Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chron goes after Yelp, Guardian's 'best of'

In 1974, Esquire magazine asked Bruce Brugmann's Bay Guardian for ideas for its "Best of the USA" issue. The Guardian responded with its own "best of" issue where readers voted for their favorite businesses." That edition of the Guardian has grown over the years to the size of a phone book — and every competitor has tried to copy it. "Best of" editions have proliferated in the Bay Area in print and online (Yelp, CitySearch). There have even been allegations that one newspaper cheated by favoring its advertisers in a "best of" contest. Now Hearst Corp., owner of the Chronicle and SFGate.com, has teamed up with a software company, CityVoter, that will put the "best of" contest online.
    "Visitors will come to the BayList to give and get the insider’s scoop on everyday decisions — like best dry cleaners in Potrero Hill, best dim sum in Chinatown, or best place for a spa day in Pacific Heights," said CEO Josh Walker of CityVoter. "The content that users generate during the contest and throughout the year will build the value of this online resource."
New content will be punctuated with other community-driven contests over the next 12 months, according to the Chronicle.

Techie snickers over Terry Childs coverage

"While the full story behind San Francisco city government computer engineer Terry Childs hasn't yet come out, one thing is certain: the mainstream media is ignorant about technology," writes blogger Sharon Fisher on Daniweb.com, a site for software developers. She says she's not condoning Childs' alleged actions, "but some of the newspaper coverage of his actions has bordered on the ridiculous."
    For example, reportedly he kept the configuration information in short-term memory that might not be saved in the event of a power outage, because he wanted to keep other employees from gaining access to it. This is certainly not on the list of best practices for network administrators. However, in the hands of the local newspaper, this became evidence for a booby trap: "the ultimate revenge on his bosses, prosecutors say -- the meltdown of the city's computer network at the flick of a switch," the San Francisco Chronicle reported breathlessly.

    Similarly, one of the other things Childs was criticized for was that he "had created an ability to track anyone who tried to get into the system." Eek! I would hope any network administrator worth his salt would do the same.
She offers more examples from the Chroncle's coverage, but the implication from Fisher's article is clear enough: Reporters need to learn more about technology or else it will be easily manipulated.

Oakland council member sues Chronicle

Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks (right) has sued the SF Chron and columnist Chip Johnson (left), saying she was defamed by a column that said she was suspected in 2006 of receiving kickbacks for hiring a city employee. Brooks said the Chronicle printed the June 24, 2006 column to try to damage her chances at re-election, which she won. The Chron quoted its editor, Ward Bushee, as saying: "We have only just received a copy of the complaint and have not had time to do a complete review of its contents." The statute of limitations for libel in California is one year. However, Johnson's 2006 column cannot be found in the Chronicle's archives.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chron staffers appalled by Brown's column

Willie Brown's new column in the Chronicle has sickened newsroom staffers who say former editor Phil Bronstein would have never allowed it, the SF Weekly's Matt Smith reports. The fear is that Brown, the former mayor and former assembly speaker, is still very much a political power broker in San Francisco who has his fingers in every controversy that comes up.

"Real journalists in the room were appalled by it," Smith quotes one insider as saying. "And the people who weren't are people who don't put journalism first or who have a very shallow understanding of San Francisco politics, or of who Willie Brown is, or of the reporting done in Hearst papers on Willie Brown."

Smith quotes another as saying: "People have major concerns about violations of every journalistic principle that's out there ... It's government too close to the press and vice versa."

The only person Smith quotes by name is former mayor Art Agnos, who said the arrangement creates a double standard for newspapers, which are wont to complain when politicians include lobbyists on their staff. "Does this mean it's open season now?" Agnos said. (Photo credit: AP file)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

KGO-AM celebrates 30 years on top

Here's an MP3 that in 3 minutes and 10 seconds attempts to summarize the last 30 years of KGO NewsTalk 810. On it is Joe Starkey's dramatic call of The Play ... you know, "the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football." It also includes Stan Burford reporting on Oct. 17, 1989: "I'll do it slowly and I'll do it once. East Bay, Cypress Section, double decker of the Nimitz has collapsed. Upper deck onto the lower deck." And it has the sign-offs of KGO's best known talent over the years. The sound bite is part of the station's celebration of its 30th year as the Bay Area's top rated radio station.

Chronicle reporter Dale Champion dies

Dale Champion, a Chronicle reporter from 1956 to 1989 who wrote extensively about the environment, died Thursday in San Francisco after a brief illness at age 81. Carl T. Hall's obit of Champion noted:
    He was also known, both in and out of the newsroom, as a man with many opinions, most of them voiced. In 1975, he led a short-lived resistance movement against electric typewriters in the newsroom, complaining to management that the clattering at deadline made it impossible for him to hear anyone talking on the phone.
Champion became ill during a camping trip in Yosemite National Park with his longtime friend and colleague, Chronicle reporter Carl Nolte.

Santa Rosa news anchor headed to prison

Ron Kirk, 49, former news anchor at KSRO and KZST in Santa Rosa, was sentenced Friday to six years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting a child. When released Kirk, whose real name is Ron Kirk Kuhlmeyer, will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. The newspaper's story includes testimony from his victim.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

'Journalist's Oath' proposed

Should journalists take an oath similar to the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors? Local journalist Mel Baker explored that idea on his blog and is asking for opinions about it. He writes:
    "... the greatest crisis facing us is the blurring of the line between opinion and journalism. The wall that is supposed to separate our work from advertising or public relations is increasingly under threat. More worrisome still, fewer and fewer of our fellow citizens understand that there ever was and should be such a distinction!"
He credits Bill Moyers for first suggesting the oath, but takes the idea a step further:
    It could remind us as journalists of our responsibilties to provide factual, fair and unbiased news and information to our fellow citizens. If such an oath were adopted by individual journalists it could help us resist any institutional pressures we might face to violate those standards.

    A Journalist’s Oath or Pledge might also reassure a skeptical public that we are committed to upholding the highest standards in our reporting. Ideally, it would provide the same moral force that the Hippocratic Oath does for patients who know their doctors have vowed to “first, do no harm.”
Here's a link to his blog.

Legal fees disputed in school paper case

In a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Novato Unified School District lost a First Amendment case brought by a student who claimed his essay was censored by the principal of Novato High School. But the Marin Independent Journal reports that the district is still battling over the legal fees in the 7-year-old case. The IJ reports that the law firm that successfully represented Andrew and Dale Smith, the former student and his father, filed an appeal claiming a Marin County judge shorted it $1.2 million in legal costs.

Parents of autistic kids to protest Savage

The parents of autistic children are planning to protest Michael Savage in San Francisco today (July 27) and they say seven national advertisers have yanked their ads from his show after he said autistic kids are "brats" who need nothing more than a good talking-to.

"We are going after each and every advertiser that hasn't dropped him yet," Evelyn Ain, president of Autism United, told the New York Daily News following a protest on Wall Street Friday.

Autism United identified the seven advertisers are Home Depot, Sears, Budweiser, Direct Buy, Cisco, RadioShack and Aflac.

His "Savage Nation" show has also been dropped by WINA-AM Charlottesville, Va.; WHK-AM Cleveland, and a group of seven stations in Mississippi.

Protesters plan to converge at noon today outside Savage's flagship station, KNEW-AM 910, at 340 Townsend St. (above).

Savage, a Marin County resident, probably won't see them since he doesn't broadcast on Sundays. When he does his show, it's often from a studio at an undisclosed location.

The picture of Savage at left was taken by the New York Times on the condition that the paper not "reveal the location of the waterside house where he was broadcasting that day, or of two other homes where he has studios and which he treats as virtual safe houses" due to death threats Savage said he has received over the years. In that Dec. 17 story, Savage was quoted as saying he carries a pistol to protect himself.

An evening of aural entertainment

This note from Ben Fong-Torres's radio column in the Chron: Peter Finch, news director at KFOG (104.5 FM), is hosting a gathering of radio reporters, producers and others who tell stories over the airwaves for "an evening of aural entertainment," including playbacks of favorite air checks. All radio lovers are welcome, admission is free, 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Bazaar Cafe at 5927 California St

NBC11 switches to HD, modifies branding


With the Olympics just a few weeks away, KNTV Channel 11 has begun producing its local news in HD and has changed its on-air brand from "NBC11" to "NBC Bay Area," dropping any reference to a channel number.

When KNTV became an NBC affiliate in 2001, the station's owner, Granite Broadcasting, branded the station NBC3 to match the channel position Comcast gave the station, even though it was broadcasting over the air on Channel 11. At the time, KNTV's transmitter was located atop Loma Prieta Peak, about 60 miles south of San Francisco. Most Bay Area households receiving KNTV at the time were likely seeing it via cable. The NBC3 branding created confusion with KCRA Channel 3 in Sacramento, an NBC affiliate seen in the East Bay. When NBC took over KNTV in 2002, it re-branded the station as NBC11. NBC has since moved the transmitter to San Bruno Mountain.

The decision to drop any reference to a channel number may be the wave of the future, as channel positions will become less important after the switch to all digital TV next February.

With KNTV's switch to HD, all four network stations in the Bay Area are producing news in high definition. KTVU Channel 2 was the first, starting Oct. 11, 2006. KGO ABC7 was next, making the switch on Feb. 17, 2007, followed by KPIX CBS5 on Jan. 28, 2008.

This may be the new standard for bloggers

For perhaps the first time, a court has established rules about how much a blogger is allowed to lift from the Associated Press or a newspaper. To settle a case brought by the AP and a number of newspapers, a Galveston, Texas blogger has agreed that his Web sites will:
    • copy the headline and up to the first two sentences of any stories from the newspapers who had sued him.

    • copy headlines and the first paragraph from AP stories provided to them by the news service.

    • attribute all stories and include a copyright notice and link to the original work.
Here's a link to the AP story with the details.

Friday, July 25, 2008

ProPublica founders have got a problem

ProPublica, which was supposed to be an independent, nonprofit newsroom dedicated to investigative journalism in the public interest, has got a problem.

Its founders, a couple from the Bay Area, Herbert and Marion Sandler, appear to be part of the national mortgage mess -- and ProPublica isn't covering any of it.

That hasn't stopped the New York Sun, whose Adam Rowe writes:
    Here's a story you won't find on the Web site of ProPublica, the crusading new online news organization. Just before house prices began a nationwide decline in 2006, Herbert and Marion Sandler sold a mortgage lender, Golden West, to Wachovia for $25 billion. Since the acquisition, Wachovia's market capitalization has plummeted by more than $60 billion, and it said this week it was setting aside more than $5.5 billion in case of losses from Golden West's loan portfolio.

    While it appears Mr. and Mrs. Sandler couldn't have unloaded their company at a better time, Golden West's souring reputation may raise questions about the couple's most ambitious venture to date — the nonprofit, investigative news outlet ProPublica.

    The mission of ProPublica, where Mr. Sandler serves as chairman of the governing board, is to produce journalism that exposes "exploitation of the weak by the strong," according to the news organization's Web site. This is precisely the way some borrowers' advocates are characterizing the lending practices of Golden West, the company that spawned the fortune that made ProPublica possible.
Anna Werner of KPIX CBS5 also investigated pick-a-payment loans from Golden West's World Savings that were sold to elderly couples who couldn't afford them. (Click on image above.)

The Sun's story continues:
    ProPublica's editor-in-chief, Paul Steiger, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, denied that the Sandlers' interests would influence ProPublica's editorial content. "ProPublica, which is a news organization that doesn't publish editorials, doesn't have a 'position' on adjustable-rate mortgages," Mr. Steiger wrote in an e-mail. "We certainly wouldn't hesitate to cover the effect of ARMs, or Golden West, or Wachovia," he said. So far, however, ProPublica, which lists "subprime mortgages and ratings agencies" as the top item in the "scandal watch" on the front page of its Web site, has focused its attention on Countrywide Financial.

    "I think the problem is less in the journalism, in the work, than in the perception," the executive director of the Center for Investigative Journalism, Robert Rosenthal, said of ProPublica. The controversy over Golden West's role in the mortgage mess is "a problem, an issue, that you'd rather not have if you were Paul Steiger."

    The Sandlers have been the subject of adulatory profiles in the New York Times magazine and in the annual report of Human Rights Watch, to whom the Sandlers pledged $15 million, which the organization described at the time as the largest grant in its history.

SPJ contest is seeking entries

Northern California's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is seeking entries that reflect the best ideals of our profession — initiative, integrity, talent and compassion. Here's a link for more information about the chapter's contest (which shouldn't be confused with the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club's Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards). SPJ Norcal presents five special awards selected by its board of eirectors, and you can nominate candidates in any or all of these categories:
    Journalist of the Year
    Career Achievement
    Distinguished Service
    Unsung Hero
    Meritorious SPJ Service. (A nomination letter is required.)
Entries are due Aug. 1.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

LaCuesta upbeat as Unity convention nears

"The already thin ranks of minority journalists are being culled by layoffs and employee buyouts as news operations around the country shrink to accommodate a drop in advertising revenue," the Chicago Tribune reports in a story about this coming weekend's convention of Unity, an alliance of professional groups representing black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American journalists. KTVU Channel 2 South Bay Bureau Chief Lloyd LaCuesta, founding president of Unity, says the group will discuss how to "make sure the gains journalists of color have made over 20 years don't erode."
    It won't be easy, he notes, because at many newspapers seniority plays a role in deciding who is let go. For those just starting out, LaCuesta suggests they do a serious self-assessment to see if they truly have the passion for the job. If they do, he believes minority journalists will be able to find work.

    "The jobs are still there. We're going through a readjustment and a shakeout. Maybe I'm whistling past the graveyard, but I don't believe newspapers and broadcast are going to die."
(Photo credit: KTVU Web site)

'Mommybloggers' turn hobby into profits

The Chronicle covered last weekend's BlogHer conference of women bloggers in San Francisco and freelancer Carrie Kirby's piece led off with Heather Armstrong (pictured). Armstrong started her blog, Dooce.com, in 2001 and was fired from her job because of it. Now she's a mom who blogs for a living. She earns money through advertising on her site. She apparently makes so much money that her husband Jon quit his job in 2005 to handle the business and technical end of the site. The Armstrongs' didn't disclose how much they earn. But, she said, "We live as comfortably as we did when Jon worked full time and I was at home." But that lifestyle is something that legions of other bloggers long to achieve. "It is miraculous how much time we get to spend with our daughter," Heather Armstrong said. "It's a dream lifestyle." (Chronicle photo by Paul Chinn)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Want to replace "No Name" at Alice?

No Name is no more. Alice FM 97.3 has fired co-host Mike "No Name" Nelson in an effort to connect better with its target demographic: women ages 25 to 44. On Monday, longtime co-host Sarah Clark said she would be working with Gretchen Lancour until the station finds a replacement for No Name. The Contra Costa Times' Tony Hicks reports that the parting with No Name (pictured here) was amicable, but the CBS station wanted to go in a "different direction." Also gone is morning producer Matt Staudt. He was replaced by Jan Landis. Alice is now looking for a co-host to replace No Name. Here are the details.

Mickey Luckoff to enter Radio Hall of Fame

Howard Stern and Dr. Laura Schlessinger didn't make it, but KGO-AM 810 President and General Manager Mickey Luckoff will be inducted into the Museum of Broadcasting's Radio Hall of Fame on Nov. 18. A legend in radio broadcasting, Luckoff joined KGO-AM as sales manager in 1972. In 1975, he became president and gm. In the summer 1978 Arbitron book, KGO-AM became No. 1, where it has remained ever since. Enough said. Luckoff will join Orson Wells, Paul Harvey, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Kate Smith, Jack Benny, Walter Winchell, Dick Clark and Rush Limbaugh in the Hall.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Los Gatos editor headed to New York

Mandy Major, editor of the MediaNews-owned Los Gatos Weekender, announced in her column Friday that she's stepping down to pursue a master's degree at Columbia University. "It has been nearly a year since I came on board to help launch the Weekender, and it's been a remarkable experience. Each week I have had the delightful opportunity to shine a light on the town and celebrate all that it has to offer, which has proven to be an impressive cornucopia of arts, events, exhibits and neighborhood programs." MediaNews Group's Silicon Valley Community Newspapers launched the Los Gatos Weekender last year after it pulled the plug on what was previously known as the Los Gatos Daily News.

Palo Alto reporter detained for drugs

Brian Bothun, a reporter with the new upstart newspaper the Daily Post in Palo Alto, has been suspended after he was detained by Menlo Park police for alleged drug use. According to the Post, which reported the incident in this morning's edition, Bothun apparently became involved in a dispute that a motorist was having with another party at 2:34 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of El Camino Real and Ravenswood Avenue. When police arrived, they suspected Bothun was under the influence of a narcotic, and conducted sobriety tests. The officers then issued Bothun a citation for being under the influence and released him. A police report did not say what substance Bothun allegedly used. Daily Post owner and Editor Dave Price suspended Bothun yesterday. (Full disclosure: Price is also the Press Club's vice president and webmaster.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame to induct 17

The Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame plans this year to induct 17 local broadcasting legends into its Hal of Fame. More than 6,000 votes were cast online and in person during the open balloting period, which ended on July 1. The latest group of honorees — the third to be enshrined — will be inducted during a public ceremony on October 1 in Berkeley. Here's a link to the press release. The 17 inductees are:
    • Rosie Allen, KGO-AM afternoon news co-anchor.

    • Alex Bennett, former morning radio host at KMEL, KQAK "The Quake and KITS "Live 105."

    • Red Blanchard, who bridged the gap between radio’s network-oriented “golden age” and the disc jockey-driven “modern era” in the 1950s with a zany show before a live audience on KCBS.

    • Renel Brooks-Moon, Kiss FM morning host and stadium voice of the Giants.

    • Bob Fouts, voice of the 49ers in the 1950s (and father of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, who also went into broadcasting after his athletic career).

    • Bill Gavin, pioneering disc jockey and creator of the tipship The Gavin Report.

    • Hap Harper, the world’s first airborne traffic reporter.

    • Mikel Hunter Herrington, the orginal "Captain Mikey," Top 40 disc jockey at KLIV, pioneer of album oriented rock format at KOME.

    • Russ Hodges, Giants broadcaster best known for his legendary call "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"

    • Don Klein, sportscaster, KCBS.

    • Mickey Luckoff, KGO-AM president and general manager since 1972.

    • Dude Martin, leader of a western band who had music shows on KLX, KYA, KSFO and KGO; was an early KGO-TV star.

    • Terry McGovern, voice actor and coach

    • Doug Pledger, morning man, advertising pitchman and later owner of KOFY-AM 1050 in San Mateo.

    • Dave Sholin, KFRC-AM music director in the 1960s, now morning host at KFRC-FM.

    • Roy Storey, sportscaster in 1950s, 60s and 70s, one of the first sports-talk hosts.

    • Russ "The Moose" Syracuse, disc jockey at KYA, KFRC, KSFO and KNBR.

Local journalists start tech news site

Former CNET and ZDTV producer and reporter Robert A. Grove, author and columnist Michael S. Malone and former Applied Materials vp Tom Hayes have formed a news Web site, Edgelings.com, which they hope will become the home page of record for global readers interested in all aspects of technology news. From their release:
    Edgelings.com is designed to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of high tech industry coverage in daily newspapers and mainstream magazine, and by the retreat of trade magazines from general readers to ever-more narrow niche audiences. In the process, Edgelings is also pioneering a new relationship with journalists that will give them a financial stake in the success of their stories measured by readership and traffic impact.

    "Our goal," says Tom Hayes, Edgelings publisher, "is to create a new place between the gadget geeks and the gossip mongers where anyone interested in technology can get a fast daily briefing on the important issues and trends of the day."

Examiner cuts circulation 40%

Newspaper Innovation, a blog run by free daily newspaper expert Piet Bakker of the University of Amsterdam, has run the numbers and determined that the Examiner has cut its circulation by 40 percent in its three markets.

Before the switch, Bakker says the three Examiners had a combined average daily circulation of 700,000.

Now the total is 415,000 — 155,000 in Washington, 132,000 in Baltimore and 128,000 in San Francisco. (The Denver Business Journal also has a report on this.)

The cut came this month as the Examiner dropped its Saturday edition and started a Sunday edition. It also decided to only deliver to homes on Thursdays and Sundays. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, Examiners can only be found in racks and store locations.

Les Crane, controversial KGO-AM host, dies

The obituaries of Marin County resident Les Crane that have appeared in the last couple of days correctly point out that he was the first late-night host to vie for ratings against Johnny Carson. ABC would cancel his show after a few months. But as this LA Times obit point out, there was much more to Crane's life than trying to defeat Carson.
    • In 1984 he founded a software company that made him a multimillionaire, largely from the sales of the computer game "Chessmaster" and a widely used typing tutorial called "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing." Crane helped develop both programs.

    • He also won a Grammy for his 1971 spoken-word recording of the poem “Desiderata.” With its New Age-y sentiments ("You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. . . ."), it became a counterculture hit and a popular target for parody. The irreverent Crane later professed to prefer the parody.

    • In 1966, Crane married actress Tina Louise, best known as Ginger on the sitcom "Gilligan's Island." They were divorced after five years.

    • Crane then married a woman whose first name was Ginger.

    • Crane was a host on KGO 810 in the early 1980s. His show caught the attention of ABC television executives who offered him the late night program opposite Carson.

NYT's Santa Rosa paper cuts 17 jobs

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, owned by The New York Times Co., is laying off 5 percent of its 350-person work force due to reduced advertising by real estate companies, home builders and car dealers.

Four newsroom employees were laid off, including one reporter and three editorial assistants, with other cuts coming in the advertising and production departments.

Publisher Bruce Kyse said Web site advertising has increased significantly, but not enough to offset declines in other areas. The paper has been posting its stories online since 1998.

Since 2003, The Press Democrat said it has reduced its staff by about 30 percent. Last summer, the newspaper cut about 8 percent of its work force, mostly through buyouts. The newsroom now has 78 people, down about 30 percent from its high in 2004.

The paper will be looking at reducing the number of pages, and perhaps combining sections to save newsprint.

Technicality stops open-records lawsuit

The Tracy Press reports that its lawsuit seeking the e-mails of a city councilwoman was thrown out by an appeals court because the paper failed to name the councilwoman as a defendant in its action. Said Tracy Press Publisher Bob Matthews:
    “It’s too bad we lost on a technical issue. It was our mistake, and thus the higher court’s hands were tied ... This city is no friend of open government — it simply conflicts too much with their back-room deal-making agenda. As silly as it may be, I suppose [Tracy City Councilwoman Suzanne} Tucker and others could feel emboldened by this outcome.”
Despite the dismissal, the court decided the Press’ suit was not “frivolous,” as the city claimed. The justices also denied the city’s request that the Press pay both its court and attorney fees.

Guild says its supporters were fired

Give some credit to the AP. MediaNews CEO may be the chairman of the wire service, but AP reporter Jeremy Herron wrote this story that gave the union's point of view about layoffs at the Contra Costa Times and other East Bay newspapers owned by MediaNews.
    Sara Steffens, a nine-year Contra Costa Times staffer who was elected chair of the papers' bargaining unit, called her layoff retaliatory.

    "They wanted to keep me from continuing to engage co-workers as we push for our first contract and they hoped this would send a message to scare people away from further union activity," she said.

    Steffens, who covered poverty and social services, said about 53 percent of the staff who voted June 13 approved union representation. That vote led the NLRB two weeks later to certify the Bay Area News Group-East Bay unit of the Media Workers Guild to represent the staff in contract negotiations.

    Other reporters laid off include religion writer Rebecca Rosen Lum, a founding member of the union organizing committee, and Geoff Lepper, columnist covering the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

    Steffens said Lepper had been outspoken in favor of the union in meetings leading up to the vote.
Marshall Anstandig (pictured), the labor attorney who represents the paper's ownership, called the charge "ridiculous ... The reporters laid off were in beats the papers did not believe they could continue to cover during the severe economic downturn they've had," Anstandig told the AP. Anstandig, who used to be Knight Ridder's top attorney for labor matters, said the timing of the announcement had nothing to do with the union vote. (Photo credit: CNPA)

List of those laid off by CCTimes, ANG

Additional TV gig for Radnich

Comcast SportsNet West will simulcast Gary Radnich's morning show on KNBR 680 beginning in September. Radnich is in his 16th year at KNBR and 23rd as sports director at KRON-TV for more than 20 years. His morning show will include reporters Dan Dibley and Ray Woodson. It will be seen on Comcast Cable channel 400 in the Bay Area, DirecTV channel 698 and Dish Network channel 409.

Bob Thomas dies, started Pleasanton Weekly

Bob Thomas, a commercial real estate broker who changed careers to journalism and went on to launch the Pleasanton Weekly, died Saturday at his home in Burlingame after a long illness at age 57, his paper reports. A couple of paragraphs from his obit:
    Mr. Thomas was a strong advocate of locally-focused journalism, always willing to leave regional and national stories to others while concentrating both the news and advertising columns on local readers. At a pre-publication meeting with then-Mayor Ben Tarver in early January 2000, Tarver told Mr. Thomas that while he looked forward to a new newspaper, he felt that it would be short-lived "because this is a small town and in six months there won't be anything left to write about."

    Mr. Thomas set out to prove him wrong, and he did.
The Pleasanton Weekly is part of the Embarcadero Publishing Company chain whose CFO, Mike Naar, said: "For those who knew Bob, his accomplishments come as no surprise ... Even so, they pale in comparison to the grace, good-naturedness and intelligent practicality he brought to work every day. His sense of humor, his incredible optimism, and his evenness defined the remarkable prince of a human being Bob was. We will all deeply miss him."

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Aug. 9 at First Presbyterian Church of Burlingame, 1500 Easton Dr. at the corner of Easton and El Camino Real. (Photo credit: Pleasanton Weekly)

Mistake could cost Examiner

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors had to cancel a meeting this week because the Examiner didn't publish a legal notice. Will Harper of the SF Weekly says that the error could be costly to the newspaper owned by conservative billionaire Phil Anschutz. Harper writes:
    The city attorney's office is looking at remedies spelled out in its contract with the Examiner. One intriguing possibility under the contract: The city could cancel its deal with the Ex and run notices in the Chronicle instead. Peskin says the contract could even require the Examiner to pay the cost difference for running the notices in the more expensive Chron. Whether it comes to that, though, remains to be seen.

    "We'll see where it goes," [Supervisor Aaron] Peskin [pictured] says. "This is not a mistake anyone can take lightly."
Peskin told the Chron: "It is without precedent in the modern history of San Francisco, and frankly I'm flabbergasted that something so basic as printing a meeting announcement failed to happen." (Photo credit: 2006, Frederic Larson, Chronicle)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Guild accuses MediaNews of retaliation

The Guild today filed an unfair labor practice complaint against MediaNews in response to last Friday's firings of union organizers at the company's East Bay papers. Those terminated included Contra Costa Times reporter Sara Steffens, newly elected chair of the Times' Guild unit.

The following is from the Guild's release:
    The union's charges were filed with the Oakland office of the National Labor Relations Board following the layoff of 29 members of the 230-member BANG-EB bargaining unit, which includes the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune. Among those targeted was Sara Steffens, newly elected chair of the unit and the main Guild organizer in the Walnut Creek newsroom of BANG-EB.

    "I think they wanted me out of the newsroom," Steffens said. "They wanted to keep me from continuing to engage co-workers as we push for our first contract and they hoped this would send a message to scare people away from further union activity. But they made a big mistake -- so far it's only made our newsroom understand why it's important to have a contract to protect us."

    Guild Representative Carl Hall said the union plans to present evidence showing a "clear pattern of anti-union discrimination" against the bargaining unit. At least 20 of the 29 who were fired had been visibly supportive of the Guild organizing. No active opponents of the unionization effort were let go.

    The union's charges include three key violations by the company: selecting employees for layoff in retaliation for their protected union activities, discontinuing its merit pay system without bargaining with the union, and soliciting employees to waive their rights under the National Labor Relations Act in order to be eligible for the severance package.

    The BANG-EB unit voted for Guild representation in an NLRB-supervised vote on June 13 following a 10-month campaign. During the drive, company managers conducted surveillance, held captive-audience meetings, and made no secret of their hostility, threatening to cut benefits and freeze pay if the Guild was voted in.

    Union activity is federally protected under the National Labor Relations Act.

    The BANG-EB management denied the firings were motivated by anti-union policies.

    Representatives of the union met with management prior to the dismissals and presented alternative ways of cutting staff. The Guild did not argue against the need or timing for staff cuts.

    The Guild and management also agreed on a minimal severance package for those let go, including one week's salary for each year of service up to 12 weeks, along with three months of health benefits. The dispute at hand concerns how employees were selected for layoff.

    The NLRB will now embark upon an investigation of the Guild's charges. If the agency determines the charges have merit, it could issue a complaint seeking reinstatement and back pay for those improperly laid off.
If the company issues a statement in response, the Press Club will post it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

List of CCTimes, ANG layoffs released

Kevin G. Keane, vp of news for Bay Area News Group – East Bay, has released the following list of employees who were laid off as a result of budget cuts at his MediaNews Group papers. In that e-mail he wrote:
    "Instead of relying on job performance, we eliminated positions that we felt we could no longer afford in this economic environment or in those areas where we felt the work could be absorbed by others. We took a hard look at areas where there was overlap or job redundancies. We also felt it was important to preserve full-time positions over part-time where we could.

    "We didn’t want to get into a situation where employees were “bumped” on or off the list based on seniority or other factors, so any job that was eliminated impacted the person holding that job.

    "In two cases we allowed substitutes to the layoff list after people stepped forward – Erik Nelson, regional transportation writer based in Oakport, asked to take the place of commuter writer Kelli Phillips, and photographer Gina Halferty in Tracy asked to take the place of photographer Doug Duran."
Others laid off:
Francine Brevetti – Tribune reporter
Todd Brown – Fremont reporter
Lynn Carey – Features writer
Scott Campbell – Prep sports
Dave DelGrande – Sports columnist
Anthony Flores – Clerk
Gilbert Garlitos – Graphics
Steve Geissinger – Sacramento bureau
Eric Gilmore – sports columnist
Barbara Grady – Tribune reporter
Barbara Hernandez – business reporter
Gary Hoiby – copy desk
John Horgan –San Mateo columnist
Joanna Jhanda – Hayward photographer
Johnna Laird – Copy desk
Geoff Lepper – Sports writer
Mike McGreehan – Prep sports
John Pereira – Copy desk
Dino Ramos – Features writer
Rebecca Rosen Lum – Regional reporter
Tim Simmers – San Mateo business
Martin Snapp – Berkeley reporter
Bill Soliday – Sports writer
Sara Steffens* – Regional reporter
Robert Taylor – Features writer
Charlie Tonelli – Copy desk
Gregory Urquiaga – Richmond photograher
Sue Young – Features writer

MANAGERS:
Nick Boer – Food editor
Aaron Crowe – Assistant city editor, Walnut Creek
Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig – Assistant city editor, Tribune
Rob Gagnon – Assistant features editor
Alan Greth – MediaNews wire
Rob Lindquist – Technology coordinator
Lucinda Ryan – Breaking news editor
Tom Tuttle – Assistant editorial page editor

Among those laid off was nine-year reporter Sara Steffens who is chair of the Guild unit at the CC Times and one of the employees who led the unionization movement. E&P quotes Steffens as saying she may take formal action against the paper, but would not elaborate: "The guild is definitely interested in continuing to pursue this."

While Keane has released names for the East Bay papers, the company has not disclosed who has been laid off at the Mercury News. The following have been let go at these MediaNews papers which are not part of the East Bay group.

Palo Alto Daily News
Youming Cate - production
Louise Herndon - proofreader
Tad Cronn - copy editor
Tim Willis - copy desk chief
Janet Duca Norton - society writer

Santa Cruz Sentinel
Chris Watson - librarian and book reviewer
Martin Weisberg - copy editor

Singleton discusses Santa Cruz Sentinel

You don't see this every day. The Good Times arts and entertainment weekly in Santa Cruz scored an exclusive interview with MediaNews Group chief executive Dean Singleton (pictured), where he addresses whispers about the demise of his Santa Cruz Sentinel. Singleton told reporter Chris J. Magyar:
    “It makes me very happy that people are nervous ... It means that people recognize the value of a daily newspaper ...

    "You can’t pick up the newspaper without reading about our own problems. We love to cover ourselves. And I would be concerned if the difficulties of our industry were being ignored. Our job is to make sure that we keep our newspapers economically strong.”
The Sentinel earlier this month laid off three employees (see item above), but Singleton tells Magyar that the paper is making money.
    "The growth days of the past are probably behind us, but the revenue picture will improve when the economy and real estate and auto sales bounce back. The Sentinel is still a very profitable newspaper with a very high readership, and [publisher] Dave Regan has done an excellent job of maneuvering in the current climate.”
What about merging the San Jose Mercury News, Monterey County Herald and Santa Cruz Sentinel?
    “That’s preposterous,” Singelton says. “We still compete for circulation in Santa Cruz,” he says of the Sentinel and Mercury News. “They combined delivery to be more efficient, and with gas at $5 a gallon I’m glad they did, but they still have different competitive strategies for filling new subscribers, and continue to solicit from the same subscriber base. Additionally, they’ve never competed for advertising and still don’t today.”

Spanish TV journalists paid less

Contract negotiations between newsroom employees and management at Univision KDTV Channel 14 are intensifying, the Chronicle reports today in a story that looks at wages in Hispanic broadcast media.

The story said that while Channel 14 has more viewers in the 25-54 demo at 6 p.m. than every Bay Area station except KGO Channel 7, KDTV reporters and producers earn roughly one-fourth less in base pay than their competitors at English-language stations. Ratings haven't translated into ad dollars for Spanish stations, however.

"While major market TV journalists aren't holding up will-report-for-food signs, base pay for many Spanish-language TV journalists (about $70,000) can be around one-fourth less than their English-language counterparts in town," the Chronicle reports.

Seen here is Channel 14 anchor Maria Leticia Gomez in a 2007 Chronicle photo by Liz Hafalia.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Reporter claims harassment over sick time

Reporter Traci Grant is suing KNTV NBC11 and NBC Universal, saying she was harassed over her use of sick time, according to a report by the online newspaper the San Francisco Sentinel. Grant, who has worked as a television reporter for 15 years and since 2002 at Channel 11, said that last year her bosses handed her a notice saying her contract would not be renewed for 2008 following two epileptic seizures Grant suffered between July and October 2007.

Grant is taking medication for the condition and took sick-time and vacation time to adjust her medication, the lawsuit states.

KNTV Assistant News Director Mark Neerman and KNTV Human Resources Manager Judy Betro met with Grant on October 24, 2007, allegedly telling Grant, “you have been sick and because you have had to take a number of sick days, we find you unreliable to do this job.”

Grant was assigned to another job at 50 percent pay reduction, the suit states.

MediaNews looks to expand ties with Hearst

The Bay Area's two biggest newspaper publishers, MediaNews and Hearst, are working on another deal together, MediaNews chief executive Dean Singlton (right) and President Jody Lodovic (left) said in a memo to their employees. The purpose of the 1,000-word memo was to give the company's side to the "negative press" it had been receiving about its debt and falling credit ratings. But the MediaNews executives also addressed the resignation of Vic Ganzi, chief executive of Hearst, who stepped down after an undisclosed disagreement with his board of directors.
    While it is not appropriate for us to address the specific reasons for the change, we can tell you that Hearst remains committed to and supportive of MediaNews Group. In fact, we expect to announce another transaction with Hearst shortly which will better position us to weather the current economic storm. We and Hearst have identified several areas where we can work together for our collective benefit, as well as for the potential benefit of the industry. Some of these strategies, such as our joint Kaango and PSA investment and formation of the Yahoo! consortium, are already underway. We look forward to expanding our efforts with Hearst in the future.
In 2005, Hearst Corp. offered to sell the Chronicle to MediaNews Group, but MediaNews didn't offer enough money, according to documents obtained in Clint Reilly's antitrust lawsuit against the two companies. Both the settlement in the Reilly case and an order from the Department of Justice antitrust division require the two companies to act as competitors in the Bay Area. (Photo credit: MediaNews Web site)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Terry McElhatton's obituary

From this morning's Merc: "To many who crossed paths with Terry McElhatton in his one-time role as KNTV news director or more recently as educator at Valley Christian Schools, he was mentor, friend or simply, "Mac." Always focused, honing his craft and with a passion for training young people, Mr. McElhatton's career was to take another turn this fall as new assistant professor of new media and journalism at San Jose State University. ... [More]

This just in ... our quota of good news

In Romania, the Senate decided in a unanimous vote on Wednesday that news programs broadcast by TV and radio stations must include an equal number of positive and negative news stories, according to the Romania's HotNews.ro. Proponents say the law would "offer the audience the chance to have a well balanced perception of the everyday life, both psychological and emotional." Two senators argued that negative news leads to nervous breakdowns and chronic diseases. Said Senator Petre Daea, "I support it because it is necessary. During the past years, I have seen only negative news ... the chaos, the depravation, the dark side of life. I haven't seen news on agriculture, let's say, how the fields are worked, nothing positive from education or economy." The Romanian Press Club is asking President Traian Basescu to veto the law, arguing it will violate the right to free speech.

The Examiner's new direction

If you go to MediaBistro.com's job listings (registration required), you'll find an ad that describes the future of the Examiner. Currently the Examiner is the free tabloid newspaper owned by billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz. But the ad is seeking freelancers who will write for the Examiner's Web sites in 59 markets nationwide. These freelancers will be known as National Examiners (not to be confused with the supermarket tabloid of the same name). Some quotes from the ad:
    A National Examiner is a freelancer who is looking for a large audience and enjoys informing others about subjects they love. Ideally, you’ll become the authoritative guide to your specific topic. You’ll become a household name and eventually, someone will name an appliance after you. You’ll be a regular on the talk show circuit and if you hurry, you’ll make it to Larry King Live. Your unfinished meals will be sold on eBay. There will be rumors that you’re actually the adopted child of Brad and Angelina. You’ll have the paparazzi watching as you order dinner with Guy Fieri at T.G.I. Fridays. Does it get any better!
    ...
    Ideally, Examiners will post at least three times a week. Post should take no more than 15 to 30 minutes to prepare. It’s expected that Examiners will stay on top of what’s happening regarding their topic and ensure their page reflects those events.
    ...
    The compensation for this role will be based on page views. There is an opportunity for incremental variable compensation based on your level of readership. The goal is to make you as rich and famous as possible. No kidding, this is like having your own Hollywood agent!
Speaking about Anschutz, the Chron's Joel Selvin notes that the billionaire oilman is getting into the concert business in the Bay Area by leasing the 2,300-capacity Warfield Theater in San Francisco. The lease is actually held by Goldenvoice, the Los Angeles alt-rock wing of Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG. For the last 30 years, the Warfield's lease had been held by firms associated with the late Bill Graham. Goldenvoice has also taken over the lease to the Grand, a 1,000-seat facility on Van Ness Avenue, a boomy room once known as the movie theater Regency I.

Layoffs not keeping pace with drop in ads

The news in the last week has been grim: 250 layoffs at the LA Times including 150 in news; 29 jobs cut by MediaNews in the East Bay, at least 17 at the Mercury News, six jobs cut at the Palo Alto Daily News. But Alan Mutter (pictured), a venture capitalist and former Chron editor, says layoffs aren't keeping pace with the erosion of advertising in newspapers.
    If sales continue falling as steeply in the back half of 2008 as they did in the first six months, then the number of positions in peril would likely be even greater than the number of jobs that theoretically should have been scrapped in the prior two years.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chron's Cecilia Vega headed to ABC7

Chronicle San Francisco City Hall reporter Cecilia Vega is quitting to become an on-air reporter at KGO-TV ABC7, the SF Weekly reports. But Vega won't be covering her old beat — she'll be working out of Channel 7's Oakland bureau starting Sept. 8.

At the Chron, she helped report some big stories such as Mayor Gavin Newsom's affair with the wife of his campaign manager.

ABC7 News Director Kevin Keeshan tells the SF Weekly that Vega has made numerous appearances on TV and is obviously comfortable in front of the camera. In addition to her reporting skills, he said, "her voice is good, she has a good look."

Why did she jump? She tells the SF Weekly in an e-mail: "[I]ndeed, the unfortunate state of the newspaper industry played a role in my decision to make the jump to TV news. But really the decision came down to taking advantage of an opportunity to work for a great local news station and learning another form of story telling.”

(Photo credit: Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal, via SF Weekly)

Newitz writes final Techsploitation column

After nine years of giving her opinion about technology, music and sex, Annalee Newitz is quitting her Techsploitation column which appeared in San Jose Metro and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
    After fleeing a life of adjunct professor hell at UC Berkeley, I was still trying to figure out what I would do with my brain when Dan Pulcrano of the Silicon Valley Metro invited me out for really strong martinis at Blondie's Bar in the Mission District and offered me a job writing about tech workers in Silicon Valley.

    My reaction? I wrote a column about geeks doing drugs and building insanely cool shit at Burning Man. I felt like the hipster survivalist festival was the only event that truly captured the madness of the dot-com culture I saw blooming and dying all around me. I can't believe Dan kept me on, but he did.
Newitz says she's moving on because she has become editor of io9.com, a blog devoted to science fiction, science, and futurism.

"For the past six months I've been working like a maniac on io9, and I've also hired a kickass team of writers to work with me," Newitz writes. "So if you want a little Techsploitation feeling, be sure to stop by io9.com. We're there changing the future, saving the world, and hanging out in spaceships right now."

Startup hopes to improve online news popups

Apture, a San Mateo-based startup founded by three Stanford computer scientists, hopes to improve the links journalists embed in their Web pages. Led by 23-year-old Tristan Harris, who left a master's degree program at Stanford to start Apture, the company provides a point and click system for publishers to add cross-reference links to their Web pages. Writes April Joyner at Inc.com:
    While developing Apture, Harris consulted with journalists in Stanford's John S. Knight Fellowship program. The company's investors include Stephen E. Taylor, former executive vice-president of The Boston Globe. (Apture thus far has raised an undisclosed amount, reported by Om Malik at under $1 million, in angel funding.) And its first clients include The Washington Post and the non-profit news organization ProPublica, in addition to the technology blog O'Reilly Radar. Harris believes that Apture is particularly well-suited to investigative journalism online by enabling publishers to share, through technology from the document-sharing site Scribd, primary documents used in reporting stories.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Layoffs, automation at NBC11

NBC11 has laid off seven people including three reporters — Noelle Walker, Danny Garza and Ethan Harp, according to TV Spy's Shop Talk. The cuts weren't as extreme as those at Channel 5 in April where long time reporters like John Lobertini, Manny Ramos, Tony Russomanno and Bill Schechner were shown the door along with a number of producers and photographers.

Also leaving Channel 11 are Assignment editor Paul O'Neill, satellite truck operator John Wheeler, news exec assistant Kathy Kirtland and new media producer Jan Boyd.

To cut costs, NBC11 also plans to automate its control room operation with a system that will essentially eliminate all the news technical and control room staff, with control being handled by a computer operated by one controller and one assistant. Channel 11's cameras are already robotic, but with the new system, an entire newscast will be handled by a production crew of about four people, according to TV Spy.

Santa Cruz Sentinel lays off three employees

"We've gone through a lot in the past year — a change in ownership, moving our offices from downtown Santa Cruz to Scotts Valley, moving our printing to San Jose, and losing more than 30 percent of our work force. We recently lost two more valuable people in our newsroom due to further economic retrenching," writes Editor Don Miller (pictured) of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The total number of layoffs at the paper was three, with two in news and one in advertising.

Despite the obstacles facing the Sentinel, Miller says his staff continued to put out a highly local newspaper and constantly updated Web site at www.santacruzsentinel.com.

"Our coverage of the recent fires is a case in point — we threw everything we had at bringing you, the reader, up-to-the-minute and comprehensive information, photos and video, and we did this day after day, with reporters and photographers often putting themselves in the line of fire, so to speak, to get the story.

"We saw amazing numbers of people look to the Sentinel online — upward of 920,000 page views from the Friday of the Trabing Fire through that weekend — and in print for fire coverage, and we're thankful you did."