Saturday, February 28, 2009

Oakland Tribune turns 135!

With all of the news about newspapers closing, the Oakland Tribune turned 135 on Feb. 21. Trib columnist Angela Hill reported the anniversary in Friday's edition. A quote from her column:
    Back then, Oakland was barely out of its teens as a city with only 12,000 people. It had mud streets, rutted from horse-drawn carriages and the occasional cow wandering loose. Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States. ... News from other areas was tapped out on telegraph machines, scribbled down on a pad, then each letter of type set by hand and the newspaper churned out with the huff and puff of a steam-powered press.

    Oakland was growing, and George Staniford and Ben Dewes, who worked in a small printing company on Ninth Street, took advantage of it. They put together four pages of a three-column sheet with a front-page item about the "grandest affair" to be given by Relief Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, and a reproof about people being rude to out-of-town visitors in church. Much of the rest was ads — some things don't change — for saloons, cigar parlors and billiard halls. There were even a couple of jokes: "The color of the wind was discovered by the man who went out and found it blew." Ha ha.

LATimes piece stirs up memories of Chron's past

James Rainey of the LA Times has written what almost seems like an obit for the Chronicle, an "imperfect vessel for this perfectly self-centered city." He points out that nobody has really replaced Herb Caen, an obligatory line for every national story about the Chron's woes. But he continues "The Chron might have been thin on foreign and national news, overloaded with wire copy and sometimes loosely edited, but it knew how to wallow in the city's cherished stew of high and low culture."

Perhaps Rainey's best anecdote came from his conversation with Chron lifers David Perlman, 90, and Carl Nolte, 75.
    Both recounted an infamous Chronicle gimmick from 1960, when flamboyant editor Scott Newhall sent outdoor editor Bud Boyd into the Trinity Alps. In the midst of the nuclear scares of that era, Boyd was to survive in the wild as if he were "the Last Man on Earth."

    He dutifully filed stories of his harrowing scrapes in the great outdoors, until the rival San Francisco Examiner sent its own investigative reporter, who discovered that Boyd sustained himself, not off nature's bounty, but piles of canned food and soda pop.

Media seek juror data in Bonds trial

Paul Elias of the AP reports that media companies are urging U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to unseal completed questionnaires from potential jurors in Barry Bonds' perjury trial. Two weeks ago, Illston ruled that the answers provided on the forms, which are intended to root out bias in selecting a jury, should be off limits to the public. Media company lawyers argue that the questionnaires should be considered part of the jury-selection process, which is required to be done in open court. No word on when the judge will rule on Thursday's request by the various media companies, which include the AP, ESPN, Hearst, The New York Times, KGO-TV, KNTV, KNBC-TV, The Los Angeles Times, MediaNews Group and Sports Illustrated publisher Time Inc.

Bronstein: Our wounds mostly self-inflicted

Bronstein
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, in his story tomorrow on the death of the Rocky Mountain News and problems facing other large metros, quotes the Chron's Phil Bronstein as sayng, "Most of the wounds are self-inflicted." Rather than engage the audience, Bronstein says, "the public was seen as kind of messy and icky and not something you needed to get involved with." Kurtz notes that the Chron's newsroom staff has shrunk from 575 when Bronstein took over as editor in 2000 to 275 now. "It's objectively true that there's less in the paper," Bronstein says. "You can't deny a loss is a loss."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Citadel booted off NYSE, stock at 9 cents

The New York Stock Exchange has informed Citadel broadcasting, which purchased ABC Radio’s stations from Disney about two years ago, that it will no longer trade the company's stock. The NYSE delists companies whose stock falls below $1 for 30 consecutive days. The stock closed today at 9 cents a share. That puts the company's value at $25 million, but if you want to buy it for that price, you'd have to get in line behind creditors who are owed $2.4 billion. Delisting also means that the company cannot raise money by selling stock. Citadel owns approximately 240 stations including KSFO 560 and KGO-AM 810.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hearst offered Chron to Singleton in 2005

With Hearst Corp. warning that it will sell the Chronicle or close it if it cannot get concessions from unions, the question naturally arises, "Who wants to buy it?"

In 2005, Hearst offered the Chron to Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group, but MediaNews wasn't willing to pay enough.

That's according to documents filed in the federal antitrust suit San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly brought against the two newspaper companies. Bruce Brugmann's Bay Guardian and the non-profit Media Alliance sued to have the documents released. (See our Feb. 1, 2007 posting.)

The discussion of a possible sale to MediaNews came in a deposition of James Asher, then Hearst's chief legal and business development officer. He said Hearst offered the paper to Singleton, but they couldn't come to an agreement on the price. So, when Singleton bought the San Jose Mercury News and other Knight Ridder properties in the Bay Area in August 2006, the Chronicle agreed to put up $263.2 million to buy the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press and Monterey County Herald and conveyed them to MediaNews in exchange for a 30 percent stake in MediaNews' non-Bay Area properties.

On Wednesday, E&P's Joe Strupp asked Singleton if he was still interested in the Chron. "We'll just watch it play out," Singleton said. "I am not going to speculate on what could happen. It would be futile to speculate on the future."

New Chronicle printer has a Plan B

Transcontinental, the Canadian company that's building a $200 million plant in Fremont to print the Chronicle, is prepared in case Hearst shuts down the paper. Transcon issued a press release yesterday that states, "The contract signed with Hearst Corporation provides for indemnification should the San Francisco Chronicle cease publication or be sold." In 2006, when the Chronicle signed that contract, it was said to be a 15-year deal worth $1 billion.

Chron blasted for unbylined announcement

Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston, writing in CJR, blasts the Chronicle's management for announcing the possible closure of the 144-year-old paper with a front-page press release rather than having the paper's reporters cover story.

What appeared on the top left hand column of the Chron Wednesday morning was "not a news story at all, but an unbylined 'report.' It is, in fact, just a rewritten press release from Hearst management," Johnston wrote.
    Not one word makes it into the paper from Chronicle unions, whose contracts Hearst CEO Frank Bennack wants to “quickly” rewrite with “significant” concessions under threat of closing the newspaper.

    Not one word from others with an interest in whether the Chronicle dies after 144 years—say, interviews with the mayor, city supervisors, major advertisers, political scientists, or perhaps just a few scattered longtime readers. ...

    Presenting management publicity as news destroys respect among readers and diminishes the value of the brand. The issue is not that Hearst may need to rewrite its deals with the Newspaper Guild and the Teamsters, but that editor Ward Bushee let flackery pose as news without even a passing mention that there was more than one side to this story.
Johnston said Bushee could correct his error in judgment by assigning reporters to cover the story by talking to the unions, advertisers, readers and experts. Maybe even send a reporter to talk to Hearst CEO Frank Bennack and Publisher Frank Vega.

Guild reports on first day of Chron talks

The following is from the California Media Workers Guild Web site:
    Guild leaders met with representatives from The Chronicle and Hearst Corp. [Wednesday] morning to discuss the company’s cost-cutting proposal.

    We opened the meeting by underscoring our commitment to our membership and the community to do all we can to reach an agreement that will keep The Chronicle open and return it to profitability.

    The company seeks a combination of wide-ranging contractual concessions in addition to layoffs, the exact number of which the company said it did not yet have. For Guild-covered positions, the company did say the job cuts would at least number 50. Other proposals include removal of some advertising sales people from Guild coverage and protection, the right to outsource — specifically mentioning Ad Production — voluntary buyouts, layoffs and wage freezes.

    We plan to closely analyze this proposal over the next few days and explore every possible alternative. Meetings will be held to discuss details with members of the bargaining unit. ...

    Management reiterated its commitment to keeping The Chronicle open and to working with the Guild to secure a viable future. Despite the difficult economic environment, we are confident that by working together we can find solutions to any problems that confront us.
The statement was signed by Michelle Devera, Michael Cabanatuan, Alissa Van Cleave, Wally Greenwell, Gloria La Riva and Carl Hall.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reaction to possible closure of Chronicle

On the same day President Obama said "the day of reckoning has arrived," Hearst Corp. publicly threatened to shut down the Chronicle unless it could cut $1 million in costs per week, and cut those costs fast. How fast? Union leaders are to meet with management this morning. Reaction in the past few hours has come from every corner. Here are some links:
    Reuters: "More than 100 employees gathered in a conference room to hear the news from editor Ward Bushee and publisher Frank Vega after receiving a message about a mandatory staff meeting. 'Some people were crying at the meeting,' said Rachel Gordon, 47, a transportation reporter at the paper. 'But people are trying to get the newspaper out for tomorrow.' 'We knew it was going to be ominous when we got that message,' Gordon added. '[Publisher Frank Vega] said Hearst really wants to make this work, that shutting us down is a last resort.”

    * KGO ABC7: "It has endured earthquakes, fires, and other calamities as San Francisco's newspaper. It has always survived. Nevertheless, the Chronicle is also a business, like any other business it must live within in its means, but it has not," said Ward Bushee, the executive vice president and editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.

    The Merc reached union leaders: "When you're talking $50 million to $60 million in losses a year, I'm not sure how you replace that by cutbacks," said Rome Aloise, principal officer of Teamsters Local 853, which represents about 400 production workers and drivers. "It's really the revenue side that is the problem. How do you fix that by cutting wages?"

    "We'll listen to what ideas they have to achieve the savings they need," said Doug Cuthbertson, executive officer of the California Media Workers local of the Communications Workers of America, which represents the company's white-collar employees. Cuthbertson said meetings with management were scheduled for this morning.

    Media observers speculated Tuesday that the ultimate outcome might be a distress sale to Denver-based MediaNews, owner of the Mercury News and all the other major daily newspapers in the Bay Area. MediaNews chief executive and vice chairman Dean Singleton declined to comment.

    Recovering Journalist: "...Hearst has now brought the Chronicle officially to the brink of extinction, which would make San Francisco the first major American city without a major daily newspaper (in respect of the sick, we'll hold off any jokes about San Francisco never really having had a major daily newspaper!)."

    NYT: "A Hearst executive called the statement “a warning” to the unions, and said that the company did not want to close the paper. He was granted anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the company."

    Bloomberg: “This has to happen quickly,” Mark Adkins, the Chronicle’s president, told newsroom staff yesterday. “We are talking about days and weeks.” The newspaper’s editor, Ward Bushee, said he wasn’t aware of any potential buyers for the paper.

    Examiner's Paul Springer: "It's not fraud, but it's relevant for more reason than one. ... The Hearst Corporation has announced that it will probably have to shutter the hoary San Francisco Chronicle. Though its demise will be mourned by many with fond recollections of columnists like Stanton Delaplane and Charles McCabe, the Chron has done little to distinguish itself in terms of writing talent in recent years."

    Contra Costa Times: "Right off the bat, the Chronicle was hugely overstaffed," said John Morton, a media analyst. "It was a gesture on Hearst's part to their loyal staffs. If Hearst had been more coldhearted when they took over, that would have been less of a problem. But they wound up with an overstaffed company."

    AP: The Chronicle has given Hearst financial headaches since the New York-based company bought the newspaper in a complex deal valued at $660 million. The late 2000 acquisition proved to be ill-timed. Shortly after Hearst took control, the San Francisco Chronicle was hard hit by a high-tech bust that caused its advertising revenue to shrivel.

    The newspaper's losses have been piling up ever since, despite previous job cuts and other austerity measures that were designed to stanch the bleeding. Now the 14-month-old recession, coupled with more advertising options on the Internet, has apparently pushed the 144-year-old newspaper to the breaking point.

    After losing more than $50 million last year, Hearst said the Chronicle is off to an even worse start this year as advertisers clamp down on their marketing budgets and increasingly divert more money to the Internet.

    Given the challenges facing the Chronicle, Tuesday's grim warning hardly came as a surprise, said Kevin Fagan, who has been a reporter at the newspaper for 16 years.

    "The mood here is more upbeat than you would expect," Fagan said. "There has been a lot of gallows humor but reporters are still doing what they do — write stories." He said the newsroom of about 275 employees is still clinging to hope that the paper will survive because there still appears to be ways to lower the sprawling operation's overhead.

    Bambi Francisco: While Hearst may shut down the paper edition, it doesn't say anything about shutting down sfgate.com. Phew! Good thing. Where would I get my local movie information from if it didn't exist?

    Houston Press, an alt-weekly: Good Lord, The Chronicle's Owner Is On A Paper-Killing Rampage

    ValleyWag: The absence of a strong newspaper, a contender with the New York Times, Washington Post, or even Los Angeles Times, has long frustrated the intelligentsia of the Bay Area. Instead, we have a sorry ink-on-dead-trees product that even some employees call the San Francisco Comical.

    Martin Langeveld of the Nieman Journalism Lab: MediaNews and Hearst should join forces to produce a great Sunday paper as well as highly profitable Friday and Saturday editions.

    Alan Mutter, a former Chron editor turned venture capitalist: To wipe out a $50 million loss, let alone make a profit, the paper would have to eliminate 47% of its entire staff, assuming an average annual cost of $80,000 per employee for salary, benefits and taxes. ... Unlike many of the other papers that have been on the block for months with no takers, the Chronicle has a potential buyer in MediaNews Group ... [Clint Reilly sued to stop the two companies from joining forces before] ... Asked today if he would oppose teaming the Chronicle with MediaNews, Reilly said he would have to think about it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hearst seeks 'significant' cost savings

Perhaps it is just a bargaining tactic with the unions, but Hearst Corp. issued a statement this afternoon saying that if it couldn't get "significant" cost savings at the Chronicle, the paper would be put up for sale and, if no buyer comes forward, the paper would be closed.

Hearst is in the process of closing its Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has lost money since 2000, and the company has lost millions at the Chronicle.

The company did not specify the size of the staff reductions or the nature of the other cost-savings measures it has in mind.

Here's the statement:
    NEW YORK, February 24, 2009 — Hearst Corporation announced today that its San Francisco Chronicle newspaper is undertaking critical cost-saving measures including a significant reduction in the number of its unionized and nonunion employees. If these savings cannot be accomplished within weeks, Hearst said, the Company will be forced to sell or close the newspaper.

    Hearst said that the Chronicle lost more than $50 million last year and that this year’s losses to date are worse. The Chronicle has had major losses each year since 2001.

    “Because of the sea change newspapers everywhere are undergoing and these dire economic times, it is essential that our management and the local union leadership work together to implement the changes necessary to bring the cost of producing the Chronicle into line with available revenue,” said Frank A. Bennack, Jr., vice chairman and chief executive officer, Hearst Corporation, and Steven R. Swartz, president of Hearst Newspapers. They added, “Given the losses the Chronicle continues to sustain, the time to implement these changes cannot be long. These changes are designed to give the Chronicle the best possible chance to survive and continue to serve the people of the Bay Area with distinction, as it has since 1865. Survival is the outcome we all want to achieve. But without the specific changes we are seeking across the entire Chronicle organization, we will have no choice but to quickly seek a buyer for the Chronicle or, should a buyer not be found, to shut the newspaper down.”

    Hearst noted that these cost reductions are part of a broad effort to restore the Chronicle to financial health. The Chronicle has been asking its readers to pay more for the product through home delivery and single-copy price increases. In June, the Chronicle expects to begin printing on new presses owned and operated by Transcontinental Inc., which will give the Chronicle industry-leading color reproduction capabilities.
At about the same time Hearst issued that statement, the Chron posted a story at SFGate saying management will immediately seek discussions with the Northern California Media Workers Guild, Local 39521, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853, which represent the majority of workers at the Chronicle.

The article also notes that the expense of producing and delivering the newspaper to a seven-day subscriber is more than double the $7.75 weekly cost to subscribe.

Publisher Frank Vega said the challenge the Chronicle faces is bringing its revenue into balance with expenses so that the paper can at least break even.

UPDATE, 4 P.M.: Here's the memo that was sent to Chron employees today:
    From Frank Vega, Chairman & Publisher
    February 24, 2009

    Dear Fellow Employees:

    The rapidly declining economy, coupled with severely declining advertising revenues, is forcing nearly every newspaper company to re-think how it conducts business while continuing to serve its respective communities.

    Despite all of our best efforts as an organization, The Chronicle continues to show staggering losses each week. Recent staff and expense reductions have not stemmed these losses, which are only worsening in the present economy. In response to our financial picture and the bleak economic forecast for the foreseeable future, our management team has begun a series of cost-saving initiatives designed to alleviate those losses.

    First and foremost of these cost savings will be a significant reduction in force across all areas of our operation affecting both represented and non-represented employees. We will shortly begin discussions with union leadership on proposals. Our current situation dictates that we accomplish these cost savings quickly. Business as usual is no longer an option.

    If we are unable to accomplish these reductions in the immediate future, Hearst Corporation, which owns The Chronicle, has informed us that it will offer the newspaper for sale or close it altogether. We know these are painful times for everyone and we face difficult choices. We share in the sincere hope that we will reach agreement with all parties involved on the concessions needed to continue to operate and provide the Bay Area with a quality newspaper.

    I will update you throughout this process. Thank you for your support and good work, particularly in economic times that are difficult for all of us.

Glenn loses weekend sports anchor post

Vernon Glenn says he's been stripped of his weekend sports anchor slot but is still with KRON Channel 4. Now he has been reassigned to mid-week "VJ-reporter" work, according to blogger and KTRB-AM commentator Rich Lieberman. (A VJ reporter both reports on-air and operates a camera.)

Lieberman also reports that Glenn is also without a contract and he's not making as much money as before.

"I have a 34-waist and I'm trying to fit into a 30-inch world," said Glenn, who has been at KRON for 16 years.

Monday, February 23, 2009

It looks like Karel is returning to radio

The last time we heard about Karel was in November when he had been fired from his part-time gig at KGO-AM for an obscenity laced tirade about Joe the Plumber while he thought his microphone was off. Now radio blogger Brad Kava reports that there are rumors Karel (real name Charles Karel Bouley) will be back on the air in a matter of days. He's apparently landed a job at the KNGY-FM (92.7) Monday-Thursday 9 p.m. to midnight and on Monterey's KRXA-AM (540) Monday-Wednesday, 9-midnight and Thursday 11-midnight. Neither station has posted anything on their Web sites, but Karel's Web site has a countdown clock that would suggests his shows will start March 2. Meanwhile, no word on whether the FCC will fine KGO for Karel's outburst. (Photo via advocate.com)

Retired local newsman writes a novel

Former UPI and AP newsman James O. Clifford of Redwood City has written a novel that draws upon his experiences in the news business. "Philip's Code: No News is Good News to a Killer" recounts the story of a reporter Phil Davis. Here's a link for more information about the novel. It includes this blurb:
    "This nuts and bolts story is Journalism 101 for anyone who ever wondered who decides what is news and what isn't. It is, to use a favored news media term, a 'whistle blower.' With more levels than an elevator shaft, it is also a gripping crime novel in which a man says goodbye to everything he loved, including his soul."
Like Phil Davis, Clifford spent 40 years in news — a career split between United Press International and Associated Press. His honors include the UPI Broadcast Excellence Award and the San Francisco Press Club's feature story award for a series on the ethnic history of California. He was the AP's San Francisco Bay area broadcast editor when he retired in 2000. He lives with his wife, Peggy, in Redwood City, where they raised seven children.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oakland Tribune's William Brand dies

The Oakland Tribune reports that William Brand, a longtime reporter there, died early this morning as a result of injuries suffered in a Muni train incident in San Francisco Feb. 8. He was 70.

Brand died at San Francisco General Hospital, surrounded by family and friends, according to a friend of the family, the Tribune said.

A recently retired reporter, Brand was walking near Second and King streets around 9:10 p.m. Feb. 8 when he was hit by oncoming N-Judah train, according to police. Brand was knocked into a nearby pole by the impact.
The investigation is continuing, but it appears to have been an accident, police said.

Brand retired from regular news gathering at the Tribune in November after 27 years at the paper. He continued to write a well-read beer blog titled "What's On Tap."

The Tribune says that on the night he was struck by the train, Brand was returning from the 21st Amendment Brewery on Second Street where he had attended a food and beer pairing event he was writing about for his blog.

A memorial service is planned and details will be announced later today.

Here's a link to the guest book where friends can leave comments. (Photo credit: Tribune, Nick Lammers)

Berkeley paper asks readers for help

The front of Thursday's Berkeley Daily Planet is blank except for the cartoon at right. The Planet, which is a weekly despite its name, is asking readers for money in order to keep reporters covering the news.

"[T]he most expensive part of the Planet’s budget, about a third to a half of the total, is paying for local reporting: salaries, benefits, editing, overhead," editor and co-owner Becky O'Malley wrote. "As we’ve said repeatedly in recent issues, advertising is drying up, which is why we hope readers will become community partners in supporting the cost of having a paper in Berkeley."

O'Malley, who along with her husband bought the paper six years ago, have said previously that they haven't made money owning the Planet. She said in Thursday's issue that she hopes the cover will motivate readers to contribute "to the Planet’s new Fund for Local Reporting. We need your help to keep the paper going."

In the same issue of the Planet, a local zoning board member and retired journalism teacher takes O'Malley to task for what he suggests is a one-sided report on a hearing by his board. He notes that O'Malley's story doesn't even mention the 7-1 vote. O'Malley shoots back by saying that reporting the vote count isn't important. "[I]t would have been news if the seven members of the board who almost always vote yes on development proposals had voted no for a change — 'man bites dog' is news, 'dog bites man' is not," she writes. She goes on to debate traditional standards of journalism.

25 things to try before closing a newspaper

ZDNet's Tom Foremski has come up with 25 things a newspaper ought to try before shutting down. The list has obvious things like focusing on hyper-local content and unconventional ideas like "Don’t let advertising networks sell your advertising." That's No. 8. And speaking about money, check out reason No. 11:
    "Offer some way for readers to pay. Every newspaper has a group of fiercely loyal readers, some more than others, but there is no way for them to pay if they want to read their newspaper online. Many people like the positive ecological aspect of reading online and are proud they are saving resources–and many would be willing to pay for this vastly improved product yet the newspapers don’t offer any way to collect this easy revenue. One way might be witha PBS-style volunteer membership package? With discounts among local businesses."

Joseph Menn leaves LA Times for SF post

Joseph Menn, who previously covered the Bay Area for the LA Times before being transferred to the paper's home base, has resigned from the Times and is moving back to San Francisco to join the Financial Times. LA Observed has posted his goodbye memo at the Times. Menn has covered the tech beat for years but also wrote extensively about Bay Area media topics such as the demise of Knight Ridder.

Old-time press agent Suzy Strauss dies

Suzy Strauss, one of San Francisco's old-time press agents, has died of pneumonia at age 89. Here are three grafs from the obit Carl Nolte wrote in the Chron:
    Just before she died, friends said, Ms. Strauss scribbled her own epitaph on a piece of paper: "It was a wild ride, folks, thanks to my beloved family and friends."

    ... She had a reputation for "knowing everybody in town and being known by everyone," said former San Francisco Examiner travel editor Georgia Hesse. She could drop names like a champ. "Benny" was Benny Goodman, "Frank" was Sinatra, and "Ella" was Fitzgerald.

    She knew them all, and they all knew her.
(Photo credit: Family via Chronicle)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

William Brand remains in critical condition

Longtime Oakland Tribune reporter William Brand is still in critical but stable condition at San Francisco General Hospital after being hit by a San Francisco Municipal Railway train nine days ago, Tribune reporter Cecily Burt tells Bay City News.

Brand, 70, who retired from full-time work late last year but still writes a beer column for the newspaper, was struck by a Muni N-Judah train at Second and King streets in San Francisco about 9:10 p.m. on Feb. 8.

Brand was returning from a food and beer pairing event at the 21st Amendment Brewery on Second Street when he was struck by the Muni train, colleagues at the Tribune tell BCN. The accident is under investigation. (Photo credit: Tribune, Nick Lammers)

Could KRON, KOFY become a duopoly?

With KRON 4 owner Young Broadcasting entering Chapter 11, the spotlight has shifted to the company's creditors, the people who are really in charge. RBR.comTVBR.com posits an interesting theory. A group called Silver Point Capital apparently owns a substantial piece of Young's debt. Silver Point Capital also acquired Granite Broadcasting, owner of KOFY 20, through the bankruptcy process. "If we were running Silver Point, which we’re not, we would certainly have some interest in exchanging our big chunk of Young’s debt for KRON, creating a duopoly in the sixth largest US market," writes RBR.comTVBR.com.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Josh Wolf mugged in San Francisco

Josh Wolf, who was jailed a record 226 days for protecting source materials, reports that he has now been mugged in San Francisco by an inmate he met in prison.

Wolf printed an account of his Feb. 4 mugging in the Palo Alto Daily Post, where he works as a reporter.

Wolf identified his attacker at Terrell Trammell, 28, who he met at the Dublin Federal Detention Center three years earlier. Wolf said he didn’t know why Trammell decided to mug him.

After work one evening, Wolf said he ran into Trammell at Volare’s Pizza at 456 Haight St., struck up a conversation and then left.
    As I walked home with a box of pizza in one hand and two sodas in the other, I heard Trammell call from across the street, “Got a light?”

    I awkwardly fished out a lighter from my pocket as he crossed the street. But when I went to hand it to him, I was greeted with a punch to the face. The pizza went flying.

    I lost my glasses and called out for help, as a quick series of jabs to the face continued. But my cries were only greeted by a friend of his I had first seen at the pizza place coming to his aid. I fell to the ground asking, “What do you want?” as I began to wonder if this was a robbery or simply a beating. The punches became kicks. I shielded my face.

    “Let’s go,” said the friend as the kicks continued.

    Trammell then grabs me by the jacket and reaches into my inner pocket, where he had likely seen me put my iPhone after I got a call at the pizza place. He grabs my left pocket, where my car and house keys are kept. He tears the pocket, but runs away with his friend before he can grab the keys.

    Blood squirting from my nose, heart pounding, I lie on the ground for a moment, collecting myself as I watch the feet of my two assailants dart away.
Wolf reports that Trammell is now in jail on robbery charges. He is not eligible for bail because he is on federal probation.

Wolf was sent to prison in 2006 by federal Judge William Alsup after he refused to testify before a federal grand jury about the identities and activities of protesters he had covered for his video blog, and for refusing to surrender his video outtakes. He was held in contempt of court for 226 days and was released after posting the video to his Web site.

[Full disclosure: The Press Club's webmaster is Dave Price, an owner of the Daily Post.]

Pulcrano buys online Los Gatos Observer

Dan Pulcrano, head of the San Jose alt-weekly Metro, has signed an agreement to purchase The Los Gatos Observer, a community news Web site that was started nearly three years ago by a local software designer, Alastair Dallas. Terms weren't revealed in an announcement on the Observer's Web site.

"I am naturally sad to step aside," Dallas said in the announcement. "I hope you agree that I found the most suitable buyer possible to continue delivering local news to the Los Gatos community."

Writers from Metro's online operation, Boulevards, will take over the Web site and start covering Los Gatos, a town of about 28,000 in Santa Clara County.

Pulcrano is the founder of the Los Gatos Weekly and former publisher of the Los Gatos Weekly-Times. He and former partner David Cohen founded Metro and started a number of community weeklies in Santa Clara County including the Los Gatos paper. In 2001, the partners split and Cohen got the community papers while Pulcrano kept Metro.

Four years later, Cohen sold the community papers to the Mercury News. Pulcrano's Metro, which includes a North Bay and a Santa Cruz edition as well as the metroactive.com web site, is one of the few independent journalistic voices left in the Bay Area.

Dallas, the founder of the Observer, had high hopes for his Web site. In the "about us" section of his Web site, he wrote:
    We aim to cover all aspects of the town, from news that the San Jose and San Francisco papers deems trivial, to business openings and other events that reflect the things we do here. If your group was denied coverage before, well, there's a new newspaper in town. ...

    In the future, all communities will be served by a local, independent, web site that provides a virtual commons, offering citizens the latest news, upcoming events, and a way to discuss important issues. Much as they want to tap this market, huge media companies are simply not local. The Observer is a prototype for how it ought to work--local ownership, local management, local focus.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Four stations will pull analog plug Tuesday

The FCC has allowed four stations here shut off their analog transmitters on Tuesday, but the major network stations all plan to continue transmitting in both analog and digital until June. Bay Area stations switching are:
    KCNS 38 SF — to Channel 39

    KFTY 50 Santa Rosa — to Channel 32

    KICU 36 San Jose (transmitter at Sutro) — staying at 36 (it had used 52 as its digital channel in the past month)

    KOFY 20 SF — to Channel 19
The decision by President Obama and Congress to extend analog broadcasting has hit the bottom line of local stations. Continuing to operate an analog transmitter can cost $10,000 to $15,000 a month in power bills. That's an extra $60,000 that stations hadn't put in their 09 budgets — about the amount a reporter would cost over maybe, what, 6 months? Nine months? A year?
    • More than 500 stations are switching on Tuesday, according to the AP.
    • Not every station was allowed to shut down its analog transmitter, Information Week reports.
    • Here's a list of station that will end analog on Tuesday.
(Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

Ex Oak Trib city editor joins Public Press

Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig, former Oakland Tribune city editor, is joining the online, non commercial Public Press as news editor. As the Press's first editorial appointment, she will "coordinate a growing pool of volunteer and freelance journalists who have converged to bring important and under-covered news stories to broad audiences in the San Francisco Bay Area," the Press reports.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Facebook has a newspaper escape plan

Martin Gee, a designer who was laid off from the Mercury News last year, started a Facebook group six months ago called "Newspaper Escape Plan." The group has grown to 2,568 members and 39 topics. They're even selling merchandise, such as the button at right. Gee is perhaps best known for the Flickr photo essay about downsizing at the Merc called "Reduction in Force." We learned about the escape plan group from this post at fishbowlLA. Gee tells fishbowl:
    "News and journalism can evolve but it's held back with editors' and owners' hanging on to newsprint. Newsprint is just a medium. I'm definitely worried about the newspaper industry. I go back and forth sometimes. I want newspapers to do well and evolve. Somedays after reading Romenesko, I want them to die so something else can rise from the ashes. I do have hope for print."
While we were on Facebook, we noticed another group journalists might want to visit, "I judge you when you use poor grammar."

KRON owner files Chapter 11

Young Broadcasting, whose financial condition has gone downhill since it paid a record $823 million for KRON Channel 4 in 1999, has voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection while it reorganizes its finances. The operator of 10 stations says it plans to keep all of them on the air during bankruptcy proceedings. The move comes a month after Young was kicked off the Nasdaq stock exchange after its share price had fallen into penny-stock range. The company had been hinting at a possible bankruptcy filing in recent months after missing interest payments on long term debts. KRON, a MyNetworkTV affiliate, is the chain's largest station. The other nine stations are network affiliates in smaller markets in the Midwest and New York state.

Brush with death led to best-seller

San Francisco photojournalist Alison Wright, who has traveled the world on assignment for media outlets including National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, was gravely injured in a bus crash in Laos in 2000. She has documented her recovery — which included more than 200 surgeries — in a memoir titled "Learning to Breathe: One Woman's Journey of Spirit and Survival," published by Hudson Street Press in 2008. It has since become a best-seller. "I wanted to find a way to give back to the people who had saved my life," Wright told the Chron. Four years after the crash, she climbed Mount Kailash in Tibet (shown). (Photo credit: Nancy Newton, Courtesy of Alison Wright, via Chronicle)

Here's one way to get a byline in Time

Dana Yates, a reporter with the San Mateo Daily Journal, recently got a byline in Time magazine. More accurately, her byline on the Journal's front page could be seen in this photograph in Time's Feb. 16 issue. The picture available online (which we have placed above) doesn't show details such as the text of the front-page stories in the news-racks, but the printed edition clearly shows Yates' name on a story headlined "Police issue prowler alert," published Jan. 29. The picture was apparently taken in Burlingame. The cover story in that issue of Time was a piece by former Time managing editor Walter Isaacson titled "How to Save Your Newspaper" in which he urges newspapers to charge online readers. The news-rack appears in a picture for a sidebar on gadgets that can be used to read online news.

Former Watsonville editor O'Brien dies

James Edward "Bud" O'Brien, former editor of the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian who trained many reporters including Chronicle editor Ward Bushee, has died after a long illness. He was 80. He was at the Watsonville paper from 1962 until he retired in 1995. This is from the Chron obit:
    As he took his pen to the copy of young reporters, Mr. O'Brien was not an intimidator, said longtime colleague and friend Mike Wallace, also a former editor of the Watsonville newspaper.

    "He had a presence of quiet authority," said Wallace. "There was no point in arguing with him because you knew he was right."

    Mr. O'Brien taught his young scribes the basics of journalism - go out, get the story, bring it back and do your job, said Dan Young, one of those former reporters.

    "Just tell the story and get it done," Young said.
(Photo credit: Mike Wallace, via Chronicle)

Friday, February 13, 2009

February 2009 Press Club board minutes

Feb. 11, 2009 — Board Room, San Mateo Daily Journal. The meeting was called to order at 6:45 p.m.

Present: Jon Mays, Marshall Wilson, Jack Russell, Micki Carter, Dave Price and Darryl Compton; Guests, Pat Gemma, Bettylu Smith and Raphael Kauffmann. Absent: Jamie Casini, Peter Cleaveland, Ed Remitz

High School Journalism Project
    Jon introduced Pat Gemma, superintendent of the Sequoia High School District; Bettylu Smith, district PIO; and Raphael Kauffmann, advisor to the Carlmont High School newspaper. Gemma explained that the goal in meeting with the Press Club Board of Directors was to “improve the newspaper program at all our comprehensive high schools.”

    Kauffmann explained that the Carlmont newspaper meets as a club during the noon hour and that student interest was low. He hoped that a class could be re-established and expressed the desire that a professional journalist might be able to come and talk to English classes to recruit for the newspaper.

    The following discussion included the following points:

      • The class could encompass a variety of media forms — Internet, television (Marshall mentioned PenTV), newspaper, magazine, ad sales and mass communications.

      • American Society of Newspaper Editors provides a template web-hosting program for high school papers.

      • The district would like to see papers at Carlmont and Sequoia revitalized.

    After the discussion, Gemma committed to get the proposed journalism course approved as an A-G Elective that would meet the requirements for UC admittance. He also will seek to get Kauffmann money for curriculum development over the summer.

    Marshall and Micki both volunteered to lend a hand at Carlmont.

    After the guests had left, the meeting resumed.
Minutes were approved as read and the Treasurer’s Report was accepted. Darryl noted that he had finally been able to pay Hannah Hoffman’s scholarship now that she was enrolled at UC Berkeley.

Open Seat
The board accepted the resignation of Jay Thorwaldson which creates a second open seat on the board. Jon noted that he planned to talk to Melissa McRobbie, managing editor at Bay City News, about taking one of the positions.

Journalism Contest
Darryl expressed the need to promote the contest before the Feb. 28 deadline. We want to get a press release to Bay City News as soon as possible.

Judging
Darryl has television entries from the New Orleans Press Club and radio entries from the Milwaukee Press Club. He will see if Peter is willing to work on them while he’s in Hawaii.

High School Contest
Micki will get a date for the Awards Presentation at Ralston Hall and see if Hillsdale Shopping Center will continue as a sponsor. She will also write a press release for the contest and the Herb Caen Scholarships. Darryl will do a mailing later this month.

Evening of Excellence
Saturday, June 6, has been confirmed as the date with the Crowne Plaza in Foster City. The board discussed possible speakers: Mark Curtis; Phil Matier, Chronicle columnist; Alison Wright, photojournalist author of “Learning to Breathe”; Jerry Ceppos, dean of the J-School at UN Reno

Town Hall Meeting
Marshall presented a concept of a meeting on The Future of High-Speed Rail. He suggested that it be co-sponsored by the county which would allow him to work on it during work hours. After a discussion, the board approved having Marshall proceed with the concept as a single-meeting panel discussion with the county as a co-sponsor. Marshall will offer further details at the March meeting or by email.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:05 p.m.
Respectfully submitted, Micki Carter, secretary

Two Press Club board seats open

Two director positions are now open on the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club's board of directors. Jennifer Aquino, who is teaching journalism and advising the student newspaper at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, tendered her resignation in December. Jay Thorwaldson, editor of the Palo Alto Weekly, said he was forced to give up his position when the Weekly changed production days. Both positions are one-year terms; anyone appointed to those terms by the board will need stand for election in December. Anyone interested in serving on the board should contact President Jon Mays at jon@smdailyjournal.com.

Mark Curtis writes book about 08 campaign


Mark Curtis left Channel 2 last year and became a freelance TV reporter who covered the presidential election for stations across the country including Channel 2. (He's seen above doing a live shot from Florida in January 2008.) Now Curtis has written a book about the campaign titled, "Age of Obama: A Reporter's Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President 2008." Having covered every presidential campaign since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, Curtis brings his insights and humor into this book plus his first-hand experiences covering Obama, Clinton and McCain. Available at www.amazon.com.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Comcast SportsNet opens 120-employee facility

While other media outlets are cutting back, Comcast SportsNet has opened a 37,000-square-foot production facility in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood that will employ more than 120 people. The new facility at 370 Third Street includes a 24-hour newsroom, HD production facilities and office space. You could also say it's the broadcast home of the Giants, A's, Warriors, Sharks, SaberCats, 'Quakes, Cal and Stanford.

From this new home Comcast SportsNet plans to launch "SportsNet Central," a daily local sports news shows that will air live 30-minute telecasts at 6 p.m., 10:30 p.m. and midnight starting April 6.

SportsNet will also start a daily hour-long program called "Chronicle Live," featuring a rotating panel of sports experts from the newspaper and other sports authorities from the region. Hosted by Greg Papa, it will air at 5 p.m.

Since January 2008, SportsNet has hired more than 90 people, growing its staff of 30 employees to more than 120. On-air talent includes Damon Andrews, Mindi Bach, Dave Benz, Chuck Fisher, Kate Longworth, Matt Morrison, Greg Papa, Scott Reiss and Jaymee Sire.

Links: Comcast SportsNet press release Feb. 11, 2009; Multichannel.com; Comcast July 2008 press release on new facility.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Coalition fights gag order in BART case

The California First Amendment Coalition is asking a judge to lift his gag order in the case against former BART officer Johannes Mehserle who is charged in the New Year's Day shooting of passenger Oscar Grant. CFAC says Judge Morris Jacobson's gag order "denies the press a key source of information on a matter of extreme and legitimate public concern."

"Not only does this case center on alleged abuse of power by a government official of the gravest sort -- one that resulted in the taking of a human life -- but it will also shine a spotlight on the way in which BART police execute their duties and handle their responsibilities more generally," CFAC attorneys Paven Malhotra and Cody Harris said in their brief, according to Bay City News.

"Free speech and free press interests are at their peak where, as here the public seeks -- and the press strives to provide -- information relating to allegations of police misconduct, ineffective or even dangerous police policies, inadequate training procedures and the relationship between police officers and the community they serve."

Mehserle's lawyer, Michael Rains, said in a brief that he also wants Jacobson to lift the gag order.

Rains said the gag order "has hamstrung Mehserle by preventing any attempt he might otherwise make to address the barrage of negative publicity in the case which has presumed his guilt as murderer."

In his brief, Rains said, "The BART shooting case has received an avalanche of media coverage, nearly all of it vilifying Mehserle."

Humor columnist doesn't find firing funny

Mary Hanna says in her blog that she's received dozens of e-mails after she was dropped as a humor columnist by the San Mateo County Times in a budget cutting move. She said the bad news came in a three-minute call from Times editor Glenn Rabinowitz, who cited a need to cut his freelance costs by 40 percent. Referring to herself in the third person, Hanna writes on her blog:
    Second Half fans, who have dubbed themselves “Hannaholics,” are reacting by canceling their subscriptions, sending letters of protest, and telling their favorite columnist that Second Half was the one bright spot in the midst of today’s grim news.

    In the words of one reader, “it was like getting a letter from a friend every week.”

    Another ardent fan writes, “I just picked up my S.M. Times and read with horror that it was your last column. I have been thinking about cancelling my subscription and that is the nail in the coffin. I will let them know this, too. Are you writing for any other newspaper? I will subscribe to whichever one it is! Your columns are the highlight of my days on Wed and Fri. I come home from work and rush to get the paper and you always brighten my days.”

    Hanna is looking for another outlet for “Second Half” and is confident that her thousands of readers will continue to follow her adventures.
If Hanna's name sounds familiar to reporters who have covered the city of Palo Alto, she was that city government's communication's manager for nine years, authoring many press releases.

Merc seeks $1.5 million cut in wages, benefits

According to the Guild, Mercury News negotiators said they need to find $1.5 million by cutting wages and benefits paid to union members annually due to the problems facing the company. The Guild's Web page quoted MediaNews negotiator Jim Janiga as saying that the company needs to “reduce expenses quickly, in a measured way, and in a lasting manner."

Laid off editor returns to his old newspaper

Aaron Crowe admits that he had an odd feeling Monday, returning to the Contra Costa Times where he was laid off last year as an assistant metro editor. Now a freelancer, Crowe went there to interview the man who laid him off, Executive Editor Kevin Keane, about a story he is doing for Spot.us on the future of Bay Area journalism. After Crowe discusses his conflict of interest, he writes:
    A former co-worker walked by and said hello without stopping to shake my hand or inquire how I’ve been since leaving — and other than that and a quick hello to a friend who works there — Keane was the only other person I talked with. I was nervous and glad to walk out when it was over, and maybe things will be different if I ever return. I’m sure there’s nervousness on both sides.

    Much of what Keane discussed with me focused on how he still believes in the survival of print news, and that the online audience that the Times and other Bay Area News Group properties are growing and that both serve different customers. Reliable, local news coverage is its strongest asset and adding more blogs and other ways to reach people online, such as through Twitter, will help spread that news, he said. His main message seemed to be something that I’ used to tell my reporters — that providing quality, in-depth and local news will attract readers no matter what form it comes in.
Here's the pitch Crowe posted about his story on the future of Bay Area newspapers in a digital age and changing economy.

NLRB upholds newspaper layoffs

The Contra Costa Times reports that the National Labor Relations Board has dismissed the Guild's complaint that three employees were wrongfully laid off because of their union activities. The Oakland office of the NLRB ruled in December that the company was within its rights to fire Sara Steffens, Rebecca Rosen Lum, and Geoff Lepper. Now the NRLB's national office has upheld that decision and rejected arguments to the contrary from the union. Steffens, who had just been elected union chair before her firing, played a key role in unionizing the Contra Costa Times and other parts of BANG-EB.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bill Brand in critical condition after Muni accident

A man who was hospitalized after being hit by the San Francisco
Muni N-Judah train Sunday night is veteran Oakland Tribune reporter Bill Brand, according to Pete Wevurski, managing editor of Bay Area News Group-East Bay.

Brand, who retired from the Tribune late last year but still writes a beer column for the newspaper, is in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital, Wevurski told Bay City News.

The accident occurred around 9:10 p.m. at Second and King streets, near AT&T Park. Service on the N-Judah and T-Third Street lines was disrupted for about two hours afterward. San Francisco police are investigating the accident.

Veteran Tribune reporter Harry Harris told BCN that Brand has worked for the paper for more than 25 years, covering a variety of beats including crime, science, business and UC-Berkeley.

"He's worn many hats for the Tribune and he's worn all of them very well," Harris said.

Harris said the Tribune's staff is pulling hard for Brand to recover from his injuries.

"He's a fighter," Harris said. (Photo credit: Tribune, Nick Lammers)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Publisher discloses attempt to sell Pt. Reyes Light

Robert Plotkin, the former prosecutor who bought the Pulitzer Prize-winning Point Reyes Light in west Marin County four years ago, explains to readers in a candid letter his paper's financial problems, his attempt to sell the paper and his decision to keep the paper but let his wife take over as publisher.

(We found his letter after reading this item in the SF Weekly which provides some background.)

Plotkin also writes: "In the last year, income at the Light has dropped 37 percent. This is not unique to the Light, although there have been some aggravating factors, namely myself."

He said he talked to two potential buyers for the Light: The Marin Scope chain (which bowed out because it wanted to digest the Novato Advance before taking on another turn around) and a group of investors who wanted to merge the Light with the rival Citizen weekly paper. But the investor group only wanted the Light's name, Web site and files. "Not only were they going to fire the entire staff but they were not going to provide the staff with a severance," Plotkin wrote.

In stepping down as publisher, Plotkin admits "my sensibility is at odds with many in the community." But he says his wife Lys "is kind and lovely and respectful toward everyone she meets." (Photo credit: Chris Stewart, Chronicle, May 2006)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Court allows some autopsies kept secret

A state appeals court ruled that counties can withhold autopsies and other coroner's reports from the public if they are part of a criminal investigation likely to lead to prosecution, the Chronicle Chronicle. The ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento expands the law enforcement exception to the California Public Records Act which allows cops to keep information secret during an active investigation. The plaintiff in the case wasn't a newspaper or broadcast journalist but an author who wanted an autopsy for a book she was writing about a murder in El Dorado County.

Two channels may pull analog plug early

The Chronicle reports that Most Bay Area television stations will delay until June the switch to all-digital broadcasts, now that Congress has given them the option. But two stations, KICU 36 and KOFY 20, are apparently going to all digital later this month, according to KGO-TV president and gm Valari Staab, who heads up the Sutro Tower committee this year. Management from those stations couldn't be reached, but shutting down an analog transmitter will save a station between $15,000 and $20,000 a month.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

News helicopters draw attention in Oakland

Helicopters are becoming a familiar sight and sound in Oakland with the protests over the shooting of Oscar Grant by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Angela Woodall of the reports that news stations are juggling the need to get helicopters close to the action with concerns about noise.

Helicopters are an important newsgathering tool that helps keep people informed, especially during emergencies, said Channel 2 news director Ed Chapuis. "There's a need for us to be there," he said.

The story notes that city governments can't regulate news helicopters, but at least one Oakland official, council member Nancy Nadel, has met with stations in an attempt to limit noise.

Chron redesign an in-house, group effort

Instead of hiring a design firm to give the Chronicle its new look, deputy managing editor Nanette Bisher told the Society of Newspaper Design it was an in-house group effort.

But the masthead was restored by Jim Parkinson of Typedesign.com, who investigated the history of the Chronicle logo. His summary of the masthead's history is available as a PDF on the SND Web site.

The three fonts the Chronicle is using -- Archer, Farnham and Antenna -- are popping up in a lot of newspapers these days. Bisher said she saw a lot of papers at the SND conference using them.

"While we tested many fonts, we came back to this set as feeling right. I believed these fonts had just the right style to match the eclectic sensibility of San Francisco and the Bay Area," Bisher said.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

School district to adjust newspaper policy

Shaun Bishop of the San Mateo Daily News reports that the Sequoia Union High School District's board of trustees tonight (Feb. 4) will "adjust the district's policies on student freedom of speech and publications to be more in line with recent court decisions and changes in state law." The changes followed the criticism the district got when it abruptly closed the student newspaper at Carlmont High School after it published an essay by a student who was joking about his own sexiness.
    "The new policy is a page and a half long and offers more explanation of students' rights, such as protections for material published on the Internet and a statement against 'prior restraint,' or action by school officials to prevent publication of legal content," the Daily News reported. "It also goes into more detail about prohibited speech, including the use of 'fighting words,' obscene or libelous material and content that would disrupt the school's operation.'

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

KTSF's Cantonese news celebrates 20 years

The "Cantonese Newscast" on KTSF Television (Channel 26, Digital 27) will celebrate two decades of in-language news reporting Friday (Feb. 6), the station announced today.

The first newscast, on Feb. 6, 1989, was inducted into the permanent collection of the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio) last July. It was the first, live local Chinese-language newscast in the United States.

KTSF chief editor and award-winning anchor, Mei-Ling Sze, a newscaster from Hong Kong made her debut on the "Cantonese Newscast" 20 years ago and continues to anchor the 7 p.m. newscast.

"The strength of KTSF news is, from its inception, to provide an authentic narrative of the Chinese American experience," she said.

Less than four months after its launch, the Tiananmen Square protests dramatically unfolded in China. KTSF quickly became a critical resource of up-to-the-minute news coverage and analysis for the Bay Area, including mainstream TV stations.

Today, KTSF is the only U.S. television station to broadcast nightly, live news programming in Cantonese and Mandarin. The "Cantonese Newscast" airs weeknights at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 6 p.m. The "Mandarin Newscast" airs weeknights at 10 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.

Chron plans to charge more, lose readers

The SF Weekly reports that Chronicle Editor Ward Bushee (pictured) told a staff meeting that he expected price increases would result in a "double digit" decline in circulation. The Chron has already raised its Sunday newsstand price from 50 cents to $2 and its annual subscription rate from $300 to $400, and the SF Weekly predicts more prices increases are coming when the paper switches to its new presses in June. (Photo credit: Mike Kepka, Chronicle)

KQED cuts spare news; KTEH studio goes dark

Northern California Public Broadcasting announced Monday it will cut 13 percent of its budget and eliminate 44 positions in order to save about $8 million. But, as Joe Garofoli of the Chron notes, no reporters will leave KQED-FM and no TV staff will depart. Productions such as "Spark," "This Week In Northern California" and "Quest" would continue with new episodes airing in the spring.

However, the Merc's Charlie McCollum observed that KTEH, which merged with KQED in 2006, was hit harder with eight of the 20 station employees being let go. (Two employees were offered other positions but declined.)

McCollum points out that the KTEH studios on Schallenberger Road will essentially go dark with even the station's pledge drives moving to the KQED facilities in San Francisco. The station will, however, continue to produce non-studio programs such as "This Is Us."

Chronicle increases point size

Complaints from readers have prompted editors at the newly redesigned Chronicle to increase the size of the paper's body copy to make it more readable. "We will continue to tweak our new as necessary based on the response we receive from readers," the Chron said in an announcement on Page 2. The Chron has also gone back to indenting the first paragraph of stories — in the debut of the redesign on Sunday, the first line of every story was flush left.

Also this morning, the Chron ran several letters about its new look, a couple praising it and one comparing it to the launch of New Coke. Two noted similarities to USA Today. It just so happens that Editor Ward Bushee was an employee of USA Today owner Gannett, and Publisher Frank Vega is from the Gannett ranks as well, serving as USA Today's first distribution manager back in the 1980s.

Here are the comments the Press Club got when we posted an item about the redesign Sunday morning.

The Society for Newspaper Design also got comments about it, and it planning to post an interview with Chron deputy managing editor Nanette Bisher regarding the new look.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Internet newspaper introduced in SF in 1981


When newspaper executives complain that they haven't been able to make money from the Internet, it''s not from a lack of trying. Here's a 1981 report from KRON-TV about a new service the Chroncle and Examiner were offering to readers. With a phone modem, a reader could download a digital newspaper in two hours. At a cost of $5 a hour, it would only cost a consumer $10 a day to get the news online. Still, 500 people in the Bay Area were interested, KRON reported.

"This is an experiment," said David Cole of the Examiner told KRON. "Were trying to figure out what it's going to mean to us as editors and reporters and what it means to the home user. We're not in it to make money."

Newman concluded his report by saying, "Engineers now predict that the day will come when we get all of our newspapers and magazines by home computer, but that's a few years off. So for the moment at least this fellow [video of a newspaper street vendor] isn't worried about being out of a job."

MediaNews papers run editorials on state budget

At least 11 newspapers owned by MediaNews Group ran rare front page editorials Sunday blaming the governor and state legislators for the ongoing impasse over the state budget. The AP quotes Dave Butler, Mercury News editor and MNG vp of news, as saying he thought the front page placement was needed to underscore the issue's importance. He said each newspaper's editor made an independent decision about whether to run the editorial out front.

Journalism contest entry period begins

As the ad at the top of this page indicates, the entry period for the 32nd annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards has begun. You can download the entry form and rules here or by clicking on the ad.

The contest is open to all journalists and public relations professionals in the Bay Area. The fee per entry for non-members is $55, but if you become a member for $35, then the entry fee is $15 — a $5 savings.

Last year, the contest attracted 519 submissions and 224 awards were presented at a banquet June 6.

As always, the entries are judged by press clubs or Society of Professional Journalists chapters outside the Bay Area. No San Francisco Peninsula Press Club member will be involved in the judging.

The deadline to enter is Feb. 28.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chron unveils redesign -- it's all ragged right


The Chronicle showed off its new look to readers this morning. It has replaced its headline and body copy typefaces, switched the body copy to ragged-right, and has added 0.5 rules in column gutters. Between stories are three horizontal rules. The headlines are now in serif type and a bit less dense than before.

In a note to readers, Editor Ward Bushee said the changes make the Chron easier to read and navigate "while retaining its distinctive, classic character." The changes were also made in anticipation of the Chron's switch to new presses in June. The paper will not renew the contract of its approximately 230 Teamster printers and instead will outsource the work to Transcontinental, a Canadian company that has built a plant in Fremont with state-of-the-art presses.

Starting Monday, Bushee said the Bay Area section will be combined with the Business section, which will start on the back of that section every weekday. Business has been on the back of Sports on Monday and Tuesday.

Editorial and opinion pages will move from the Bay Area section to the A section, similar to a move the Merc made in the past year.

Bushee also discusses the paper's financial situation. "The Chronicle is losing large sums of money each week and has been for some time. The primary reason for this is a decline in advertising revenue, which once supplemented the cost of producing a newspaper. Few readers realize that it costs more than $10 to produce and deliver each copy of the Sunday Chronicle." (Photo credit: Mike Kepka, Chronicle)