find myself the recipient of a less obvious benefit of losing one's job: indulging in an office romance without having to worry about the postcoital workplace awkwardness and knowing glances from co-workers. It was, as I called it, "Buyout Sex," a kind of short-term mental health insurance, though one that ultimately did extract from me a hefty co-payment. (More)
Photo credit: Benet Pols, from Pols' Web page, where she discusses her book "Accidentally on Purpose" (June 2008, Ecco/Harper Collins), with the subtitle "A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made."

Adviser selected for closed student paper

Students at Carlmont High School in Belmont will once again publish a newspaper now that school officials have appointed a journalism adviser.

School officials shut down the paper, the Scots Express, last month after a student wrote a facetious opinion piece about his own sex appeal. A Carlmont vice principal handed the student editor, Alex Zhang, a letter saying the paper was being closed because of the article. Despite the letter, school officials said the paper was closed because its adviser unexpectedly stepped down.

The new adviser is Raphael Kauffman, a teacher who has a degree in broadcast communication. Kauffman has met with the journalism club at Carlmont and has set up a publication schedule for the spring. He's also working to revitalize papers at three other high schools in the district (Menlo-Atherton, Woodside and Sequoia in Redwood City). Kauffman will be working with members of the Press Club, which asked Superintendent Pat Gemma to reopen the Carlmont paper.

Links:

Not a good time for a computer failure

We're told that the layoffs at the Bay Area Newspaper Group-East Bay hit the IT department, bringing the number of remaining computer techs down to three for the entire chain of MediaNews Group papers in the East Bay -- Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and 14 other local publications.

BANG-EB has also laid off Matt Sumner, winner of six Press Club awards in our most recent competition including best spot news and best general news photography, has been let go. He worked at the San Mateo County Times.

Newsrooms are increasingly keeping their own layoffs secret while still reporting those of other local businesses. If you know of newsroom layoffs in our area, please e-mail us at sfpen-pressclub@sbcglobal.net.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Examiner laying off 101 people back East

Clarity Media, the company that owns the Examiner newspapers here and in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., is shutting down its printing plant in Maryland, resulting in the elimination of 101 jobs, the Washington Examiner reports.

The Examiner said it will outsource its printing so it can run more color advertising.

Pappas's Channel 42 closer to auction block

Central Valley broadcast titan Henry Pappas may have to put 10 of his TV stations, including the Bay Area's KTNC Channel 42, up for bankruptcy auction next week. A federal bankruptcy judge has signed off on the procedures to sell the assets owned by Pappas Telecasting Companies, according to the Fresno Bee.

The only way any of the stations would not go on the auction block is if at least two qualified buyers submit bids by Thursday(Dec. 4), according to the Bee. If no buyers come forward, the auction would be held Dec. 11. Approval of any auction sales would be Dec. 16 at a U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware.

The stations are (with city of license in parenthseis):
    KMPH-TV Fresno-Visalia CA (Visalia CA), Fox

    KFRE-TV Fresno-Visalia CA (Sanger CA), CW

    KTNC-TV San Francisco-Oakland CA (Concord CA), TuVision

    KUNO-TV San Francisco-Oakland CA (Fort Bragg CA), TuVision

    KCWK-TV Yakima-Pasco-Richland WA (Walla Walla WA), CW

    KAZH-TV Houston TX (Baytown TX), TuVision

    KDBC-TV El Paso TX, CBS

    KPTM-TV Omaha NE, Fox

    KPTH-TV Sioux City IA, Fox

    WCWG-TV Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem NC (Lexington NC), CW
The bankruptcy doesn't involve the Pappas family's KTRB-AM, a 50,000-watt station in San Francisco.

Marc Berman, senior television writer for Mediaweek, a national publication that covers the television industry, said he doesn't expect buyers to be standing in line to bid on the television stations. And if there are any buyers, they will be looking for a great deal.

"Because of the way the economy is, it will be bargain-basement offers. I don't think people will be throwing money at television stations right now," Berman told the Fresno newspaper.

East Bay Express promotion reaches Boston

East Bay Express Publisher Jody Colley earlier this year began a campaign to encourage readers to pledge to spend $100 of their holiday shopping dollars at locally owned stores. In return for a written pledge, a reader is entered into a prize contest. The idea was picked up by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, a federation of 130 alt-weeklies, which provided a sample ad from the Express to its members. In Boston, the alt-weekly Phoenix ran the ad from the Express verbatim, not even changing the part addressed to "East Bay Express readers," according to the Boston Weekly Dig. Boston readers might have gotten suspicious, however, when they were asked to spend $100 at locally owned stores to help "your local economy" in California.

SFist.com stirs up a TV anchor battle

SFist.com is asking its readers which is the best newsteam in the market? Of course the poll isn't scientific, but here's a link to it, for what it's worth. With 152 votes, Channel 2's Frank Somerville-Gasia Mikaelian team was leading in this first post-Dennis Richmond survey with 43 percent followed by Dana King and Ken Bastida at CBS5 with 25 percent.

Monday, December 1, 2008

NLRB board rules against Guild

The National Labor Relations Board has thrown out the Guild's complaint that MediaNews Group acted illegally when it fired Contra Costa Times reporter Sara Steffens two days after she was elected as union chair. She claimed that she was being let go in part for her union activities, but the company said she was dismissed for business reasons as part of a round of layoffs that cost 28 people their jobs. The NRLB also threw out a similar complaint about the terminations of Rebecca Rosen-Lum and Geoff Lepper.

The ruling, first reported Monday by the Contra Costa Times, was handed down Friday by Alan B. Reichard, the NLRB's regional director in Oakland. His decision allows the Guild until Dec. 12 to seek a review by appealing to the NLRB's headquarters in Washington, D.C. The Guild indicated on its Web site that it will appeal.

Here's E&P's report on the ruling, the CC Times story and the Guild's Web site.

TV20 returns to its past as it rebrands itself

TV20 is calling itself KOFY again and is returning to local, low-budget and often wacky programming that drew attention to the station from 1980 to 1998. That was before Channel 20 went corporate and became a WB affiliate.

As this parody of VH1's "Behind of the Music" shows, former station owner Jim Gabbert is playing a key role in the rebranding. Gabbert sold sold Channel 20 in 1998 for $174 million. This video includes clips of Gabbert's "Dance Party" show, a 3-D movie TV20 aired (KOFY bought 500,000 3-D classes for viewers) and a "smell-o-vision" experiment. Here's a press release about the rebranding.

At left are stills from the video including a shot of "Dance Party," a promo for "The Million Dollar Giveaway" and Gabbert urging readers to wrap their fish with the Chronicle.

As for local programming, recently fired Alice FM 97.3 host Brendan ("No Name") Moran and Morris Knight of 98.1 KISS-FM will become regular staples on the station. KOFY is also looking for on-air talent.

And, of course, KOFY has brought back the idea of showing video of dogs during the station ID, something that was extremely popular during Gabbert's tenure. The dogs actually returned in April, as the Press Club blog noted back then.

1,000 words worth $7.50 in outsourced newsroom

NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd visited with James Macpherson, publisher of the PasadenaNow online newspaper, who has become famous for outsourcing his newsroom to India.

Last year he fired his seven Pasadena staffers — including five reporters — who were making $600 to $800 a week. He posted an ad on Craigslist for Indian reporters and got a flood of responses. According to Dowd, Macpherson and his wife now direct six employees all over India on how to write news and features, using telephones, e-mail, press releases, Web harvesting and live video streaming. Macpherson, who used to be in the clothing industry, tells Dowd: “I pay per piece, just the way it was in the garment business ... A thousand words pays $7.50.”

The ironic part of this is that PasadenaNow competes with MediaNews Group's Pasadena Star-News, whose public editor was among the many in the journalism business who scolded Macpherson for outsourcing his newsroom. But as Dowd points out, MediaNews chief executive Dean Singleton is now the one who is preaching outsourcing, and wouldn't rule it out for the newsroom. Macpherson said he feels vindicated by Singleton's comments.

Newspaper launches GilroyTV.com

Mainstreet Media Group, owner of the Gilroy Dispatch and other community papers, is getting into the TV business by launching GilroyTV.com, which will provide local news, information on activities and events, and features about food and dining, real estate and automotive news.

"GilroyTV combines video communication and community newspapering with technology that is both user-friendly and affordable," said Stephen Staloch, chief operating officer and publisher of the Mainstreet Media Group. "The social relevance and popularity of this concept will help our newspapers thrive in the online world and give our audience a greater variety of entertainment and information at the same time."

In a news release, Staloch said the news departments of Mainstreet's publications in the area (including the Gilroy Dispatch, Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Freelance, the Weekend Pinnacle, the Santa Cruz Good Times) will contribute to GilroyTV.com. He said Mainstreet is developing targeted community channels for Morgan Hill and Hollister as well.

GilroyTV.com is also teaming up with the online network of painter Thomas Kinkade, which directs fans of the artist to affiliated Web sites and advertisers.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

SF radio pioneer Bill Drake dies

Numerous news outlets are reporting tonight that Bill Drake, the music-radio consultant who created the Top 40 format in the 60s and 70s, died Saturday of lung cancer in a Los Angeles hospital at age 71.

In 1960, after taking a station in Atlanta to the top, Drake arrived at KYA Radio 1260 in San Francisco where he did the same as the station's morning man and program director.

The format: Playing a list of popular songs all day long. Throw in a lot of jingles, short news reports and traffic updates. It was called the Drake format or Boss radio.

"'The Drake Sound' became an instant success at KYA, and soon spread to other stations. Before long, Bill Drake had redefined rock 'n' roll radio nationwide, which became 'Top 40' radio. Drake became a multi-millionaire, programming nearly a hundred AM and FM stations from his home in Bel Air in the 1970s," John Schneider wrote in this entry about the history of KYA for the Bay Area Radio History Museum.

In 1963 KFRC, which had a more powerful signal, decided to copy KYA's format. By 1966, KFRC over took KYA in the ratings. Drake later would be a consultant to KFRC. (Photo from the Bay Area Radio History Museum)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Close calls for Sara Sidner reporting from Mumbai

Former KTVU Channel 2 reporter and weekend anchor Sara Sidner kept her cool amid explosions and unruly crowds as she reported for CNN in front of the terrorist-occupied Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai.

Sidner left Channel 2 late last year to take a job at CNN, which assigned her to its New Delhi bureau. This week she found herself in the middle of probably the biggest story of her career.

The video here shows Sidner and her photographer being confronted by a mob of onlookers in front of the hotel. The crowd was outraged at media coverage of the terrorist attacks. They blocked her camera and she had to stop reporting for a couple of minutes while she calmly dealt with the mob.

At another point this week, Sidner was reporting live when a bomb went off behind her at the hotel. She ducked, paused, said "OK" and continued on, completely unfazed.

Sidner hasn't forgotten about her colleagues back at KTVU in Oakland. Channel 2 aired a phone interview with Sidner during the first segment of "The 10'O Clock News" on Thursday night.

Another rumor about BANG-EB layoffs

We've heard an unconfirmed report (another way of saying a rumor) that Bay Area Newspaper Group-East Bay laid off more newsroom personnel Nov. 21. If you have any information, e-mail us at sfpen-pressclub@sbcglobal.net. As we have noted previously, some newspaper companies no longer report when they lay off employees.

Karel blames firing on Janet Jackson's breasts

Charles Karel Bouley, known as Karel, tells Chron radio writer Ben Fong-Torres that he's talking to other radio stations after he was fired by KGO-AM 810 earlier this month for spouting a series of obscenities about Joe the Plumber while he thought his microphone was off. Karel (pictured) lives in Long Beach and did his weekend KGO show remotely. He also does entertainment reports for CBS L.A. all-newser KNX 1070.

As for his firing, Karel blames it all on Janet Jackson's breasts. "Ever since she showed her boob, there's been this uber-sensitivity about everything. (KGO owner) Citadel wouldn't have cared 10 years ago."

Karel also tried to have it both ways in his interview with Fong-Torres by saying at one point that he took responsibility for his outburst but also saying that the board operator was to blame for leaving his mic on.

"They're called 'engineers' for a reason," he said. "Granted, the host is one of the wheels on the train. I do take responsibility. I had a blowout. But at the same time, the driver was not at the wheel, so of course we crashed." (Photo credit: Steven Underhill, Chronicle)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Merc lowers expectations, hires efficiency expert

In the following memo sent to Merc employees, Publisher Mac Tully (pictured) warns of more budget cuts forced by lower revenues and notes that the paper has hired an efficiency expert. Tully's memo went out as the paper began negotiations with the Guild on a new contract to replace the one that expired last month. More on that after Tully's memo.
    Dear fellow employee:

    The economic news in our paper tells the story: We are obviously operating in a very challenging economic environment -- much tougher than anyone anticipated. Today, I want to give you an update on where we are and what I foresee at yearend. First, I want to thank you for your efforts in helping the newspaper navigate its way through difficult times. All businesses are struggling and the newspaper industry is particularly challenged. Our business model was already going through a “sea change” before the extraordinary economic developments of recent weeks. They certainly are adding to our difficulties.

    While our core competency of local content generation remains extremely valuable and unique to us, and the desire for local content by readers is still strong and will remain strong, the method of how people are choosing to receive that information is in transition. While most readers still prefer the printed paper, there is some migration to online taking place. Fortunately, our overall audience numbers of print and online readers remain pretty stable. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to monetize the online audience in the manner we’re able to do with print readership. We believe the industry will figure that out. We’re not the first medium to go through a sea change -- magazines and radio have all successfully navigated their way through major changes and we will, too.

    What’s making our road tougher is that at the same time we’re dealing with these significant changes in our business model, the economy is worsening. That is making our challenges exponentially harder. I believe we are up for the challenge and we will be successful. I am absolutely committed -- as I know you are -- to the success of this newspaper and the Bay Area Group.

    Our original budget projected advertising revenues to be down about 8% for the fiscal year. Given what we now know about the economy, that’s unrealistic. There’s very little information that would suggest business is going to improve -- at least in the short run. In fact, there is a lot that suggests it will get worse. Therefore, the prudent thing to do is to pull down our revenue estimates even further from our reforecast.

    Since operating profit is a function of two things -- revenue and expense -- we will have to pull down our expense budget to mitigate at least some of the revenue decline. That means we’ll have expense action on a number of fronts. We’re going to ask you to do more with less. I’m hoping that you’ll understand why it’s important to make these expense reductions and do everything in your power to make the most out of what you will have to work with.

    We have contracted with an efficiency expert and we’re hopeful he can help us identify expenses that can be put to better use. We’re examining every dime we spend to see if we can reduce, delay or even cut it out.

    Based on today’s economic outlook, it seems inevitable that we will have to have some layoffs at the beginning of the calendar year. That’s the last thing anyone wants to do, but given the economic environment that we’re operating in, I don’t see how we can avoid it. The scope of such action will depend, at least in part, on how the holiday shopping season turns out.

    I promise you we will do everything in our power to try to better the situation. But this is how it stands today. As I stated earlier, I’m confident our newspaper will survive and even thrive in the coming years. But we have to survive the economic downturn we’re now in.

    I’m sorry to have to deliver this news but I think it’s important that you’re up-to-date on the status of our business. Again, we appreciate all you do and look forward to better times in the future.

    Mac Tully

Guild contract talks begin at the Merc

MediaNews labor negotiator Jim Janiga has opened contract talks with the Guild in San Jose by warning that employees may need to accept salary cuts as well as layoffs. That's according to a posting on the Guild's Web site.

Carl Hall, Chron reporter and Guild negotiator, countered by saying "there has got to be another alternative" to pay cuts or layoffs, and said he wants to talk about “creative restructuring” that would more dramatically rethink the business model.

According to Guild, Janiga responded: “That is why we are sitting here today.”

The Guild's contract at the Merc expired last month. The two sides are scheduled to meet again Dec. 3.

Representing the Guild were the lead negotiator, Luther Jackson, as well as Sylvia Ulloa (newsroom), Bill Russell (advertising), Rick Tulsky (newsroom), Hall and Suzanne Arnaud.

In addition to Janiga, the Mercury News was represented by Andy Huntington and Marshall Anstandig.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Want to be a local TV host?

KOFY "Your TV 20" has announced a casting call on Dec. 17 at The Saddle Rack in Fremont for the station's next host. The announcement doesn't say what kind of show the successful applicant will host. "(But) while you're there ride the bull, do a litte line dancing and check out special guest Lisa Lisa Lisa! So much fun all in one night!"

And if that is too much fun, TV20 is asking would-be hosts to upload audition videos. This gig is unpaid. "KOFY TV staff will pick the top 3 finalists and you the viewers make the final decision! One lucky viewer will host KOFY TV the entire month of January. That's right we said the ENTIRE month of January! Sorry no paid stipends just a whole LOT OF FUN! Bay Area... Get ready for your 5 minutes (or hours!) of fame!"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

CSM j-students pick up top honors

College of San Mateo Journalism students captured top honors at a Northern California journalism conference held Oct. 11 at San Jose State University, with one winning article later published by the San Francisco Examiner and distributed online.

The students were honored for their work with a General Excellence award for the Web site version of The San Matean, the campus newspaper, and several writing awards, including a meritorious award for in-depth reporting.

Christine Karavas, editor of The San Matean, was awarded first place for opinion writing in an on-the-spot competition held at the daylong event. Her article addressed a keynote address about journalism and social media event’s and was written under strict deadline pressure in competition with other students.

Her article was polished and distributed several days later by the San Francisco Examiner. It addresses the differences between journalism and social media under the headline “Don’t fool yourself: Blogs, texts are not journalism.”

The conference was hosted by the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, a statewide organization. The JACC holds Northern California and Southern California conferences and a larger state conference each spring that brings both regions together.

About 225 students from 22 community colleges attended the event, which presented an array of workshops and competitions.

In the mail-in competition, judging work over the last year, Karavas also earned fourth place news feature honors for her story about changes to language and writing caused by text messaging. “Well written, great flow, great/new topic,” the judges wrote.

Also collecting awards were:
    Colleen Shjeflo, meritorious award in enterprise story/series category, for her in-depth report about the use of firearms by college security officers. “Interesting topic in light of Virginia Tech massacre,” the judges wrote. “Story does a good job of exploring the pros and cons of having armed police on campus with statistics and comments. Good job of looking at the issue from a state and district perspective.”

    Peter Jadelrab, third place in profile feature, for his article about an Iraqi war veteran returning to college. “One of the things that really works well in this story is the way you focused on a single incident during the war instead of trying to fit in all his experience,” the judges wrote.

    Emily Daly, fourth place in newswriting, for her story about the slaying of a Cañada College student

    Danny Castro, honorable mention in sports game story, for his game coverage
“CSM’s journalism students work hard to excel, so it’s terrific to see their efforts acknowledged by the professionals who judge for the JACC,” said Ed Remitz, CSM journalism adviser. Remitz also is a board member for the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club.

MediaNews attorney now a councilman

Marshall Anstandig, MediaNews Group's in-house lawyer for labor matters, has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the city council in Monte Sereno, a town of about 3,400 people about 10 miles southwest of San Jose next to Los Gatos. The online Los Gatos Observer reports that Anstandig, 59, was appointed by council in a 3-1 vote to replace a councilman who stepped down due to medical reasons.

The Observer says Anstandig has lived in Monte Sereno for about 10 years. He received his jurisdoctorate from Detroit College of Law in 1974 and served as senior labor counsel for Knight Ridder. He was appointed to the town's Site and Architecture Commission in January 2007.

The two papers that cover Monte Sereno, the Mercury News and the weekly Los Gatos Weekly-Times, are owned by MNG's California Newspapers Partnership, where Anstandig is senior vice president and general counsel.