Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bailey Project wins Tobenkin Award

The Tobenkin Award, founded in 1959 to honor former New York Herald Tribune labor reporter Paul Tobenkin, has been awarded this year to the Chauncey Bailey Project. The award, which carries a $1,500 prize, will be presented on May 19 at the school's Journalism Day Ceremony during commencement week at Columbia. The award recognizes courageous work on racial or religious hatred, intolerance or discrimination. The project is investigating the assassination of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey (pictured), who was looking into reports about Your Black Muslim Bakery when he was gunned down. [MORE]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Search for UC-Berkeley j-school dean fizzles

The three finalists for UC Berkeley's journalism dean have withdrawn their names, Matt Krupnick of the Contra Costa Times reports. Two of them, Barbara Cochran and Lincoln Caplan, said the selection process was taking longer than they expected. A third, former Washington Post Managing Editor Phil Bennett, pulled out after accepting a faculty job at Duke University. The Graduate School of Journalism has not had a permanent dean since Orville Schell left in 2007. Since then, the school has been headed by interim dean Neil Henry, a former Washington Post reporter.

Circulation erosion worse at big city papers

It's an understatement to say a lot of things have changed in the newspaper business in the past 10 years. One change is that the major metropolitan newspapers have lost a larger percentage of their readers than smaller papers.

The state's five largest papers had a combined weekday circulation of 2.6 million in 1999, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Ten years later, the big five have lost 778,167 and are down to a combined 1.8 million. That's a drop of 30 percent.
                      Weekday circulation
1999 2009 change
LA Times 1,098,347 723,181 -375,166 -34.2%
Chron 456,742 354,752 -101,990 -22.3%
SD U-T 381,256 261,253 -120,003 -31.5%
SacBee 293,737 248,855 -44,882 -15.3%
OC Register 367,003 230,877 -136,126 -37.1%

Total 2,597,085 1,818,918 -778,167 -30.0%

Smaller papers also lost circulation during the 10 year period, but not nearly as much. One paper, the Contra Costa Times, remained almost even.
                     Weekday circulation
1999 2009 change
Coco Times 187,119 185,699 -1,420 -0.8%
SJ Merc 294,894 227,119 -67,775 -23.0%
Santa Rosa P-D 94,264 69,812 -24,452 -25.9%
Marin IJ 40,850 28,281 -12,569 -30.8%
San Mateo Times 35,357 27,345 -8,012 -22.7%
Monterey Hearld 35,077 27,306 -7,771 -22.2%
Santa Cruz Sen. 27,333 22,137 -5,196 -19.0%
Vallejo Times 20,612 15,817 -4,795 -23.3%
Napa V Register 19,352 14,497 -4,855 -25.1%

Total 754,858 618,013 -136,845 -18.1%
The nine smaller papers only lost 18 percent of their circulation compared to 30 percent for the big papers. Reasons may include the fact that the suburbs are growing faster than the larger cities. And smaller papers serve up local news, which readers crave, while the big papers can't provide much local coverage because of their size.

Notes:
    1. In 1999, the Chronicle was part of a joint operating agreement with the Examiner. For purposes of this study, only the Chronicle's Monday-Friday circulation was compared to the Chron's current weekday figure of 354,752.

    2. The Oakland Tribune wasn't apart of this comparison because its circulation today includes newspapers such as the Hayward Review and Fremont Argus that had separate circulation reports in 1999. It was hard to get a clean apples-to-apples comparison for the Trib, so it was left out.

Monday, April 27, 2009

New circulation figures not all doom and gloom

Three of the 10 daily newspapers in the Bay Area whose circulation is reported by the Audit Bureau of Circulations posted gains in the October-March period compared to the same period last year, according to figures released today.
    The Chronicle suffered the biggest losses — down 15.7% Monday-Friday to 312,188, and down 16.5% on Sunday to 354,752.

    The Santa Rosa Press Democrat's weekday circulation fell by 10.5% to 69,812, and on Sunday it dropped by 7.1% to 72,906.

    The Mercury News also reported losses, but by smaller percentages than the Chron and Press-Democrat. The Merc was down 3.3% to 227,119 weekdays and down 2.9% to 244,661 on Sunday.

    The Marin Independent Journal was down 11.4% weekdays (to 28,281) and down 9.1% on Sunday (to 30,840).

    The Vallejo Times Herald was down 6.7% weekdays (to 15,817) and down 6.2% on Sunday (to 15,871).

    The Napa Valley Register was down 14.7% on weekdays (to 14,497) and down 11.4% on Sunday (to 14,414)

    The Santa Cruz Sentinel's circulation fell 5% weekdays (to 22,137) and 5.6% on Sunday (to 21,865).

    While we're on the coast, the Monterey County Herald dropped 5.6% weekdays (to 27,306) and 6.6% on Sunday (to 28,778).
Three papers bucked the trend and attracted new paid subscribers.
    The Walnut Creek-based Contra Costa Times, located in a county hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, reported a 1.4% weekday circulation increase (to 185,699) and 0.1% on Sundays (to 194,445). On Sundays the Coco Times gained 242 readers.

    The Oakland Tribune reported a weekday circulation of 99,978, a 3.6% increase, and 95,530 on Sundays, a 4.6% increase.

    The San Mateo County Times also reported a weekday circulation increase of 5.2% to 27,345. However its Sunday number was down 1.8% to 28,281.
Statewide, the biggest papers in the state in terms of Monday-Friday circulation are:
    1. Los Angeles Times, 723,181 (-6.6%)

    2. Chronicle, 312,118 (-15.7%)

    3. San Diego Union-Tribune, 261,253 (-9.5%)

    4. Sacramento Bee, 248,855 (-7.4%)

    5. Orange County Register, 230,877 (-12.8)

    6. Mercury News, 227,119 (-3.3%)
Tomorrow: A look at circulation trends over the past 10 years.

Bronstein shows Dowd SF's news landmarks

NYT columnist Maureen Dowd (pictured) visited San Francisco and asked Chron editor-at-large Phil Bronstein to give her a "justify your existence tour." She writes:
    We drove around the city for hours, looking at places where journalism had had an impact. At police headquarters, he told of The Chronicle’s coverage of police brutality that forced the department to create a database tracking misbehaving officers. He talked about the paper’s AIDS coverage as we drove through the Castro and past San Francisco General Hospital, where the AIDS wards once overflowed. Parked outside the Giants’ ballpark, he praised the paper’s reporting on Barry Bonds and the steroids scandal, noting that “there are far fewer fly balls going out in the bay.”

    His tour ended with cold comfort, as he observed that longer life expectancies may keep us on life support. “For people who still love print, who like to hold it, feel it, rustle it, tear stuff out, do their I. F. Stone thing, it’s important to remember that people are living longer,” he said. “That’s the most hopeful thing you can say about print journalism, that old people are living longer.”
(Photo credit: NYT, Fred R. Conrad)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Quiet diplomacy and a candlelight vigil

State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood told reporters Friday the U.S. is working quietly to gain the release of Current TV reporters Euna Lee and Laura Ling who were captured by the North Koreans on March 17, according to AFP and Voice of America.

"We continue to call on the North Koreans to release the two Americans so they can be returned to their families," Wood said.

Washington has no diplomatic ties with Pyongyang and the Swedish embassy is representing its interests.

But the Swedish ambassador has not had contact with the two journalists from the San Francisco TV company since March 30, Wood said.

"They are being denied access," a senior State Department official said, according to AFP. The Swedes have "not been able to get the access that we would all like to have," he added.

But the two journalists were being provided with toiletries and medications. "There's no indication that they're not being treated well," that official said.
    Above is an August 2006 photo from the Chronicle that accompanied a story about how critics were starting to warm up to Current TV. In the center is Laura Lee, who is now being held by the North Koreans. On the right is Joel Hyatt, an Atherton resident who is Al Gore's partner in Current. Hyatt became a multimillionaire by starting a chain of legal service offices in Ohio. On the left is programming chief David Neuman.
Candlelight vigil: Meanwhile, Pacifica Radio reports that a candlelight vigil is planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Current TV's headquarters, 118 King St. in San Francisco.

The vigil is being organized by Brendan McShane Creamer, a Philadelphia resident who knows Laura Ling’s sister Lisa, the actress and former panelist on "The View." Creamer has created a Facebook group about the plight of the journalists, which now has more than 2,500 members calling for their release. A vigil outside Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, Calif., where both Lee sisters graduated, is planned at the same time Tuesday.

Current TV has not aired any information about the capture of its two employees, and it is scrubbing its Web site of comments from readers about the international story, according to the Pacifica report.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Randi Rhodes returns to Green 960

Liberal talk show host Randi Rhodes has signed a deal with Clear Channel's Premiere Radio Networks and her new national show will air on CC's Green 960 (KKGN-AM).

Yes, it's the same Premiere Radio Networks that syndicates Rush Limbaugh.

Rhodes was the highest rated host on Air America, but lost her job in April 2008 when she called Hillary Clinton a "whore" at a Green 960 event.

Rhodes will do her show from CC's studios in Rockville, Md., and it will air nationally from noon to 3 p.m. (Pacific) starting May 11. Green 960 currently airs Ed Schultz's show during that slot. The station hasn't said when Rhodes's show will be heard.

North Korea indicts Current TV reporters

North Korea has decided to put Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee on trial following an investigation into allegations that they entered the communist country illegally and conducted "hostile acts," state-controlled media in North Korea reported today, according to AP and the London Telegraph.

Lee, a Korean-American, and Ling, a Chinese-American, were arrested March 17 along the narrow Tumen River, which marks the border with China. They were working on a story about refugees fleeing North Korea.

The Telegraph reported:
    The Korean Central News Agency, an official Pyongyang news agency, said that a "competent organ of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea's official title) had concluded the investigation into the journalists of the United States."

    It added: "The organ formally decided to refer them to a trial on the basis of the confirmed crimes committed by them". If found guilty, the pair face up to five years in prison, according to North Korean experts in South Korea. The two women could also face spying charges.

    "This means that Pyongyang will actively use them as playing cards to put pressure on Washington to engage in direct negotiations with the North," said Paik Hak-Soon, of the Sejong Institute, a think tank.

    He added that the announcement could be linked to the firm line taken against North Korea by the UN Security Council earlier this month. Under pressure from the US, both China and Russia, who have traditionally been sympathetic to Pyongyang, both signed a rebuke to North Korea for illegally launching a missile. Further sanctions could now be enforced against the rogue state.
Current TV is a cable and Internet media company co-founded by Al Gore, located in San Francisco's South of Market Area. Gore and Current TV officials have remained silent about the arrest of the two reporters. Current TV is also deleting any comments left on its Web site about the two reporters.

At right is an April 2 AP photo of South Korean protesters who shouted slogans as they held pictures of Ling, Lee, and North leader Kim Jong Il, background left, during a rally against North Korea in Seoul, South Korea.

Monday, Tuesday editions get thinner

The Monday and Tuesday editions of most daily newspapers were already getting thin, but now the BANG-East Bay newspapers including the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times have moved their Monday and Tuesday classified liner ads to online only. The move was announced on the front page of those publications. Legals and listings for home and business services will remain in print.

Chron rolls out first online pay service

The Chron has begun offering an online version of its print edition for $99 a year — which is about one-fourth of the $400 home delivery price for the printed version of the paper. With the online subscription, the reader can flip from page to page, getting the same experience as print readers but without the ink rubbing off on one's hands.

The Merc also offers an e-edition for $59 a year. The Contra Costa Times has one too. The free Daily News in Palo Alto has an e-edition too, but it's free.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the Merc's e-edition was $99 a year. That's the two-year subscription fee.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NBC closes Sacramento affiliates bureau

NBC is closing its Sacramento bureau which fed stories to KNTV Channel 11 and other stations. Here's an e-mail LA Observed posted by reporter Mike Leury:
    The Sacramento Bureau is closing down this week. My photographer Mykie Vang and I want you to know how much we've enjoyed working with you over the past three years.

    As a reporter, you couldn't ask for a better beat than to cover demonstrations at the Capitol, political campaigns for president and of course the "Governator" Arnold Schwarzenegger. We've also followed important issues like education, jobs, gay rights, the environment and government, with a critical look at whether our tax dollars are being spent wisely or unwisely. And along the way, we've had the opportunity to cover stories on wildfires at Lake Tahoe, wild bears in the woods and even some wayward whales in the Delta.

    It's been a great ride and I feel honored and privileged to have been given the chance to cover these stories for you over the past three years. I am an eternal optimist and believe that when a door closes, a window will open up for a new opportunity. Mykie and I would like very much to stay in touch, so I am providing our contact information below.

    Mike Luery

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DOJ opposes antitrust relief for newspapers

The Obama administration today threw cold water on bills to give newspapers immunity from antitrust laws, throwing cold water on an attempt by Hearst and MediaNews to combine newspaper operations in the Bay Area.

"We do not believe any new exemptions for newspapers are necessary," the Justice Department's Carl Shapiro told a House committee that's looking at whether the government should help struggling newspapers.

The DOJ's position is opposite that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder to ask that the government lighten up on antitrust laws, allowing Hearst's Chron to team up with MediaNews Group's Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and nine other dailies MNG owns the Bay Area.

According to the AP, Shapiro said that any new antitrust exemptions for newspapers were "not the way to go." The DOJ, he said, will weigh each merger proposal individually to determine if it would substantially harm competition and consumers.

New Chinese paper serves peninsula

The Web site New American Media has posted a story by reporter Vivian Po about a new Chinese newspaper serving the peninsula. While the Chinese dailies Sing Tao and World Journal focus on the Bay Area, the nation and the world, publisher Brian Ho's free News for Chinese is much more local.

Ho started the paper in November — as the economy took a nosedive. Why then?
    “An important reason why I decided to start ‘News For Chinese’ now is because I purchased an office area with great real estate potential in Redwood City,” he said. Ho is confident that its real estate value will increase in the future. So, even the paper cannot make a profit, he says, the real estate value will be able to cover the cost.

    “I said to myself, now I have my own office, I have built my networks, I have experience in marketing and publishing, I have everything to start a newspaper. It is the time!” Ho said it with a smile.

    Ho’s wife, Jean, has supported him from the start. She described the newspaper as “a playground where he can utilize his talents.”

    “He never follows the mainstream. He always acts on his own decisions and can see visions others can’t,” Jean said.
News for Chinese expanded from 16 pages to 20 pages with its April 1 issue and now is being published twice a week.

No, the paper isn't making money yet, but Ho said he will continue publishing because he has received a very positive response from his readers.

Report: Chron facing October deadline

The San Francisco Business Times reports that the new president of the Chronicle, Mark Adkins (he reports to Frank Vega), told staffers that if the paper isn't making money by October, Hearst will shut it down.

The Business Times attributes its information to "insiders."

If true, that's several months earlier than previously stated by Hearst. But Chron management told the Times that there was no validity to that date.

The Biz Times also says that the Chron is re-thinking its Internet strategy and may divide SFGate into two sites -- one that would include more links to external sources and another that would emphasize news generated by the Chron. They're discussing a pay model too.

Meanwhile, the company which is building a $200 million plant in Fremont to print the Chronicle starting in late June says "everything's on schedule."

Ted Markle, Transcontinental’s newspaper svp, tells News & Tech that it's sticking to its plans.

“We are excited and pleased about the progress we have made and the team we are building," Markle says.

“I think it’s a situation where, through this time of transition, there will be winners and losers in this industry, and because of the long-term nature of our kinds of relationships with publishers, we are going to be sure to partner with the winners," Markle says.

The Fremont plant is said to be larger than what's necessary to print the Chron, which has fueled speculation that the other big newspaper publisher in the Bay Area, may contract with Transcon to print some of its papers there as well.

'No Name' makes triumphant return

Mike "No Name" Nelson, who was fired last July by CBS Radio's Alice FM 97.3 for supposedly driving away female listeners ages 25 to 44, returned Monday to another CBS station, Live 105 (KITS).

Can't imagine that demo was put off by the promo photo Alice FM had of No Name last year.

Says CBS Radio market manager and svp Doug Harvill: "No Name is a terrifically talented performer and I'm thrilled to welcome him back to LIVE 105 and CBS Radio San Francisco."

Guild reports 'significant progress' in East Bay

"We have not yet reached our goal of a comprehensive labor agreement, which will be subject to a ratification vote by our membership," the Guild says in a bulletin to members. "But discussions between the BANG-EB bargaining committee and management resolved a number of critical areas, including severance, management rights, overtime provisions, flexible schedules and subcontracting."

No details were given.

The Guild also says talks were scheduled to take place at the Mercury News on Monday (April 20) and Tuesday (April 21).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chron drivers agree to deal to cut 100 jobs

Teamster delivery drivers at the Chronicle today approved an agreement that will allow the newspaper to cut up to 100 positions, the Chron reports.

Rome Aloise, secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 853, says members voted 179-10 in favor of a contract that will reduce the total number of drivers to 130.

The agreement keeps union drivers delivering to homes in San Francisco, but allows the paper hire subcontractors outside of the city. Aloise estimated the driver layoffs would result in savings of $5 million to $6 million a year.

Departing Teamsters workers will receive two weeks of severance pay for every year of employment, up to a maximum of 52 weeks.

Publisher Frank Vega says he appreciates the willingness of drivers to make a difficult, yet vital, decision to help the paper.

Members of the newspaper's largest union — California Media Workers Guild Local 39521 — agreed last month to 150 job cuts.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Do you make too many public record requests?

Attorney General Jerry Brown is sponsoring a bill, AB520 (text and legislative history) that would let government agencies and local governments file petitions to have people declared "vexatious requestors" of public records.

An agency or local government would have to allege that the requestor was seeking records for an "improper purpose." What's an improper purpose? "Harassment of a public agency or its employees." No further explanation is given.

If a judge agrees, then the agency can stop responding to public records from the "vexatious requestor."

Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto, introduced the bill on behalf of Brown.

We learned of the bill from the California Newspaper Publishers Association Legislative Bulletin, which says the bill is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday (April 21). Here's a list of that committee's members, their e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

The CalAware has also written this letter in opposition to the bill.

N. Korea holds reporters in 'guest house'

Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee are being held in a "guest house" on the outskirts of Pyongyang, and the North Korean government isn't going to release them soon.

That's according to a report by Mike Harvey of the Times of London/TimesOnline. His report is one of the most thorough stories to date on the capture of the two reporters. The initial report of their arrest made the news on March 19, but since then there have been few reports and little new information about the two reporters for the San Francisco-based TV channel and Web operation.

Current TV has said little about the two reporters, perhaps out of fear of saying something that would antagonize the North Korean government. But Harvey said Current TV co-founder Al Gore has contacted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ask for her assistance. The U.S. has no embassy in North Korea but a representative of the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang is said to have seen the journalists at the end of last month, Harvey reported.

Harvey's report quotes a South Korean university professor, Koh Yu Hwan of Dongguk University in Seoul, who predicted that the North Korean government will use the two women to its political advantage. Having two Americans was like having a “piece of rice cake rolling in for free”, the professor said.

Reporters Without Borders has called for the immediate release of the journalists and urged Chinese authorities to intercede on their behalf "as they were probably on Chinese soil when they were arrested." (Photo credits: Yonhap via AP)

Previous reports:

Former Web managers sue Santa Rosa paper

Two women who formerly managed Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s Web site are suing the newspaper, alleging sex discrimination, harassment and other workplace violations. According to a report in the PD, Leigh Behrens, who was online director at pressdemocrat.com for almost two years, and Laurie Barton, the site’s executive producer, said they were targeted by jealous managers from the print side of the newspaper owned by The New York Times Co.

According to the lawsuit, Behrens’ detractors “appeared clearly upset that this strong and successful female leader was being recognized for her accomplishments in developing the online side of the business, while they were stuck in the print side of the operation, which was suffering from declining readership and revenues."

The lawsuit said Behrens, who joined the PD in 2006 after a career at the Chicago Tribune, was fired in February 2008. The suit also said Barton, who had previously worked for the LA Times and Orange County Register before joining the PD in 2007, took a pregnancy leave in December 2008 and decided not to return because of a "harassing environment" at the paper, the suit claims.

The PD reporter who wrote the story about the suit, Steve Hart, was directed to call NYT corporate communications senior vice president Catherine Mathis for a comment , but she didn't return his call.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reporter, editor, educator Bentel turns 100

Dwight Bentel, who helped start San Jose State's journalism program and its daily newspaper, turns 100 today. Bentel is also proud to report that he's the oldest surviving Mercury News reporter. E&P profiled Bentel today (link).

E&P points out that Bentel's contributions to journalism include starting the Daily Spartan, which hasn't missed a scheduled publication date in 75 years, and serving on the advisory committee that helped write the Brown Act, opening up government meetings and documents to the public.

Mack Lundstrom, formerly of the Merc who now lectures at the San Jose State J-school, says one of Bentel's earliest jobs was to serve as a body guard for Mercury Hearld managing editor Merle Gray, who had angred gangsters with his call to close speakeasies. Bentel had a desk outside Lundstrom's office with a gun in the drawer. And when the editor would go looking for speakeasies, Bentel would literally ride shotgun, according to Lundstrom.

Former editor Bothun arrested again

Brian Bothun, former editor of the Palo Alto Daily News, has been arrested again on drug charges. This time Bothun was arrested at 4:50 a.m. on April 5 in a Palo Alto parking lot and booked for possessing and being under the influence of dangerous drugs, according to a report in The Almanac. He was cited for being under the influence of drugs by Menlo Park police in July 2008 and he was later charged with possession of child pornography after a search of his house by Atherton police. Bothun's lawyer said another person in the home put that material on Bothun's computer network. Bothun, 47, began his career at the Palo Alto Weekly as an intern in the early 1990s. In 1996 he joined the Daily News as a reporter and was promoted to editor in 2004. He quit when the paper was sold to Knight Ridder in 2005. Last year, he worked for about a month at the Daily Post in Palo Alto. (Full disclosure: The editor of the Press Club Web site, Dave Price, was Bothun's boss for several years.)

Chron reaches tentative deal with Teamsters

The Chronicle reports that it has reached a tentative agreement with Teamsters Local 853 that could eliminate more than 80 of 235 jobs at the paper held by Teamsters members. The union represents delivery drivers and mailers at the Chronicle.

The 235 drivers are scheduled to vote Sunday on what was presented as the company's final offer, said Rome Aloise, the local's secretary-treasurer.

Departing workers would receive two weeks of severance pay for every year of employment, up to a maximum of 52 weeks.

The Teamsters also represent pressmen and mailers, but the Chronicle indicated that it will exercise buyout clauses in their contracts in June when the paper turns its printing over to a non-union operation, Transcontinental, which has built a $200 million, 350,000-square-foot printing plant in Fremont. By the way, Transcon is hiring.

Last month, members of the newspaper's largest union — California Media Workers Guild, Local 39521 — agreed to contract concessions that allowed for the removal of about 150 positions. Around 120 of those have been achieved through voluntary buyouts (see list at left). Layoffs are expected to be announced in coming weeks, the Chron reported.

Venture intends to charge for news online

A new venture called Journalism Online LLC plans to help newspapers make money online by charging readers for news.

The founders include Leo Hindery, a former chief executive of AT&T Broadband; Steven Brill, the founder of Court TV, and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz.

Brill said the company has already held talks with most major U.S. newspaper and magazine publishers and they expressed "strong interest" in the venture.

"We think this is a special moment in time when there is an urgent need for a business model that allows quality journalism to be the beneficiary of the Internet's efficient delivery mechanism rather than its victim," he said.

Coverage: AP, Denver Business Journal, MultichannelNews, Reuters, NY Times and Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bob Shaw, KTVU movie critic, dead at 56

Bob Shaw, who had a 31-year career at KTVU, died Friday from liver failure and complications of Crohn's disease. He was 56.

Wilkins began his career in 1971 as producer of "Creature Features" hosted by Bob Wilkins. He joined KTVU in 1976 where he was the film critic and entertainment reporter from 1983 to 2007. He also worked as a news editor and he won six Emmys.

The Chron this morning ran a tribute to Shaw by comedian Mark Pitta. And here's a link to KTVU's report on Shaw's career.

LA Times: Tiny Tracy Press gets a big scoop

From the LA Times:
    What was once a packed newsroom is now a sea of empty cubicles. Like the rest of the newspaper industry, the Tracy Press has been struggling.

    But when an 8-year-old girl went missing at a local mobile home park, the paper went into action.

    Although the discovery of Sandra Cantu's remains in a suitcase pulled from an irrigation pond would bring all the major TV networks and several big-city papers to the Central Valley city, it was the Tracy Press that would get the interview that investigators credit with breaking open the case and leading to an arrest.

    "We're just a scrappy little newspaper," said Editor Cheri Matthews, who is married to the paper's publisher, Bob Matthews. "We know the people who live here, we know this town, and sometimes we get things that nobody else can." [More]

April 2009 Press Club board minutes

April 8, 2009 — Board Room, San Mateo Daily Journal. The meeting was called to order at 6:45 p.m.

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

Minutes of February and March were approved as read and the Treasurer’s Report was accepted.

Open Seats
    The board accepted the resignation of Jay Thorwaldson which creates a second open seat on the board. Melissa McRobbie, managing editor at Bay City News, was appointed to a one-year slot on the board. Dave Price mentioned that he had talked to Terry Winkler, who does PR for Earth Justice, about serving on the board, but he said he didn’t have the time right now. Jon will contact L.J. Anderson, a free-lancer, about the opening.
Professional Journalism Contest
    Darryl reported that 90 percent of the entries in the contest are out for judging. He distributed a spreadsheet on this year’s entries which indicated 424 entries from 62 organizations compared to 519 from 67 groups last year, with a commensurate reduction in income ($6,420 this year/ $9,555 last year). Darryl noted that only two television entries were received and that the Chronicle did not participate this year.

    Darryl also described an online judging form that the Milwaukee Press Club uses. Dave will contact them to see if we can use it on our web site to facilitate the gathering of judging results this year.

    Jon suggested adding a college division next year and announcing the winner of the High School General Excellence winner at the Evening of Excellence dinner next year. Micki suggested that we announce the three finalists at the High School Awards Reception and then announce the winner at the June event.
Evening of Excellence, June 6
    Darryl has signed a contract with the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Foster City and expects to get menu choices that will allow us to keep ticket prices at $50. Marshall is contacting Phil Matier and Ward Bushee of the Chronicle and Kristen Sze, the KGO-TV morning anchor, about speaking at the event.
Newsletter
    Micki wants to get a newsletter out early in May and asked for items ASAP.
High School Contest

    Micki announced that Hillsdale Shopping Center will again sponsor the High School Contest awards reception from 4-6 p.m. May 12 in Ralston Hall on the campus of Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. She urged board members to plan to attend. She also distributed contest categories for judging. She needs the judging results to her by April 15.
Town Hall Meeting
    Marshall reported that the project for a meeting on high-speed rail was still on and he would have further details in May.
High School Project
    Jon hasn’t heard anything from Carlmont after meeting with the group in February. He will call them this week. He also is meeting with the new San Mateo High School District Superintendent Scott Laurence this week.
Meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.
Respectfully submitted,
Micki Carter
Secretary

Bay Guardian wants SF Weekly parent to pay up

A year after a San Francisco jury found in favor of the Bay Guardian in its predatory pricing lawsuit against the SF Weekly and its parent Village Voice Media, editors at the papers are as spitting angry at each other as ever.

The most recent flare up occurred when the Guardian's editor, Tim Redmond, wanted to know if VVM ever planned to pay the verdict, which is approaching $20 million including interest. VVM is appealing but hasn't paid the money nor posted an appeal bond that would ensure payment, Redmond said.

Moreover, Redmond said he's learned from sources that the owners of VVM have transferred $15 million in company funds to their personal accounts in case the appeals court upholds the jury verdict.

Redmond asked VVM executive editor and partner Michael Lacey about it in an e-mail. Lacey exploded in an e-mail he sent back to Redmond, flatly denying the transfer of any funds:
    You claim you have sources, plural. Now you have a crystal-clear repudiation. Put your sources on the record. Let the world examine your "evidence."
Then, later in the e-mail, Lacey says:
    Were we supposed to stop running our business, stop paying employees, stop making a profit, because (Guardian owner) Bruce Brugmann hired a lawyer?

    Are the assets of our business protected? Of course they are. Are you suggesting that the assets of the San Francisco Bay Guardian Inc. are not?
Lacey goes on to say:
    You're frustrated. You want us to give you money, and we won't. You accuse us of having money, while you don't. That has always been your problem. It is the foundation of your lawsuit.

    Is it simply class bitterness that causes you to make things up, to envision conspiracies in which someone, somewhere, is having a good time on a nickel they should have thrown into your paper cup? Is this what motivates you to rant with the logic of a desperate street beggar?
After firing off his response, Lacey posted both Redmond's questions and his response on the SF Weekly's site before Redmond had a chance to write his column about the lawsuit. When Redmond posted his column it carried the headline "SF Weekly's deadbeat dad," and included this:
    The guy's got a thing for "brain vomit," which seems to be his standard comment on anything he doesn't like.

    I particularly like the comment about "class bitterness," which works so well these days. And of course, he ducks the point: VVM owes us a bunch of money. If Lacey wanted to wait until after the appeal, he could have posted an appeal bond -- but if he did that, then we'd be guaranteed payment if we won the appeal.

    This way, even if we win (which I think we will) he can try to slime away without paying.
The exchange between Lacey and Redmond was reminiscent of last year's trial, which each publication covered on an almost daily basis on their Web sites. In March 2008, a jury found that the SF Weekly sold ads at below cost for 12 years in an attempt to run the locally owned Guardian out of business, in violation of California's predatory pricing law. (Photo credits: Lacey, Phoenix New Times; Redmond, SF Weekly)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Current TV pulls plans for $100 million IPO

Al Gore's SF-based Current TV, which has been making headlines because two of its employees have been taken prisoner by North Korea, is in the news today for a different reason — it is withdrawing its plans for an initial public offering to raise $100 million. In a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Current Media cited "current market conditions" as motivating its decision. Only two IPOs have launched so far in 2009, while 16, including, Current Media, have been canceled.

"Generally, the market conditions are improving but the advertising market is still finding its bottom right now," said David Joyce, an analyst at Miller Tabak & Co. told Reuters.

Current TV has lost money each year since its launch, according to its most recent regulatory filing.

Two reporters for Current TV were arrested by North Korean authorities on the border with China last month. North Korea has said it intends to put the women — Euna Lee and Laura Ling — on trial for unspecified "hostile acts."

Bloggers have reported that Current TV has been scrubbing its Web site of comments from users about the North Korean incident. One blogger, Josh Wolf, points out that such censorship is common in China and North Korea. "Current might as well set up shop in North Korea where journalism and the suppression of information go hand in hand," Wolf wrote.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dave Albee laid off, face of IJ sports section

Sports Editor Dave Albee begins his column in today's Marin Independent Journal by reporting that he has been laid off by the MediaNews Group paper.
    After nearly 36 years in this business and more than 22 years at this newspaper as a sports columnist, senior writer and, lastly, sports editor, I have been told my full-time services are no longer needed. I will continue to blog on the Marin IJ's Web site and intend to launch my own site (DaveAlbee.com) to provide commentary and offer freelance work. Though the decision to lay me off is surprising, I trust it will open new doors and exciting prospects. It will allow me to spend more time with my family .
He also says:
    It's been a great ride at the IJ and I appreciate the opportunities that this paper and Gannett, its previous owner, afforded me.
Albee is seen above interviewing Robin Williams during a gala in Sausalito for the 2008 Tour of California cycling race. (Photo by Bob Cullinan via the IJ Web site.)

Pelosi says papers are seeking TARP money

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in an interview with Jon Stewart, says that newspapers have been asking her for the TARP (troubled asset relief program) money meant to bail out banks and Wall Street.

She didn't identify which papers, but as the Bay Guardian's Tim Redmond points out, Hearst's Phil Bronstein met with Pelosi in a private meeting after which she asked the Justice Department to ease up on antitrust laws that have prevented the Chronicle from joining forces with MediaNews.

Redmond says Pelosi's office hasn't called him back to say whether she'll identify those newspapers that have contacted her, and he says Bronstein isn't talking either. Redmond concludes: "I suppose it's not out of the question -- if the taxpayers can bail out AIG and General Motors, why not the San Francisco Chronicle? But would Obama then want to fire the publisher?"

Five stations win regional Murrows

KGO-AM won six regional Edward R. Murrow awards from the Radio Television News Director's Association and KCBS won four. The regional winners will now be judged on a national level.

KGO won awards for breaking news, sports reporting, use of sound, hard news feature, writing and feature reporting. The breaking news award, for coverage of fires in Northern California on June 12, 2008, was earned by Rosie Allen, Greg Jarrett, Laura Podolak, Claudia Lamb, Rob Artigo, Greg Edmonds and Bret Burkhart. Burkhard is credited with winning the other five awards. KGO-AM's Web page includes audio links to the award-winning entries.

KCBS won in the categories of general excellence, continuing coverage (gay marriage), news documentary (frantic for food) and newscast.

Among Bay Area TV stations, KPIX won in the categories of overall excellence and news series ("Assignment Africa"), KGO-TV for investigative reporting (Muni tapes) and KTVU for videography ("A Real Car").

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Scholarship deadline extended to April 30

The Press Club last night extended the deadline for its scholarship contest until April 30. Given the economic downturn, the club's board figured that if the scholarships were more widely publicized, more students would apply. The scholarships are for $1,500 each. Applying is easy. Click here to download details. Journalism instructors are encouraged to distribute this flyer to their students.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bailey project reporters finalists for Medill Medal

Three journalists investigating the killing of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey — were named finalists for the 2008 Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism awarded by Northwestern University, the Bay Area News Group reports. BANG-East Bay investigative reporter Thomas Peele, retired journalist Mary Fricker and Bob Butler, perhaps best known for his work on KCBS radio, were honored for their work in the wake of Bailey's 2007 killing, exploring the circumstances of the killing and the police investigation that ensued. The winner of the 2008 medal was (Cleveland) Plain Dealer newspaper reporter Joanna Connors, whose series, "Beyond Rape: A Survivor's Journey," explored the story of her 1984 attack and rape in an effort to regain control over a traumatic event.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Video of the Stanford Daily building dedication

Here's video of the dedication of the Lorry I. Lokey Stanford Daily building last week. The video, by the Stanford News Service, includes interviews with Lokey (right), a former Stanford Daily editor who would later start the Business News wire. Other editors and reporters who started their careers at the Stanford Daily are interviewed on the video, too. At left is Stanford Daily editor in chief Christian Torres, who presented a gift to Lokey at the dedication ceremony.

Press Club's board meets Wednesday

San Francisco Peninsula Press Club
Board of Directors meeting agenda
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
6:30 p.m.
San Mateo Daily Journal
800 S. Claremont St., Ste. 210, San Mateo

 
AGENDA
    1-Approval of Minutes 3/11/09
    2-Finance and Membeship Reports
    3-Open Director positions-discussion of new directors
    4-Awards Contest
          a. - Entry Report
          b. - Judging trades
          c - Evening of Excellence, Saturday, June 6. Further discussion of possible speaker.
    5-High School Journalism Project (next steps)
    6-High School Contest: May 12 from 4 p.m-6 p.m.
    7-Scholarship Contest 
    8-Town Hall Meeting
    9-Fall professional development workshop for member
    10-Other business as needed

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mardell Ward, former Almanac ad director, dies

The Almanac — the weekly serving Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley — reports that its advertising director from 1971 to 1989, Mardell R. Ward, has died.

She died March 23 in Palo Alto at age 84.

A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Ms. Ward had a career in journalism and advertising that included working at Sunset Magazine, the Menlo Park Recorder, Wank, Williams & Neylan advertising agency, and the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce.

"She was a very classy lady," said Mort Levine, publisher of The Almanac from 1980 to 1993. "She gave The Almanac a certain tone. She was very interested in building up the business district of Menlo Park."

Peter B. Collins hired by Garamendi

Peter B. Collins, who has hosted shows on KGO-AM, KNBR and KSFO over the years, has been hired by John Garamendi's gubernatorial campaign as its "messaging" consultant, the Sacramento Bee reports. Collins joins the Garamendi team a week after top campaign advisor Jude Barry quit to pursue other interests, the Bee reported

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Creditors will want changes at MNG

The announcement that MediaNews Group has won a forbearance agreement from its lenders is confirmation that the chain which owns most of the dailies in the Bay Area is in default, says Martin Langeveld, a former publisher and now a consultant writing for the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Langeveld said he expects the creditors will be looking to squeeze out as much cash as they can from MNG. Instead of trying to sell off individual papers at fire sale prices, which might get the banks 10 to 20 cents on the dollar, Langeveld has come up with his own restructuring ideas, including:
    • A sale of the company’s printing plants, packaged with its considerable commercial printing customer base. Some of this infrastructure is aging, but the company has built some state-of-the-art plants in recent years. These assets would be attractive to various regional printers looking to expand.

    • A sale of all other real estate, perhaps with partial leasebacks. The core digital enterprise to be retained won’t need all that office space.

    • A restructuring of the remaining business as a fully digital, online-first news organization operating in all of the company’s existing markets, with strategic options to expand into neighboring markets.

    • A reduction of publishing schedules in all markets to one or two days per week. Most of the advertising currently spread across six or seven publishing days can be nudged into one or two editions that are profitable.

    • A five-day commuter-style tabloid in selected markets like Denver, the Bay Area and Salt Lake City.
Langeveld also points out that the banks could also liquidate the existing company, lay everyone off and rehire selected employees into one of several new companies. This might also be a way of negating union contracts. Langeveld concludes that only a fundamental reinvention of the business provides any hope of saving it:
    There’s a small chance that MediaNews will be bold enough to attempt this kind of radical scenario, and then there’s an even smaller chance that it would succeed. But without the attempt, the company is staring across the Bank of America’s workout table at bankers who want to get paid, and get paid soon; who are not concerned about journalism or communities or employees; who will be satisfied with 20 cents on the dollar in a simple breakup scenario if the company can offer no strategic plan to navigate its way to a higher valuation. It’s worth a shot.

Salinas paper hires reporters, adds beats

Like many newspapers, the ax fell hard last year at The Californian, the Gannett-owned 14,240-circulation daily in Salinas. In December, the paper eliminated 40 jobs. And Gannett has instituted week-long unpaid furloughs at all of its papers and TV stations to cut costs.

Given that, this upbeat item in today's Californian caught our eye:
    The Californian hires three new reporters; some will cover new beats

    Three more reporters have joined the staff here at The Salinas Californian. The fact that we're hiring says a great deal about our company's commitment to this community. Faithful readers of this newspaper and its Web site, TheCalifornian.com, should see a discernable difference over the next few weeks because we have a full complement of reporters on the street — reporters with experience, open minds and fresh perspectives.
Among the new hires is Leslie Griffy, who previously covered courts and breaking news for the Mercury News.

Knight Ridder signs up for sale

Knight Ridder became history in 2006, but its name still appears on the two largest signs in San Jose.

The signs are about 20 stories up on the top of the office building at 50 West Fernando Street, where the now defunct newspaper company had its corporate headquarters.

KCBS Radio and CBS5 KPIX-TV report that the building's landlord is now offering to sell the signs for $2 million plus rent of $25,000 a month. The buyer's name or message would apparently have to fit where the words "Knight Ridder" are now visible. CBS5's Len Ramirez reports:
    The sign was built in 1999. You remember 1999. That was the time of the dot-com bubble, when bigger was better and the sky was literally the limit, even for a newspaper publishing company.

    "It's almost become San Jose history by now," said Ken Doctor, who used to work for Knight Ridder. He remembers how the company pressured San Jose to relax its sign ordinance for one day to get it approved. And how the streets were closed and people were warned to stay away from the windows when the 57,000-pound, 12,000-square-foot signs went up.

    "This sign is really a vestige of something that was once a major power and in five years nobody will know Knight Ridder from Knight Rider," Doctor said.
Doctor has written more about the sign on his blog, Content Bridges.

If nobody buys the naming rights by the end of the year, the signs will come down.

KCBS and CBS5 occupy the ground floor of the building, which sits on an historic site — 100 years ago, San Jose engineer Charles "Doc" Herrold started the world's first radio station with regularly scheduled programming at that location. The station would later become KCBS-AM, which is currently celebrating the centennial of that milestone.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Daily News kills Sunday, satellite editions

The Palo Alto Daily News announced today that it has dropped its Sunday edition and will now print Tuesday through Saturday.

In addition, the Daily News will stop printing separate editions for San Mateo, Burlingame and Redwood City. The Palo Alto edition will be distributed in Redwood City and San Carlos, however.

The MediaNews Group paper is dropping the words "Palo Alto" from its name and will be known as simply the Daily News starting Tuesday.

In a front page announcement today, no mention was made of any layoffs. At least one employee was let go in the switch, however.

Ironically, the front page announcement was next to a story about the dedication of the Stanford Daily's new building. New York Times Editor Bill Keller was on hand for the celebration, saying some might see the event as being (see correction below) akin to a "ribbon cutting at a new Pontiac dealership."

The cut backs come just 10 months after the Daily News laid off six employees and dropped its Monday edition.

The free paper started in 1995 in Palo Alto and in 2000 sprouted separate editions in Redwood City, San Mateo and Burlingame. The paper added a Sunday edition in 2003.

In 2005, the founders sold it to Knight Ridder for $25 million. A year later, Knight Ridder sold off all of its newspapers to McClatchy. Within days, McClatchy sold its Bay Area papers to MediaNews Group.

Full disclosure: The editor of the Press Club's Web page, and the author of this item, is Dave Price, who co-founded the Palo Alto Daily News and now owns the competing Daily Post in Palo Alto.

Update, Saturday, April 4: Today is the last day for the San Mateo Daily News, Redwood City Daily News and Burlingame Daily News. Each paper lasted eight years (Aug. 9, 2000-April 4, 2009). Here are the announcements the three papers printed on their front page today.

Burlingame Daily News


San Mateo Daily News


Redwood City Daily News



CORRECTION, April 7:A Daily News staffer points out that Keller didn't see the opening as being like that of a Pontiac dealership, but that some might see it that way. The next paragraph of the story stated: "He was quick to clarify that he doesn’t subscribe to the view that journalism is headed for obsolescence. It may require ‘an adventurous spirit,’ he said, but the students who will make the new offices of The Stanford Daily their own will also have an opportunity to help shape the future of an industry in transition.”

Don Kazak leaves the Palo Alto Weekly

"After helping start this newspaper almost 30 years ago, I've decided I wanted to take my journalism experience and find ways to use it in the non-profit world or an educational role," wrote Don Kazak in his final column for the Palo Alto Weekly, which was printed today. "It's been an extraordinary experience to work here for so long and to be such a part of the community through the people I've gotten to know."

Radnich, Willie Brown to do Comcast 49ers shows

Longtime KRON 4 sports director Gary Radnich (right) and former SF mayor Willie Brown (left) have been hired by Comcast SportsNet Bay Area to do 49ers post game shows and other programs related to the team. SportsNet Bay Area plans to do an hour post-game show with locker room interviews, Coach Mike Singletary's news conferrence and expert analysis. They'll do the show at Candletstick for home games. After road games, they'll be based in SportsNet's new studio, 24-hour newsroom and HD production facilities at 370 3rd Street in San Francisco's south of Market area.

MediaNews gets some breathing room

The NY Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting that MediaNews Group has reached an agreement with its lenders and bondholders that will allow the newspaper company to forgo making a principal payment on its debt, which was due Tuesday. The company's creditors, led by Bank of America, have agreed to give MediaNews time to reorganize its capital structure, the Times said, quoting people briefed on the matter. MediaNews owns most the Bay Area's dailies including the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times.

Judge tosses libel suit against Chronicle

An Alameda County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks against the Chron and columnist Chip Johnson, the paper reported today. Brooks claimed she was defamed by a piece saying she was being investigated for allegedly taking kickbacks for hiring a city employee. Brooks was never charged, but the judge in the libel case said she also never proved that what was said in the article was provably false.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Layoffs 'not as high as expected' at Chron

The number of news and advertising employees who will be laid off by the Chronicle next month "will not be as high as expected," the Guild said in a statement posted on its Website. No figures were given out, but management had previously said it wants to eliminate 150 Guild positions, and 120 employees (see list at left) have agreed to accept buyouts where they get their pension paid to them in one lump sum. The Guild statement said:
    Applicants have three working days to reconsider. Because of the three-day rescission period, and a substantial number of late filers, the final number of buyout applications won't be known until Friday evening. ...

    Given such a high number of volunteers, management said the number of involuntary layoffs will not be as high as expected. The Guild has been informed that involuntary layoffs will not occur April 1 and will likely happen sometime in mid-April. As for non-Guild totals, management has said that those discussions are already in process but gave no specific figures.

IRE honors Chauncey Bailey Project

Investigative Reporters and Editors, or IRE, has given award to The Chauncey Bailey Project for its ongoing efforts to uncover the truth behind the killing of an Oakland journalist in 2007. The award named staff writers Thomas Peele and Josh Richman, along with collaborators Mary Fricker, Bob Butler and A.C. Thompson, praising their continued work in watchdog journalism. A statement from IRE said:
    Under the most difficult of circumstances, the reporters exposed deep flaws in the police investigation of the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey [pictured]. Through tenacious reporting and deep source development, (this team) uncovered a stunning videotape linking someone to the murder, yet the individual has not been charged in the case and the evidence has been seemingly overlooked or dismissed by police.

    The trail continued in 2008 with reporters looking more directly into a probe of Bailey's slaying and possible police obstruction of a local organization. The investigation was published in papers owned by the Bay Area News Group, primarily the Oakland Tribune, and aired on KTVU, a participant in the project.
Robert Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting, called the award "a great tribute to the reporters who persevered on this and won the trust of innumerable sources. The project is also a testament to the value of investigative reporting and the fact that this kind of work is also a commitment of time. This is also really a tribute to the two people who really got this all going: Sandy Close from New America Media and Dori Maynard from the Maynard Institute, who had the vision to really pursue the work of Chauncey Bailey."

Here's a link to the Oakland Tribune's story about the award, which includes comments from those who worked on the project.

KCBS, KGO, KALW, Chron win Headliners

Bay Area winners of the 75th annual National Headliner Awards, sponsored by The Press Club of Atlantic City, N.J., include:
    • Newspapers, editorial cartoons, second place: Don Asmussen, SF Chronicle

    • Newspapers, portrait, second place, Chron's Mike Kepka, "The Rev. Cecil Williams"

    • Radio, newscast, first place: KCBS News Team, "Winter Storm"

    • Radio, breaking news or continuing coverage of a single news event, first place: KCBS, Doug Sovern, "Campaign 2008"

    • Radio, feature or human interest story, first place: KGO's RJ Peruman, "The Milk-Moscone Murders: 30 Years Later"

    • Radio, news series, second place: KCBS, Doug Sovern, "Down, But Not Out"

    • Radio, documentary or public affairs, third place; KALW FM 91.7, JoAnn Mar and Alyne Ellis, "Prisons in Crisis: A State of Emergency in California"

    • Online, radio affiliated journalism, second place: KCBS.com

    • Online: newspaper affiliated journalism, first place: SFGatte.com