Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Test run planned of televising Prop. 8 trial

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said Wednesday he wants to TV cameras to cover a Jan. 6 pretrial hearing as a test run to determine if a trial of Prop. 8 should be televised, AP reports. Sponsors of Prop. 8 the ballot measure that banned same-sex in California say that television coverage of the trial in San Francisco would result in harassment and intimidation of witnesses and other participants. Newspapers and TV networks have asked Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to allow cameras in the courtroom for the trial next month. The federal courts are experimenting with allowing television coverage in cases without juries. The Prop. 8 case will be decided by a judge without a jury. [More from the Chronicle, Mercury News]

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bay Guardian allowed to intercept rival's income

Bruce Brugmann's Bay Guardian has been granted court permission to intercept the income of the rival SF Weekly in an attempt to collect on a $21 million judgment. The move may force a creditor of the SF Weekly's parent company to place the Arizona-based 16-paper chain in default. Brugmann (right) is exploring the possibility of placing the chain into involuntary bankruptcy.

The San Francisco Superior Case number is CGC-04-435584.

The following is from the Guardian's report on the case:
    In a court hearing on Monday, an attorney for the Village Voice chain, Randall Farrimond, pleaded for the court not to enter the order assigning part of the SF Weekly’s income to the Bay Guardian. “If this motion is granted, the bank will declare a default,” Farrimond told the court, and concluded, “If the Bay Guardian thinks there are more assets than those pledged to Bank of Montreal, they are mistaken.” ...

    Several court hearings scheduled for January have the potential to substantially advance the Bay Guardian’s collection efforts, which have gained momentum in recent weeks. In November, the Bay Guardian successfully auctioned off vehicles belonging to the SF Weekly.
The SF Weekly typically posts its version of developments in this court case but has not yet reported on Monday's hearing.

KQED, KALW join in-depth news experiment

KQED-FM 88.5 and KALW 91.7 are among the outlets picked by National Public Radio to participate in a major news experiment backed by $3 million in support from foundations, according to paidContent.org. With USAToday.com editor Joel Sucherman at the helm, each station will focus in-depth on one major issue, such as green energy, health care or immigration, to name a few examples. The coverage will have a strong local focus for each station, but will also have national relevance.

CBS Radio chief knows where to eat

Say what you want about the brass at CBS Radio, but SF market manager Doug Harville knows how to eat -- and where the best eats can be found. The Chron's Aidin Vaziri did this piece on places he enjoys. Maybe it will give CBS Radio staffers some insight on their boss. Who knows? Above he's seen emerging from his favorite barber shop in the North Beach neighborhood. One thing is for sure, Doug knows his way around town. (Photo credit: Lacy Adkins, Chronicle)

December 2009 Press Club board minutes

Dec. 9, 2009 — Board room, San Mateo Daily Journal. The meeting was called to order at 7 p.m.

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

Minutes of November were approved as read.

Treasurer’s Report: Darryl reported that the club took in $18,800 and spent $20,800 in 2009. He noted that membership is down because the Daily News Group has stopped paying for the membership of staff members.

Year in Review: Jon looked back at the activities of the club in 2009.

2010 Professional Journalism Contest: Jon asked members to bring suggestions for revising the rules/categories for the contest to the January meeting. He will seek ideas for the online categories from Barry Parr.

Director Emeritus: Micki moved that Press Club Founder Jack Russell be designed Director Emeritus. Peter seconded and it passed unanimously. Jack talked for a few minutes about the formation of the Press Club.

New Directors:
    Darryl announced the results of the annual balloting:
    President: Jon Mays
    Vice president: Dave Price
    Secretary: Micki Carter
    Treasurer: Ed Remitz
    Immediate past president: Jamie Casini
    Directors: Peter Cleaveland, Melissa McRobbie, Kristy Blackburn, Antonia Ehlers
    Marshall Wilson still has another year in his term.
Donations: The board voted to send $100 each to the Student Law Press Center, CalAware and the First Amendment Coalition.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Micki Carter
Secretary

Thursday, December 24, 2009

BA News Project to name editor, CEO in January

The Bay Area News Project (that joint effort between the UC-Berkeley j-school, KQED and financier F. Warren Hellman) will announce its executive editor and CEO in January, Scott Walton of KQED says. "We have outstanding candidates but I can't give you a firm date except to let you know that we are confident about being able to do this soon. I think the launch will be pushed back a little bit but 2nd quarter of 2010 is still realistic," Walton tells the Press Club in an e-mail.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Court administrative records to become public

The administrative arm of the California Supreme Court adopted a rule providing public access to administrative records of all state courts. Peter Scheer of the San Rafael-based California First Amendment Coalition writes "you will be able to request records showing the exact compensation of court employees or reimbursements for judges’ professional expenses. You will be able to obtain a copy of vendor agreements entered into by the courts, or examine detailed financial statements and budget information. Still off limits, of course, are records of the courts’ internal deliberations in adjudicated cases."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

MediaNews to restructure debt in Q1 2010

MediaNews Group plans to restructure its debt, reported to be about $1 billion, in the first three months of next year. That's the headline from a 4-page memo CEO Dean Singleton (right) and President Jody Lodovic (left) have sent their employees nationwide. And that's obviously good news for the owner of several Bay Area newspapers including the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. Will that mean an end to furloughs? Not so fast, they say. "The Company must see clear evidence of improving economic conditions before such decisions are made. We will keep all options open, including reinstatement on a phased approach." Below is the text of the memo. (Thank you to those who e-mailed us, you know who you are!):
    TO: MNG/MNGi Employees 
    FROM: Dean Singleton and Jody Lodovic 
    SUBJECT: 2009 is almost gone. Thanks for getting us through it! 
    First and foremost, let us thank you for your hard work and dedication during this difficult economic period, a time particularly hard for the newspaper industry. You have been asked to do more with less, and we truly appreciate your efforts and sacrifices. 
    While the past three years have been particularly challenging (especially 2009) for MediaNews Group and the newspaper industry, we are proud of your performance and many accomplishments, and we are confident that our strategies will lead us and the industry into a bright future. Let us highlight just a few of your/our accomplishments during this challenging period:

      Advertising — While advertising revenue has been severely challenged, your performance has been near the top of the industry throughout 2009. For the three-month period ended September, for example, your advertising revenue declined 24% as compared to the industry decline of 28.2%. This performance was consistent with the first two quarters. Furthermore, in markets such as St. Paul, the Bay Area, and Los Angeles, we significantly outperformed other newspapers in the regions.

      We have made significant progress in transforming our sales organization and have invested in new tools, such as iShare, training and laptops, to position us to meet the ever changing needs of our advertisers. Your success has been noted and is appreciated.

      Circulation — Your circulation performance is second to none. In the September ABC 6-month report, MediaNews Group had circulation growth even as the industry lost 10.6%. That increase included The Denver Post growth which came after the demise of its primary competitor, The Rocky Mountain News. However, not including Denver, the company's loss was 4.8%, still the best performance in the industry by far. This performance moved the company from number 4 to number 2, as measured by circulation.

      News — Our circulation performance would be impossible if not for the excellent news products each of your newspapers produce. There is not enough space here to comment on all the awards your newsrooms have won this year. While we, like others, have had no choice but to trim news staffs, we have tried to consolidate infrastructure to preserve reporting staff when possible. And with hard work and creativity, your newsrooms have re-invented themselves and continue to do excellent journalism. We are so proud of our outstanding editors and their dedicated staffs. 

      And speaking of creativity, we are awed by the outstanding work you are doing online. As our traffic continues to soar, our audiences between print and online have never been larger.

      Operations — The year has brought major plant consolidation for many of our newspapers. Added to creative circulation and route consolidation and new ways of doing production, you have achieved efficiencies we never would have dreamed possible while improving the service you provide.

      Denver — We completed a significant restructuring in Denver after the closing of the Rocky Mountain News. While we were sad to see the Rocky go, we are excited about our future in Denver. The performance of the Denver Post during this transition has been nothing short of remarkable as we held most of the Rocky unduplicated circulation and operating performance continues to improve each month.

      Internet Strategy — A group from your newspapers met offsite last April to chart our digital course for the future. Since that time, several task forces have been working to put more meat on the bones. We are now in position to start implementing the strategies we developed. Step one is to install a new content management system that will serve as the foundation for our strategies. Upon completion, we will begin building new local.com and news.com websites in each of our markets. Our largest markets should be up and running by mid-2010. In addition, we are working to implement strategies to protect and monetize our content. New pay models will begin testing in some markets early next year.

      Mobile — Mobile (and other portable reading devices) represents a significant opportunity for us. Accordingly, we have engaged outside mobile expertise to help us develop our mobile strategies. We have completed phase 1 of the process and hope to have a fully mapped out mobile strategy early in 2010.

    MediaNews Group is committed to making the necessary investments to implement its strategies. However, these investments must be made prudently and cautiously given the challenges we face to improve our balance sheet. As always, we must balance the need to move quickly with resources and capital available.

    MediaNews, like many other newspaper companies, entered the current downturn with a reasonable level of debt based on historical measures. However, the current newspaper industry environment bears no resemblance to any previous newspaper downturn, and the magnitude of the structural and cyclical decline was simply unimaginable just a few years ago. Consequently, we, along with much of the industry, have more debt than is comfortable.

    We have been working closely with our banks to restructure our debt and position MediaNews Group to execute its strategies and lead our newspapers into a positive future. Yes, we believe newspapers have a bright future! We are near agreement on the terms of a restructuring plan which we expect will be completed toward the end of the first quarter of 2010. Upon completion, MediaNews expects to have a manageable level of debt, and we look forward to working with each of you to take your newspapers into a changing but exciting future.

    As we near the end of 2009, you may have questions regarding annual reviews, 401(k) contributions, health care benefits, and future furloughs, etc. While it is our hope and desire to reinstate Company-wide salary reviews and 401(k) contributions as soon as possible and avoid future furloughs, it is premature to make those decisions. The Company must see clear evidence of improving economic conditions before such decisions are made. We will keep all options open, including reinstatement on a phased approach. As you can imagine, these are not easy decisions. Our highest priority is positioning MediaNews Group for a bright future and preserving/protecting its most valuable asset ­— its employees. We will let you know as soon as those decisions are made.

    Let us say again how much we appreciate your efforts. Your contributions are vital to the future success of MediaNews Group and the newspapers it publishes. We're probably biased, but we believe you all comprise the best newspaper team in the business. We're proud to work with you. Let us wish you and your family happy and healthy holidays and a happy new year!

Move over Eyewitness Blues Band

Leah Garchik reports that "the KTVU Channel 2 News holiday party featured the debut of the Channel 2 band. Mark Ibanez sang 'Johnny B. Goode,' Joe Fonzi was on drums, and Ken Wayne sang 'Blue Christmas' a la Elvis. "Take that, KPIX's Eyewitness Blues Band!" says spy Gasia Mikaelian."

Monday, December 21, 2009

TV networks, newspapers seek broadcast of Prop 8 trial

Bay City News is reporting that a coalition of television networks and newspapers asked a federal judge in San Francisco today for permission to televise next month's trial on the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban.

Ten media organizations sent U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker a letter saying they would like to provide gavel-to-gavel broadcast and webcast coverage of the trial, scheduled to begin Jan. 11.

Pool coverage would be handled by In Session, formerly known as Court TV, the letter said.

The coalition's attorney, Thomas Burke, wrote, "We appreciate the court's attention to this matter and look forward to the opportunity to provide coverage of these historic proceedings."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Paper apologizes for guest opinion calling for a "bounty" on Obama's head

This item is from the Santa Barbara Daily Sound, a bit out of the range of the Press Club blog, but still interesting. The Sound's publisher, former Palo Alto Daily News managing editor Jeramy Gordon, is apologizing for a guest opinion piece by a Santa Barbara resident who called for a "bounty" on President Obama. The following is from Gordon's apology:
    There’s no excuse for why the article was published. The column is indefensible and the proper measures have been taken to ensure such hatred is never published again.

    We would like to apologize for breaking the trust of our readers. Even if the assassination of our president wasn’t Perry’s intended meaning — which she claims — it’s a conclusion that many highly educated people came to.

    To be clear, neither Perry nor the Daily Sound offered a bounty. And the Daily Sound would never advocate for the assassination of our president or any other person.
Good thing they'd never do that. Ouch!

SacBee wants to cut severance pay

The Sacramento News Review reports that management at the Sacramento Bee wants to reduce the severance pay workers would get if they're laid off. Currently, the maximum severance pay allowed is 40 weeks. A new proposal would cut that to 26 weeks. The Guild, which obviously isn't happy about it, says the Bee just wants to make it $10,000 to $20,000 cheaper to lay off some of the paper's most veteran employees.

When are we getting an ESPNSF.com?

With the roll out of ESPNBoston, ESPNDallas and ESPNChicago and, on Monday, ESPNLA, we're wondering when the Worldwide Leader in Sports will launch a Bay Area Web site.

The Press Club found that ESPNSF.com was registered by ESPN, Inc., 935 Middle St., Bristol CT 06010-1001 on Jan. 16, 2009. Somebody else has the ESPNBayArea.com URL.

Meanwhile in the Southland, ESPNLA.com is snapping up talent from the LA Times, LA Daily News and Sports Illustrated as it prepares to launch, according to The Big Lead.

Up to a dozen layoffs at the Chron

The NorCal Guild's online bulletin reports that the Chron laid off up to a dozen employees earlier this month. They worked in finance, circulation and SFGate. The Guild noted that management wouldn't explain why the cuts were made in light of the company's announcements suggesting the paper's finances were improving. "It does seem clear, however, that The Chronicle has a long way to go before achieving enough financial stability for anyone to say the era of layoffs is finally over," the Guild bulletin said.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SF Film Critics Circle names best films of 2009

The San Francisco Film Critics Circle has named "The Hurt Locker" as the Best Picture of 2009, while the film's guiding force, Kathryn Bigelow, took the prize for Best Director.

Here's a link to their release listing the year's best films.

Founded in 2002, the circle is comprised of 26 critics from Bay Area publications. Its members include film journalists from the Chronicle, Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, East Bay Express, San Jose Metro, Palo Alto Weekly, the Marin Independent Journal, the Examiner, KRON-TV, Variety, CultureVulture.net and Splicedwire.com.

Eshoo's commercial volume bill approved

The House today approved a bill by Anna Eshoo of Palo Alto that woulod force TV stations to keep commercials from sounding noticeably louder than programs, AP reports. Eshoo said a law was needed because "volunteerism hasn't worked for 50 years."  The Senate still has to approve the legislation.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Mark Curtis joins ABC station in Rhode Island

Former KTVU morning anchor Mark Curtis has been hired as a weekend anchor and political/investigative reporter at the ABC affiliate in Providence, R.I.

Here's a link to the press release that Mark posted on his Web site. And here's a story that appeared on the Web site of his hometown paper, the Danville Weekly.

Curtis was at KTVU from 1993 until 2007. He then went freelance and covered the 2008 presidential campaign. He also wrote a book about the campaign, "Age of Obama: A Reporter's Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President 2008."

Friday, December 11, 2009

USA Network orders pilot of SF legal drama

The Hollywood Reporter says that the USA Network has ordered a pilot of a San Francisco-based legal drama titled "Facing Kate," starring Battlestar Galactica's Michael Trucco, Virginia Williams and Sarah Shahi.

Shahi (pictured) plays Kate, a divorced SF woman who leaves her job at a law firm to become a mediator after the death of her father, who headed a law firm.

Speaking about scripted dramas set in SF, the NBC series "Trauma" apparently hasn't flat-lined despite earlier reports. The network has ordered up three more episodes that will air sometime before the Winter Olympics in mid-February. Since the show's ratings have steadily eroded, it's unclear why three more episodes were ordered.

Ex-punk rocker/physicist leads journalism program

David Nordfors, a Swedish punk rocker-turned-molecular-physicist-turned-journalist, says a lot of journalists can't see the big picture when it comes to technological innovation.

Nordfors is co-founder and executive director of the VINNOVA-Stanford Research Center of Innovation Journalism. The program places its fellows (mainly mid-career journalists) in newsrooms around the Bay Area to learn the new ways that reporters and bloggers were covering technology and innovation. Those newsrooms include the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, CNET and even the Technologizer blog.

Here's a link to an interview Mark Glaser of PBS.com's MediaShift did with Nordfors. Glaser asked Norfors why he started the program:
    We aren't able to have a public discussion [about innovation] because journalism is organized in those same darn verticals as the rest of society. So you have one part of innovation stories on the business page, another part on the tech page, one part is on the politics page, one part on the lifestyle page. 
    All these editors have one part of the story and have no intention of collaborating with the other editors. You have the same stack of silos in the newsroom as out in society. If you're into changing things and finding new solutions, the opportunity is to go across disciplines.

WSJ: KGO-AM, KSFO parent prepares for bankruptcy

The Wall Street Journal reports that Citadel Broadcasting Corp., owner of San Francisco's KGO-AM 810 and KSFO 560, is discussing with its creditors a "pre-arranged" Chapter 11 filing that would reduce the company's debts from $2 billion to $760 million.

The bankruptcy would wipe out individual shareholders, whose shares are currently worth about 5 cents each. That's down from $16 in 2004.

The article notes: "As bad as things are, Citadel has outpaced rivals this year. Its revenue through the end of September dropped 14.7%. Clear Channel's revenue, meanwhile, slid 19.2%, while CBS Radio decreased 23.2%."

The word locally is that both KGO-AM and KSFO are among the few bright spots in the company, which has about 4,000 employees and 243 stations including the former ABC Radio O&Os such as KABC-AM Los Angeles, WABC-AM New York and WLS-AM Chicago.

Creditors have until Tuesday to approve the bankruptcy plan.

Channel 2 looking for dayside executive producer

KTUV has posted a help wanted ad seeking an executive producer for its noon, 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts after the departure of Claudia Lombana on Dec. 2. Lombana left after her 5 p.m. show finally reached No. 1 in its time slot. The Press Club welcomes tips at sfpen-pressclub@sbcglobal.net.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another reason why Dec. 7 will live in infamy

In addition to being Pearl Harbor Day, Dec. 7 is the anniversary of the Peninsula's first free daily newspaper, the Palo Alto Daily News, now known as the Daily News. Staff writer Diana Samuels takes readers down memory lane as the Daily News begins its 15th year of story telling.
    Since The Daily News started, the average home price in Palo Alto has tripled and local companies such as Facebook and Google have become integral parts of everyday life. The Peninsula has changed from a place brimming with startups and endless possibility, to a place still buzzing and full of promise, but tempered with a practicality and resilience that comes from struggling through the dot-com bust and current economic recession.
Full disclosure: The editor of this blog, Dave Price, is mentioned in the story, though he is no longer involved in the Daily News.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bay Area News Project to name editor soon

The American Journalism Review has an update on the Bay Area News Project, the nonprofit being created by the UC Berkeley j-school, KQED and Wells Fargo heir F. Warren Hellman to cover local news. AJR says the project will announce its choice of executive editor in "early December" (that's about now) and start producing news "in the spring."

The story has nothing new on whether The New York Times will use the project's copy. All a Times spokeswoman would say is, "We're having in-depth conversations with the Bay Area News Project, and the conversations have been fruitful."

The project got going back in March when Hearst Corp. said it would close the Chronicle if it didn't get concessions from its unions. Since then the Chron has eliminated 481 jobs and insiders are saying the paper is back in the black. There's no more talk of the Chronicle closing. So it may turn out that the Bay Area News Project will have to compete with the paper it planned to replace.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Banmiller named chairman of media startup

Brian Banmiller (pictured), former business editor at KTVU Channel 2, has been named chairman of a new company that will help amateurs sell video that they shoot on their cell phones to TV stations.

 The company -- called fizwoz (with a lowercase f) -- also announced it has tapped former Channel 2 news director Andrew Finlayson for its advisory board. After leaving Channel 2 in 2004, Finlayson headed up digital media for the Fox Television Stations group. Currently he's a Knight Scholar at Stanford.

Here's a release about the new company.

Pay cuts at Santa Rosa Press Democrat to remain

Last year's pay cuts at the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and other New York Times Regional Group publications will remain in effect next year. That's according to a memo from Michael Golden, head of the New York Times Regional Group, that was posted by Poynter's Romenesko.

Chron leases part of building to tech startups

The Chronicle reports that it is leasing 24,700 square feet of space in its building at 5th and Mission to three  technology companies.

Two of the companies, Hub Bay Area and TechShop, are "incubators" that will provide space, funding and counseling to startups. The third is called Square and is led by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. It develops technology to enable average people to conduct digital financial transactions, including a small credit card swiping device that connects to the audio jack of smart phones, according to the Chron report.

Last year, Hearst Corp., owner of the Chron, announced it had reached a development deal with Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland to explore development options for the four-acre 5th and Mission site. One scenario would be to move the newspaper's offices to another San Fraancisco location and redevelop the entire site.

Google throws newspapers a bone

Google, which has been making money from posting newspaper stories on its news site, announced Tuesday it would let publishers block their content from Google News automatically by adding code to their Web sites, according to the Wall Street Journal. It appears as if Google and publishers are negotiating. First, newspaper companies such as MediaNews and News Corp. suggested they would block Google from obtaining certain stories from their Web sites. Now Google is responding. MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton is quoted by the Journal as saying it's a good faith move. "It’s a signal that they’re willing to work with the industry," said Singleton, whose papers include the Mercury News and other paid dailies in the Bay Area.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Paper boycotted, accused of anti-Semitism

The New York Times' Jesse McKinley reports that a small but vociferous group of critics have launched a boycott of the weekly Berkeley Daily Planet, accusing editor and co-owner Becky O'Malley (pictured, foreground) of publishing too many letters and opinion pieces critical of Israel. McKinley writes:
    Those accusations are the basis of a campaign to drive away the paper’s advertisers and a Web site that strongly suggests The Planet and its editor are anti-Semitic. 
    “We think that Ms. O’Malley is addicted to anti-Israel expression just as an alcoholic is to drinking,” Jim Sinkinson, who has led the campaign to discourage advertisers, wrote in an e-mail message. He is the publisher of Infocom Group, a media relations company. “If she wants to serve and please the East Bay Jewish community, she would be safer avoiding the subject entirely.” 
    Ms. O’Malley denies any personal or editorial bias, and bristles at the suggestion that she should not publish letters about Israel in a city like Berkeley, which has a sizable Jewish community and a populace — and City Council — that often weigh in on Middle East and international affairs. 
    “Frankly, the term that crossed my mind was ‘protection racket,’ ” Ms. O’Malley said. “I think that is unusual to say the least that anybody would think that they could dictate a whole area of the world that is simply off limits for discussion.” 
    Whether right or wrong, Mr. Sinkinson’s campaign has left The Planet — a weekly already hammered by the recession — gasping for breath. Advertising sales revenue is down some 60 percent from last year, Ms. O’Malley says. In October, the paper trimmed its skeleton crew of full-time reporters to one from three, and has begun a fund-raising drive to keep publishing. 
    Still, she says she has no intention of stopping the publication of submitted letters, citing a commitment to free speech that is a legacy of the city where the Free Speech Movement was born in the 1960s.
O'Malley admits that she does not fact-check letters, saying it is well beyond the paper's resources.

The Times says both sides met to discuss a resolution to their dispute, "but it was unclear if progress was made." (Photo credit: Monica Almeida/The New York Times)

Singleton isn't going to battle Google

MediaNews chief executive Dean Singleton disputed a Bloomberg News report (mentioned previously on this blog) that said two of his newspapers will block Google from linking to their local news stories. "We are in no shape or form at odds with Google," Singleton is quoted by the AP as saying. "There is no question that Google provides us with a large audience for our content, which we monetize with ad revenue."