Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kava: Talk radio is king in the Bay Area

Radio and music blogger Brad Kava notes that, once again, KGO-AM 810 finished on top in the fall ratings for listeners over 12, with 5.9 percent of listeners compared to No. 2 KOIT-FM (96.5), at 5.7 percent. KOIT worried KGO because it always gets a surge in listenership when it switches to all Christmas music.

Kava points out that five of the top 10 stations are talk. But three talk stations are struggling — No. 23 KNEW-AM 910, the home of Michael Savage; No. 27 KKGN-AM 960, liberal "Green 960," and the new KRTB-AM 860, which doesn't even crack the list of Top 40 stations despite a 50,000-watt signal and a dial position just north of No. 1 KGO 810.

KTRB is airing syndicated hosts all day and not investing in much local programming. Kava writes: "Manager Jim Pappas says there may be more [local programming] if the station gets more advertising and ratings. But that seems to be a cart leading the horse argument. Why would people want to listen to a station that is carrying the same type of cookie-cutter conservative hosts as KSFO and KNEW?

CBS5 now has a full-time blogger

With TV station Web sites gaining on their newspaper competitors, it only makes sense for broadcasters to spend money producing Web-only content to hold that new online audience. Perhaps with that in mind, CBS5 now has a new blogger, Brittney Gilbert, who will be "sifting through hundreds of sites on a daily basis, offering up links to and commentary on the brightest, funniest, most engaging posts made by local bloggers, while providing a place to interact and converse about the issues of the day," according to her Web page.

Headlines on her blog today include "Belgian Beer Bar Alert!," "Free Trade Coffee for Free for BARTers" and "The People's Pot." The "Free Trade Coffee for BARTers" is a link to SFist.com, which appears to be in the same business as Gilbert — aggregating content and producing a locally oriented blog.

As we reported in November, Gilbert comes to San Francisco from Nashville, where she has been blogging for the local ABC affiliate since 1999. She may be the first blogger hired by a local television newsroom for the purposes of blogging.

Pattern seen in killings of ethnic reporters

Since 1976, 11 of the 13 journalists slain in the United States in apparent retaliation for their reporting worked for the ethnic press, the Chron reports today, citing the Committee to Protect Journalists. Among those killed were three Bay Area Journalists:
    • Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey (pictured), who was gunned down last August as he was investigating infighting at Your Black Muslim Bakery. A member of the bakery is charged in his death.

    • Lam Trong Duong, a contributor to a Vietnamese newsletter supportive of the communist government of Vietnam, was shot in 1981 near his apartment Tenderloin apartment, and

    • Henry Liu, author of a Chinese-language book accusing Taiwanese officials of corruption, was killed in 1984 in his Daly City home by hit men hired by the Taiwanese government.
The common thread? "In 10 incidents, the reporters who were killed covered minority or immigrant communities for publications that tended to have an intense, intimate relationship with readers. Often they were the only ones writing about issues that the mainstream press failed to cover," writes Chron reporter Matthai Kuruvila.

Editor takes the stand in SF Weekly trial

“I don’t like the SF Weekly because I don’t think they have a soul,” Bay Guardian Editor Tim Redmond told a jury yesterday in Day 2 of the Guardian vs. SF Weekly trial. We have two reports on his testimony — what the SF Weekly says he said and Redmond's report on what he said. Take your pick.

Redmond writes:
    The point I tried to make: The Guardian is a community institution. We care about this city; we care about people and issues and arts and culture, and whether you agree or disagree with our political stands, we're part of San Francisco -- and our readers have always known that. The Weekly is part of a chain based in Phoenix.

    And yeah, I think local ownership matters, and I think independent papers matter, and I think it sucks that the Weekly has been selling ads below cost and trying to hurt our ability to compete. The Weekly has been losing tons of money; when VVM/New Times owned the East Bay Express, that paper lost tons of money, too. Over the past 11 years, the chain has lost $25 million in the Bay Area. That's what happens when you sell ads for less than the cost of producing them.

    And it only works, and it only makes sense, if you have a big chain that can subsidize the losses in the hope that the locally owned competitor will be driven out of business. (That, by the way, is what this suit is all about.)"
The SF Weekly focused on Redmond's "withering" cross examination by Weekly lawyer Ivo Labar about the quality of journalism in his newspaper:
    Redmond responded to Labar, "I don’t want to see the Weekly go out of business. I want to see [Phoenix-based] New Times sell it to a local owner, like they did with the East Bay Express."

    However, that claim didn’t jibe with a memo Redmond wrote for the [Guardian's] board in 1997. Under the heading "Send the Guys from Phoenix Packing," Redmond listed long-term goals that included "forcing the New Times to admit they can’t make it in San Francisco" and "making them shut the SF Weekly down."

    In that same memo, Redmond admitted that the Guardian had problems that went beyond the unwelcome presence of New Times. His paper’s "leaders and decision makers were considerably older than our target audience," he noted, and the Weekly was already perceived as a hipper publication more likely to attract coveted younger readers.

    When Labar challenged him about the goal of "shutting the Weekly down" -- which is precisely what the Guardian is accusing the Weekly of -- Redmond backpedaled. "I guess at the end there I got a little carried away," he admitted."
The trial before Judge Marla Miller in Department 318 of San Francisco Superior Court is expected to last four to five weeks.

A promotion for Juliette Goodrich

Goodrich
KPIX CBS5 has promoted Juliette Goodrich to anchor of its noon news effective today. She will be co-anchoring with Barbara Rodgers. New hire Tracy Humphrey is the weather anchor at noon. Goodrich takes the seat of John Kessler, who will remain on the morning news.

“Juliette is a member of the family. She never really went away, but it's sure nice to have her back five days a week. She and Barbara make a great team.” said vp and news director Dan Rosenheim. Goodrich has been at KPIX since 1997. Here's her bio.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SF Weekly trial opens — four versions

The Chronicle didn't cover it, but below are four reports on yesterday's opening statements in the Bay Guardian's lawsuit against the SF Weekly and its owner, Village Voice Media. The Guardian, owned by Bruce Brugmann, claims the rival paper sold ads at below cost in order to run his paper out of business. The SF Weekly countered yesterday by saying that Brugmann's paper didn't keep up with changing market conditions, and blamed the competition on his business problems.
    The Guardian: "...the trial will come down to the question of intent and the damage that the Weekly and its chain owners have done to the Guardian."

    • The SF Weekly: Andy Van De Voorde, executive associate editor of the SF Weekly's owner, Village Voice Media, has been brought in to cover the trial.

    BeyondChron: Ben Malley writes, "At the heart of the case for those who care about the fate of independent media is that the Guardian has been forced to trim staff in order to cut costs. This has resulted in a decline in the resources the paper has to operate as a news organization, making it a less effective entity than it was previously."

    San Francisco Daily: Reporter Richard Cole writes, "The Weekly has lost money for 11 straight years by slashing advertising rates below the Guardian’s, said Guardian attorney Ralph Alldredge. The Weekly lost $25 million over that period, $15 million of that in the last three years. And the paper collects only $2,000 in ads for a page that costs $2,800 to make, he told jurors. 'If you are not in business to make a profit, what are you trying to do,' Alldredge said."
The trial before Judge Marla Miller in Department 318 of San Francisco Superior Court is expected to last four to five weeks.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Channel 11 hires Tom Sinkovitz

NBC11 announced today it has hired former KRON anchor Tom Sinkovitz as a reporter and fill-in anchor. He will start Wednesday night covering the Republican debate in Los Angeles and the Democratic debate on Thursday, TV critic Susan Young notes on her blog.

Although the station said Sinkovitz will only be filling in as an anchor, his arrival comes two months after the departure of evening co-anchor Allen Denton.

Sinkovitz is a three-time regional emmy winner who reported in the field and anchored several KRON newscasts over the course of 17 years. When he signed off from KRON for the last time on Sept. 15, 2006, he suggested viewers would be seeing him on another channel soon. "I'm not saying 'good-bye' tonight. I'm just saying I'll see you later," he said, leaving co-anchor Pam Moore in tears.

Ex-Chron ad director Pfeiffer heads south

Phyllis Pfeiffer, former Marin Independent Journal publisher and former ad director at the Chronicle, has been appointed publisher of a group of Southern California weeklies including the La Jolla Light. The Light, the Del Mar Times, the Carmel Valley Leader, the Rancho Santa Fe Record and the Solana Beach Sun are all part of MainStreet Media Group, a growing chain of small and mid-size newspapers in California. At the Chron, Pfeiffer was replaced in September by Michael LaBonia, who came from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. At the time, the Chron said Pfeiffer was taking a position with Hearst Newspapers.

Bronstein's job change discussed for months

Bronstein
Phil Bronstein's move from editor of the Chronicle to a new editor-at-large position was several months in the making, both Bronstein and Chron Publisher Frank Vega both tell E&P. Said Vega: "We have been talking on and off for months. We've had cuts and a lot of that is hard duty." The E&P article also notes that Bronstein's personal life has changed from the days when he was married to actress Sharon Stone and the two of them were on the covers of supermarket tabloids. In 2006 he married Christine Borders and the two of them became parents recently to a boy, Caleb. He is also continues to raise seven-year-old Roan, a boy whom he and Stone adopted in 2000. "When you've got two kids at home, you've got a great family life, it causes you to think about what you are doing," said Bronstein, 57.

Mark Curtis covers primaries as a freelancer

Former KTVU morning anchor Mark Curtis has gone freelance and is covering the presidential primaries. This morning Curtis did a report for "Mornings on 2" from Florida and he is scheduled to be on KPFA-FM 94.1 at 7 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday). Curtis is also blogging about his journeys covering the candidates. This is a picture from Curtis's blog of him doing a stand-up in the Orlando suburb of Oviedo. As TV critic Susan Young has reported on her blog, Curtis's decision to go freelance came after Channel 2 replaced him with Dave Clark from Los Angeles, a move that irked many viewers.

Examiner delivery method sparks legislation

The Examiner chain, which has papers in Washington and Baltimore, has apparently been ignoring residents who have asked the company to stop delivering papers to their driveways, according to an AP story. So the residents have taken their complaints to a state legislator, who has drafted a bill that would create a "Do No Deliver" list, similar to the federal "Do Not Call" list for telemarkers. Any newspaper delivering to a home on the list could be fined $100 per day. Examiner officials didn't return the AP's calls for comment, but printed their own story on the controversy in their East Coast editions that quoted a company executive as saying, "I hate it when we annoy readers, and keeping that annoyance to a minimum is among my highest priorities."

Current Media of SF plans $100 million IPO

Current Media, which relies on viewer-produced video for its TV channel and Web site, announced Monday it plans to have an initial public offering of stock it hopes will raise $100 million to cover $35 million in debt and cover future operation costs. The channel was founded by Al Gore and legal services pioneer Joel Z. Hyatt of Atherton. The Mercury News notes that Current Media paid the former vice president $1.05 million last year, including a $550,000 bonus for the first four months of 2007. The company said it still may give Gore an additional bonus to cover his accomplishments for the final seven months of the year. (Photo credit: AP, file Sept. 16, 2007)

Monday, January 28, 2008

SF Weekly trial: Sex ads bother juror

Jury selection took longer than expected in the SF Weekly predatory pricing trial after two jurors were dropped and replacements had to be selected. Opening arguments are now set for tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 8:30 in the San Francisco Superior Court of Judge Marla Miller. According to the SF Weekly's blog, one juror "was sent home after he told the judge he had decided neither newspaper deserved to win because both support 'prostitution' by printing explicit personal ads." An alternate juror, who described himself as an aspiring journalist, was bounced because he was afraid to rule against either side for fear they might not hire him in the future. There was no update on the Bay Guardian site tonight but Publisher Bruce Brugmann sent out an e-mail saying his Web site would have updates through the trial as would the Association of Alternative Weekly's site. He also directed people to Randy Shaw's article about the trial (see below).

Guild makes push in East Bay

More than a dozen working members of the Guild and Guild staffers from around the country will descend upon the East Bay this week in an attempt to organize a union at the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and other papers owned by MediaNews Group, according to a union blog and KCBS-AM 740. Last year, MediaNews merged the unionized Alameda Newspaper Group with the non-union Contra Costa Times. Because non-union members outnumbered union members, MediaNews canceled its union contract for ANG. Now the Guild is striking back by bringing in members from Denver and St. Paul to convince MediaNews employees to sign cards calling for an election to determine if the merged newsroom should be represented by the Guild. Sara Steffens of the Contra Costa Times and Michael Manekin of the San Mateo County Times are the leaders of the effort. Workshops are planned today and Tuesday, the union says on this blog.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Q&A with the Chronicle's new editor

The new editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, Ward Bushee III, is a native of Watsonville and the son of Register-Pajaronian editor Ward Bushee Jr., a Pulitzer Prize winner. That fact wasn't lost on Jondi Gumz of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, who did this Q&A with Bushee. The first question: What was the most important thing you learned from your father? Read more

Meanwhile, the SF Weekly's Benjamin Wachs suspects that Bushee wasn't hired to improve the paper's journalism but to restore the Chronicle to profitability. Wachs points out that Bushee comes from Gannett, which continues to make money despite the downturn in the newspaper industry (See Yahoo Finance's numbers for Gannett: profit margin 14%, operating margin 24%). Wachs quotes Poynter's Rick Edmonds as saying:
    "We’re looking at a guy who will very much work with the business side to do what he can to improve performance pretty quickly ..."
Edmonds also says a change in direction at the Chronicle is possible if Bushee does in San Francisco what his paper in Phoenix has done:
    “The most interesting similarity between the Phoenix market and the San Francisco market is that they have this very broad sprawl out from the center, and the one of the Chronicle’s biggest problems is that their core city, where they can expect to have high penetration, is pretty small -- and then they have strong local competition everywhere they go ... That’s not something that works well for advertisers. He’s got a record for getting attention to a central city paper and website from these outer cities.”

Clear Channel to sell 3 San Jose stations

Clear Channel has agreed to sell three of its 10 Bay Area radio stations in a deal with the FCC that will allow the company to be taken over by private investors. The stations going on the block operate out of San Jose:
    • KCNL-FM "Channel 104.9," alternative rock

    • "KFOX 98.5" (actually KUFX-FM), classic rock

    • KSJO-FM 92.3 "La Preciosa," Spanish
Clear Channel is keeping the seven stations that originate from its studios at 340 Townsend St. in San Francisco (left): KNEW-AM 910, "Green 960" KKGN-AM, "Star 101.3" KIOI-FM, "98.1 KISS-FM" (KISQ-FM), 103.7 KKSF-FM, 106 KMEL-FM and "Wild 94.9" KYLD-FM.

Nationwide, Clear Channel is jettisoning 42 stations in the top 100 markets as part of the $19.8 billion buyout by a group led by Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Bain Capital Partners LLC. The sell off is necessary so that the new owners will comply with revised FCC ownership limits.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Chronicle names Arizona newsman as editor

Arizona Republic editor Ward Bushee, whose newspaper career at the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, has been named executive vice president and editor of the Chronicle, replacing Phil Bronstein. Bushee, 58, has been at the Gannett-owned Phoenix daily since 2002, and previously was editor of Gannett's Cincinnati Enquirer.

Chron publisher Frank Vega, also a former Gannett executive, says Bushee pioneered innovative use of the Internet at the Republic. "That type of multiplatform reporting is what we have to continue to develop," Vega said.

Bushee is quoted by the Chron as saying: "The Chronicle has been my favorite newspaper for as long as I can remember. I have long admired the quality of journalism practiced by its staff and the sense of San Francisco and the Bay Area captured on its pages."

Bushee, 58, began his career at the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. His father was the paper's editor and shepherded it to a 1956 Pulitzer for public service. Bushee also has worked at the Gilroy Dispatch, the Salinas Californian and the Marin Independent Journal. Here's a link to the Chron's announcement. (Photo credit: Tom Tingle, Arizona Republic)

SF Weekly attempts to stop trial as it begins

Randy Shaw, longtime San Francisco activist, attorney and editor of BeyondChron.org, says it seems the management at Village Voice Media's SF Weekly are now worried that they might lose the Bay Guardian lawsuit.

For three years, the SF Weekly has been ridiculing the lawsuit, saying its claims were "already disproven." But as the trial began, Judge Marla Miller rejected a request by the SF Weekly to throw out evidence that supports Guardian owner Bruce Brugmann's claim that the national chain sold ads at below-cost in order to drive the Guardian out of business.

Then the SF Weekly asked for a 90-day delay, which Miller denied. Opening arguments will begin Monday morning in San Francisco Superior Court.

Shaw says the SF Weekly's request for a delay "does not look like the actions of a party who is holding a winning hand. And since the Guardian’s allegations were based on 'claims already disproven,' how the SF Weekly would not be prepared to defend itself three years after the action was filed is a mystery."

Shaw continues:
    "But regardless of the suit’s outcome, the national chain’s request for a continuance after trial has commenced shows that the paper fears it could lose this case. And that, regardless of the final outcome, [shows] the Guardian’s suit has much more merit than one would have assumed from reading the SF Weekly’s coverage.

    "For all of Bruce Brugmann’ s outsized personality, and the changes in the news industry that have put politically alternative weeklies at risk, the Guardian-SF Weekly case involves far more than these two parties. Rather, it has national implications for the future of local journalism.

    "If a large chain, whether it be Wal-Mart, the Gannett Corp., or the smaller Village Voice Media, can drive competitors out of business by selling ads at below-cost, then local newpapers, radio stations and other media have no future. And this is not a good thing."

Where are Bernie Ward's notes?

One question in the Bernie Ward child porn case is -- If he was really doing research for a book when he downloaded those images, where are his notes or other evidence that shows he was working on a book? That's the question Ben Fong-Torres asked in his Chronicle Radio Waves column a couple weeks ago, and he has since received an answer from the liberal talk-show host:
    "I did have notes," he wrote in an e-mail. "Notes on what I was doing and conversations I had, etc. I told people I was going to write a book, and one of those people also saw the index cards that I had notes on." He also had a meeting at Perry's on Union Street with a publisher's rep, he says, and that meeting was scheduled by his producer at KGO. Ward says he has informed KGO about his notes but hasn't had access to them "because of the fear of being accused of adding to them or doctoring them in some way."
Fong-Torres's column doesn't say who Ward informed KGO-AM about his notes or when. The day Ward's indictment was unsealed, Operations Director Jack Swanson said in a statement that the station "just recently made aware of these serious charges." Ward is accused of downloading the images in December 2004. Ward has known he was being investigated by federal authorities since at least early 2005 when his computer was seized. Ward did not reveal he was under investigation to his listeners in the three years before he was indicted.

S&P lowers credit rating of MediaNews

Standard & Poor's has lowered its corporate credit rating of MediaNews Group from "B" to "BB-minus," the Denver Business Journal reports. The owner of the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and other Northern California newspapers has "heavy debt levels" and "limited cushion in bank covenants." On Nov. 14, MediaNews reported a $1 million loss for the quarter ending Sept. 30, compared to a $13 million profit during the same period a year earlier.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bernie Ward kid porn trial set for June 9

A judge today scheduled a June 9 trial for former KGO-AM host Bernie Ward, who is charged with downloading and distributing child pornography.

Ward's attorney, Doron Weinberg, said outside of court that he is investigating whether his client could get the charges dropped by citing a First Amendment privilege since Ward said he was downloading and e-mailing the images while researching a book.

According to Bay City News, Weinberg also said he may argue that federal laws setting penalties for Internet child pornography are arbitrary and unfair. Possession of child porn carries penalties as light as no jail time while a conviction on the possession-and-distribution charge facing Ward requires a mandatory five-year sentence.

"The government has seized a moment in someone's life and treated him as though he were a lifelong predator, when even at worst he was someone who was involved for a matter of days," Weinberg said.

Ward said in the hallway of the San Francisco federal courthouse that his KGO-AM canceled his contract on Dec. 21, but that he and his agent are negotiating for a new contract and hope he will eventually return to the air.

Gay paper blasts coverage of staph infection

The Bay Area Reporter began its story this way: "Research from the University of California, San Francisco documenting the spread of the USA300 strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA among gay males in San Francisco and Boston is not homophobic, but the same cannot be said of subsequent promotion and media coverage of that research."

The problem began when UCSF said four times in a news release that gay men are not considered to be members of the general population. That was picked up by the Chronicle, then the AP and later by others in the media. San Francisco activist Michael Petrelis was among the first to complain to USCF, according to BAR.

Within hours UCSF press office issued a statement expressing regrets that its initial release "contained some information that could be interpreted as misleading. We deplore negative targeting of specific populations in association with MRSA infections or other public health concerns."

BAR said in an editorial:
    "For years, HIV/AIDS research has relied on gay men and last week's clumsy release -- compounded by the mainstream media coverage -- caused us to question why men would want to participate in future research. The university has pledged to do a better job in the future, and we'll be watching."

Opening arguments set in SF Weekly trial

The Bay Guardian reports that Judge Marla Miller rejected a request by the SF Weekly and owner Village Voice Media to delay the start of its trial on charges of predatory pricing. Jury selection is set to begin today in San Francisco Superior Court and last for two days. Miller has scheduled opening arguments for Monday. The Guardian is suing its rival, claiming it sold ads at below cost in an attempt to run the Guardian out of business. See "Weeklies slam each other as they go to trial" and a report by the San Francisco legal newspaper, the Daily Journal, on the lawsuit (via the Guardian's Web site).

Trib combines local, wire in one section

The Oakland Tribune has a new format. It has combined local and national news into the first section and created a standalone daily business section. In other words, less wire and more local and regional news. The format mimics the Contra Costa Times, which was purchased in 2006 by the Trib's owner, MediaNews Group, headed by Dean Singleton. The papers are now apart of the Bay Area Newspaper Group - East Bay or BANG-EB for short. Stephen Buel at the East Bay Express observes that the additional copy will come from MediaNews Group's papers elsewhere in the Bay Area because the Trib isn't adding staff. Buel writes:
    "Smart integration of news from all its many papers has always been the promised upside of the vast merger deal that left Dean Singleton's BANG in possession of virtually every Bay Area daily not named Chronicle. And anything that can be done to beef up the Trib's long-anemic business coverage is certainly welcome."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bronstein explains why he is stepping down

Bronstein addresses the newsroom.

"At times, what happens in this city is like the plagues of Egypt," Phil Bronstein told E&P this afternoon after announcing he was stepping down as editor of the Chronicle. "It wasn't just the earthquakes and the fires, there were ... mergers and sales and acquisitions and strikes. I'm an adrenaline junkie -- but even adrenaline junkies have to take a break some time."

One factor, he said, was the Balco case, where federal prosecutors threatened Chronicle reporters Lance Williams (left) and Mark Fainaru-Wada (right) with jail for refusing to identify who leaked grand jury testimony. (In this 2006 shot outside the San Francisco federal courthouse, Bronstein is second from left and next to him is Hearst Corp. General Counsel Eve Burton.)

A press release from Hearst said Bronstein will become the paper's editor-at-large and continue to represent the Chron in the community as "a principal public face of the paper."

Bronstein's celebrity status is due partially to his five-year marriage to actress Sharon Stone. He made headlines around the world when in 2001 he was bit by a Komodo dragon during a visit Stone arranged to the Los Angeles Zoo as a surprise father's day gift.

But he made plenty of news without Stone, like the time in 1996 when he put on scuba gear to look for an alligator in a San Francisco lake. Or the scuffle he had with former mayoral candidate Clint Reilly in a newspaper conference room.

Bronstein's replacement has already been selected and the paper expects to reveal his or her name in the next few days. The only clue Bronstein is giving is that the new editor has "deep roots in the Bay Area." (Photo credit: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, Chronicle)

Bronstein to step down, take new Hearst job

Bronstein
Phil Bronstein is stepping down as executive editor of the Chronicle and a new editor with "deep roots in the Bay Area" will be announced in the next couple of days, newsroom staffers were told today. Bronstein will remain executive vice president of the Chron and will take on the title of editor-at-large for the paper and the Hearst newspaper division, working on strategic issues and investigative projects. Bronstein, 57, has been Hearst's top editor in San Francisco for 17 years, first for nine years when the company owned the Examiner and eight more when it bought the Chronicle.

Weeklies slam each other as they go to trial

The sniping between San Francisco's two alternative weeklies has become so intense that the papers are running corrections of each other's stories. The bickering involves the Guardian's predatory pricing lawsuit against the SF Weekly and its owners Village Voice Media. The trial began Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court. Each paper is posting online updates that are loaded with attacks on their competitor. A few quotes and headlines:
    GUARDIAN: "It's extraordinary how the SF Weekly can take a clear legal defeat and try to turn it into a victory."

    SF WEEKLY: "The SF Bay Guardian's Shakedown Hits a Snag"

    GUARDIAN: "If this is how the SF Weekly and the VVM folks from Phoenix are going to cover the trial, we're going to have to spend a lot of time correcting the record, although we'd prefer to simply let the case speak for itself."

    SF WEEKLY: "Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond didn’t bother to show up at Superior Court on McAllister Street last week to hear proceedings in his newspaper’s lawsuit against the Weekly. But the mere fact that he wasn’t there didn’t stop him from pontificating about last week’s hearings in a January 18 blog post."
The trial before Judge Marla J. Miller is expected to take four to six weeks. It is currently in the jury selection phase.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Examiner runs large ad defining itself

Examiner readers were greeted this morning with another wrap ad covering the free newspaper's front page. But instead of promoting a movie or a bank, the 13.75- by 22-inch ad promoted the Examiner itself. (Here's a PDF close-up.)

The ad begins with, "I'll keep this brief. My name is John Wilcox and I'm the publisher of The Examiner ..." It was reminiscent of the old Bay Guardian campaign which featured large pictures of Bruce Brugmann shouting "Read My Paper, Dammit!" The Examiner ad attempted to clear up the misconceptions that the paper is still owned by Hearst or the Fang family. The ad says the Examiner is owned by Clarity Media Group but never mentions the name of billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz, who owns Clarity. On the back were pictures of the paper's 12 top executives and bios of each of them.

Papers give hints about candidates they like

With 10 months before the general election, signs are emerging as to which candidates Bay Area papers will be endorsing. Chron editorial page editor John Diaz (right) came away from a meeting with Barack Obama impressed. "His look-you-in-the-eye directness was evident ... " Diaz wrote. "The other striking quality of the Obama meeting was his willingness to listen to and engage in the questions that were asked — rather than regarding any question as a launching pad for the campaign's talking points, a practice that has become epidemic in modern American politics. He demonstrated depth on an assortment of issues."

Examiner owner Phil Anschutz and wife Nancy are backing Mitt Romney, giving him money and holding fundraisers on his behalf.

Over at MediaNews, chief executive Dean Singleton was a Bush supporter in the past two presidential elections, much to the consternation of partner Dean Scudder, who has supported Democrats. This time around, Singleton gave $1,000 to Democrat New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Richardson dropped out of the pack a few weeks ago. (Photo credit: Andrew S. Ross, Chronicle.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Readers asked to pick best local anchor


With Dennis Richmond's announcement that he will retire in May, the Contra Costa Times is conducting an online, unscientific poll of readers, asking them to pick their favor local news anchor in recent years. Readers are asked to pick from the anchors above: From left, Richmond, the late Pete Wilson of ABC7, KPIX's Dave McElhatton, KTVU's Leslie Griffith, Jessica Aguirre of KGO and KNTV, and Pam Moore of KRON.

Missing from the list are names from the past like Van Amburg, Jerry Jensen (the last two anchors to have a newscast with a 50+ share), the legendary (Fred) Van Amburg. Current day anchors who probably should have been on the list include ABC 7's Dan Ashley, KPIX's Dana King, Ken Bastida, Kate Kelly, Hank Plant, and former KRON anchor Suzanne Shaw. For more information on the Bay Area's broadcasting legends, go here

Friday, January 18, 2008

Publisher given protection after threat

Oakland police have placed Oakland Post Publisher Paul Cobb (seen here) and another man under protection after the second man said he was offered $3,000 to lure Cobb to a place where he could be killed, according to a report by Thomas Peele of the Contra Costa Times. The second man said the offer came from two men he knew to be once associated with Your Black Muslim Bakery. A bakery associate, Devaughndre Broussard, has been charged in the fatal shooting of Post editor Chauncey Bailey on Aug. 2 in downtown Oakland.

According to Peele's report, Cobb made a series of phone calls to city officials and police Chief Wayne Tucker on Wednesday night, asking for protection for him and for the second man. "I am worried for my safety and for my wife's safety," Cobb said. (Photo credit: D. Ross Cameron, The Oakland Tribune, Aug. 1, 2007)

Chron photographer was a 'cool guy'

This shot of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio waiting in a judge's chambers before their marriage in City Hall on Jan. 14, 1954 was taken by the Chron's Art Frisch, who has died at age 89, the paper reported today. "Art was a cool guy," said Chron photographer Fred Larson. "He was old school, and a pleasure to work for. When Art put an assignment in your hand, you went and did it on the spot. He expected you to run out the door. You better not finish your lunch first." Frisch started at the Chron as a copy boy in 1935. After serving in the Navy in World War II he returned to the Chron as a photographer. He retired in 1984. Here's the obit.

Jury selection starts in Guardian-SFW trial

Jury selection began yesterday in the San Francisco Guardian's lawsuit against the owner of the SF Weekly, the 16-paper New Times Media chain based in Phoenix. Guardian owner Bruce Brugmann (left) claims that the chain has been selling ads at below cost in order to take business away from his paper. If true, such a practice (called predatory pricing) is illegal under both federal and state law. New Times is owned by Jim Larkin (blue sports coat) and Michael Lacey (white jacket).

"Lil Mike" of SF Metroblogs has this take on the trial. He says Brugmann won a $500,000 settlement in 1970 from the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, the business arm of the Chron-Examiner monopoly in those days. He also says another paper, The SF Daily, is accusing a competitor of predatory pricing as well.

The SF Weekly posted this story, which claims a Guardian witness changed his story on the eve of the trial. Here's the Guardian's preview, which notes the trial before Superior Court Judge Marla Miller is expected to last from four to six weeks. (Photo credits: Brugmann from SFPPC file, New Times owners from Phoenix New Times, Giulio Sciorio)

Clinton berates KGO ABC7's Mark Mathews


AP reports that a heated exchange between former President Clinton and KGO ABC7 reporter Mark Mathews is circulating on the Internet. (Here's raw video.) During a campaign stop for his wife in Oakland Wednesday, Clinton became visibly annoyed when Mathews asked him whether Sen. Clinton's campaign should take a stronger stand against a union's lawsuit to keep casino workers from caucusing at special precincts in Nevada.

"I had nothing to do with that lawsuit and you know it," said Bill Clinton, jabbing a finger at Mathews. "Get on your television station and say, 'I don't care about the home mortgage crisis."

A federal judge threw out the lawsuit yesterday. A union with ties to Hillary Clinton had tried to prevent casino workers from caucusing at special precincts on the Las Vegas strip.

Ward officially fired, but still might return

KGO-AM 810 has fired host Bernie Ward, who was indicted on child porn charges in December, but he still might return to the air.

Ward was suspended immediately after the charges surfaced, and KGO's talkative hosts have been ordered to not talk about the case. Now, according to ABC7's Dan Noyes, Ward was fired at the end of December.

But KGO-AM General Manager Mickey Luckoff says he believes Ward’s explanation that he downloaded and traded child porn as research for a book: “Technically, it’s against the law. He admitted what he did. There’s no reason to believe he’s a pedophile.” Ward and Luckoff plan to meet after Ward's next court appearance on Thursday, Jan. 24, and he may return to the air after that — even before a possible trial ends.

Meanwhile, Ward has waived his right to remain silent and is discussing a variety of topics (it's like listening to his show) at the "Support Bernie Ward" Web site.

Dave Clark might replace Richmond

Dennis Richmond's retirement announcement yesterday offered no clues about who will replace him on the market's top-rated newscast. "Mornings on 2" co-anchor Frank Somerville had been seen as the heir apparent until last October, when Channel 2 hired Dave Clark (pictured), who had been an anchor for KCBS-KCAL in Los Angeles. In an e-mail to friends (which was obtained by LA Observed and Matier & Ross) Clark suggested he was being groomed as a replacement for Richmond. Clark started at Channel 2 on Nov. 1 doing the early morning news, replacing Mark Curtis. Curtis is now a reporter at Channel 2. At the time, management denied Clark was in line to replace Richmond.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hartlaub: Richmond is among the greats

Chron culture writer Peter Hartlaub says Dennis Richmond ranks up there with two other classic Bay Area TV news anchors: Dave McElhatton (middle) and (Fred) Van Amburg (right). Richmond announced yesterday he will be retiring in May after 40 years at Channel 2.

"As much as Richmond was a unstoppable news reading machine, watching Dave McElhatton was like wrapping yourself in a warm news comforter, and then pouring yourself a big cup of news hot chocolate," Hartlaub wrote. "Amburg was probably the most confident of the newscasters, and did more to shape the news anchor landscape than anyone else of the era."

Hartlaub also has links to an Van Amburg tribute and the on-air obit of another great anchor, Jerry Jensen.

Craigslist funds New Media chair at Berkeley

Craigslist, founded in 1995 by Craig Newmark of San Francisco, has been blamed for crippling newspapers by taking their classified advertising revenues. Now Craigslist is donating $1.6 million to UC Berkeley to create the first endowed faculty chair in New Media (as in the Internet). The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is putting up another $1.5 million to support research and scholarship at the newly created Berkeley Center for New Media. "When we were looking for a new chair, someone joked, 'Why don't you go to craigslist?'" Center Director Ken Goldberg told William Brand of the Oakland Tribune. "That's what happened." [UC Berkeley press release] [Chronicle]

Examiner owner rejects additional papers

Billionaire Denver oilman Phil Anschutz has turned down an opportunity to buy a string of East Coast free dailies that would double the size of his Examiner chain. Metro International, a chain of about 100 free dailies worldwide, has placed its papers in New York, Boston and Philadelphia up for sale. The Examiner currently has dailies in Baltimore, Washington and two in San Francisco (the Examiner and the City Star). Acquiring the Metro papers would allow the Examiner to expand from three markets to six. Anschutz spokesman Jim Monaghan told the Denver Business Journal that his company rejected Metro's offers twice.

January 2008 Press Club board minutes

Jan. 16, 2007 — Meeting was brought to order at 7:30 p.m. by President Jamie Casini

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

Absent: Jennifer Aquino, Ed Remitz, Aimee Strain and Jay Thorwaldson were not in attendance.  

Treasurer's report: Price moved to accept the treasurer's report and Cleaveland seconded it.
New business

Holiday party: Price asked that the board consider moving the annual party to January as to not conflict with the by-laws or change the by-laws. It was suggested that the holiday party become just drinks rather than food to reduce cost and draw more club interest.

New logo: Mays offered the services of DJ Design to come up with some new logo ideas.

Awards contest: The board decided to add a "general excellence" subcategory to each category and to modify the Web site category to reflect the growing trend of New Media. The category will now be known as "New Media." Its categories are now General News Excellence, General News, Breaking News, Multimedia and Blogs. It was also suggested by Price that the club come up with a list of three most interesting local Web sites to be honored at the annual awards. All were approved.

2008 calendar: Schmoozarama was set for Saturday, Feb. 8 at the University of San Francisco; the contest entry deadline is Friday, Feb. 29; it was decided to shoot for mid-April for the high school advisor forum possibly at Kingfish; the high school journalism awards is set for early May; the high school boot camp is set for the third or fourth week of September; no word on Bench/Bar Media; dates for the summer picnic are being looked into.

Meeting adjourned at 9:05 p.m.

Minutes submitted by Secretary Jon Mays. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dennis Richmond announces retirement

Dennis Richmond announced today that he will retire from KTVU Channel 2 News in May 2008 after more than 40 years with the station. Here's a release the station put out this afternoon along with a slideshow of career highlights.

KTVU says Richmond will continue to co-anchor the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts until May 21. Richmond started at KTVU on April 29, 1968 and has anchored The Ten o'Clock News on KTVU since 1976.

From the release
    "I drove with a friend out to California in January 1968 with $400 in my pocket. I had recently finished a three year hitch in the Army and didn’t have a clear idea what I wanted to do," said Richmond. "I had some family and friends in the Bay Area and didn’t know where I was going to stay, but I knew I needed to find a job."

    He landed at KTVU as a part-time clerk typist. By 1969, Richmond was a full-time reporter and he was covering the Bay Area's biggest news stories, including some with national attention.

    "We had a great opportunity competing against the networks on some big stories back then," said Richmond. "Patty Hearst's kidnapping, the Zebra Killings, Dan White's shooting of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk; they were all high profile stories where the networks threw an army at us, but KTVU was scrappy and we scored some terrific wins with our coverage. Those were exciting times."

    While Richmond has vivid memories of his street reporting days, his decades of anchoring The Ten o'Clock News on KTVU Channel 2 has set him apart from others in the industry. He has delivered steady anchoring while being an eyewitness to history as he led KTVU’s coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, the Oakland Hills Fire, and field anchoring political conventions.

    "Dennis is the ironman of the anchor desk at KTVU. It has been an honor penciling his name in the line-up each night. He's been at KTVU for 40 years, but he could keep going for another decade if he wanted. He's so strong; it’s hard to believe he's retiring. We'd love to keep Dennis at KTVU forever and he knows that," said KTVU News Director Ed Chapuis.

    "I wish it wasn't true. Dennis’s departure from the anchor chair will mark the end of an era in Bay Area television news. He is the ultimate pro and a good friend. What viewers don’t see every night is his compassion for people and his huge heart," said KTVU co-anchor Julie Haener. "It has been a pleasure and an honor to co-anchor the evening news with him. There will never be another like Dennis."

    ... Looking down the road at what life will be like in retirement, Richmond says, "I do know that I'm going to relax and get my golf handicap down. I might write a book, but it will definitely be fiction. My life in news has all been about the facts. So, I'm looking forward to making some stuff up."

Times building to be sold, redeveloped

The home of the San Mateo County Times for the past 43 years is about to be sold to a developer who wants to replace it with townhouses, the San Mateo Daily News reported today. Last June the Times moved out of the 40,000-square-foot building at 1080 S. Amphlett Blvd. and into a newer, smaller space at 477 Ninth St. MediaNews has been looking to sell the building for more than a year as the company has consolidated its newspaper holdings on the Peninsula. The amount of money MediaNews will get for the building wasn't disclosed in the Daily News story. The Daily News is owned by MediaNews.

Penn slams Chron over dictator label

The Chron's editorial page yesterday included a letter from actor Sean Penn of Marin County who was upset by a humorous article by Peter Hartlaub on celebrity interest in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Penn, who went to Iran in 2005 for the Chronicle, called the paper "increasingly lame-brain paper."

Penn objected to the Chron's use of the word "dictator" to describe Chavez, who Penn points out was democratically elected. The AP said Chron Editor Phil Bronstein took the criticism in stride, calling Penn, "a great actor and a great director."

"People get riled up about a lot of things, particularly in this day and age; they get to express themselves. We were more than happy to print his letter," Bronstein said.

Monday, January 14, 2008

George Riggs steps down at MediaNews

George Riggs, former publisher of the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, announced today he is stepping down from his post as top executive of California Newspapers Partnership, the three-company group controlled by MediaNews that owns most of the Bay Area's daily papers.

According to a report in the Merc, Riggs, 61, said he left of his own accord from the position he had held for 18 months. Riggs' resignation comes 11 days after Merc editor Carole Leigh Hutton resigned and was replaced by MediaNews vice president David Butler. She too said she left on her own -- less after a month when she proposed reducing the Merc to a three-section paper.

Media News chief executive Dean Singleton said that Riggs' responsibilities will be assumed by Steve Rossi (right), MediaNews executive vice president and chief operating officer. Rossi is familiar with the Merc and CC Times from his days as head of Knight Ridder's newspaper division, which owned those papers for many years. Rossi was long seen as the heir apparent to Knight Ridder chairman Tony Ridder.

The California Newspapers Partnership includes 33 daily newspapers with a combined circulation of more than 1.2 million and generate about $1 billion in annual revenue, according to MediaNews. The papers include the Merc, CC Times, Oakland Tribune, Marin Independent Journal and many in the Los Angeles area. MediaNews owns 54.2 percent of the partnership while the rest is held by Gannett Co. and S.F. Holding Corp., formerly known as the Stephens Media Group.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Santa Rosa PD has new editorial page editor

Former Palo Alto journalist Paul Gullixson (pictured), who has been with the New York Times-owned Santa Rosa Press Democrat since 1998, has been named that paper's editorial director, the CNPA Bulletin reports. Gullixson, who has been assistant editorial director at the PD, will replace Pete Golis, who retired at the end of December. Gollis will continue to write a column on a biweekly basis. Before moving to Santa Rosa, Gullixson was a reporter and editorial page editor at the now defunct Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto, editor of the Palo Alto Weekly and Peninsula Bureau Chief for the San Francisco Chronicle. Gullixson is currently president of the open government advocacy group the California First Amendment Coalition. (Photo credit: Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tri-Valley TV exec faces harassment suits

Glenn Davis (pictured) — the executive director of the community television station that serves Dublin, San Ramon, Livermore and Pleasanton — has been placed on an indefinite leave of absence after he was sued a second time for sexually harassing a female employee, the Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald reports. In the most recent lawsuit, producer Misty Ty claims Davis enticed her into an editing room and engaged in unwanted contact, which included kissing her. In the first suit, former news director Linda Elliott says Davis was flirtatious and called her the "blond bombshell." The community access station, known as TV30, also has money problems. The city councils in the four cities served by TV30 each put up $65,000 last year to bail the station out of its financial problems, and now the mayors of those cities control the station's board, according to the Tri-Valley Herald. (Photo credit: Tri-Valley Herald file)

Willie Monroe explains why he left Ch. 7

Willie Monroe, who left KGO-TV on Dec. 31 after 22 years at Channel 7, says it was "time to give it a rest ... For now I’m on vacation." Here's a link to TV critic Susan Young's blog where she posts an e-mail Monroe sent explaining his departure. He ends by saying, "Please understand this is not a requiem. I am not going away mad. I am just going away."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

KRON 4 for sale; Fox, NBC likely bidders

Young Broadcasting announced at noon today that it has hired advisors to help it put KRON 4 up for sale. Here's the press release. Edward Atorino, a media analyst with Benchmark Co., told the Merc that KRON will draw multiple offers. "TV stations in the Bay Area are like beach front property," said Atorino.

NBC, which wanted to buy KRON when it was for sale in 2000, might make another run at it, now that its value is diminished. Young bought the station for $823 million, a price based largely on the station's NBC affiliation, which it lost a year later. NBC then bought KNTV Channel 11. FCC rules will allow NBC to buy a second station in the market if it is not one of the four top rated stations, which it is not.

"NBC could buy it and make the San Francisco station the affiliate. Or maybe they would want both stations to be affiliates," James Goss, an analyst with Barrington Research, told the Merc.

Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., does not own a San Francisco station and might also be interested in KRON. Channel 2's Fox affiliation contract expires in a couple of years.

"Generally, networks like to own their affiliates, especially affiliates in the largest markets," Goss said. KTVU still has a network affiliation with Fox whose term won't expire for a few years.

Young hopes to have a deal to sell Channel 4 by the end of the first quarter.

[Chron story] [Broadcasting & Cable: Young reports 'high level of interest' in KRON] [MarketWatch]

Willie Monroe leaves Channel 7

Willie Monroe has left KGO-TV after 22 years at the station, TV critic Susan Young reports. She said he left Channel 7 just before the holidays. He's been the station's Oakland bureau chief since 1991 and has also served as a weekend anchor. He joined the station as a general assignment reporter in 1985 after stops in Denver, San Antonio, Philadelphia and Houston.