Friday, July 31, 2009

Lance Williams leaves Chron for CIR

The Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley announced today that it has hired the Chronicle's Lance Williams, who covered the BALCO scandal, as an investigative reporter covering money and politics for CIR’s new California Watch project.

With Mark Fainaru-Wada, he wrote "Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports." The book, combined with the Chronicle articles, prompted Sen. George Mitchell’s investigation of baseball’s steroid era and led to many reforms.

In 2006, Williams and Fainaru-Wada were held in contempt of court and threatened with 18 months in federal prison for refusing to testify about their confidential sources on BALCO. The subpoenas were later withdrawn.

'Eyewitness News' goes VJ on Saturdays

Columnist Bill Mann reports that KPIX CBS5 has begun having reporters shoot, report and edit their own stories on Saturdays as a cost-saving measure. KRON was the first to switch to VJs for all of its newscasts a few years ago.

Mann reports that the Channel 5 newsroom is in an uproar over the VJ switch.

Mann quoted one longtime "Eyewitness News" staffer as saying the training for the switch hasn't gone well:
    "Even before they started, one of the VJs came back with a 'negative roll' tape (she thought the camera was on when it was off, and vice versa).

    "Another was caught using her husband to help her shoot in the field.

    "PIX's first reporter proponent of VJs now says it's a bad idea. The whole newsroom is in an uproar as reporters are rushed through VJ training, while editors and videographers are essentially ignored and left to worry about their jobs.

    "Management here wanted money from CBS to pay for a computer server for digital video but was turned down — a corporate vote of 'no confidence' that put it into a tailspin and has staffers speculating on how long the boss (Dan Rosenheim) will last.

    "Meantime, Rosenheim just hired a 28-year old female MMR (multi-media reporter) just as the age and sex-discrimination lawsuit by two veteran laid-off staffers (Bill Schechner and John Lobertini) goes up to federal court. It's a mess."
Rosenheim did not reply to an e-mail from the Press Club for comment.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sports columnist Killion leaves the Merc

Sports columnist Ann Killion -- who covered the 49ers, Barry Bonds, Kristi Yamaguchi, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and Steve Young, among others -- is leaving the Mercury News after 21 years. Her last column is in today's edition. Among her memories:
    The time I called my copy desk for questions on a pre-NFL draft story — from the delivery room before the birth of my first child.

    I was pregnant with my second child during the 49ers' last Super Bowl run. As the wins mounted and the postgame mobs around Steve Young grew, he would direct the mob to part and let me and my protruding belly to the front of the pack. And on the day he finally won his Super Bowl, my husband and one-month-old waited back at the hotel while I worked into the night. (That baby starts high school next month, a stark reminder of how long it has been since the 49ers' last championship.)
She also has some nice things to say about her fellow sportwriters:
    There is no more entertaining place on earth than a crowded press box. My colleagues are smart, devastatingly funny and downright amazing. They've shown me over the years that sportswriters can do anything. Now I'm going to try to prove them right.
Her column gave no hint of what she plans to do next: "It has been an amazing 21-year adventure. It's time for a new one. Thanks."

Hayward rejects $5 million for radio towers

Eric Kurhi of The Daily Review in Hayward reports that city has rejected $5 million in cash and $60,000 a year from Salem Communications to put up four 199-foot radio towers on an old landfill.

Salem Communications, licensee of KDOW-AM 1220, wants to move that station's transmitter from a single stick in East Palo Alto (south east of the intersection of University Avenue and the Dumbarton Bridge) to the far end of West Winton Avenue, close to the San Mateo Bridge. Five radio towers were built nearby in 1987, according to The Review.

The FCC previously approved the move, which have let the station to go from 5,000 watts to 50,000 watts (day and night), making it a major player in the Bay Area media market.

Salem operates mostly Christian or conservative talk stations, but KDOW airs Bloomberg business news and talkers such as CNN's Lou Dobbs. The station was previously known as KNTS, which aired conservative talk stations. It hit the air in 1949 as KIBE with a mere 250 watts, and it simulcast the classical music programming of KDFC-FM.

A sock puppet is busted

For weeks, South Bay political observers have been trying to figure out who is behind the very personal and nasty blog San Jose Revealed.

Dan Pulcrano of Metro and Scott Herhold of the Merc think they have figured it out -- Philip Bump, who apparently has ties to the South Bay Labor Council and its chief executive Cindy Chavez, who lost the race for mayor to Chuck Reed. The blog attacks Reed's people, which kind of made it easy to figure out which faction in town was behind the blog.

Metro and the Merc took different approaches to smoking out the sock puppet. Herhold took the academic approach, comparing the writing styles of the blog and another blog that Bump admits to authoring. Pulcrano, on the other hand, bases his accusation against Bump on "electronic evidence."

For what it's worth, San Jose Revealed hasn't posted a new item since Sunday. Maybe they caught him?

Merc production coordinator dies at 47

This morning's Merc carries the obit of Vincent Gray McLaughlin, who coordinated the printing and distribution of that newspaper. He died at age 47. From his obit:
    As production coordinator at the Mercury News, Mr. McLaughlin ensured the newspaper was delivered to customers on time. Late at night, he tracked the flow of pages from the editorial departments to the plate room and then pressroom, making sure each deadline was met, until the final product was ready to be loaded into trucks and shipped to readers.

    Colleagues described him as a thorough and dedicated employee with a strong sense of humor. "He was great with people while always keeping a cool head in various stressful situations," said former Mercury News production manager Ben D'Amico.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Palo Alto's Daily News to change size again

E&P reports that Palo Alto's Daily News plans to switch this fall to a 21-inch deep broadsheet. Three months ago, the free daily went from 16.25 inches deep to its current size of 11.25 deep.

Production and Creative Services manager Christine Eng told E&P that the five-day newspaper's changed its size because it has changed printers -- from a commercial shop to the pressroom of owner MediaNews Group's San Jose Mercury News.

Currently the Daily News is nearly the dimensions of a square. When it switches to a broadsheet, it will be the same size as the Mercury News.

The Web site free-daily.com, which E&P credits with breaking the story about the size change, said the Daily News might be able to pick up more advertisers with a broadsheet format, particularly stores selling women's apparel which favor large ads and big photos.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Walter Cronkite's farewell to San Francisco

The anchorman of the "CBS Evening News" from 1962 to 1981 did his last interview before a Commonwealth Club audience on Feb. 27, 2004 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.

A link to the 58-minute interview is not on the club's Web site (or at least we couldn't find it), but KGO 810 host Ray Taliaferro, who conducted the interview, replayed it early Monday morning. Here are the links (part 1 and part 2), which will disappear in about a week. KGO does not keep replays of its broadcasts up for more than a week. (Hint, hint, download it now if you're a history buff.)

Taliaferro said that this was Cronkite's last interview. (Update: Two readers have told us that Cronkite was interviewed after this, by CNN's Anderson Cooper on Feb. 26, 2007 in Universal City, and Nov. 6, 2006 at the University of the Pacific in Stockton). Taliaferro said that Cronkite was asked by the Commonwealth Club to give a speech, but he didn't want to do that. Instead, he wanted to be interviewed. So Taliaferro, a club board member, was asked to do the interview with little advance notice. (The Chronicle appears to have missed this milestone, reporting it almost a week later on March 2, 2004.)

Cronkite was as sharp as a tack in this interview, though he admitted he was almost deaf. But when he was questioned about a manned mission to Mars, he explained that we had to colonize the moon first, and use it as base for Mars missions.

He also talked about his famous commentary in 1968 against the Vietnam War following the Tet Offensive. He said it wasn't his idea but rather was convinced by his boss to editorialize about the war in an attempt to bring American together. He said he didn't find out until later that Lyndon Johnson felt that if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost middle America.

But perhaps the most provocative soundbite from this interview was his endorsement of gay marriage, which came at the very end:
    Taliaferro: Walter, we have just a couple minutes to go. ... As you know, there is quite a question about the sanctity of marriage ... What is the secret of the longevity of your marriage, 64 years, to Betsy?

    Cronkite: I don't want to take a position on the thing. I think that one of the factors was that we were of different sexes. (Laughter)

    Now that doesn't mean I wouldn't be happy to be married to several friends I had of the same sex. But it never came up in our particular relationship.

    I do want to say, seriously, though that I think this position of the president's (George W. Bush) and of the Christian right conservatives is as about as obnoxious a thing that has ever happened. (Applause drown out his words.)

    And I'm not just saying that because I'm in San Francisco. (Laughter.)

    But the mere idea, the mere suggestion that people should think that they can invade the private lives of their fellow citizens on a matter of this nature -- and even to the extent to an amendment to our Constitution, which violates every principal of this democracy, of freedom of speech and press and personal performance, if you please, in this democracy -- that just doesn't read. It is impossible. It doesn't hold water. It is being threatened on us, and how devicisive (it will be) in our society.

    And one of the things I can't understand is that these Christian conservatives believe that they can not only dictate to the nation, but dictate to their fellow churchmen. How can they be so audacious about that, when an individual church ought to be able to make that decision (on their own)?

    But the idea of enforcing that as a law, gosh, I don't think Canada can hold all of us."
(Photo credit: Bill Adams)

'The Greek' enters baseball Hall of Fame

"I'm extremely grateful and humbled to be standing here before the great players I covered, to receive recognition for doing something I loved and was fortunate to get paid for it. My journalism professors emphasized that a reporter should never be part of the story, so I am a little uncomfortable standing before you and becoming part of this story ... "

So began Nick "The Greek" Peter's 8-minute induction speech at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sunday. Here's a link to how MLB covered it, with video of Peters' speech.

Peters attended City College of San Francisco and San Jose State before covering the San Francisco Seals, and when the Giants came to town in 1958, he took over that beat.

He went on to cover the Giants longer than any man in history, but he also frequently hopped across the Bay to write about the A's, MLB reported. In addition, Peters is the author of five books. (Photo credit: Video frame grab from MLB)

Hearst leases Chron plant to Webcor

J.K. Dineen at the San Francisco Business Times reports that the Chron's parent company, Hearst, has leased its old printing facility on Cesar Chavez Street to the construction giant Webcor. San Francisco-based Webcor signed a deal to lease the entire 345,000-square-foot property, which will be used for storage and subcontractor parking during the $887 million construction of the nearby San Francisco General Hospital. The lease is for five years.

We have heard nothing about plans announced 16 months ago to have a Cleveland-based developer, Forest City Enterprises, redevelop the 4-acre Chronicle site at Fifth and Mission streets. If you've heard anything, shoot us an e-mail.

New voice on KCBS

Akilah Bolden-Monifa of CBS5 and KCBS tells us that there's a new voice on the all news AM-FM powerhouse. John Evans, who was let go from classical station KDFC in May, has joined KCBS All News 740 AM and 106.9 FM, and is anchoring the overnight news from 10 p.m.-midnight and 2 a.m.-5 a.m. weekdays. He replaces Dave McQueen, who retired in June. (Photo credit: KDFC)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The story behind the story about Chris Daly

The story about SF Supervisor Chris Daly (right) buying two houses in suburban Fairfield has an interesting timeline:
    • He bought the houses in April.

    • On Wednesday (July 22), the Chron's C.W. Nevius (left, below) confronts Daly via e-mail with the fact that he had bought a house in Fairfield.

    • Later on Wednesday, Daly admitted to buying the house in an opinion piece he posted on a friendly Web site, Fog City Journal.

    • Thursday morning, Nevius reports in his column (placed on page 1) that Daly has moved his family to Fairfield.

    • Thursday at 6:08 p.m., the SF Weekly posts a report saying Daly actually bought two houses, not one as the Chron had said.

    • Friday afternoon, the Guardian, which has strongly backed Daly over the years, post two columns ("Chuck Nevius is such a twit" by Steven T. Jones and "Why Nevius really annoys me" by Tim Redmond)

    • Saturday morning, Nevius shoots back at the Guardian. He mentions that he sent Jones an e-mail saying: "Give journalism a try."
We pieced together the first part of this timeline from Will Harper's piece on the SF Weekly Web site headlined, "Looks Like Daly Purposely Ruined Chron's Scoop." From Harper's story: "Chron metro editor Audrey Cooper says she thinks the timing of Daly's statement was no coincidence — Daly chose to do a pre-emptive infomercial on a friendly blog rather than answer to the city's paper of record."

This story has several angles, including:
    1. Isn't this what former supervisor (now prison inmate) Ed Jew was caught doing? We're not talking about shaking down tapioca shops for money to expedite their permits, but Jew also had a house in Burlingame, where his family lived.

    2. Daly and his liberal allies often clashed with those who wanted to make the city more suitable for middle-class families with children. Those famililes often leave SF when their kids reach school age. Now Daly is doing exactly what his critics have done.

    3. Since the Chron decided let Nevius break the story in his column, rather than a straight news story, Nevius has become fair game for critics. And his critics are asking where Nevius, who lives in Walnut Creek, gets the moral authority to scold Daly for moving his family out of the city?

    4. And if Daly is convinced there's nothing wrong about moving his family in Fairfield, why did he wait three months to tell anybody about it? Was he ever going to tell anyone?

Wait a minute? What paper am I reading?

Most of the pages of the San Jose Mercury News don't say "Mercury News" on the top folio line anymore. Instead they say "Bay Area News Group." Of course the front page still says "San Jose Mercury News" along with section fronts and the editorial page. The Merc has been in the process of moving its copy desk to the Walnut Creek offices of the Contra Costa Times, both owned by MediaNews Group.

Komenich explains why he left the Chron

Kim Komenich says he had been preparing to leave the Chronicle for more than a year before he accepted a buyout in April. Within a couple of weeks, he was offered a tenure-track assistant professorship in multimedia at his alma mater, San Jose State University. In this Q&A on the Web site of former Rocky Mountain News editor John Temple, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer explains what led up to his decision to leave the Chronicle.

Here's a quote that stands out:
    I've always told students that it's healthier to think of yourself as a photographer who happens to work for a newspaper, and not a "newspaper photographer." When I first said it I was stressing the preservation of the photographer's vision and spirit in the face of daily assignments. At this point in the evolution of photojournalism it might be that photographers who value their long-term projects might consider moving way from newspapers and into academia. Universities throughout the country expect their professors to "publish or perish," but some schools offer "creative research" as an alternative to publishing traditional scholarly articles. This means that at some schools you're teaching for nine months and producing documentary books films and exhibitions the rest of the year.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

NK, U.S. may be negotiating over reporters

The U.S. and North Korea may be quietly negotiating on the release of Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, a South Korean newspaper reports. (Tip from BayNewser.com).

"The next three or four weeks will be crucial in deciding whether the two women can walk free," said South Korea's Chosen Ilbo newspaper.

Creditors take control of KRON's owner

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Arthur Gonzalez, who presided over the Chrysler bankruptcy, yesterday approved the sale of bankrupt Young Broadcasting to its secured lenders.

Three of Young's 10 stations, including KRON 4, will stay under control of a new company with a board of directors that includes Vince Young but also more representatives of the creditors.

The other stations will be opearted by Grey Television, which owns 31 stations in small, medium and large (Atlanta, No. 9, is their largest) markets. Gray will get a $2.2 million annual fee for managing the stations as well as a piece of the profits, if there are any.

We cobbled this item together from reports by TV Newwday, Michael Malone at Broadcasting & Cable and Television Business Report. Let us know if you see any errors or have any insights. (Photo credit: Screen grab from KRON's "NewsCenter4" in 1978)

KGO a Marconi finalist

KGO-AM 810 is one of five finalists in the National Association of Broadcasters' Marconi Awards. The others are KIRO-FM Seattle, KLBJ-AM Austin, KOA-AM Denver and WGN-AM Chicago. The winners will be announced on Sept. 24 at a dinner in Philadelphia. Trivia question: Does anybody know how many Marconis KGO has won over the years?

Print-only experiment upsets online crowd

Phil Bronstein's column, critical of Gavin Newsom, appeared briefly on the SFGate.com site and then was pulled.

That prompted bloggers to allege a conspiracy since the Chron has been Newsom's biggest media supporter for years.

Hours after the column was pulled, Bronstein and his replacement, Chron editor Ward Bushee, said the posting of Bronstein's column on SFGate.com was a mistake, and that it was only supposed to be in print.

The Chron is testing whether it makes sense to offer infomation in only its print product, forcing those used to online news to pick up a printed newspaper.

Here's what Bushee had to say:
    Phil's column was created from the start to be a print-only column in the Monday Chronicle. When we first started talking about the column, Phil and I agreed to try this as a low-stakes experiment. The experiment is not indicative of any larger plan by the Chronicle, SFGate or Hearst. It is not the start of a premium content initiative or a pay wall. But it was designed to test how different content models can serve different audiences. Each week Phil reaches a significant online audience with his blog, which is not available in print. By introducing a column by Phil that is different in its content and mission from his blog, we can see if it adds value to the printed paper by giving readers unique content that they could not get free online. As with any experiment, it will be evaluated at some point to see if we stick with it or change it. Unfortunately, the brief appearance of the column on SFGate this week made some people think we were pulling it off because of the content. That was not the case. The column was posted for a short time on SFGate through a misunderstanding and then pulled down when it was discovered.
If those online critics had only picked up a printed copy of Monday's Chronicle, they would have figured out what was going on.

Insect sting kills business journals chairman

Ray Shaw, chairman of the company that owns the San Jose/Silicon Valley Business Journal and San Francisco Business Times, has died in Charlotte, N.C., from complications from an insect sting. He was 75.

The Business Journals say he was stung by a bee while the AP reports it was a yellow jacket.

"Whitney Shaw (one of Ray's sons) said his father had been working in his garage early Saturday when he was stung by a yellow jacket and collapsed. He said his father was revived, but died Sunday morning," AP reported.

The following is from his obit in the San Jose Business Journal:
    Shaw grew ACBJ [American City Business Journals] from an operation with 21 business weeklies when he bought it in 1989 into a company that today has 40 business weeklies, an online publishing division and a host of other publications, including The Sporting News, Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal, NASCAR Scene and the Hemmings automobile guide.

    He was good at understanding what people were passionate about, Whitney Shaw said, and was able to develop products that catered to those passions.

    "Whether it was sports, or business, or cars, it didn't matter — he was playing to that enthusiast audience," he said.

    Whitney Shaw said one of the keys to understanding his father was that he was first and foremost a journalist. "He could (succeed) in advertising and circulation, but he never stopped being a journalist, he was always a reporter and editor first."

    Ray Shaw's accomplishments in business journalism were honored earlier this year, when he was given the 19th Distinguished Achievement Award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

    "Ray was an extremely generous individual who took great pride in the business and his employees," Silicon Valley/ San Jose Publisher James MacGregor said.

    "I had the greatest respect for the way Ray ran the company, which was to build an ethical business. He had a long-term approach to running the company even during challenging times," MacGregor said, "and it was very important to him that he took care of his employees."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Press Club's high school boot camp date set

The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club will present its annual High School Journalism Boot Camp from 1-4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, at the College of San Mateo.

High school journalism advisers are welcome to bring as many students as they wish to hear from professionals in the field talk about such topics as multi-media, television, what makes a story and where do you find it, page design, sports reporting, arts and entertainment reporting and how to sell advertising.

If teachers want to have a topic included, please contact the Press Club's Micki Carter as soon as possible.

This year, the Press Club is also planning a roundtable discussion by the editors of last year's award-winners of the High School Journalism Contest. Teachers, if you have a student who would be a good candidate to be on our panel, send along his or her name and contact information.

AAJA chief out over 'philosophical differences'

After eight months on the job, former television executive Ellen Endo (left) is no longer executive director of the San Francisco-based Asian American Journalists Association after a dispute with its board of directors.

A press release issued Saturday stated:
    Ms. Endo worked diligently on behalf of AAJA and demonstrated a strong dedication and commitment to its mission. However, philosophical differences over AAJA's vision and direction have led to this mutual decision.
AAJA said it plans to launch a search for a new director and that Maya Blackmun (right), a reporter at The Oregonian for 21 years, will serve interim executive director.

Endo was hired by the AAJA in December 2008, replacing Rene Astudillo, who had held the position since 1999. (Photo credits: Endo, Rafu Shimpo; Blackmun, AAJA)

New book out on early days of SF journalism

"In San Francisco, in 1856, at the corner of Montgomery and Washington, an infuriated San Francisco Supervisor, James P. Casey, shot and killed the editor of the Bulletin, who bore the quaint name, James King of William. Casey was arrested and jailed, only to be sprung and lynched by the Vigilance Committee."

That's the beginning of "War of Words," by Simon Read, a lively tale of mayhem, murder, lawlessness, and the creation of the Chron.

Here's a review that appeared in the Marin Independent Journal by Doug Maloney, a San Rafael attorney and former county counsel in Marin County.

NYT column discusses Palo Altan's freelance project

A freelancer from Palo Alto, Lindsey Hoshaw, was mentioned Saturday by New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt as an example of a journalist who is raising money to cover the expenses of reporting a story by appealing for public contributions.

Hoyt said Hoshaw has pitched her story (the giant garbage patch floating in the Pacific) to the NY Times, which has said it might pay about $700 for pictures, and more if it buys the story.

But Hoshaw needs $10,000 to travel aboard a research vessel in the Pacific. So she is seeking funds from the public via Spot.Us, a Web site where reporters appeal for donations to pay for their projects.

Hoshaw's story has been approved by the Times' standards editor, Hoyt said.

Hoyt's column on Saturday looks at the pros and cons of a newspaper buying stories financed by the public.

Hoyt's column also provides some details with the Times' relationship with ProPublica, a nonprofit reporting service founded by Herbert and Marion Sandler of San Francisco, who made their fortune in the mortgage business and sold their companies just before the industry crashed. Hoyt said the Times did a story about the Sandlers, saying the type of mortgages they had specialized in had become the "Typhoid Mary" of the industry.

Hoyt said the Sandlers objected to the article — four corrections have been published — and still say it was an unfair and inaccurate characterization of their business practices.

Meanwhile, the Poynter Institute's Bill Mitchell says the Times is considering the idea of creating a foundation to help cover the cost of its news-gathering.

Michael Savage can go to England

London's Daily Mail and other British newspapers say Marin County radio host Michael Savage can now visit the UK after the government has ditched a list of people banned from Britain for supposedly spreading hate and terrorism.

Two months ago, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith listed Savage and 15 others as "least wanted" visitors. Savage (whose real name is Michael Weiner) sued Smith for libel, saying he she had no right to put him on the same list as a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, a skinhead gang leader and a Hezbollah militant. Savage said he also was forced to hire body guards.

Last week, Smith stepped down in the wake of a scandal over the personal use of taxpayer funds and her successor, Alan Johnson, has dropped the list, the Daily Mail said:
    The Mail on Sunday has been told that Mr Johnson believes the move was a blunder and does not propose to issue similar lists in the future. But the switch could have major legal consequences for the Government.

    Mr Savage is suing Ms Smith for libel over the list and abandoning the policy could make it impossible to contest his demand for damages.
Savage has used the ban to his advantage, frequently making it a topic on his show, heard weekdays from 3 to 7 p.m. on KNEW 910 and nationally on more than 200 stations.

Bay Area journalists remember Cronkite

The Chron's Leah Garchik contacted several Bay Area residents who had worked with Walter Cronkite, met him or had opinions about his work. Here are three quotes from her column:
    Thuy Vu — who is now a KPIX anchor - and her family fled Vietnam in 1975 when Saigon fell. "I was very young when Cronkite's broadcasts aired, but I've certainly learned about them and seen some of them in archival footage. For the older members of my family, there are mixed feelings. I would sum it up this way: While Cronkite is certainly respected for his dedication to his craft, there's lingering bitterness over his comments about the Vietnam war. His report in 1968 that the war was 'unwinnable' helped turn public opinion against U.S. involvement. Some Vietnamese Americans old enough to remember the war have mixed feelings. Cronkite was a brilliant newsman, but his report hastened America's exit and left South Vietnam in a lurch."

    Mill Valley writer and oral historian Alison Owings was a staff writer at CBS News in the mid-'70s, and among the projects to which she was assigned was the Evening News. "He spent most of the day in his office, then hustled late, very late, to the anchor desk, often without saying a word to any of us who'd been toiling all day and were anxious that he liked our toil. He then began timing scripts, pen in one hand, stopwatch in the other, that famous voice grumbly, low, serious, with emphasis in the right parts, rehearsing for show time. ... Sometimes, pre-show or during, he'd whirl around and type a rewrite on his own typewriter. ... We often left him the space stories to do because that was his big interest, and we knew he'd rewrite us anyway. Civil rights, too."

    Ann Caen met Cronkite through Herb Caen, in 1986 or so. "He was very warm and had the ability to sort of jump inside of you. He really wanted to hear from you, always asking questions. She recalled that Cronkite had been in the Bay Area the Valentine's Day that Mayor Gavin Newsom had started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in San Francisco ... "And Gavin came down" and greeted them all, and the subject turned to the marriages. "And Walter just thought the whole concept was great."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Former Daily News writer gets NYT byline


Former Daily News reporter Kristina Peterson has a byline in this morning's New York Times (link). She left the Daily News about a year ago and moved to New York to get a master's degree from Columbia University's J-school. We're told that the story this morning was her master's project, which was originally a story about 5,000 to 10,000 words that was reduced for publication today. Congratulations, Kristina!

East Bay BANG eliminates 17 jobs

Joe Eskenazi of the SF Weekly reports that the Bay Area News Group-East Bay has 17 fewer journalists today than it did yesterday. Eskenazi obtained an internal memo from Editor Kevin Keene that said 11 employees took voluntary buyouts and six had their positions "eliminated, effectively immediately."

Taking buyouts were:
    • Dave Carpenter, copy editor
    • Pat Craig, theater critic
    • Mike DeCicco, copy editor
    • Christine Harrington, Alameda clerk
    • Ben Hawkins, copy editor
    • Karen Holzmeister, Hayward-based reporter
    • Paula King, east Alameda County reporter
    • Kathleen Kirkwood, online news supervisor
    • Christine Morente, San Mateo reporter
    • Jeremiah Oshan, copy editor
    • Kimberly Wetzel, west Alameda County reporter
Those whose positions were eliminated were:
    • Mike Lucia, Hayward-based photographer
    • Mike Martinez, Tracy-based reporter
    • Jenny Starks, sports reporter
    • Ginny Stemler, librarian
    • Jolene Thym, food editor
    • Steve R. Waterhouse, Fremont-based prep sportswriter

SF's "Energy 92.7" sold for $6.5 million

Radio Insight and Radio Online are reporting that Ed Stolz has purchased KNGY-FM "Energy 92.7," a dance music station targeting the gay community, for $6.5 million. The seller is Flying Bear Media headed by Joe Bayliss, which bought the station in 2004 for $33 million. The station's Russian Hill transmitter broadcasts at 3,600 watts, which sends the signal about as far south as San Mateo. Stoltz will take over the station via a local marketing agreement on Sept. 13 if the sale has not closed by then.

Journalist to deputy: 'Dude, you just assaulted me'


Luke Thomas, the journalist behind the San Francisco blog FogCityJournal.com, reports that he was grabbed and forcably moved by a deputy sheriff while filming a line of Aztec dancers who were performing at a San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. He posted the video above that documents the incident. Rebecca Bowe of the Bay Guardian writes:
    According to Thomas, Deputy Sheriff Thompson "dug his left hand fingers into my right side that caused an [excruciating] pain and literally pulled me by my skin and flesh outside Board chambers like a dog on a leash."

    The incident began when the Deputy Sheriff told the cameraman to back up from a line of Aztec dancers who were performing, to which Thomas says he complied.

    But when he was told to step back a second time, Thomas says he complained that he was being prevented from documenting the event.

    That's when the Deputy Sheriff grabbed him, Thomas recounts. "It shocked the hell out of me," the photojournalist told the Guardian later. "I can't imagine what was wrong with this guy. It was completely unwarranted."

    In the video, Thomas can be heard telling the Deputy Sheriff in disbelief, "Dude, you just assaulted me."
According to the Guardian, a sheriff's department spokeswoman said that Thomas was asked "several times" to step away from the dancers.

However, Thomas wasn't issued a citation and Deputy Thompson apologized.

Judge: Shield law covers student in murder case

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Tomar Mason ruled Wednesday that an SF State photojournalism student who was at the scene of a Bayview neighborhood street killing was a working journalist and did not have to surrender his photos to police, according to the Chronicle. Mason ordered police to return evidence they seized from the student's apartment after the killing, saying the man was covered by California's shield law for journalists. The 22-year-old student has refused to talk to police about what he saw April 17 when Norris Bennett, 21, was gunned down during a dice game at Griffith Street and Navy Road.

Radio tower collapses in Sacramento

KCRA-TV Sacramento reports that the tower for Radio Disney (KIID-AM, 5,000-watt daytime, 1,000-watt nighttime) crashed to the ground at about noon Wednesday, sparking a wildfire. The heat was so intense that it bent a second KIID tower and threatened a third. Disney said it will switch to a smaller tower and expects to return to full power in two weeks. (Photo credit: Steve Gonzalez, KCRA)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Police monitored newspaper's phone calls

The Stockton Record reports that its telephone calls were among those secretly monitored by police who were investigating the murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu of Tracy.

"All communications ... from April 8, 2009, to April 13, 2009, from phones registered in your name, and/or by you, were intercepted and monitored," Chief Deputy District Attorney Ron Freitas wrote in the undated letter sent to The Record.

The letter disclosing the wiretapping is required by law.

San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Richard Vlavianos signed an order allowing the wiretaps. Another judge in that county, Linda Lofthus, has imposed a gag order prohibiting officials involved in the case from commenting.

More ways to follow the local media

When the Press Club started this blog a few years ago, we were all alone. Nobody was covering the Bay Area news business. But in the past few months, four excellent online sites have started covering this beat.

Baynewser, a spin-off of the NY-based Mediabistro, covers everything but emphasizes the online news business. It's staffed by E.B. Boyd and Jason Turbow, who are paid by the post.

• The SF Appeal is a 4-month-old online newspaper that has an entertaining media section. SF Appeal is brainchild of Eve Batey (left), former Chronicle ME for online and co-founding editor and lead writer for SFist.com. The Appeal's media section includes several Chronicle critiques, such as "John Cote's Trashy Ledes."

• SFWeekly also has a media section worth bookmarking, with postings that often include original reporting. Joe Eskenazi's byline shows up in this section frequently. Check out his take on SPJ's decision to honor "two dead guys and a 90-year-old."

Rich "Big Vinny" Lieberman (right) is a sportscaster who writes about the local media scene, particularly sports journalism and broadcasting. He's hosted by SFGate.com, which gives him a large audience when a link to his column is featured on the first page of that portal. He gets his share of scoops, such as story about Tony Salvador's firing last week.

Our competition is so good, maybe the Press Club's Web site is obsolete?

Bronstein leading secret Hearst project

Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher reports that former Chron editor Phil Bronstein is leading an investigative reporting project that will draw upon the resources of Hearst's newspapers and TV stations. Bronstein is targeting an unidentified health issue. The project will appear July 26, the day before the Chron's newsstand price goes from 75 cents to $1.

Unlicensed station wants news programming

Melinda Adams of FCCFreeRadio.com, an unlicensed station at 107.3 FM in San Francisco, says her station is interested in adding news programming. The station allows people to go on the air for a "small monthly membership fee." If you're interested, go to FCCFreeRadio.com.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chron raising news stand price to $1

Stores that sell the Chronicle have been told that the paper's Monday-Saturday price will go from 75 cents to $1 effective July 27. The new wholesale rate will be 88 cents a copy, an improvement of 2 cents for each daily Chronicle sold.

The Sunday cover price and wholesale rates will remain unchanged.

A letter to retailers by Chron single-copy sales manager Ken Kim notes that the Chronicle is now being printed on state-of-the-art presses. "These new presses will improve the quality and color capacity of The Chronicle. That significant capital investment is not only geared toward enhancing the customer experience, but also to increase retail traffic," Kim wrote.

The Chron raised its retail price last July from 50 to 75 cents. Last year the Chron also raised its Sunday price from 50 cents to $2. In mid-January, the Chron raised its subscription price from $300/year to $400/year for seven-day delivery.

In February, Editor Ward Bushee hinted that readers would be paying more for the paper in the future. "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. In better times, advertising offset those costs, but that has changed."

Young Broadcasting calls off auction

Michael Malone of Broadcasting & Cable reports that Young Broadcasting has called off the auction of its assets -- including KRON 4 -- without comment. Malone said that insiders believe the development means the bids did not meet the minimum. Chairman Vincent Young had anticipated strong interest in the stations that also include 10 network affiliates in the Midwest.

Merc's doing a little less zoning

The Merc has dropped the "Valley" label for its B section and is now just calling it "Local News." Apparently the Merc is no longer zoning its B section on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday through Saturday, zoned advertising is possible in the B section, but it will still be called "Local News."

KCSM drops PBS, lays off six employees

Neil Gonzales of the San Mateo County Times reports that KCSM (43.1 digital, cable 17) has dropped its PBS affiliation and has laid off six staffers to avoid being sold.

PBS cost KCSM $400,000 a year.

"We're trying to do everything we can to get it out of the red," said Karen Schwarz, board president for the San Mateo County Community College District, which owns the license to the KCSM public television and radio stations.

KCSM will no longer air shows such as "American Experience," "NOVA" or "Frontline," but KQED 9 was airing them anyway. KCSM will still air shows on cooking, home-improvement and other subjects from organizations that distribute noncommercial programming, Schwarz said.

Lawrence told Gonzales that the cutbacks also include the loss of six positions from accounting to producing — five on the television side and one in radio.

KCSM also plans to lease some of its multi-channels, Lawrence said.

A favorite emerges to win Young and KRON

Broadcasting & Cable's Michael Malone says he was told by a source that H.I.G. Capital (link for more information abougt them) is looking like the favorite to scoop up the bankrupt Young Broadcasting stations including KRON 4. Malone also notes that when you Google "KRON," the first link says its an NBC affiliate. Of course NBC dropped KRON at the end of 2001.

Telemundo 48 gm Angulo jumps to KTNC 42

Broadcasting & Cable reports that Former KSTS San Francisco acting general manager Cesar Angulo has been named president and general manager at KTNC, an Estrella TV affiliate airing in San Francisco and Sacramento. KTNC, which Pappas Telecasting lost in bankruptcy proceedings, is owned by Titan Broadcast Management. It serves both markets from a signal broadcast from Diablo Peak.

Angulo called Estrella "the up and coming hip network" for Spanish speakers. "I am joining some great people at Titan and KTNC and have several more key people that will join us in short order," he said. "Watch us grow."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hearst, NBC not interested in KRON

Michael Malone of Broadcasting & Cable reports that Friday was the deadline to submit bids for Young Broadcasting and its 10 stations, including KRON 4. The winning bidder is scheduled to be selected on Monday, with the announcement presumably coming some days later.

Rumored suitors include billionaire Robert Bass's venture capital company Oak Hill Partners, whose Local TV unit is comprised of 16 stations including WJW Cleveland, KTVI St. Louis, WBRC Birmingham, WHO Des Moines and KDVR Denver.

Another suitor is reported to be a leveraged buyout/venture capital firm called H.I.G. International that has an office in San Francisco. One of its units, Bayside Capital, specializes in companies with "distressed or over-leveraged balance sheets" -- which describes Young Broadcasting.

Malone says Oak Hill wouldn't comment and H.I.G. wouldn't return calls.

Representatives from Hearst and NBC dismissed speculation of their interest, Malone reports.

Young famously outbid NBC for KRON in 1999, paying $823 million -- a record price for any single television station. General Electric responded by pulling its affiliation from KRON and buying KNTV in San Jose. Now Malone says that experts put the value of KRON at between $150 million and $250 million.

Young filed for Chapter 11 in February, listing assets of more than $575.6 million, versus total debt exceeding $980.4 million.

Why Ling, Lee need support from all of us

Sacramento Bee editor Melanie Sill devoted her column today to why people should care about the imprisonment of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the reporters from San Francisco's Current TV who were captured by North Korea:
    Beyond the local ties, we should support these women for a simple reason: A free society relies on journalists who are willing to take risks to inform the public. ...

    Getting to the truth has meant taking personal risks and breaking rules for generations of journalists who have covered wars, social movements, disasters, chaos or wrongdoing by those in power.

    Laura Ling and Euna Lee don't work for a storied media organization. They're part of a new generation, and even as they've been imprisoned in North Korea, they have taken plenty of heat back home.

    I think such criticism is misplaced. We shouldn't excoriate journalists for taking risks to get stories. We should celebrate them and the quest for truth they represent. ...

    Many questions have been raised about the actions and decisions that led to the arrests and imprisonment of Lee and Ling. There's time enough to review all that when they come home.

    For now, though, the cause is simple. Let's support efforts to free Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

    For information on how to help, visit www.lauraandeuna.com, the Web site set up by the journalists' friends and family.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Photographer Len Vaughn-Lahman dies

Len Vaughn-Lahman, a Mercury News photographer for nearly 30 years died Friday following a year-long battle with cancer at age 55, the Merc reports. "His favorite motto," said Sharon, his wife of 12 years, "was 'Drive it like you stole it.' And he ran his life that way. He lived life fully. His favorite thing was being a foreign correspondent, traveling to Iraq, to Afghanistan, any place there was a war. He was an adrenaline junkie. He liked being put into different situations and then figuring out how to dig out."

A new approach to freeing Lee, Ling

Quiet diplomacy hasn't worked. Al Gore hasn't produced any results. President Obama isn't taking about it. So it appears a new strategy is emerging in the effort to free Current TV journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who were captured by North Korea nearly three months ago.

Now the idea is that the two women should admit their "crimes" and ask for mercy.

Lisa Ling (pictured at a rally in Sacramento Thursday) said her sister Laura told her by telephone on Tuesday that she and colleague Euna Lee had violated North Korean law and needed help from the U.S. government to secure amnesty.

Now that admission is being used by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to plead for amnesty for the two reporters from the San Francisco-based TV company.

"The two journalists and their families have expressed great remorse for this incident and I think everyone is very sorry that it happened," Clinton told foreign service employees and others at a State Department meeting, according to the AFP news agency.

The U.S. government might have to apologize, too. According to the AP, University of Georgia political scientist Han S. Park said that North Korean officials told him during a five-day visit that the U.S. should offer "a remorseful acknowledgment" over the journalists' reporting, which they believe constituted "hostile acts" against their country because it would have cast the North in a negative light.

To help secure the women's release, Park said the U.S. "should acknowledge" that, though he cautioned that such an expression alone might not guarantee their freedom.

(Photo credit: Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cumulus sacks GM Tony Salvadore

Tony Salvadore, the radio executive who flipped KFOG's format in 1982 from beautiful music to adult alternative and turned it into a ratings powerhouse, has lost his job in what's described as a cost-cutting move.

Salvadore was Cumulus Broadcasting's vp and SF market manager in charge of KFOG, KNBR and KSAN ("The Bone"). He's been a major figure in the Bay Area radio industry for decades.

Rich "Big Vinny" Lieberman, a blogger for SFGate.com, broke the story Thursday of Salvador's termination. Lieberman says program director Lee Hammer has been named interim GM.

Lieberman says anybody making over $200K at Cumulus has been under intense scrutiny by CEO Lew Dickey.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Surprise! Newspaper adds an edition

The Daily Post announced today that it will launch a Saturday edition starting this week. The Post will go from printing five days a week to six. The Post is based in Palo Alto and covers the Peninsula from Burlingame to Mountain View.

The Post said the move will allow it to present Friday's news in a more timely manner and give its advertisers another day to reach potential customers.

The Post was started last year by Jim Pavelich and Dave Price (see note below). They started the Palo Alto Daily News in 1995 and sold it in 2005 to Knight Ridder.

The expansion comes at a time when other papers in the area are retrenching. The Post doesn't put its stories on the Web and that might be one reason for its growth.

“People say newspapers are dying, but we didn’t get that memo,” said Price. “We’re adding advertisers and readers every day.”

(Full disclosure: Price is also a vice president of the Press Club and its webmaster.)

Stations reject marijuana legalization ad

KTVU, KPIX, KGO and KNTV have rejected ads from a group that wants to legalize marijuana and tax the drug to help reduce the state's deficit. KRON, which is in bankruptcy, and some cable stations agreed to air the 30-second spot by the Marijuana Policy Project. It begins airing today.

Josh Richman of BANG-EB talked to station executives about their decisions.

The Field Poll in April found 56 percent of California voters favor legalizing marijuana. A few days later, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said "it's time for a debate" over legalization.

Press Club board meeting delayed a week

The Press Club's monthly board meeting has been rescheduled to July 15, 6:30 p.m., at the San Mateo Daily Journal, 800 S. Claremont St., Ste. 210, San Mateo. As always, members are welcome to attend.

The board meeting with local bloggers is set for August.

Here's the agenda for the July 15 meeting.

1. Approval of Minutes
2. Finance and Membership Reports
3. Open Director positions-discussion of new directors
4. Town Hall Meeting
5. Fall high school journalism workshop
6. Professional development workshop for members
7. Other business as needed

Mother Jones raps KRON for advertorial

Michael Mechanic of Mother Jones says KRON is blurring the line between advertising and news. He says the station contacted a lawyer friend of his and offered to sell her air time. She was told she would appear as legal expert on what looks like a news program. The segment would have only a brief disclosure that it was advertising. Mechanic writes, "When the old media turns to obvious desperation measures, I just can't help pondering the future of my profession and concluding, well, that we should be expecting even more fog in the future."

UPDATE, July 10:KRON Acting General Manager Brian Greif e-mailed a response to the SFWeekly: "The material referred to in the article are COMMERCIALS. ... These efforts have been in place at KRON for years. They are not new elements and meet all ethical and legal broadcast standards."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

SF Weekly writer wins humor column award

Katy St. Clair of the SF Weekly won first prize in the humor category for large papers at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' column-writing contest for 2009. First-place awards pay $300. The contest's judge wrote:
    Only St. Clair would use a trip to a bar called "Casanova" as an excuse to quote from Aesop, or work references to Fred Flintstone and the 1936 Olympic games into the same column. Her humor often coses with a history lesson, literary notation, a reference to her mother, and a chaser of pathos, as she sagely encounters an array of sloshing drunks, leering barkeeps, Glengarry Glen Ross-quoting salesmen and predators and prey of various spots and stripes.
Here's a sample of St. Clair's work (link).

NYT gives a big boost to PR woman Hammerling

The NY Times, in a glowing piece about Silicon Valley PR woman Brook Hammerling (right), declares, "Gone are the days when snaring attention for start-ups in the Valley meant mentions in print and on television, or even spotlights on technology Web sites and blogs."

The Times says that in the "new world of social media, P.R. people must know hundreds of writers, bloggers and Twitter users instead of having six top reporters on speed dial. Ms. Hammerling, the latest example of the omnipresent start-up pitchwoman, is the doyenne of who-you-know PR."
    Ms. Hammerling, at 35 years old one of the ubiquitous presences on the Silicon Valley publicity scene, has navigated these waters for years. In 1999, she got a job at MobShop, a group shopping Web site, where she got a taste of P.R. in boom-time Silicon Valley. She no longer had trouble getting reporters to call her back; instead she had trouble getting them to stop calling.

    “I didn’t have to pitch; I just had to pick up the phone and say no,” she recalls. “Everybody wanted you. How do you say no to that when your competition is absolutely saying, ‘Yes, we’ll be in Fortune and on the cover of Fast Company’?”
In the photo, Hammerling has a laugh with Tom Kuhn (left) of the investment bank Allen & Company and Jay Adelson, chief of Digg. (Photo credit: Tina Fineberg for the NY Times)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Judge bans cameras in courthouse hallways

There's no question that a judge can ban cameras in a courtroom, but what about most of the hallways in a courthouse building? That's what's happened at the San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City. And not for one case, but permanently. Here's the story The Daily Post printed this morning (that paper doesn't post its stories online, so here it is).
    BY JOSH WOLF
    Daily Post Staff Writer

    A judge has banned cameras from the halls of the San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City even though a First Amendment expert said the new rule may violate the U.S. Constitution.

    Acting Presiding Judge Robert D. Foiles issued the order after news outlets asked to videotape and photograph the trial of William Ayres, the 77-year-old prominent San Mateo psychiatrist charged with molesting his young patients in the 1970s.

    But neither Ayres’ defense attorney nor the district attorney asked to ban cameras from the hallways, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

    Wagstaffe said he did not know why the judge issued the ban.

    Wagstaffe said that the first version of the ban on June 23 only included the second floor, where Ayres is on trial. Later that day Foiles issued a second order expanding the ban to all floors of the eight-story courthouse at Marshall and Winslow streets.

    Why the judge expanded the order, banning photographers where they had traditionally been allowed, wasn’t known. Judge Foiles did not return phone calls from the Post.

    Hallways different than court

    Retired KGO-TV photographer Al Bullock said he has never been told he couldn’t film inside a court hallway during his 32-year career.

    “They cannot tell you that you can’t take a camera here, there or otherwise, but I think a courtroom is excluded,” said Bullock. “I don’t know why they want to be secretive about some of the stuff they’re doing, but they just don’t want coverage.”

    But while there’s no question judges can ban photography in their courtrooms, barring them from the hallways may not be constitutional, said Terry Franke, the General Counsel for CalAware, a nonprofit group focused on open government laws.

    “Courts may have the authority to ban media hardware in their own access corridors. I’m skeptical but it’s never been litigated,” said Franke. “But I don’t think they have any authority to keep journalists from taking their tools to non-judicial offices.”

    Protecting victims

    AP Photographer Paul Sakuma told the Post that he’s seen similar restrictions placed in other courtrooms, and said he suspected the order was established to protect the privacy of Ayres’ alleged victims, most of whom are now adults.

    “They want to control the photographs ... (and) protect the people who are involved in cases,” he said.

    During the Scott Peterson trial, photographers were prohibited from shooting in some parts of the building, but there were areas cordoned off where people were allowed to photograph, said Sakuma.
(Photo credit: Josh Wolf, Daily Post)

Chron pages become 1 inch narrower

The new Chronicle came out today — the first edition printed on a contractor's presses — and, as the SF Weekly observed, the paper was an inch narrower than before. The Merc and other MediaNews papers went to a narrower size last year. The SF Weekly's Joe Eskenazi writes:
    If any of the Chron's orgiastic coverage of its own doings mentioned that the new papers are noticeably physically smaller, well, it escaped us. In any event, the new-look Chron is 10.5 inches wide; last week's editions were just shy of a foot wide. Papers growing smaller as a cost-saving measure is not an exclusive Chron story -- but it sure feels disingenuous for the paper to tubthump that its new pages have sharper photos, don't wrinkle up, cure eczema, and are a part of this healthy breakfast and not mention this extraordinarily relevant detail.
Above is a video the Chronicle produced about the new presses it will be using at contractor Transcontinental in Fremont, and here's the story in today's Chron about the switch in presses.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

New presses to print Chron starting tonight


Tonight is the big night for the Chronicle -- the first edition to be printed by a contractor in a state-of-the-art pressroom in Fremont. Here's a link to the story. We hear that the contractor, Transcontinental, has been running test editions all week — and not just a few papers to prove that the presses work, but an entire press run of 354,752 papers.

The Chronicle has a 15-year contract with Transcon to print the paper. The value of the contract is said to be $1 billion.

As the Chronicle story noted, about 230 Teamster printers will be losing their jobs. The union was picketing the Transcontinental plant earlier but dropped the picket lines last week to allow union drivers could be trained on the pickup procedures at the plant.

Above, Carl Gisen, a pressman for 24 years, monitors sections of the Chron rolling off the presses at the paper's Union City printing plant, which is closing. (Photo credit: Michael Macor, The Chronicle.)

Friday, July 3, 2009

BANG-EB to cut 18 newsroom jobs

MediaNews Group is looking to eliminate 18 newsroom jobs in its Bay Area News Group-East Bay which includes the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and other papers, according to this memo from executive editor and vp Kevin Keane:
    Colleagues,

    I had always held out hope that business would bounce back quickly enough that we would be able to avoid further staff reductions this fiscal year. Unfortunately whatever rebound there is in this economy hasn't reached the advertising market yet. We project revenues will continue their skid well into next year, which means expenses will need to come down accordingly.

    Today we're announcing that we will be eliminating 18 full-time positions in the newsroom (managers and rank and file employees) by mid summer. We will notify the union today as well. Employees let go will receive a week's salary for each year worked, with a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of 12. The company will also pay the employer portion of Cobra benefits for health care for three months.

    It goes without saying that this deep a cut on top of previous reductions will have a lasting impact on our newspapers and Web sites. Our preference would be to hold staffing at its current level until the revenue bottomed out, but we can't delay if we're to get through this downturn.

    Before we finalize these cuts, however, we're asking for volunteers to step forward. These volunteers will receive an additional severance of up to eight weeks salary on top of the severance mentioned above - one week's pay for each year worked, up to eight years. Under the volunteer program, a 12-year employee would receive the maximum 20-week severance.

    Management reserves the right to accept or reject a voluntary offer, depending on how vital a position is to the news organization. Every accepted offer brings down the involuntary layoff number by one. If we accept 18 volunteers, we'll eliminate the need for the layoff altogether. Anyone interested in the voluntary program should contact Belinda Byrd in HR by Wednesday, July 8 at 5 p.m.

    Any questions, feel free to drop me a line.
The Guild posted this response today:
    The Guild has been trying to answer the many questions regarding the upcoming editorial work reduction. Executive Editor Kevin Keane sent out answers to many of them yesterday afternoon. Key dates were the July 8 deadline to notify the company if you volunteer. Those employees will know if they are accepted on July 13, and their last day will generally be July 15.

    There are also additional questions we have asked the company. We asked how many guild positions are among these 18. The company was checking, but an early answer was that it will probably depend on how many volunteers are. If you volunteer, you will qualify for unemployment insurance. The company said it will not challenge claims, as it has done in the past.

    Right now the guild does not have any meetings scheduled with the company, but they say they will meet with us should there not be enough volunteers and make involuntary layoffs necessary. Our contract also has many provisions covering that possibility, such as a two-week notification, severance, and being placed on a rehire list for six months if jobs become available.

Auction of KRON parent set for July 14

A newspaper in Tennessee reports that the parent company of KRON 4 will be sold at an auction on July 14. The Nashville Tennessean quotes attorneys at the firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal as saying Young Broadcasting will be sold or reorganized as a whole. The law firm says there has been a "healthy amount of interest" in the auction, being undertaken at secured lenders' insistence.

Young Broadcasting filed for Chapter 11 in February, listing total assets at about $574.6 million and total liabilities at around $980.4 million. Young owns 10 stations, all of them in the Midwest except for KRON. One of the company's most valuable assets is the real estate it owns at Van Ness and O'Farrell in San Francisco. Debt incurred to pay the $820 million for KRON is believed to be one key factor behind the company's current cash problems.

Sportswriter, author regains consciousness

Here's update to a story we posted a couple of days ago about a sportswriter and author with Bay Area ties who suffered a heart attack and lost consciousness during a trip to Milwaukee.

The Lahonthan Valley News in Fallon, Nev., reports that Chuck Hildebrand has regained consciousness in a Milwaukee hospital. The Nevada paper is interested in the story because Hildebrand operated NevadaPrep.com, a Web site that focused on high school sports in Northern Nevada from 1999 to 2007. The paper wrote:
    Hildebrand's childhood friend, Paul Balbas, said that Hildebrand came out of the coma on Wednesday morning.

    Balbas said that Hildebrand was touring an animal park in Milwaukee on Monday morning when he collapsed from an apparent heart attack. Passerbys began CPR and called 911. Hildebrand was taken unconscious to Columbia-St. Mary's Ozaukee hospital, where doctors used electroshock to re-establish his heartbeat. He then was put into a hypothermia-induced coma to allow his body to heal. Doctors warmed him up on Wednesday morning, whereupon he regained consciousness.

    Hildebrand apparently was coherent and knew where he was, according to Balbas.

    Hildebrand sold the Web site in 2007 and returned to his hometown, Campbell, Calif., to focus on his writing career. He's authored three books.

    Balbas said that, according to his doctors and nurses, Hildebrand would not have lived had it not been for the rescue efforts of the passerbys and emergency medical personnel.
A reader of the Press Club site noted that more than 100 people attended a book-signing event Hildebrand did in Campbell on June 20 to promote "The Last Baseball Town." The book is about Campbell's love affair with the game.

Another reader found this biography of Hildebrandt on the Amazon.com page where readers can order his profile of famed Santa Clara University basketball coach Dick Davey, titled "Dick Davey: A Basketball Life Richly Led."
    Chuck Hildebrand has been a professional journalist since 1979, when he was first hired by the Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto, Calif. He worked for that newspaper, now defunct, for 13 years, covering the NFL and Major League Baseball in addition to Santa Clara University and Stanford University sports. He later worked as a cityside reporter in Santa Cruz, Calif., before moving to Nevada in 1997 and founding NevadaPrep.com, a website that covers high school sports throughout the Silver State. Hildebrand in 1998 published his first book, Bronco Sundays, which chronicled the history of Santa Clara’s once-storied football program. He also was a youth baseball coach in the 1970s and 1980s, and was involved with the youth baseball program in Campbell, Calif., which won four national championships in the late 1970s. Hildebrand, a native of Mountain View, was raised in San Jose and is a graduate of San Jose State University.

MediaNews denies bankruptcy rumors

MediaNews Group — owner of the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and several other Bay Area newspapers — is denying a report that the company is preparing to file for bankruptcy. Here's a link to MNG's statement. Here's a link to what brought on the statement. Westword is an alt-weekly in Denver, where MNG is based. Westword is owned by Village Voice Media, same owner as the SF Weekly. The Westword piece refers to a story by Debtwire, which requires a subscription. Debtwire is owned by the Financial Times of London. Hope you got all of that. We will quiz you later.

Former MTV executive joins KPIX in sales

CBS stations KPIX and KBCW have hired Kerry Andrews as an account executive who will be apart of the business development team. Andrews most recently was at Prime Point Media, which operates a network of pay phone advertising kiosks in the United States. He has more than two decades of experience in advertising, including television broadcast, Internet and alternative out-of-home. Prior to joining Prime Point Media, Andrews was vice president of sales for Autowrap-Freecar and vice president of national sales for Asphalt Media, placing ads on tractor trailers. He also spent over 10 years in New York, where he was director of business development for MTV Networks, vice president of Katz Television and executive vice president of the Network of Independent Broadcasters. (Photo credit:Prime Point Media)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Stations want to extend their digital signals

FCC filings show that KTVU 2, KPIX 5 and KBCW 44 have applied for translators to extend the reach of their digital signals.

KTVU has asked the FCC for a license to broadcast on Channel 48 Monument Peak (link).

CBS wants KPIX and KBCW to be on Mount Vaca, on channels 42 and 31, respectively.

(Tip from Patty Winter at ba.broadcast)

Mike Jung new publisher in Santa Cruz

Mike Jung, vp of advertisng and marketing for MediaNews Group's EB-BANG, has been named by MediaNews as the new publisher of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. He replaces former publisher Mario van Dongen, who left at the end of May to take a job as advertising director at The Oregonian, the largest newspaper in Oregon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Google drops news commentary feature

The AP reports that Google has quietly dropped a feature that allowed people mentioned in news stories to comment on the articles. The Mountain View company said Wednesday that it ended the experiment in May when it redesigned the news section of its Web site.
It apparently wasn't getting enough use to justify keeping it. As part of the service, Google spent time and money verifying the identities of the commentators, AP reported

Who stole the Guardian's van?

The San Francisco Bay Guardian reports that somebody cut through the chain-link fence in its parking lot and drove away with the company's van. It happened Monday night or Tuesday morning. Writes editor Tim Redmond:
    Kinda crazy — it's ten years old, it's all beat up — and it has the Guardian logo all over it and a Best of the Bay mural on the side. Hard to hide.

    It's value is probably more sentimental than economic at this point, but we miss it -- after all, we used the van as the cover of our Best of the Bay issue back in 1999, when it was brand new. We commissioned the van-mural, designed by Tim Racer at Racer-Reynolds Illustration and painted by Rich Ayer at Signmakers, and we'd hate to see the artwork chopped up or painted over.

    So if you see it, call SFPD burglary at 553-1261. Or call us.
SFist.com jumped to the conclusion that the SF Weekly stole the van. The SF Weekly denies it and blames the obvious suspect, PG&E.

Fighting for your rights ain't cheap

Fighting for your First Amendment rights is a nice concept, but paying for it is another matter. The Pacific Legal Foundation spent $1.49 million fighting for the First Amendment rights of student Andrew Smith, who in 2001 wrote an article in the Novato High School student paper that was censored illegally by school administrators. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now the California Court of Appeals in San Francisco has affirmed a decision that the school district, which violated Smith's rights, only has to pay $336,350 in attorney's fees instead of the $1.49 million sought by Smith's lawyers.

If you're researching this, here are three links:
    • Appeals Court'S unpublished ruling on legal fees inPDF format.

    • Student Press Law Center's report.

    • Previous Press Club postings on this case.

MediaNews lays off workers in Minnesota

The St. Paul Pioneer Press laid off nine newsroom employees Tuesday, the paper's editor told the staff. Here's a link to the AP story.