Thursday, January 29, 2009

Examiner closes in Baltimore, vows to stay in SF

Billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz is shutting down his Examiner in Baltimore, but will keep its Washington and San Francisco editions open, his company announced. At one time, the Examiner had plans to open editions all over the country, but development of the free daily chain never went further than three cities.

The last edition of the Baltimore Examiner will be Feb. 15, according to this story on the Web site of the rival Baltimore Sun. About 90 people will lose their jobs.

Ryan McKibben, head of Anschutz's Examiner chain, sent this letter to his employees in San Francisco to reassure them in the wake of the news from Baltimore:
    TO: Employees of the San Francisco Examiner

    FROM: Ryan McKibben, CEO Clarity Media Group

    DATE: January 29, 2009

    Dear Colleague,

    Today I met with employees of the Baltimore Examiner to explain that Clarity Media Group had reached the unfortunate conclusion that it must close the Baltimore newspaper. This very difficult decision comes after several months of very active, but unsuccessful efforts to find a buyer for the newspaper.

    I am personally writing the employees of the San Francisco Examiner because I want you to know precisely why we took this action and to reassure you about the future of your newspaper and other Clarity Media Group operations.

    In more than thirty months since we launched the Baltimore Examiner it has developed into an able newspaper organization. However, one of the primary business assumptions that drove establishing a Baltimore paper - that we could develop strong revenue synergies between Baltimore Examiner and the Washington Examiner - did not materialize to the levels we had projected.

    We have been patient investors for almost two and one-half years; however, as this nation fell into a deep and serious recession, it became clear to us that the projected revenue synergies that were a key ingredient in our business plan would not be realized in the foreseeable future. As I told our Baltimore colleagues, without significant synergies between the two markets it is not possible to maintain two major daily newspapers within a distance of 50 miles and do justice to both publications. Therefore, going forward, our concentration in this region will be on the San Francisco Examiner, and on the East Coast on the Washington Examiner.

    As to the San Francisco Examiner, I want to acknowledge the success of your hard work to rebuild the Examiner into a credible and aggressive news organization. The recent shift of home delivery to two days a week while expanding single-copy circulation has also been successful. We’ve become more efficient while growing advertising revenue.

    I very much appreciate your efforts and I want you to know that we intend to increase our investments in your newspaper and your Internet operations. Specifically, we’ve invested in the future of the San Francisco Examiner by making substantial upgrades to your website – including a new design and vastly improved functionality that will be launched at the end of March 2009.

    Thank you for all that you do, and we look forward for many more good things coming from the San Francisco Examiner.

    Sincerely,

    Ryan McKibben
    President & CEO

Dr. Phil to replace KRON's 8 p.m. news

Starting Monday, cash strapped KRON Channel 4 will add another half hour of news every weekday. The station is going from 9-1/2 hours to 10 hours of locally produced news.

KRON's morning news, which begins at 4 a.m., will go an hour longer until 11. That's a seven-hour marathon. More time to showcase popular morning anchor Darya Folsom.

But for the first time since going independent seven years ago, KRON will not have a primetime newscast. When the station lost its NBC affiliation, it did an hour of local news at 9 that got reasonable ratings. But last September, KRON moved its local news to 8 p.m., which allowed Fox's MyNetworkTV to program the 9-11 p.m. slot.

Now it appears that five-month-long experiment of doing news at 8 p.m. is over. Beginning Monday, Dr. Phil takes over the 8 p.m. slot, which he had when KRON was doing a 9 p.m. news. After Dr. Phil, KRON will go to the network from 9-11. The 11 p.m. local news continues unchanged.

The station's early evening news line-up will increase, however. It will start at 5:30 instead of 6 and continue until 7.

Mercury News located on liquefaction zone

When the USGS released new seismic maps for the South Bay, reporters at the Mercury News discovered that their building at I-880 and Brokaw Road is in the most dangerous zone for liquefaction (when the ground loses cohesion and acts like liquid) during a 7.8 earthquake. Here's the story. Last October, Publisher Mac Tully said the paper was looking to move its news and advertising offices to a smaller location. When asked by one of his reporters about the new USGS maps, he said, "We'll need to do some research to better understand the implications for our facility."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

MediaNews employees told to take week furlough

Employees of the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Monterey Herald and all other MediaNews papers in the Bay Area were told today that they must take five unpaid furlough days between Feb. 1 and end of March 31. The following is from the memo e-mailed to employees at noon today:
    Dear Fellow Employee:

    In a further effort to help offset the continuing decline in revenue and position the company for future financial success while mitigating further job losses, I am announcing the implementation of a mandatory one (1) week furlough to be scheduled during the period behinning February 1, 2009 and running through the month of March. All executives and management of the Company will be included. Each employee's department head will determine the actual week an employee is furloughed.

    I realize that we are all working hard to overcome this difficult time. I know this action will create a strain on our personal budgets, and unfortunately, I cannot guarantee that a furlough will prevent any further layoffs. However, from what I am hearing across our company... "a brief period without pay is better than many more layoffs."
Gannett asked its employees earlier this month to take a week-long unpaid furlough, indicating the move would prevent layoffs.

The Guild responded to the memo with a statement on its Web site saying the furlough would be discussed in contract negotiations on Friday.

"All of us are aware of the difficult economic climate affecting the newspaper industry in general and MediaNews in particular. We are committed to working cooperatively with any management committed to working with us," the Guild said in the unsigned statement. "As always, our primary goal is to minimize the impact of any cost-cutting on our memberships, and to enhancing job security in these difficult times."

Jobs 'scoop' based on third-hand info

Valleywag got people talking on Monday when it reported that Steve Jobs had entered Stanford Hospital for an operaton. But, as Ed Oswald of Technologizer.com explains, the scoop — which nobody else has been able to corroborate — was based on a third-person account of what a Stanford Hospital employee supposedly said at a party. Oswald writes:
    While I do side with those saying that Apple should be more forthcoming with Jobs’ condition, shoddy reporting is shoddy reporting. I have a single golden rule for “scoop” journalism. Anything I get must come from a direct source with exact knowledge of what they are telling me. No friend of a friend stuff.

    Remember Whisper Down The Line? Remember how often things get messed up on the way? Exactly.
(Photo credit: AP)

Correction of the day

From: Wylie, Elizabeth
Subject: MVPD ERROR on Release
Date: January 22, 2009 5:00:19 PM PST
TO: [57 recipients listed including all of the major newsrooms in the Bay Area]

Please disregard the reference to someone being arrested for DUI in my press release. I admit, I assumed that was how it would turn out as I was drafting the release, but as it turns out, he was not intoxicated at all. I meant to remove that sentence.

Liz Wylie
Community Relations Manager/PIO
Mountain View Police Department

MNG said to have borrowed money to make payroll

The Rocky Mountain News reported today that MediaNews Group's Denver Post improperly borrowed $13 million from the agency that is owned by both papers in order to cover The Post's newsroom payroll.

MediaNews executive Jody Lodovic (pictured) responded by saying, "The agency owes us money, too, I assure you. ... We ordered all the newsprint in December — the agency owes us millions of dollars. Who cares who owes what? Money goes back and forth all the time."

The Rocky, owned by Scripps, was supposed to close earlier this month, but is still open.

If the allegation is true, that the Post is borrowing money just to make payroll, it may indicate the company, which owns most of the dailies in the Bay Area, is facing a severe cash crisis. (Photo credit: MNG Web site)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Weekly publisher sees end of print edition

Palo Alto Weekly Publisher Bill Johnson said Monday that four or five years from now his newspaper and others in his chain might drop their print editions and only appear online. Other papers his company owns include The Almanac (Menlo Park), Mountain View Voice, Pleasanton Weekly, Danville Weekly and Pacific Sun (San Rafael).

The Palo Alto Weekly, which had been printing two editions a week, dropped its Wednesday edition in September and now only comes out on Fridays.

In a speech before the Palo Alto Rotary Club, Johnson said he sees the Internet as the future provider for most news. Johnson spoke about the decline in newspaper readership around the country and the economic downturns most newspapers were facing.

He said the Weekly gets $500,000 in revenue from its Web site per year, and its new daily e-mail report, which was introduced when it dropped its Wednesday edition, makes $3,000 a week so far.

Palo Alto Weekly was the first newspaper in the United States to publish its entire contents on the Web in 1994.

Channel 4 owner dropped from Nasdaq

Nasdaq yesterday dropped Young Broadcasting, the parent of KRON-TV, from the stock exchange after it became a penny stock. Young said it is working to get its stock listed on the over-the-counter exchange. Young, which skipped a $6.1 million interest payment Jan. 15 on notes due in 2014, is struggling to reorganize and has been warning of a bankruptcy filing since November. Young owns nine other stations, all network affiliates in small- and medium-sized markets.

Merc proposes 15% pay cuts for Guild members

MediaNews negotiators are proposing to reduce the salaries of Guild members by 15 percent under the collective bargaining agreement now being negotiated, according to the Guild.

The following is from the Guild's bargaining bulletin:
    The salary of veteran reporters, editors and advertising sales people earning the current scale of $1,279.51 a week would find their pay cut $383.86 every paycheck, issued every other week. The scale for experienced copy clerks, now at $598.53 a week, would be reduced $179.56 per pay check.

    Employees earning above scale — say, the hypothetical reporter earning $80,000 — would find their paychecks cut $461.54 each pay period, under the company proposal.
By the way, in 2007, chief executive and vice chairman Dean Singleton received compensation of $1.83 million.
    The harsh cuts proposed by the company [on Jan. 21] did not end there.

    Advertising sales representatives would have their guaranteed salaries cut even further, and would be expected to earn the rest from increased commissions.

    The clause in the contract protecting the pay increases of employees earning more than scale would be wiped out, opening the door for the company to erase any merit increases that employees had earned raising their salaries above scale.

    Shift differentials for specialized jobs, and night differentials would be abolished.

    And vacation pay would be reduced — employees would not get three weeks of vacation until after three years of service, and would not earn a fourth week until after 10 years. Employees would not, under the company proposal, ever enjoy five weeks off. ...

    Guild negotiators — Sylvia Ulloa of the newsroom, local president; Bill Russell of advertising; Rick Tulsky of the newsroom, as well as Darren Carroll of The Newspaper Guild-CWA and administrative staff members Luther Jackson and Suzanne Arnaud — told the company they need time to fashion a response. ...

    Representing the Mercury News were Andy Huntington and Jim Janiga.

Fired reporter sues MediaNews for race bias

MediaNews Group and a paper it operates, the Monterey Herald, have been sued by a former reporter, Andre Briscoe, who claims he was discriminated against and ultimately fired because he is black and is a Guild officer.

The SF Weekly reported the story and here's a link to the complaint.

The complaint accuses MediaNews Group and the other defendants of discrimination, retaliation and "wrongful termination in violation of public policy."

The suit states that Briscoe, after a month-long tryout period, was assigned to the cop beat. Six months later, he was assigned to cover Pacific Grove. Then, six months later, he was covering Seaside.

Meanwhile, according to the suit, Briscoe became vice-chair of the local Guild unit and participated in contract negotiations, according to the suit.

Paragraph 19 of the lawsuit says: "When examining his salary history, Briscoe noticed that he was the lowest paid reporter at the Monterey County Herald. Briscoe was even being paid at a lower rate than the least two reporters who had less years of experience reporting."

"When examining his classification history, Briscoe realized that he was classified at a lower experience level than other reporters with less or similar experience upon being hired [by the Herald]," said paragraph 20 of the suit.

Briscoe brought his concerns to Gladys Valenzuela, the paper's HR person, on Jan. 7, 2008. Three days later "Briscoe arrived at work to find a letter from Valenzuela on his desk stating the company's position on the matter." The next day he was fired.

Briscoe took his complaint originally to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, which referred the case to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. That state agency, after reviewing his claims, said he had a right to sue his employer. The suit seeks compensatory damages for lost wages, "general damages for mental and emotional distress," attorney's fees and punitive damages.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chron raises home delivery price

The Chron is quietly raising its annual subscription fee from $300 to $400 for seven day delivery.

Last year, the Hearst-owned paper boosted the newsstand price of its daily paper from 50 cents to 75 cents, and its Sunday paper from 50 cents to $2.

So getting the Chron from a store or newsrack will be about $61 a year less expensive than subscribing because of the price increase.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chron's Bushee names second-in-command

The Chronicle has a new managing editor. Editor Ward Bushee has promoted Stephen Proctor, 51, to the post left vacant by the resignation of Robert "Rosey" Rosenthal in 2007. Proctor has been deputy managing editor/news, where he has performed the duties of managing editor since Rosenthal left. Proctor joined The Chronicle in 2003 after working 23 years at the Baltimore Sun. At the Sun, he worked as a reporter, suburban editor, metro editor and deputy managing editor for features and sports. (Photo credit: Eric Luse, Chronicle)

Editor wrote her own obituary

Marybeth Varcados, a journalist at the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian and Santa Cruz Sentinel, wrote her own obituary. That obituary was published this morning in the Sentinel under her byline following her death at age 68. A couple of quotes:
    "When Sophia was in the fourth grade, I returned to the Register-Pajaronian to manage the newly named Family section. A great revolution came to our newsroom soon after -- the introduction of computers, which would change our journalistic lives forever. My section was the first one printed under the new system." ...

    "Mine has been a full and exciting life, which continued as I started the journey with chronic lymphatic leukemia in 1999 under the care of oncologist Dr. Michael Alexander and the wonderful oncology staff. I have never said I fought cancer, rather that I accompanied it on my life's journey."
[More]

Singleton may reduce publication days in LA

LA Observed, a political and media blog, reports that Dean Singleton is talking to his editors in Southern California about reducing the number of days his papers publish. Singleton's MediaNews Group papers there include the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and others. Last month, Singleton's Detroit News and Gannett's Detroit Free Press cut home delivery to three days a week and switched to smaller, single-copy only editions on other days.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Attention high school journalists

The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club is now accepting entries for its annual High School Journalism Contest. Click here to download an entry form which also contains the contest rules. The deadline for entries is March 31. Awards will be presented at a reception in the spring.

Categories include news story, feature story, editorial, column, sports story, layout and design, news photo, feature photo, sports photo, Web site design and Web site content.

Last year, 132 students from 12 publications at nine high schools submitted 248 entries in 12 categories. Here's a link to a list of last year's winners.

In addition to the contest, the Press Club also hosts an annual boot camp for student journalists in the fall. The camp is an opportunity for students to learn from professionals and receive critiques of their work.

Anyone with questions about the contest is welcome to contact the Press Club's Micki Carter via e-mail.

Memorial today (Jan. 23) for Leanne McLaughlin

A memorial service for Bay Area News Group editor Leanne McLaughlin is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday (Jan. 23) at the Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave, Oakland. A short reception will follow. McLaughlin died unexpectedly of a heart attack on Jan. 14. (Photo credit: Nick Lammers, Oakland Tribune file photo)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Watsonville daily goes to 3 times a week

Watsonville's Register-Pajaronian, which has been a daily since 1940, will switch to a thrice-weekly format (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) beginning Feb. 3, the paper announced in this morning's edition.

The 6,000-circulation paper said the move was forced by the closure of two major advertisers, Mervyns and Circuit City. "Additionally, the disclosure by Gottschalks that the department store is facing major economic troubles has the newspaper biting its nails," the story said.

Publisher Tom Cross said that with the move to a three-day-a-week format, readers can expect a larger paper with expanded local coverage.

“We’re changing our focus to concentrate 100 percent of our efforts on local news and events,” he said.

The Register-Pajaronian is owned by News Media Corp. (no relation to MediaNews Group) based in Rochelle, Ill.

New paper to feature the work of bloggers

A new newspaper will be hitting the streets of San Francisco and Chicago on Tuesday (Jan. 27), one that will reprint blog posts surrounded by local ads sold to small businesses.

The founder and publisher of The Printed Bog is Joshua Karp (shown in his Chicago office), who previously founded a software company called Freerain Systems and sold it to ESM Solutions in 2007.

“We are trying to be the first daily newspaper comprised entirely of blogs and other user-generated content,” Karp told the New York Times [link]. In addition to the Times, Wired.com has written about this new venture [link].

(Photo credit: Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times)

Chron fires Scheer — and he's angry about it

The Chron has dropped columnist Robert Scheer and his space will be filled by New York Times columnists Paul Krugman, David Brooks and Thomas Friedman.

Editorial Page Editor John Diaz told the SF Weekly that he dropped Scheer because "we just wanted to work more columnists into the mix." Diaz said the decision to drop Scheer was his alone and that it wasn't related to any specific column he had written.

Scheer said Diaz told him that his columns had grown predictable and that nobody was reading them. Scheer notes that a column criticizing Israel's tactics in Gaza drew 565 comments and 80 e-mails. Scheer said he wonders if too many people were reading his columns — and that Diaz was pressured into firing him.

Despite being dropped by the Chron, Scheer will continue to write his syndicated column. He's also a lecturer at USC's Annenberg School of Communications and the editor of truthdig.com. (Photo credit: SF Weekly)

Gay media hit by double whammy

The economy is forcing nearly all media outlets to cut back, but the gay media has been hit on two additional fronts, according to the Bay Area Reporter.

First, Prop. 8 has cut off a new source of revenue for gay publications — wedding advertising. The Record, for instance, was attracting new revenue with its wedding special sections that were filled with ads from florists, jewelers, and caterers.

Second, the state's budget crisis has meant fewer ads from state and local governments.
    Troy May, publisher of San Jose LGBT magazine OutNow, said the state's budget problems have led to two of his ad contracts being canceled. Santa Clara County pulled its HIV prevention campaign, and the city of San Jose canceled its ads aimed at attracting gay people to move downtown.

    "It's been really tough. We are just barely keeping our head above water," said May ...

    In an effort to bring in more cash, some publications host their own events, such as Outword, which hosts happy hour events, and Curve, which is holding parties in San Francisco and Sacramento this month to celebrate the final season of Showtime's The L Word .

    "A lot of us are trying to be creative for our clients. They are all asking for more bang for their bucks," said Palmer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

MediaNews agrees to no-layoff contract

The Long Beach Press-Telegram's unionized newsroom and circulation workers agreed Tuesday to a 30-month contract with Media News [link to story]. The contract gives affected employees a pledge of one year without layoffs and pay increases of 2 percent a year.

The union represents 47 employees, including reporters, photographers and columnists, as well as those who prepare the newspaper for delivery.

Meanwhile, union workers at Singleton's flagship, The Denver Post, and the Denver Newspaper Agency (which handles sales and printing for both the Post and the soon-to-be-departed Rocky Mountain News) have agreed to reopen their contracts at the request of management, which wants to trim spending at the behest of bankers. Singleton, who essentially is in charge of the agency, wants $20 million in givebacks from the union, the Communications Workers of America, according to the Denver Business Journal.

There's no word on when the Rocky Mountain News will close. Owner E.W. Scripps set a Jan. 16 deadline for offers to buy the paper. If none were submitted, Scripps would close the paper. Since Singleton had a first right of refusal and could reject anyone wanting to enter the JOA, nobody was expected to make an offer for the Rocky.

Scripps spokesman Tim King said Monday it would be several days before any announcement on the News is made.

"There won't be an announcement for a while as we'll spend the next several days working with our broker to evaluate where we are and determine next steps," he said.

Clear Channel layoffs hit here

Clear Channel laid off 1,850 employees nationwide on Tuesday including some here. Radio critic Brad Kava reports that among those losing their jobs were Laurie Roberts, longtime program director at San Jose's KFOX-FM 98.5, deejay Greg Stone, comedian Fred Reiss and sales people Mark Fenichel and Rebecca Campos. Kava reports that all were "escorted out of the building and not allowed to pack up their things, but given good compensation packages."

UPDATE, 9 a.m., Jan. 21:Bay Area radio authority David F. Jackson tells us that another local CC casualty was Clark Reid, program director at KNEW 910.

Dana Perino as a KSFO co-host?

Now that the Bush administration is history, would Press Secretary Dana Perino want to join the KSFO-AM 560 morning show? The secretive left wing blogger known only as Spocko, who tried unsuccessfully two years ago to get the conservative station's sponsors to drop their ads, is at it again — this time pointing out that morning hosts Lee Rodgers and Tom Benner (aka "Ossiferr Vic") found Perino to be quite attractive. The following is the transcript Spocko posted from a broadcast in "early December":
    Vic: "She's going to be out of work soon and I think she needs a place to feel at home and we have we have a need we have an opening for someone like this. We need a press secretary. And I think Dana Perino would be an excellent addition to this program."

    Rodgers: "Would full-frontal nudity be involved in her role?"

    Later, Rodgers discussed hiring Perino with Wall Street Journal employee "Big Buck" McQuillian.

    Rodgers: "And I would assume if we were successful in luring Ms. Perino to join this program, Big Buck probably would wanna move his base of operations from the Wall Street Journal back there on the East Coast out here to also join us. I'm just guessing. I don't know."

    McQuillian: "If there is nudity involved, then possibly."

    Vic: "I'm just thinking content here. What great content she would bring to the program."

    Rodgers: "What a great rack, I know."
(Photo credit: frame grab from The Daily Show, Comedy Central)

Extra! Extra! Chron prints 150,000 extras

The Chronicle was among many major metro newspapers that printed an extra edition yesterday commemorating President Barack Obama's inauguration. The Chron printed 150,000 of the extras and sold them for $1 a piece at Walgreens, BART stations and the paper's office at Fifth and Mission. The AP reports:
    Nicole Washington, 32, of San Francisco, joined a steady stream of people who filed into the Chronicle's classified advertising office to snatch them up.

    She bought 10 copies at $1 apiece to give to friends and family, though she also admitted some economic motivation.

    "The Obama phenomenon is an industry, so anything with his name on it - ka-ching!" said Washington, who said the Chronicle's post-election extra fetched $7 on eBay within days of selling for $1 on the street.
In the photo, Chron pressmen Mark Arata, left, Niel Nielsen, center, and supervisor Bill McCarthy check the print quality of the Chron's extra. Photo by Jeff Chiu, AP.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New blog, with 2 staffers, covers transit

Bay Guardian reports that there's a new, newsy blog in San Francisco, Sf.StreetsBlog.org, that covers issues concerning bicyclists and pedestrians. The blog is staffed by editor Bryan Goebel, formerly of KCBS-AM, and reporter Matthew Roth. StreetsBlog also pays as a contributor longtime local author and activist Chris Carlsson. Streetsblog started in New York and has sprouted sister blogs in LA and now SF.

"The No. 1 reason we decided to open up SF StreetsBlog is because so many people were asking us to do it, particularly from the bike activist community," Aaron Naparstek, executive editor of the three StreetsBlogs, told the Guardian. "Most important, we also had a guy with money asking us to do it — (San Francisco bicyclist) Jonathan Weiner ... There's a vibrant activist community that thinks we can be useful and there are people willing to fund the work."

KRON owner skips interest payment

KRON owner Young Broadcasting said yesterday it would skip a $6.125 million interest payment to keep from going under [news release]. The payment, due Jan. 15, was on the company’s 8.75 percent senior subordinated notes due 2014. Young is holding off until it can restructure its $821 million in debt (a figure accurate as of the end of last September). Bloomberg points out that Young is a casualty of the credit crisis that choked off lending following Lehman Brothers’s bankruptcy filing in September. "About 450 companies and units have filed for bankruptcy court protection this year, more than double the 222 in the same period last year, data compiled by Bloomberg show," Bloomberg reports.

Fewer reporters covering local news

The press room at the San Mateo County Government Center in Redwood City once used to bustle with a dozen reporters or more. Today it is staffed by two or three scribes. The same thing has happened at Los Angeles County Hall of Administration. James Rainey of the LA Times reports that fewer and fewer journalists are covering the biggest local government in America.

Advice on making Web sites journalist friendly

Danek S. Kaus, a blogger for the Examiner, has posted a piece on what companies should do if they want to make their Web sites easier for journalists to use.

"A recent survey showed that 85 percent of journalists search the Web to find both sources for stories and ideas for stories," Kaus writes. "This means that you must put your press release/and or press kit on your Web site, preferably in a dedicated tab or section. You might call it Press or Media."

Here's a link to the story that provides other tips. Kaus adds, "The more helpful you are, the more they will want to do stories on you."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Two films for ink-stained wretches

San Francisco's Castro Theatre is celebrating the newspaper business with two films that are black and white and read all over. And neither one is on DVD.

Both start Friday, Jan. 23, and run through Feb. 1.

7:30 p.m., "Deadline USA," 1952 -- Humphrey Bogart plays the editor of a New York City daily that is about to be sold to its main competitor. With only hours before the presses start, he comes up with a huge story that will bring the city's biggest racketeer down.

9:30 p.m., "Scandal Sheet," also 1952 -- Broderick Crawford stars as managing editor of a scandal-mongering tabloid who murders his ex-wife, covers it up, and then—unable to resist the allure of a juicy circulation-booster—assigns his young star reporter (John Derek) to track down the culprit.

Here's a link for more information.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Kemp leaving KTVU for Bermuda post

Renee Kemp, a freelance reporter with KTVU Channel 2, is leaving her position to manage a television station in Bermuda, KTVU announced today. [Link]

Kemp originally came to the Bay Area in the early 1990s to work as an anchor/reporter for KRON-TV and jumped to Channel 2 eight years ago as a freelancer. As a freelancer, she also filed stories for BET, Fox News and CNN. For some of these stories, she traveled to Africa, Asia, Central America and Europe while maintaining the Bay Area as her home base.

A recent expose on the AIDS crisis in Africa and in the African-American community earned her an Emmy Award.

"Renee has done a terrific job reporting for KTVU for the past 8 years and this job will provide many new challenges and rewards for her career," said KTVU News Director Ed Chapuis in the announcement on his station's Web site.

According to the announcement, Kemp will become general manager of Community Information Television in Bermuda, an English protectorate. She will be overseeing operations, host a talk show and covering local news stories.

January 2009 Press Club board minutes

Jan. 14, 2009 — Board Room, San Mateo Daily Journal. Meeting was called to order at 6:42 p.m.

Present: Jon Mays, Peter Cleaveland, Marshall Wilson, Ed Remitz, Jamie Casini, Micki Carter and Darryl Compton
Absent: Jay Thorwaldson, Jack Russell, Dave Price

Minutes were approved as read.

Treasurer report was approved. Darryl noted that Hannah Hoffman’s scholarship check of $1,500 was returned by UC Berkeley since she opted for delayed enrollment. That will be held in suspension.

Open board seat: The board discussed possible people to take the open seat on the board. We will mention the open seat in the newsletter and invite potentials to board meetings.

Awards contest: Darryl led the group through the Call for Entries for the 32nd Annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards Competition. The board approved merging Divisions A and B so that there would be only one division for daily newspapers. The Ad Design category was also deleted and the category Overall Excellence was added to the Public Relations division. The board also added an Entry Rule: “Entries should be made in the name of the creator of the work to be judged.”

June 6 is the first choice for a date for the Evening of Excellence Dinner at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City.

High School Journalism Project: Bettylu Smith and Pat Gemma from the Sequoia High School District are interested in talking to the board about their high school journalism programs. They will be invited to the February meeting of the board.

Request for Assistance; Hillsdale High School’s journalism program has requested money for students to attended the national JEA Convention in Arizona. Jon will talk to the advisor and tell him that we have $500 for their program but they may want to consider the best use of that money. He will encourage them to look into the high school journalism organization in Northern California that could offer help at a much lower cost. Marshall moved that the club set aside up to $500 per Peninsula high school for similar assistance. The motion passed.

Town Hall Meeting: For the February meeting Marshall volunteered to work on a plan for a town hall meeting the club will sponsor on the topic of high-speed rail.

The meeting adjourned in memory of former Mercury News reporter Dan Reed and Oakland Tribune reporter Leeanne McLaughlin.

Respectfully submitted, Micki Carter, Secretary

Ax falls at Clear Channel on Tuesday

Clear Channel, which has 10 radio stations in the Bay Area, will layoff 1,500 of its 20,000-employee national work force on Tuesday, with most of the cuts coming in sales, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Low performing reps will lose their jobs and their accounts will go to the surviving top performers, resulting in boost in their compensation, the WSJ says.
    "On the radio side, the company is likely to eliminate chunks of local programming and replace it with national programming, much as it has brought Ryan Seacrest's Los Angeles-based radio show to other markets in recent months. If a local show seems successful, the company will try to syndicate it faster than it might have in the past, a person familiar with the situation said."
Locally, Program Director John Scott at CC's "Green 960" (KKGN-AM) told KTRB's Rich Lieberman that he's optimistic:
    "This is the best of times for radio. Anybody who thinks this is the worst is sticking their heads in the sand. The window is open for creative managers to throw the long ball, to take some risks, that in an ordinary economic time would never get a chance," Scott told Lieberman.

    "We have an extremely valuable asset: hundreds of thousands of fans who have already committed to receiving information from us. They're called listeners. Now we get to figure out how to earn the right to deliver precisely the information they crave, using modern media to deliver it."
Clear Channel operates seven stations out of this building at 340 Townsend St. in San Francisco: 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. In San Jose, CC operates "Channel 104.9" KCNL-FM, "KFOX 98.5" (actually KUFX-FM) and KSJO-FM 92.3 "La Preciosa," Spanish. (Photo credit: Press Club file)

Friday, January 16, 2009

MediaNews cuts begin

MediaNews has been widely expected to eliminate a number of jobs at its papers in Northern California in the next few days, and the cuts began yesterday.

Ron Rhea, Vallejo Times-Herald publisher since 1997, and Wolf Rosenberg, publisher of the Chico Enterprise Record for nearly 10 years, left the company on Thursday. Gregg McConnell, the publisher of newspapers in Vacaville and Woodland, will become publisher in Chico, Oroville and Vallejo.
    UPDATE, 5 P.M. FRIDAY: The AP says Steve Rossi, CEO of the California Newspapers Partnership, a subsidiary of MediaNews, would not specify if Rosenberg and Rhea were fired, laid off or chose to leave.
Each paper printed an upbeat story Friday describing the changes. For instance, the Chico paper said McConnell was excited about the opportunity to work in Chico. "It's a great community and a great newspaper." Here's the Vallejo Times-Herald story and the Woodland Daily Democrat piece.

MediaNews is expected to make more cuts in the Bay Area within days. If you have any information about them, please e-mail us at sfpen-pressclub@sbcglobal.net. As always, we won't publish your name or other identifying information unless you specifically say it's OK.

Lou Grant's newsroom 25 years later

Joe Flint (director of industry programs at the Paley Center's Media Council and a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, and Daily Variety) watched an old episode of "Lou Grant" and wondered what the show would be like now, 25 years later in the era of Sam Zell.
    For starters, there is a lot of waste at the fictional Los Angeles Tribune. There are three senior editor types on the show — Lou Grant, Charlie Hume and Art Donovan. They all seem to duplicate each other and, I'll be honest, I can't figure out what Art does other than wear three-piece suits and make the occasional wisecrack. He's gone. Hume is getting up there so we can phase him out, too, with a nice buyout. That'll put a lot of work on Grant's back, but we all need to do more with less.

    I've also been looking at Rossi's expenses. Sure he's a hot-shot investigative reporter, but does he have to keep meeting sources in parking lots? For starters, that's so "All The President's Men," and secondly, if he's not going to bother validating while he's there, then we're not covering his costs anymore. And I'm still not quite sure how to translate breaking a story on some city council member taking kickbacks into ad dollars, and that is, after all, the business we are in. I'm reassigning Rossi to the entertainment beat. Gossip and celebrities are what moves papers off the shelves. We can let the AP handle local and national news.

    ...

    The culture of newspapers has also changed and this new series will reflect that as well. In an episode of the old Lou Grant, Rossi becomes the paper's unofficial ombudsman, monitoring other reporters for potential conflicts. He uncovers a bunch. An editor is married to someone who works for someone running for office. The food reporter is reprimanded for taking junkets, and the metro editor is too close to the owner of a local sports franchise.

    Maybe some of this would have raised eyebrows in 1980, but this is 2009! We want our staff involved with the movers and shakers. These are the kinds of walls we need to be tearing down. If you're not inside, you're outside.
Here's a link to the entire piece. The graphic is courtesy of LA Observed, the Southland's outstanding blog of all things including media.

Roller derby returning to local TV

KOFY TV20, which is going retro to attract audiences, says it plans to bring back roller derby starting Feb. 7 for 13 weeks. The pre-recorded races will appear on Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. The SF Weekly's Peter Jamison explains why full-contact roller skating is returning to TV after a 21-year absence.

Republican congressman takes on Savage

Michael Savage, the Marin County-based national radio host, may have finally met his match. Bay Area radio commentator Brad Kava reports that Louisiana Republican Congressman Joseph Cao (pictured here holding his daughter) has slammed Savage for his anti-immigrant radio commentary. Cao, by the way, is the guy who defeated William Jefferson, the Democrat who was caught with $90,000 in FBI bribe money in his freezer.

Napa Valley Register lays off 2 journalists

The Napa Valley Register, a newspaper owned by Lee Enterprises, is cutting costs and laid off two people in its newsroom -- photographer lianne Milton and copy editor Juan Curiel.

Lee, whose stock (LEE) was selling at 11.24 a year ago, is now a penny stock and has been laying off employees at its other papers. Lee's Billings Gazette in Montana, for instance, announced Tuesday it dismissed four full-time and four part-timers.

Here's how a Register columnist, Calvin Ross, looks at the newspaper industry (link). He doesn't mention the layoffs, however.

Ross writes:
    As for newspapers versus the Internet, the jury’s already in: Half of Americans get their news from the Internet, with television, radio, and newspapers all in retreat. (It is worth noting that nearly all of the news content on the Internet, whether found on Yahoo or other so-called aggregator sites, is generated by people working in traditional newsrooms.)

    In a nutshell, the problem for the newspaper industry — and the recording industry — lies at the intersection of distribution models and revenue models. The revenue model for newspapers is out-of-date and the distribution model for information is radically changing.

    By and large, newspaper companies — again like the recording companies — didn’t adapt fast enough.

Hearst looking seriously at paperless papers

Hearst Corp., which has put the Seattle Post Intelligencer up for sale and said it will stop printing it in 60 days, is asking employees for ideas on how it could operate online-only publication.

The move is significant since Hearst, which owns the Chronicle, has lost much more money in San Francisco than it has in Seattle, and may be considering online options here.

P-I reporter Dan Richman said the paper's staff got a memo from Editor and Publisher Roger Oglesby who said the company is seeking ideas from employees on "how to maintain and grow our online audience so we might have the competitive advantage in the market" and "ideas to help us drive the revenue side of the business."

Hearst also is seeking "ideas for partnerships, part-time models, revenue sharing, freelancing and any other creative types of structures that might help us reach our goal of creating a profitable business model in the market."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Panel discusses Chron's outlook

The University Club in San Francisco is hosting a lunchtime panel on Friday (Jan. 15) on the future of newspapers titled, "Four Star Final, San Francisco Chronicle, Farewell Edition?" Panelists include the Ex's Ken Garcia, the Chron's Carl Nolte and USF media studies Professor J. Michael Robertson.

Saturday, Jan. 16, marks the 144th anniversary of the Chron, and the panel will discuss the paper's outlook.

Media are invited to attend and with lunch will be courtesy of the club. Reservations are required and can be made with Julie Garrett at (415) 781-0900 or julieg@univclub.com.

Bill would require local broadcast news

Broadcasters would have to show a "dedication to local news gathering" and cover more election news in order to renew their licenses under a bill authored by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (pictured), D-Palo Alto.

Eshoo's bill, H.R. 4882, would also require broadcasters to renew their licenses every three years instead of the current eight years.

In December, Eshoo was talking about bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to give free air time those who oppose the political comments of broadcasters. Republicans, led by House Minority Leader John Boehner, vowed to fight any such bill, saying it would kill AM conservative talk radio.

Eshoo's bill doesn't mention the Fairness Doctrine. She also suggested in December that the government might regulate satellite and cable broadcasting, but H.R. 4882 appears to only involve broadcasters who currently receive federal licenses.

"Drastic media consolidation over the past decade has greatly diminished the broadcast licensees' performance of public interest obligations and broadcast media's ability to foster diversity, competition, and localism," the bill says.

"A survey of evening television news broadcasts of 44 local affiliates of broadcasters in 11 markets prior to the 2004 election showed that only 8 percent of such broadcasts contained a story about local elections. By contrast, eight times more coverage went to stories about accidental injuries, and 12 times more coverage to sports and weather. In 2006, news about politics and government accounted for about 10 percent of stories on local television news while crime and traffic comprised nearly 50 percent of the coverage," H.R. 4882 said in its "findings" section.

In order to renew a license, the bill would require a station to demonstrate:
    • "a dedication to the civic affairs of its community" • "a dedication to local news gathering" • "local production of programming" • "a commitment to providing the viewing public a presentation of the issues, candidates, and ballot items that are before voters during a local, statewide or national election, including coverage of candidate debates and forums, political conventions, and ongoing news coverage." • "presentation of quality educational programming for children"
The bill allows the FCC to create rules exempting certain stations from the requirements, but no details were given. (Photo credit: Ian Port, The Daily Post, December 2008)

Editor Leanne McLaughlin dies at 59

A month shy of her 60th birthday, Bay Area News Group editor Leanne McLaughlin died unexpectedly of a heart attack early Wednesday after going home from work.

She joined The Oakland Tribune in October 1989 and worked in a variety of editorial positions before being named managing editor in 1999. McLaughlin most recently had worked as an editor on the Hills chain of newspapers, which is part of BANG-EB.

Her obit includes these comments:
    "Leanne was a seasoned pro who weathered many regime changes while always staying focused on getting out the next day's paper," said Palo Alto Daily News editor Mario Dianda. "She had a knack for getting along with all the multiple personalities found only in a newsroom."

    "She was a really good editor and a really good friend, kind of irreplaceable," said Alameda Journal Editor Connie Rux. "She could handle the cranky callers and the Internet writers who thought they were writing the great american novel. She could take those stories and whip them into something readable."
No word yet on memorial services. (Photo credit: Nick Lammers, Oakland Tribune file photo)

Ed Baxter questions FCC chair Kevin Martin

Ed Baxter: And the KGO news time is 5:41. Digital conversion scheduled for February 17, the day the television industry shuts down the analog and goes digital. On the KGO live-line is FCC chairman Kevin Martin. Sir, it is a pleasure.

Kevin Martin: Oh, good morning.

Baxter: There's some talk the country may not be ready. Are you looking at any postponement of any kind?

Martin: You know, we're not looking at any postponement. I mean the date of February 17th was picked by Congress when the passed a law. They'd have to pass a new law to move that date.

Baxter: OK and but Representative Ed Markey says that you've run out of coupons, that people are not able to get 'em, that the system is not working all that well. Is it working?

Martin: Well, you know, I have to agree that the coupon program did run out of money and I think Congress has to put some more money into it. I mean there has been such a demand for them that they don't have any more resource, that they don't have any more coupons right now. What I think Congress could do — they have to take action either way or the other anyway — but rather than choosing to delay the transition of it, that they could just put more money in the coupon program so that people can start getting those coupons again.

Baxter: All right, so that would be your solution. So what do people have to do to -- as it stands right now, you're right, February 17th is the date -- what do people have to do right now if they haven't?

Martin: Well, you know, if you subscribe to cable, you receive your signals over satellite. You don't need to worry about doing anything. But if you use rabbit ears or a roof-top antenna to get your local television signals, you need to make sure you have a digital tuner so you can still watch television when all those signals go digital. If you got a television you bought in the last couple of years, you're probably fine. But if you have an older television set, you need to get a converter box and hook that up so that you can continue watching TV today after the transition.

...

Baxter: There have been a wide number of reports on the effectiveness of digital boxes and a lot of frustration. I'm sure you're aware of that. Is there anything you can do to help people out? I know a gentleman who e-mailed me who said I tried three different convert boxes and none of them has worked.

Martin Well, you know, part of the problem could be -- and this will always be a problem until we make the switch -- is that the broadcasters sometimes can't go to full power on the digital signal because they got the old analog signal up and running. So the problem could not be the converter box but it could actually be that the digital signals can't go to full power until we turn those analog ones off. That's one of the reasons we're going to have this problem as we approach the date, whatever date we pick, as we approach that final transition.

Baxter: May I ask you a question about consolidation, almost a selfish question from the radio industry ... [we've] watched the consolidation ... [of] large groups of radio stations ... into very few hands. The pendulum, it looks like it is starting to change. There's been some cracks in that. Is this the way we should be or should we get radio back into the ... hands of maybe some local owners, or into more people?

Martin: You know, the broadcasters, they're a unique asset really (because) they're providing local news and information to people. And if they lose that local feel, that is the local service they are providing. So Congress in 1996 was the one who actually removed the caps and let people own as many radio stations as they wanted, and we saw this huge consolidation in the late 1990s. We actually haven't changed any of the rules related to radio since then. And I think you are seeing some cracks in that. Some of the biggest radio conglomerates are trying to sell some of those stations back off. And I do think it is important to make sure radio doesn't lose its local feel.

Baxter: Well, I'm really glad to hear you say that ... So it is a concern of yours that the local community still be served.

Martin: Oh yes, absolutely.

Baxter: OK very good. Mr. Chairman thank you for the information and for joining us.

Free business journalism workshop Feb. 3

"Covering the 2009 Financial World: New rules and new president," a free one-day workshop, will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 3, at MarketWatch, 201 California St., San Francisco.

Presenters include:
    • Adam Lashinsky, editor-at-large for Fortune;

    • Jodi Schneider, director of training and development for the newsroom of Congressional Quarterly;

    • James Gentry, professor and former dean of the School of Journalism at the University of Kansas;

    • Andrew Leckey, long-time syndicated columnist and president of the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, which is sponsoring the workshop.
"More than 7,000 journalists nationwide have attended Reynolds Center workshops, all seeking to improve their skills," said Leckey. "This particular program covers urgent issues in today’s economic landscape that demand in-depth study and strong coverage.”

Topics include: "Putting Companies Under the Microscope," "How the New President Will Affect Business and the Economy," "Rethinking Financial Statements in the New Business & Economic Environment," "How the Financial Crisis Developed & What's Next for Coverage in the New Administration," and "What (Local) Stories You Should Be Covering Now."

Here's a link for more information and to register.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

KGO lays off 5 including Jarrett, Edmonds

KGO-AM, which has been No. 1 in total total audience since the 1970s and one of the most successful news-talk stations in the country, has laid off five employees including afternoon co-anchor Greg Jarrett and East Bay reporter Greg Edmonds.

Both are long-time on-air personalities. Jarrett has been at 810 for 16 years, from 1986 until 1994 as a reporter. He then became a staff correspondent for ABC News. He returned to KGO in 2000. Edmonds has been at KGO since 1979.

General Manager Mickey Luckoff's assistant, Sue Ostrom, has agreed to take a buyout package and is retiring after 41 years at the station.

Also leaving are Internet David Rich and talk show producer Harry Hall.

We're told that Luckoff fought the layoffs every step of the way, looking for money everywhere and anywhere. The station is doing well, but owner Citadel Broadcasting is in terrible shape with its stock falling to about 20 cents a share (Symbol: CDL). The stock is about to be delisted by the NYSE.
    UPDATE, Jan. 17: Luckoff has posted on his station's Web site a letter explaining the departures of the five employees. [Link]

Stanford student wins Daniel Pearl Internship

Ketaki Gokhale, a Stanford graduate student, has been awarded the 2009 Daniel Pearl Memorial Journalism Internship, which she will spend in a foreign bureau of the Wall Street Journal this summer, according to a statement from Stanford. Gokhale is working toward a master's degree in communication, specializing in journalism, which she plans to finish in June. The internship was established to commemorate the work and ideals of Daniel Pearl, a Stanford graduate and Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.

Laid off editor seeks job in new administration

David Weir, former managing editor of Rolling Stone and Salon.com, has been laid off from his most recent job at a start-up called Predictify, where readers to predict trends in current events. Weir tells the SF Weekly that young journalists need to keep fighting the good fight during troubling times. He adds, "I also, today, did something I've never before done since my days as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I applied for a job with the Obama administration."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Google loves newspapers, won't buy them

We apologize if you've already seen this, but Fortune magazine's Adam Lashinsky (formerly of the Merc) interviewed Google CEO Eric Schmidt about the future of newspapers. The interview came out Jan. 7 and it's an eye-opener because, while the Mountain View company makes money by aggregating the content of newspapers, it has no interest in buying newspapers or supporting news-gathering. Here's the link and a few quotes:
    Lashinsky: Is there some grand gesture Google can make to solve the newspaper industry's problems?

    Schmidt: It's not obvious what the grand gesture would be. Google can't make the cost of newsprint go down. We also can't materially change the way consumers behave, and consumers are in fact moving their lives online. We have been able to send clicks to their Web sites, which they can monetize. So that provides some revenue. The problem is that doesn't provide enough revenue to offset the loss of the other revenue.

    Lashinsky: Maybe their time has just come and gone?

    Schmidt: No. They don't have a problem of demand for their product, the news. People love the news. They love reading, discussing it, adding to it, annotating it. The Internet has made the news more accessible. There's a problem with advertising, classifieds and the cost itself of a newspaper: physical printing, delivery and so on. And so the business model gets squeezed.

    Lashinsky: So what else can Google do?

    Schmidt: We have a mechanism that enhances online subscriptions, but part of the reason it doesn't take off is that the culture of the Internet is that information wants to be free. We've tried to get newspapers to have more tightly integrated products with ours. We'd like to help them better monetize their customer base. We have tools that make that easier. I wish I had a brilliant idea, but I don't. These little things help, but they don't fundamentally solve the problem.

    Lashinsky: How about just buying them?

    Schmidt: The good news is we could purchase them. We have the cash. But I don't think our purchasing a newspaper would solve the business problems. It would help solidify the ownership structure, but it doesn't solve the underlying problem in the business. Until we can answer that question we're in this uncomfortable conversation.

    ...

    Lashinsky: What about Google.org, Google's for-profit philanthropic arm, which is investing in alternative-energy startups?

    Schmidt: We didn't want to co-mingle philanthropy with business. We are in the advertising business.

    Lashinsky: But you do believe it's important that newspapers survive?

    Schmidt: Not only do we believe that, but I've been outspoken about it because I want everyone to get that. The fundamental question you're asking is why does Google not write large checks to newspapers? We're careful at Google with our money. We write large checks when we have a great strategy. And we don't yet have that strategy.

    I think the solution is tighter integration. In other words, we can do this without making an acquisition. The term I've been using is "merge without merging." The Web allows you to do that, where you can get the Web systems of both organizations fairly well integrated, and you don't have to do it on exclusive basis.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What's next for the Chronicle?

With Hearst's decision to put its Seattle Post-Intelligencer up for sale (a first step toward shutting it down), all eyes are turning to the money-losing San Francisco Chronicle. As former Chron city editor Alan Mutter put it:
    Given that Hearst Corp. has plowed more than $1 billion into the San Francisco Chronicle without seeing a dime of profit, it’s a fair bet that something is bound to change at my hometown newspaper. The only questions are: What? And when?
Jim Hopkins, the SF-based publisher of the Gannett Blog, does the math a little differently. He says the losses have averaged $800,000 a week since mid-2000. Some 440 weeks later, that would put Hearst's losses in SF at $352 million, not $1 billion. Either way, it's a lot of money.

Hopkins doubts the Chron will go fully digital because it is scheduled to outsource its printing later this year to a new production plant in Fremont being built by non-union Canadian printer Transcontinental.
    Even so, I've wondered whether San Francisco would be the first major U.S. city to go web-only. And maybe it still will: The Gannett-controlled Detroit Media Partnership took only a partial step in that direction last month, saying it would end home delivery on all but three days of the week, probably starting this spring. Chronicle publisher Vega knows Detroit well. ... Vega surprised Gannett a year ago by luring away Bushee, who was then top editor at The Arizona Republic. Vega and Bushee have been tinkering on the paper ever since -- with plenty of help from old Gannett acquaintances. (Wink!)

Friday, January 9, 2009

P.J. Corkery memorial set for Jan. 14

Editor's note: This item has been corrected. The previous version gave the wrong date.

A memorial is planned next week for P.J. Corkery, the quick witted and quirky former Examiner columnist who died Sept. 20 after fighting non-Hodgkins lymphoma for two years. The service is set for Wednesday, Jan. 14, 6 p.m. at the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco, 600 The Embarcadero. (Photo credit: SFunscripted screen grab, May 23, 2006)

Bob Wilkins, "Creature Features" host, dies

Bob Wilkins, host of Channel 2's "Creature Features" show from 1971 to 1984, died on Wednesday at age 76 due to Alzheimer's, according to his Web site. He died at a residential care facility in Reno with his family at his side.

Unlike other horror movie hosts, Wilkins didn't wear a costume. Instead he sat in a rocking chair with a cigar and gave viewers an honest appraisal of the movie they were about to see, sometimes telling people to skip the film and go to bed.

"Our second film is 'Monster From the Ocean Floor,'" his Web site, www.bobwilkins.net quotes him as saying. "This movie is so bad that it was delivered to Channel 2 in a brown paper bag. When we're through showing it tonight, it will be part of a garage sale in Alameda tomorrow."

The approach initially made advertisers mad, but they calmed down when the ratings came in.

He also worked as a weatherman and hosted kids shows at KTVU such as "Captain Cosmic and His Wonder Robot 2T2."

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 24 in Oakland's Montclair Presbyterian Church, 5701 Thornhill Drive.

Obits have been posted by the Chron, Coco Times, News10 Sacramento and KCRA Sacramento. (Photo credit: KTVU handout via Coco Times)

Former Merc reporter Dan Reed dead at 50

Dan Reed, a reporter at the Mercury News from 1995 until he was laid off in July 2007, died Thursday in Oakland, the Merc reported. After he was laid off, he freelanced and worked at part-time writing jobs. "He missed being a real reporter from the good old days. It troubled him greatly. It really took the wind out of his sails," Joe Levi, a close friend, told the Merc. [More]

Report: Hearst puts Seattle paper up for sale

KING-TV in Seattle is reporting (text) (video) that Hearst Corp. is putting the struggling Seattle Post-Intelligencer up for sale, the first step toward closing the newspaper and leaving that city a one-newspaper town. The TV station attributed its information to a source "close to the deal" and said an announcement could come as soon as today (Friday). The story said the PI's joint operating agreement with the Times requires it to put the paper up for sale. If no buyer emerges in 30 days, Hearst can close the paper, which it apparently intends to do. KING said neither Hearst nor the paper's publisher were available to comment. The Seattle Times quoted the PI's managing editor, David McCumber, as saying he knew of no such plans. Hearst, of course, owns the San Francisco Chronicle, a paper that was losing $1 million a week from 2000 to 2006, and is still believed to be operating in the red.

Layoff rumors at Singleton papers abound

We appreciate the tips you send us at sfpen-pressclub@sbcglobal.net, and we've been getting a lot of them in the past few days. The buzz is that layoffs are planned next Wednesday at Dean Singleton's MediaNews papers in the Bay Area. Some say they've heard 100 jobs will be cut. Others say 10 percent of employees will be shown the door.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. Group Publisher Mac Tully said in a letter to employees in November:
    "Based on today’s economic outlook, it seems inevitable that we will have to have some layoffs at the beginning of the calendar year. That’s the last thing anyone wants to do, but given the economic environment that we’re operating in, I don’t see how we can avoid it. The scope of such action will depend, at least in part, on how the holiday shopping season turns out."
Meanwhile in Southern California, the blog LA Observed reports that MediaNews has cut three journalists at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and four at the Daily Breeze.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

ABC7 photographer attacked during protest


KGO ABC7 photographer Dean Smith was attacked Wednesday night while covering an Oakland protest over the shooting of an unarmed man by BART police. He was photographing the protest when some one jumped him from behind and cut his face, Channel 7 reported (video).

"I got slammed in the back of the head and then on the left side of the head," Smith said. "They tried to grab my camera. I had my hands gripped on the hand grip of the lens. They smashed my camera with something — I don't know what it was — smashed the camera into my face, and that's why I got the cut on my face, but they never got the camera."

Smith was taken to the hospital and released after treatment.

Guild declines 401(k) freeze, seeks better exit pay

The Guild, in a bulletin to members, said it has "declined" MediaNews Group's request that it freeze the company's match on employees' 401(k) plans. MediaNews is freezing the benefit for non-union workers here and in other parts of the country.

"We declined this initial request, but asked for financial information detailing the need for their proposal and the potential savings. For now, the match will remain in place for BANG-EB bargaining unit members," the bulletin said.

The bulletin said the Guild is asking for three weeks severance per year of service in the event of layoffs, with a minimum of four weeks pay. The Guild has also proposed a new pay scale and is asking that schedules for deskers and other shift-workers be posted at least three weeks in advance.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Al Hart, 81, retires from KCBS

Al Hart will do his final John Madden report this morning (Jan. 7) from 8:15 to 8:25 on KCBS. Hart turned 81 on Friday.

He retired as the station's morning host in 2000 to take care of his wife, Sally, who was dying from Lou Gehrig's disease. After her death, KCBS asked him to talk with Madden on Wednesday mornings.

Martin Snapp of the Contra Costa Times reports that Hart's biggest fans are his peers at other radio and TV stations, who understand how hard it is to do what he makes look so easy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New law protects journalism teachers

A new law has gone into effect that prohibits school administrators from retaliating against advisors for trying to protect student press freedoms. The LA Times wrote about it, quoting a Peninsula journalism teacher:

    "Any day some story could come to me and my students that would put me in a bad position," said Paul Kandell, a journalism advisor at Palo Alto High School. "Without some security, teachers like me would lose their jobs."
The article also quotes Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, as saying: "If administrators can go after the teachers, then students are going to be less likely to do the bold stories and the investigative stories that the law encourages them to do."

The article concludes with this:
    One of the cases often cited by supporters involved Janet Ewell, who oversaw an award-winning journalism program at Rancho Alamitos High School in Garden Grove. She lost her advisor job in 2002 after her students wrote editorials criticizing filthy bathrooms and bad cafeteria food.

    Ewell, now an English teacher at the school, said Saturday that she sympathized with school administrators, many of whom are under pressure to make their schools look good. "They don't want any bump in their public relations image," she said.

    But the bottom line, Ewell said, is that student newspapers are not publicity newsletters for principals. And she hopes the new law will ensure that stories are published, regardless of how they may be perceived. "It's wonderful to see that people care about First Amendment rights and care about protecting students' rights," she said.

CBS Radio names new SF programmer

Michael Martin, formerly of Clear Channel's Wild 94 FM and more recently a programming vp with CC in Los Angeles, is returning to the Bay Area and will join CBS Radio as vp/programing for Movin 99.7, Alice, LIve 105, KFRC-AM 1550. Martin will also be program director of Movin 99.7.

The hiring was announced Monday by CBS Radio senior vp and market manager Doug Harvill. CBS Radio also has News KCBS-AM & FM in the cluster, headed by News Director and Director/Programming Ed Cavagnaro, who will continue to report to Harvill.

KTVU owner to sell ads on ABC O&O Web sites

ABC's 10 owned and operated TV stations, including KGO ABC7, have reached an agreement to have a unit of Cox Communications sell ads on their Web sites. Cox is the owner of KTVU Channel 2, and its Cox Cross Media already sells ads for KTVU's Web site.

Cox Cross Media, or CXM, is one of several firms attempting to create a national advertising presence for local Web sites. CXM was launched in October 2007 to sell online advertising for the Web sites of 300 TV stations repped by Cox's sales firms, and it has grown to rep more than 700 local media Web sites, including those for print and radio outlets, according to MediaWeek Online.

Monday, January 5, 2009

KTRB-AM adds 40 hours of sports talk

KTRB-AM 860, a nearly two-year-old 50,000-watt talk station, is adding more than 40 hours a week of sports-talk programming produced in San Francisco.

Starting today (Jan. 5), KTRB will air the syndicated "Sports Byline USA" hosted by Ron Barr from 7 to 10 p.m. The program originates from an office building at Broadway and Sansome Street and is heard on about 170 stations and the Armed Forces Radio Network.

"It's always nice to come home," Barr said. "I think the over 40 hours a week of Sports Byline programming on KTRB will give Bay Area sports fans the kind of choice they haven't had here in several years."

KTRB is also adding "Sports Overnight America" (from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.) with Chris Townsend and weekends with Patrick Mauro.

"Bay Area sports fans will now have real choice on the radio," KTRB VP/General Manager Jim P. Pappas said in a press release. "Instead of listening to sports programs that originate in New York or Southern California, they will be able to tune in to KTRB and hear sports programs that are hosted by Bay Area broadcasters."

UPDATE: KTRB has also signed a deal to become the flagship of the Oakland A's and carry all 162 regular season games, plus 17 spring training games, the Contra Costa Times reports this morning. Terms weren't disclosed, but the deal gives the A's a considerably stronger signal than they had last year when the team was heard on CBS Radio's KFRC-FM 106.9 and KYCY-AM 1550 AM.

However, the broadcast team will return intact for the 2009 season, featuring play-by-play announcers Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo, as well as Ray Fosse, who joins the booth as an expert analyst for non-televised games, and post-game host Robert Buan, according to the CC Times.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Lowes opens on former Mercury News land

Lowes on Friday opened a 138,000-square-foot home improvement store and garden center on 18 acres of vacant land sold off by the Mercury News last year.

“Unfortunately the newspaper business is not doing very well, but we hope that Lowes will do very well and maybe advertising in the newspaper will help the newspaper business out in that regard,” said Mayor Chuck Reed told KCBS Radio.

Meanwhile, the Merc is considering moving its business and editorial offices to another location in San Jose so it can sell more of its property at 880 and Brokaw Road. An Oct. 17, 2008 story in the Merc said Publisher Mac Tully had hired a broker to sell the paper's headquarters. At the time, the Merc was considering moving about 400 of its employees to a new location and keep its printing presses and other post-production equipment on the current site.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Marin IJ reports that it is still profitable

In the New Year's Day edition of the Marin Independent Journal, the editors gave the readers a report on the health of the IJ and the news business in general. They identified four reasons for the problems facing newspapers: The debt of newspaper chains (the IJ is owned by MediaNews, which is up to its eyeballs in debt); a decline in classified advertising; younger audiences moving to the Web, and the economy in general.

"Unlike some of our sister companies around the nation, we are profitable. We are not as profitable as we were, but we're doing OK," the IJ reported. [More]

Bill Mann names best, worst in local media

Columnist Bill Mann is out with his annual Bests and Worsts in local media, and the bests in various categories include Catherine Heenan, Ken Bastida, Michael Krasny, Bob Mac Kenzie, Rita Wiliams, John Fowler, Gary Radnich, Steve Paulson and Tom Spitz. IN Mann's opinion, the worst include Daryla Folsom, Lee Rodgers, Gene Burns and Ray Taliaferro. Here's a link to his column.

Knight Fellowship program makes changes

Beginning with the 2009-10 fellowship year, the Knight Fellowships program at Stanford will put a new emphasis on journalistic innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership to help mid-career journalists deal with layoffs, consolidation, the rise of the Internet, citizen journalism and blogging.

"Given the emphasis on innovation, the program will expect fellows to come to Stanford with a coherent proposal that will lead to a tangible result," says a posting on the program's Web site.

What does that mean?

"The proposal is really up to you. We're looking for applicants with good ideas that emphasize experimentation and innovation in regards to modern journalism. Your proposal could result in perhaps a symposium that you organize, or the beginnings of a creative plan for a journalism innovation, or a way that writers might use new storytelling tools or a proposal to fund journalism. The idea is to enable Fellows the space, time and mentoring to embrace the challenges facing journalism."

The application deadline is Feb. 1. Click here for details.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

KSFO sends Dr. Laura to the night shift

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, who has occupied the noon-to-3 p.m. slot on KSFO since June 2000, is moving to 7-10 p.m. starting Monday, Jan. 5.

Sean Hannity, who has been airing in the afternoon drive slot (3-6 p.m.), will replace Schlessinger from noon to 3. It means Hannity's show will be heard live, but it also means he will no longer compete head-to-head against KNEW 910's Michael Savage, a former KSFO host, who continues to have strong ratings.

KSFO has decided to fight Savage by putting syndicated host Mark Levin on from 3 to 5 p.m. and local host Brian Sussman from 5 to 7. Sussman, the former KPIX weatherman, was previously doing his show from 6 to 8.

KSFO confirms that they're getting Paul Harvey from sister station KGO-AM. Harvey will be heard at 5:30 a.m., his 15-minute report will air at 8:50 a.m. and "The Rest of the Story" will air at 6:55 p.m. during Sussman's show.

In addition, the conservative station will air a three-minute daily commentary from Mike Huckabee weekdays at 6:30 a.m.

Lee Rodgers will continue as KSFO's morning host (5-9 a.m.) and Rush Limbaugh will air from 9 to noon.

MediaNews drops 401(k) contributions

The Denver Business Journal reports that MediaNews Group has notified non-union employees at The Denver Post that the company will no longer match 401(k) retirement-account contributions.

The Web site LA Observed reports that similar notices were distributed to employees of the Daily Breeze of Torrance.

The Lake County (California) News says they also went to workers at the Lake County Record-Bee.

The Lake County News obtained a memo from Jim Janiga, senior vice president of human resources for MediaNews Group's California Newspaper Partnership, in which he informs employees that the company's matching contribution to the 401(k) plan will be suspended Jan. 1, 2009, “for an indefinite period of time.”

Janiga added that the suspension will run through all of 2009 but “could possibly be reinstated beginning in 2010.”

“The decision to suspend the matching contribution was not made lightly,” Janiga wrote. “This is an expense reduction needed to help offset still declining revenues, a trend we are all too familiar with and which continues to impact the newspaper industry and most all private and public sectors throughout our local, state and national economies.”

The Lake County News printed details about the MediaNews pension plan, which covered 11,880 participants or beneficiaries as of Dec. 31, 2007.

The Business Journal said it was not immediately clear which if any other MediaNews Group papers nationwide received the notices. The privately held company operates more than 50 daily newspapers in 11 states including 11 dailies in the Bay Area.

Fang's AsianWeek shuts down

AsianWeek will print its final edition on Friday (Jan. 2) due to declining readership and advertising revenue, editor and publisher Ted Fang announced Wednesday. The English-language newspaper, which started in 1979, has a circulation of 60,000. Fang said that nearly all of the paper's 11 employees will be let go. Asian Week will continue online and special editions may be printed.

"There are fewer major newspapers, fewer newspaper readers and fewer newspaper advertisers than ever before," Fang and his brother, James Fang, the president of the company, wrote in a letter to readers that will be published in the last edition Friday. "A faltering economy has accelerated the decline," they wrote.

Ted Fang is part of the family that owned the Independent newspaper, a weekly that served San Francisco and San Mateo counties for several years. In 2000, the Fangs acquired the San Francisco Examiner from Hearst Corp. along with a $66 million subsidy over three years which was intended to keep the Examiner alive, and continue the tradition of two daily newspapers in San Francisco. The Fangs changed the Examiner from a paid newspaper to a free tabloid and sold it to conservative billionaire Phil Anschutz in 2004. Anschutz also bought the Independent titles, which were folded into the Examiner.

Here's the Chron's story and the AP's version. (Photo credit: Chronicle file, Mike Kepka)