Saturday, January 30, 2010

Time to enter the Press Club's journalism contest

The entry period for the Press Club's 32nd annual Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards has begun. You can download the entry form and rules here.

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

As always, the entries are judged by press clubs or Society of Professional Journalists chapters outside the Bay Area. No San Francisco Peninsula Press Club member will be involved in the judging.
Plaques for first, second and third place will be presented during an awards banquet in June.

Last year, the Press Club received 424 entries and presented 165 awards in 67 categories. Pictured above are three of last year's winners, Julia Scott (left), Christine Morente and Neil Gonzales.

The deadline to enter is Feb. 26. For more information, e-mail Darryl Compton.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Major paper's pay service attracts 35 customers

As newspapers in the Bay Area consider putting their stories behind pay walls, they might consider the experience of Newsday on Long Island. According to the New York Observer, after three months, only 35 people signed up to pay $5 a week for access to all of Newsday's stories.

Newsday's Web site redesign cost $4 million. The 35 subscribers will provide $9,000 in revenue over a year's time. The paper's free Web site is losing readers and advertisers now that content is being withheld.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, the Chronicle is withholding columnists such as Matier & Ross from its free SFGate site, but making them available to e-edition subscribers. Certain stories are also being treated the same way.

MediaNews Group, owner of the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, plans this year to experiment with a pay wall at its papers in Chico and York, Pa.

Pleasanton Weekly celebrates 10th birthday

With all of the reports we've had on newspapers closing or cutting back, it's refreshing to note the anniversary of a local newspaper. The Plesanton Weekly is celebrating 10 years of serving up news about local politics, government, schools and neighborhoods. Here's a link to the anniversary story. Publisher Janet Pelletier notes that one of the paper's favorite features began accidentally.
    Former Pleasanton Police Chief Tim Neal, who retired in 2006, thought it would be funny to email a photo of himself at the Statue of Liberty, holding a copy of the paper. After the photo was published, the Weekly began receiving a barrage of vacation photos from residents. Thus, Take Us Along was born. Nine years later, Take Us Along is going strong with thousands of photos sent and emailed.
In the photo above Gina Channell-Allen, president, and Jeb Bing, editor/publisher of the Pleasanton Weekly, are flanked by the rest of the staff at the newspaper, including Trina Cannon, Kristin Herman, Karen Klein, Mary Hantos, Kathy Martin, Lisa Oefelein, Barbara Lindsey, Dolores Ciardelli, Paul Crawford, Sandy Lee, Manuel Valenzuela, Lili Cao, Janet Pelletier, Andrea Heggelund and Emily West. (Photo credit: Pleasanton Weekly)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

KGO-AM falls to No. 3 over holidays

People love Christmas music. A lot of people do. Because KOIT-FM jumped from third to first during the holiday season (from 4.3% in November to 8.1%) when it switched to all Christmas music. KGO-AM 810, which has been No. 1 since the Marconi era, fell to third. Remaining at No. 2 in both surveys was KCBS, which was likely bolstered by its FM signal (now just a year old). Here's a link to the Arbitron ratings at Radio-Info.com. And here's the usual disclaimer. Cumes are only beauty contest figures and they don't matter to advertisers. Advertisers buy time based on listenership in key demos, like women 18-49, etc.

Almost forgot the South Bay. KBAY-FM, which also switched to Christmas music, was No. 1 with 9.8%. But KBAY is often No. 1 in the South Bay. No surprise there. KOIT surged, going from 3.1 to 6.0. When it comes to News and News/Talk in the South Bay, KCBS is tops (No. 3 overall) and next is KSFO (No. 7). No. 8 is KQED and ninth is KGO. KLIV 1590, San Jose's all news station, is 29th.

MediaNews bankruptcy hearing March 4

Carey
The date has been set. U.S. District Judge Kevin J. Carey of the bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday set a date of March 4 to hear the MediaNews Chapter 11 case.

The deadline to file objections is Feb. 4. To object, go to PDF page 139 (numbered in the document as page 124) in the MNG disclosure notice for instructions.

Appearing before Judge Carey was Kathryn A. Coleman of Hughes Hubbard and Reed, the Manhattan law firm representing MNG.

She briefly recited the situation — that the bankruptcy plan would reduce the company's debt from $930 million to $178 million.

Judge Carey seems to get a lot of media bankruptcy cases. Recently he approved $45.6 million in Tribune Company bonuses. Here's a link to a union site where he was criticized.

Contrary to earlier reports, Hearst will remain a shareholder in MediaNews, and will probably do better than other creditors. Hearst's share of MNG's non-Bay Area assets will go from 31% to 14%. While that sounds like a haircut, Hearst will retain more of its $317 million investment in MNG than other shareholders, who will only get 19 cents on the dollar.

Nothing in the bankruptcy papers filed so far rules out the idea that MNG and Hearst might try to swing a deal to sell the Chron to Singleton, as was discussed a couple of years ago.

In fact, media venture capitalist and "Reflections of a Newsosaur" blogger Alan Mutter says this scenario might go down:
    The most likely path in San Francisco would be to add the San Francisco Chronicle, where Hearst has sunk more than a $1 billion since 2000 without seeing much profit, to the chain of newspapers Singleton operates in the Bay Area. The long-running losses at the Chronicle, plus the MediaNews bankruptcy, may be sufficient to persuade regulators that an antitrust waiver is necessary to sustain journalism in Northern California. As an added argument in support of a waiver, Hearst could threaten – as it did early in 2009 — to shut the Chronicle, which would make San Francisco the largest American city without a daily newspaper. Adding the Chronicle to his Bay Area juggernaut would enable Singleton to eliminate most ad sales, administrative and back-office positions. At the same time, a consolidation would provide ample opportunities to streamlining production and circulation. This also would result in potentially the deepest cuts yet in the Chronicle newsroom. The Chronicle editorial staff, which has been halved over the years to a couple of hundred traumatized souls, could be thinned yet again to perhaps a couple of dozen individuals. Further insight into Singleton’s operating approach in the Bay Area is offered here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

MNG execs to get big salaries despite bankruptcy

Jody Lodovic and Dean Singleton
While most creditors have accepted 19 cents on the dollar, documents MediaNews Group has filed in bankruptcy court show the company's chief executive, Dean Singleton (right), could get as much as $1.49 million in annual compensation while his heir apparent, Jody Lodovic (left), could get up to $2.25 million.

Lodovic will receive:
    • a base salary of $1,006,000; 
    • 3% of the new stock of MediaNews; 
    • is eligible for a bonus of as much as $500,000;
    • has already been paid $250,000 this fiscal year for work related to The Denver Post;
    • and will get possibly $500,000 depending on how the bankruptcy goes.
Read about it here. Turn to PDF pages 69 and 70 (which are numbered 54 and 55 on the document itself).

Related articles:
    • LA Observed points out that Singleton's newspapers aren't printing his salaries.
    The Seattle Times rails against the idea that banks will own 88% of MediaNews. The Seattle paper discusses Singleton's latest business model: 
      If there ever was a way to kill the American people's appetite for newspapers, it is this. Make the paper non-local. Make it the same everywhere. Treat it as a "property," like a telephone-company bond or a share of stock. 
      Don't sweat the long run because in the long run, as the economist said, we are all dead. That is not the way to save newspapers. 
      Newspapers need to be in the hands of people who care about them. Those are almost always investors with a strong local connection. The San Jose Mercury News ought to be owned by people from San Jose — not by a company in Denver owned by another company in Denver owned by a bank in Charlotte, N.C. The banks taking over MediaNews should dismember the chain and sell the newspapers to local owners who will do right by them.
    • The Denver Daily News reports that MediaNews has filed a motion with the bankruptcy court to prevent its phones from being shut off.

'Pimp' in Acorn videos slated to speak in SF

James O'Keefe, who posed as a pimp with Hannah Giles in videos they shot in Acorn offices, is scheduled to appear Monday (Feb. 1) at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco to discuss undercover journalism in a conversation with Josh Wolf.

There's only one problem. O'Keefe and three others were arrested Monday for trying to tap the phones of Senator Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana. (Link to AP story.)

O'Keefe is out on bond, but there's no word about whether he can leave Louisiana to participate in Monday's Commonwealth Club talk with Wolf.

Here's a bit of the club's description of the talk on Monday:

"Join our discussion with O'Keefe and Wolf as they talk about the future of journalism and the benefits (and pitfalls) of undercover reporting. Is independent, undercover journalism an emerging trend, or will it continue to be the exception to the rule?"

(Photo credit: New York Post)

NYT gets 1,000 new Bay Area subscribers

The New York Times, which had 40,080 daily subscribers in the Bay Area and 57,514 on Sunday, has picked up 1,000 more after introducing its Bay Area section, NYT Editor of Digital Initiatives Jim Schacter told a group of local journos on Tuesday.

Schacter also spoke about the concern raised on blogs that the NYT is looking to turn Berkeley j-school students into unpaid reporters. He said the NYT's deal will be with the Bay Area News Project (the nonprofit funded by Wells Fargo heir F. Warren Hellman), and the project will decide how contributors are paid.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Michael Savage returns to local radio Feb. 1

Michael Savage, who was dumped by KNEW-AM 910 in September, has landed at KTRB-AM 860, which has an all-sports format. Savage, who lives in Marin County, will continue to a political show, however.

"Sports fans are generally tuned out of politics, and I want to tune them in to what is happening in this great country," he said, according to World Net Daily. "Hopefully, with this new demographic, I will attain the high ratings numbers I once had and even exceed that in time."

Savage is still heard on 400 stations nationwide. He returns to the air here on Feb. 1.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Palo Alto Weekly blasts MNG bankruptcy


The Chapter 11 filing of MediaNews holding company Allied Media has launched the newsroom of the Palo Alto Weekly into operation. The Weekly competes with the Mercury News and the Daily News (formerly based in Palo Alto but now located in Menlo Park), both owned by MediaNews.
    ... MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton told the Wall Street Journal that the banks assuming an 80 percent interest in the company will insist on further consolidations and improved profitability. He thus signaled that continued cost-cutting is likely, but declined to be more specific about consolidations other than to tell people to "look at the map." 
    ... While it is likely that the banks taking over MediaNews will seek to sell their interest to others as soon as they can, the low current values of publicly traded media companies suggest that will be difficult. 
    Federal law gives banks up to five years to divest themselves of companies acquired through bankruptcy or due to collateral provisions in loan agreements. 
    Unfortunately, the Mercury News did its readers a disservice by its buried and incomplete coverage of its own restructuring. In doing so, it ironically demonstrated the hazards of media organizations being owned by large corporate parents.
Other stories in the Palo Alto Weekly about the MediaNews Chapter 11 filing include:

Friday, January 22, 2010

MNG bankruptcy lists pension guarantee agency

MediaNews Group, which officially filed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition in federal court today, listed the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. as a potential creditor that may claim a $70 million debt.

The papers filed by MediaNews today didn't elaborate on the pension debt, but the PBGC guarantees pension benefits when businesses close or enter into bankruptcy. It secures the pensions with premiums paid by other employers.

A letter MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton sent to employees last week said, "Pension plans will not be affected as the company intends to continue its sponsorships of all current plans."

The papers listed The Bank of New York Mellon as the largest creditor in the bankruptcy case, with a debt of $326 million.

The Denver-based chain of 54 daily newspapers listed debt of $500 million to $1 billion and assets of $100 million to $500 million. A press release issued today said the company hopes to emerge from Chapter 11 in two months.

The filing was done under the name Affiliated Media Inc., which is described as the holding company of MediaNews Group. The case number is 10-10202, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Brian Bothun pleads guilty to porn charge

Former mid-Peninsula journalist Brian Bothun pleaded guilty today to a misdemeanor charge of possession of pornography, the Menlo Park Almanac reports.

Bothun has worked at all three Palo Alto newspapers: as an intern at the Palo Alto Weekly in the early 1990s, a reporter and editor at the Palo Alto Daily News from 1996-2005, and as a reporter for one month at the Daily Post in 2008.

Sentencing is set for April 6, said San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Bothun faces a sentence of up to 204 days in county jail -- the 180-day maximum jail sentence, plus an additional day for each of the 24 pornographic images on his computer, Wagstaffe said.

Bothun was arrested on child pornography charges in March 2008, when his partner called Atherton police to report domestic violence. When police officers showed up, he told them about pornographic material on Bothun's computer, according to Wagstaffe.

Bothun was also charged at the time with possession of a glass pipe, which is considered drug paraphernalia. He has been out of jail on $100,000 bail, but has been arrested twice since on drug-related charges: once in July 2008 in Menlo Park, and again on April 5, 2009, in Santa Clara.

BA News Project CEO to make $400,000 a year

The SF Weekly is reporting that Lisa Frazier, the CEO of the new F. Warren Hellman-financed Bay Area News Project, will make $400,000 a year. Not bad for somebody who has no journalistic experience. She's a business and media consultant.

By comparison, former Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, who heads the Herbert and Marion Sandler news nonprofit Pro Publica, was paid $570,000 in 2008, according to IRS documents.

The SF Weekly also reports:
    Newsroom sources at KQED, meanwhile, told SF Weekly that unease over Frazier taking the CEO spot may have led to the station quitting the Bay Area News Project. Frazier had been initially tasked with searching for the person to fill the position she has now assumed.
Read more about the project's new editor below.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Air America goes silent, files for bankruptcy

The New York Times is reporting this afternoon that Air America, whose affiliates included Clear Channel's KKGN "Green 960" in San Francisco, has ceased broadcasting and will file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation. Green 960 had picked up Rachel Maddow, Randi Rhodes and Thom Hartmann from Air America during the progressive network's six year run. But Rhodes and Hartmann left the network and now are with different syndicators. Their shows still air on Green 960. Air America filed for bankruptcy once before, Chapter 11 reorganization, in 2006, but apparently never made money.

Bay Area News Project names CEO, editor

The F. Warren Hellman-funded Bay Area News Project announced today it has hired media and business consultant Lisa Frazier as its CEO and Jonathan Weber, co-founder of The Industry Standard and a former LA Times staff writer, as its editor.

The announcement also stated that the project will supply news for the Bay Area sections of The New York Times.

While the NYT's involvement had been discussed for months, with KQED's decision to withdraw from the project, there were questions about whether the Times would leave as well.

Weber said he intends to hire at least 15 full-time journalists by the end of the year.

Frazier has been involved with the News Project since April 2009, when Wells Fargo heir Hellman sought help developing a self-supporting model for local news in conjunction with the UC-Berkeley journalism school. She is currently a partner in McKinsey & Company's San Francisco office, where she specializes in media and entertainment.

"Frazier and Weber will now be focused on getting the new organization up and running," a press release said. "During the next several months they will be hiring editorial staff, building the Web site and other platforms, raising additional funds, deciding on the brand, and completing the search for a San Francisco office location.

"Over the next few months my plan is to start building a stellar newsroom to cover Bay Area government and politics, the arts, business, entertainment, community news and other topics," said Weber in the press release. "We'll also be working to develop a wide range of partnerships with other media organizations and individuals. Successful collaborations will be one of the keys to our success."

    UPDATE, 8:01 P.M. THURSDAY: BayNewser has done an extensive interview with Weber, who says he'd like to have a newsroom of 30 to 40 people in three years. He also suggests that the project's relationship with The New York Times isn't fully scoped out.

SF Weekly parent says it can't pay judgment

A spokesman for New Times Media, parent of the SF Weekly, says his company doesn't have the money to pay a $21 million judgment the Bay Guardian has won in an illegal pricing case, according to a report in the Arizona Republic today.

Spokesman Andy Van De Voorde said the Phoenix-based New Times Media doesn't get any money from its individual publications across the country because each paper is organized either as limited-liability corporations or limited partnerships.

Van De Voorde said neither New Times Media nor SF Weekly has the money to pay the judgment.

The Bay Guardian is considering several options for collecting the money including forcing New Times into bankruptcy.

The Guardian, headed by Bruce Brugmann, persuaded a jury in March 2008 that New Times Media had been selling ads at below cost in an attempt to run the Guardian out of business.

Other New Times Media publications include the Village Voice Orange County Weekly, LA Weekly, Seattle Weekly, Houston Press, Dallas Observer, Westword in Denver and others. The chain is headed by Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.

If Van De Voorde's name is familiar, that's because he was brought in from the chain's headquarters to cover the trial in San Francisco for the SF Weekly.

Report: Hearst to lose big in MediaNews bankruptcy

Newspaper industry analyst capitalist and former Chronicle assistant managing editor Alan Mutter says the big loser in the MediaNews bankruptcy will be Chronicle owner Hearst Corp., which had $317 million in MNG since 2006:
    Hearst improbably put money into MediaNews, its direct competitor in northern California, in the hopes of reversing the almost continuous loses it has suffered since stepping up to buy the Chronicle in 2000. Instead of fixing the long-festering problem, Hearst became not just the biggest loser among the equity investors in MediaNews. It will be the only one.

    Neither MediaNews chief Dean Singleton nor his long-time business partner Richard B. Scudder will lose a nickel in the bankruptcy, because neither ever put any of his own money into the company, said a MediaNews spokesman. But they aren't unscathed. Each of the MediaNews founders will suffer the complete loss of paper gains that at one point theoretically were worth as much as $500 million per man.

Mutter goes on to say that Hearst decided to help MediaNews in the hopes that they together could enter into some sort of operating partnership to staunch the losses Hearst was continuing to fund at the Chronicle. That was thwarted by an antitrust lawsuit filed by San Francisco real estate developer Clint Reilly.

Last March, the Chron's Phil Bronstein and Hearst lawyer Eve Burton apparently convinced Speaker Nancy Pelosi to ask the Obama administration's Justice Department to loosen up on its antitrust rules for newspapers, paving the way for a Chronicle-MNG merger. But Attorney General Eric Holder threw cold water on the idea and has shown no public signs of changing his mind.

So which MediaNews paper is losing money?

One of the eyebrow-raising claims in MediaNews Group CEO Dean Singleton's memo to his employees about his Chapter 11 filing was that all but one of his chain's 54 papers was profitable. If you've got $930 million in debt, how could you say any of your papers were profitable? But we think we know what he means, that if you don't include debt, 53 of the chain's 54 papers would be making money. So which one is losing money by that standard? The St. Paul Pioneer Press, which Singleton bought in 2006 in a deal that included the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Monterey Herald. A media blog in Minneapolis quotes Marshall Anstandig, a MediaNews labor lawyer, as saying the Pioneer Press lost money in the last three years. The paper is losing money even though it has apparently increased its revenues and paid circulation.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

WSJ: MediaNews struggled to avoid bankruptcy

The Wall Street Journal reports that MediaNews had been teetering for months and, according to CEO Dean Singleton, had been trying to rework its debt load instead of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"It was personally difficult for me," Singleton told the Journal. "I'm a ranch kid from West Texas, and we don't like the 'B word.'"

The Journal said that Singleton's ability to retain control over MediaNews "represents a face-saving victory in the company's restructuring."

Singleton said that once the bankruptcy is over, he plans to lead an industrywide consolidation. Asked which newspapers or groups of newspapers might be combined, Mr. Singleton answered: "You can look at the map."

The MediaNews chain owns most of the paid-circulation dailies in the Bay Area including the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Marin Independent Journal, San Mateo County Times and the Daily News in Palo Alto.

(More coverage below)


Saturday, January 16, 2010

KQED drops out of Bay Area News Project

David Weir of BNET says the deal to create a non-profit local news organization in San Francisco based at KQED has collapsed. Weir reports that KQED has pulled out of the deal, a fact that has been confirmed by Berkeley J-School dean Neil Henry in an e-mail to Poynter's Romenesko. However, Henry says, "We have secured an outstanding CEO and an extraordinary editor in chief whose names will be announced later this month." That matches what the Press Club was told last month by a spokesman for the project.

Meanwhile, Weir says that KQED's board is in the midst of yet another contentious leadership change as it attempts to replace President and CEO Jeff Clarke. Its board has rejected all three internal candidates for CEO.

Merc downplays MediaNews bankruptcy filing

The Mercury News ran the news that its parent company was about to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings on the bottom of the business page today. The headline, "Mercury News parent swaps debt for equity," was the smallest headline for a news story on the page, and it didn't mention the word bankruptcy. The first two paragraphs don't use the B word either. One line before the jump, the word "bankruptcy" can be found. In a letter to employees (see below), CEO Dean Singleton said the "financial restructuring is a non event for readers and advertisers."

Friday, January 15, 2010

MediaNews to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

The publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, San Mateo County Times, Marin Independent Journal and Palo Alto Daily News is filing for bankruptcy protection.

MediaNews Group Inc., using the name of a holding company that had not been disclosed previously (Affiliated Media Inc.), announced it would seek protection from the federal courts from creditors, including Hearst Corp., owner of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Under the "prepackaged bankruptcy," the percentage of the company controlled by CEO Dean Singleton (left) will double from 10% to 20%.

However, Hearst Corp., owner of the Chron, will apparently lose its share in the 54-paper chain, along with Singleton's longtime partner, Richard Scudder, 96, of New Jersey.

Scudder was previously chairman of MediaNews. Now Singleton is both chairman and CEO.

Here's the AP story. We should note that Singleton is chairman of AP as well as CEO of MediaNews:
    DENVER — Affiliated Media Inc., the holding company for MediaNews Group Inc. newspapers including The Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, said Friday that it plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

    The company said it would file a "prepackaged" plan already approved by lenders, which should allow it to emerge from bankruptcy more quickly. A date for the filing hasn't been announced, but the company said it would be in the near future. The reorganization plan was expected to be filed in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware.

    It would be at least the 13th bankruptcy filing by a U.S. newspaper publisher in the past 13 months. The owners of dozens of newspapers have been pushed into bankruptcy protection as the recession and competition from the Internet have sapped advertising revenue.

    MediaNews' management and newspaper operations, employees and vendors won't be affected by the holding company's restructuring, MediaNews Group Chairman and CEO William Dean Singleton said. He is the chairman of The Associated Press board of directors.

    Under the plan, company debt would fall from about $930 million to $165 million. Senior lenders would swap debt for stock, the company said. The group of 116 lenders led by Bank of America would hold a majority of stock but not voting control.

    Management led by Singleton would retain 20 per cent of the company through stock and warrants. Singleton and company President Joseph J. Lodovic IV will own all class A shares, allowing them to choose a majority of the seven-member board of directors. Other stockholders will own class B and C shares.

    Singleton said the company has enough cash to fund its operations.

    The Hearst Corp., and the family of MediaNews co-founder Richard Scudder are giving up interests in MediaNews, according to a person who had knowledge of the plan but spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want discuss the plan publicly.

    Singleton and Scudder, a 1935 Princeton University graduate from New Jersey, founded MediaNews in 1985. The two bought the Gloucster County Times in New Jersey in 1983 and formed MediaNews two years later. The company now owns 54 daily newspapers, including St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Salt Lake Tribune, as well as more than 100 non-daily newspapers, Web sites, television and radio broadcasters.

    Hearst and MediaNews were involved in a complicated deal to acquire The Monterey County Herald and St. Paul Pioneer Press from McClatchy Co. in 2006. Hearst invested $317.3million in MediaNews, which then bought the two newspapers and the Torrance Daily Breeze from Hearst. A spokesman for Hearst declined to comment Friday.

    Affiliated Media's bankruptcy filing illustrates the uncertainty facing major newspapers publishers as their main source of income - print advertising - has plunged during the past four years. Since 2005, the industry's annual ad sales have dropped by more than $20 billion, a decline of about 40 per cent, based on figures from the Newspaper Association of America.

    Publishers are hoping the slump will ease this year as the economy recovers from the worst recession in 70 years. But newspapers still must figure out how to support their operations as more readers and advertisers migrate to the Internet, where ads sell for dramatically less, many news articles are free, and the competition is much greater.

    "They don't know how much advertising is going to come back to them" as the economy bounces back, said newspaper analyst Ken Doctor of Outsell Inc.

    Mass layoffs and other cost-cutting efforts have helped keep most publishers, but those loaded down with debt like Affiliated Media can't afford to shoulder the financial burdens that they took on during better times.

    "This is the new reality," Doctor said. "Newspapers are starting to feel more stable than they did last year. But is this a plateau or just another ledge that they are standing on now?" Newspapers' advertising and subscription revenues have been hurt with the rise of online sites that let people read news and advertise for free online. Singleton said Affiliated Media's restructuring would give the company "breathing space" to create a new business model for media.

    "We who actually work in the newspaper business have a direct interest in keeping newspapers healthy. But we also can see that the communities we serve rely on newspapers, not only to keep everyone informed, and to check government and corporate abuse, but also to provide a cohesiveness that our society very much needs. ... Yet many of our citizens now take it for granted, and forget how precious it really is," Singleton said in a letter to employees. 
UPDATE: 9 A.M. SATURDAY: Thanks to various readers of the Press Club blog, here is the letter that Singleton sent to MediaNews employees on Friday:
    Dear MediaNews Group Employee:

    I have important and positive news about our company’s future.

    Today, our corporate holding company, Affiliated Media, Inc. announced that it has obtained the approval of its lenders on a financial restructuring that will sharply reduce debt, boost cash flow and give the company greater financial flexibility. The plan will be implemented in the near future through a “prepackaged” filing in United States Bankruptcy Court.

    Unlike previous filings by media companies, this one does not involve our newspaper or broadcast operations. Only our holding company, Affiliated Media, Inc., will be restructured. We expect all of our daily operations to continue without disruption, with employees receiving normal salary and benefits, suppliers being paid, advertising being placed and newspapers being printed and delivered as usual. No layoffs, sale of newspapers, facility closings or consolidations are anticipated as a result of the financial reorganization announced today.

    The prepackaged plan, structured in consultation with our senior lenders, is expected to reduce our debt of about $930 million to $165 million through a debt-for-equity swap by the senior lenders. The lower debt and interest payments will give us breathing space to create a new model for the newspapers we publish.

    There will be no management change or change in control of the company. I will continue as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MediaNews Group and will continue to select a majority of members of the Board of Directors. Our management team will be authorized to own 20% of the company through stock and warrants. I and President Joseph J. Lodovic IV will control the company through our ownership of all of the company’s class A shares. Other stockholders will own class B and C shares.

    Since our newspapers are not involved in this restructuring, you’ll see no changes in your operation. Our plan allows for trade and other business vendors to be paid in the ordinary course of business. The company is current on all vendor payments, and we expect to remain so. We have adequate cash to fund all of our operations in a normal fashion.

    Even as the newspaper environment has badly deteriorated over the past three years, you can be proud that MediaNews has outperformed the industry as a whole. Our total newspaper circulation grew for the September Audit Bureau of Circulations 6-month reporting period, while industry circulation dropped 10.6%. And our innovative advertising sales initiatives have resulted in advertising declines lower than the industry as a whole. As you know, the December quarter has performed better than the first nine months of the year.

    All but one of our newspapers are profitable.

    We expect to quickly emerge from our reorganization with one of the strongest balance sheets in our industry. This transaction gives us a far better platform from which to develop, grow and participate in the consolidation and re-invention of the newspaper industry.

    As our co-founder and chairman-emeritus Dick Scudder told me as we sought ways to ensure the company’s future, “This is not about you or me; it’s about our newspapers, our employees and the communities they serve.”

    I couldn’t agree more!

    I think all of us believe, with good reason, that a financially viable and independent free press is imperative for our country’s democracy. We who actually work in the newspaper business have a direct interest in keeping newspapers healthy. But we also can see that the communities we serve rely on newspapers, not only to keep everyone informed, and to check government and corporate abuse, but also to provide a cohesiveness that our society very much needs. Our nation was founded by men who recognized the indispensable role of a vibrant press in building a truly democratic society. That great insight, fought for and defended vigorously for over 200 years, is one of the reasons we emerged as the leader of the free world and became a model and inspiration for people fighting oppression all over the world. Yet many of our citizens now take it for granted, and forget how precious it really is.

    As you all know, the business model that has supported newspapers in past decades is now in the middle of wrenching change. There is still no clear or certain vision for our future, nor is there a consensus on how to approach it. But our company is making real progress as we rebuild an out-dated media model and I am confident that we can continue to do so.

    As your chairman, I am personally committed to working with you to define the future of the newspaper industry that you and I love so much. I thank you for devoting your lives to a cause that is so important to maintaining the standards and morals of our civilization. There are those who believe that our re-invention of the newspaper model will not succeed. I know it will, and I trust you do too.

    I look forward to working with you as we take our newspapers into a changing but successful new media world.

    Enclosed with this letter is the press release that we issued today with our announcement. We will keep you informed as we move ahead.

    Sincerely,

    William Dean Singleton

    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

    Q & A for Employees of MediaNews Group

    What is the news?


    Affiliated Media, Inc., parent of MediaNews Group newspapers, has obtained the approval of its lenders on a plan to sharply reduce its debt, boost its cash flow and give it greater financial flexibility. The plan will be implemented in the near future through a “prepackaged” filing in United States Bankruptcy Court in Delaware under chapter 11 filing.

    What is a prepackaged plan?

    All filings involve the preparation of a “plan of reorganization” which describes how the claims of each class of creditor and equity claim is to be treated, and must be approved by those creditors entitled to vote. A prepackaged plan is one where the “plan of reorganization” is prepared and approved by the creditors before the action is actually filed. Therefore, there is certainty about the outcome and the time within the process is greatly reduced, and could be as short as 60 days or less.

    In this respect, the AMI filing is a simple balance sheet restructuring to reduce debt. None of the operating subsidiaries or partnerships are involved. Further, except for our financial creditors (our senior lenders and subordinated note holders who will trade debt for stock), all holding company creditors will be paid in full in the normal course of business so there will be no impact on operations.

    What does this mean for our business?

    There will be no change in our daily operations. The whole point of the transaction is to let us address our balance sheet issues – simply put, too much debt for existing conditions in the industry and the broad economy – while avoiding any disruption to our daily operations. Will there be layoffs?

    No. Our decisions about staffing have always been – and will continue to be – in response to business conditions, not our finances. So while there is no guarantee that advertising or circulation won’t deteriorate further and force us to adjust accordingly, there are no layoffs planned as a result of our financial restructuring. We’re committed to maintaining the staffing we need to serve our readers and advertisers.

    Will pay or benefits be affected?

    No. Unlike with previous filings by media companies, this one does not involve our newspaper or broadcast operations. All benefits, including pay and pensions, will continue to be paid in the normal course of business. Pension plans will not be affected as the company intends to continue its sponsorships of all current plans. Only our holding company, Affiliated Media, Inc., will be restructured.

    Will there be a change in management or in who controls our company?

    No. There will be no management change and no change in control. William Dean Singleton will continue as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MediaNews Group and will continue to select a majority of members of the Board of Directors. Our management team will be authorized to own 20% of the company through stock and warrants. Mr. Singleton and President Joseph J. Lodovic IV will control the company through their ownership of all of the company’s class A shares. Other stockholders will own class B and C shares.

    Will this affect any of the company’s newspaper partnerships or joint operating agreements?

    No. Our partnerships and joint operating agreements are owned at the newspaper subsidiary level and all are debt free. Those subsidiaries are not affected by this restructuring.

    Does this affect The Denver Post?

    No. The Denver Post is party to its own bank credit agreement, which was successfully restructured on August 26, 2009. The Denver Post is not involved in this restructuring.

    Are there plans to sell or close any newspapers?

    No. The company plans to use the current platform as a base for growing the enterprise.

    You’ve said the announcement is good news. How does this help us?

    Our reorganization, structured in consultation with our lenders, is expected to reduce our debt from about $930 million to $165 million. In exchange for extinguishing the debt, our senior lenders will receive stock representing a major ownership stake in the reorganized company. The lower debt and interest payments will give us breathing space to create a new model for the newspapers we publish. We expect to have one of the strongest balance sheets in our industry. This transaction gives us a far better platform from which to develop, grow and participate in the consolidation and re-invention of the newspaper industry.

    Aside from this transaction, how is our business doing?

    During an extremely difficult environment for newspapers over the past three years, MediaNews has outperformed the industry as a whole. Total circulation grew for the September Audit Bureau of Circulations 6-month reporting period, while industry circulation dropped 10.6%. Our growth included gains by the Denver Post after its primary competitor ceased publication. Excluding the Denver gain, our circulation dropped 4.8%, still well below the industry’s 10.6% decline. On the advertising side, the Company’s innovative sales initiatives have resulted in advertising declines lower than the industry as a whole. The December quarter, while still down substantially, has performed much better than the first nine months of the year. All but one of our newspapers are profitable.

    What should I say to readers or advertisers ask about our filing?

    Let them know that this is a positive development that will make us financially stronger. They should also understand that the financial restructuring is a non-event for readers and advertisers.

    What if I’m approached by the media regarding the filing?

    If you receive any inquiries from the media or other interested third parties, please refer them to Seth Faison at (212) 573-6100.

Mark Ibanez steps over to the news side

Mark is dipping his toe into the pool that's called "news." This coming Monday, Mark Ibanez, who has been a sports anchor at KTVU for 32 years, is doing the noon news as a news anchor for one day, replacing Tori Campbell. She will have the holiday (MLK day) off.

We e-mailed Mark and haven't yet received a response. But San Francisco media blogger Rich Lieberman, who broke the story, said he was told by Mark:
    "Your old buddy is going to be anchoring the noon news this Monday,MLK day … not the sports … the noon news …l ooking at it as a challenge and maybe something new in the future …..you never know …. different things need to be tried sometimes to remain a survivor in this business as you know."

January 2010 Press Club board minutes

Jan. 13, 2010 -- Board room San Mateo Daily Journal. The meeting was called to order at 6:45 p.m. Present: Jon Mays, Ed Remitz, Peter Cleaveland, Marshall Wilson, Antonia Ehlers, Kristy Blackburn, Darrly Compton. Melissa McRobbie, Micki Carter, Jamie Casini, Dave Price

Board approves minutes of December Meeting.

Motion to approve Finance and Membership Report

Discussion of categories for annual awards contest: It was decided to add a “technology component” to the “Overall Excellence category in New Media. It was further approved to add “on-line Commentary” to category I.5 Blogs. It was also approved that there be added an award for Overall Excellence for Websites that are independent of and not connected with any other journalistic enterprise (newspaper, magazine etc.).

Professional Development Workshop discussion. It was agreed to put on another such workshop sometime in April and locate it at County Government Center. Subject matter would be Access to Public Records and Governmental Math.

Mr. Wilson and Mr. Compton to cooperate on arrangements and participants.

Discussion on Board attendance. It was generally agreed that while all Board members are busy with their own endeavors, they owe it to the organization to do all in their power to attend as many meetings as possible. At present, the bylaws permit the removal of a board member who misses 3 consecutive meetings. Such action has never been taken, to anyone’s present memory. There was general agreement among those present to do their best and to urge their fellow board members to do the same.

There was a brief discussion regarding the Press Club supporting High School publications through the purchase of ad space. It was generally agreed that this was a worthwhile endeavor and that criteria and examples will be developed within a short space of time.

There being no other business before the Board, the Meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.

Minutes submitted by Peter Cleaveland

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

SacBee cuts 25 jobs; McClatchy stock rising


McClatchy's stock is making a rebound, but the company's biggest newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, announced Monday that it will eliminate 25 jobs due to a "prolonged period of revenue declines." The number of newsroom jobs to be cut wasn't released.

It's the fourth round of layoffs at the 248,000-circulation daily in the last 18 months. Management hopes to get enough volunteers to take voluntary buyouts to avoid layoffs. The cuts will take place Jan. 29.

Executives with McClatchy said the decline in advertising revenue is easing, but hasn't ended. "The economic downturn has lasted much longer than anticipated" Bee Publisher and President Cheryl Dell said in a memo to employees.

New news director brings predictable change

Mitchell
KNTV NBC Bay Area has a new news director, Jonathan Mitchell, from KHQ Spokane and, earlier, WNWO-TV, Toledo. Media blogger Rich Lieberman quotes one veteran in the San Jose newsroom as saying, "The new guy seems fine, but he's very young and already requiring walk-and-talk standups, etc. We go through this every time someone new comes -- somehow if we're not sitting down, the ratings will go up. ;) It's not a big deal, but it's just so predictable." (Photo from Rick Gevers' News Director List)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chron execs say paper is profitable

OK, we're not sure what to believe. The Chron execs a few months ago who were threatening to close down their paper, and now -- according to our friends at the SFWeekly -- the paper is profitable? Did Darth Vader (Publisher Frank Vega) totally fool the Guild? No, it couldn't be that simple. Who could trick veteran journalists like that? Anyway, here's a paragraph from Joe Eskenazi's piece in the SF Weekly:
    [M]ore than half a dozen longtime Chron scribes tell us that management has happily boasted to them the paper is profitable once again -- they've been having good weeks, good months, and top execs even supposedly crowed about having a whole profitable quarter to close out 2009. That was ostensibly the paper's first quarter in the black since the Hearsts took over in 2000. Yet now that things are supposedly a bit less financially apocalyptic, management has clammed up. Chron president Mark Adkins gave us the official "no comment" on releasing any financial numbers. For Chron management, apparently, good news is no news.
Michael Cabanatuan, a longtime Chron reporter and the president of the California Media Workers Guild, said that the paper's staff is only 40 percent of what it was at this time last year. "We're still here and we're still putting out a good product. But it's less of a product and a different product than it had been," he said.

Press Club board will meet on Wednesday

Meeting Notice
San Francisco Peninsula Press Club Board of Directors
Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010
6:45 p.m.
San Mateo Daily Journal
800 S. Claremont St., Ste. 210, San Mateo

AGENDA
1-Approval of Minutes
2-Finance and Membership Reports
3-Discussion of categories for annual awards contest
4-Professional development workshop for members-upcoming
5-Discussion of minimum meeting attendance for board members
6-Discussion of press club ad purchases in school publications
7-Other business as needed

Monday, January 11, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court blocks TV at Prop 8 trial

Bay City News reports that the U.S. Supreme Court this morning blocked the planned YouTube broadcast of a federal trial in San Francisco on the constitutionality of California's same-sex marriage ban.

The court said in a brief order that the stay will remain in effect until Wednesday while the court gives further consideration to an appeal in which the sponsors of Proposition 8 are seeking to prevent the video coverage.

Court officials had planned to allow members of the public to watch the trial remotely at a handful of federal courthouses throughout the country. Today's viewings have been canceled.

Former KCBS Anchor Mike Pulsipher Dies

KCBS-AM reports that longtime anchor Mike Pulsipher was found dead in his home in San Francisco on Friday. He was 61.

He was discovered at the bottom of a staircase, and it's not clear if he died in the fall or may have suffered a heart attack, KCBS said.

Before he retired because of health problems two and a half years ago, Pulsipher had enjoyed a 40-year career in radio news. He worked at KFBK in Sacramento before joining CBS as an anchor and reporter at KNX Radio in Los Angeles.

Pulsipher worked at KCBS twice, starting as the afternoon news anchor in the 80s, with a tour of duty in New York as an anchor for the CBS Radio network news in between.

KCBS, in its announcement about his death, noted that Pulsipher "loved radio news, truly enjoyed sharing information with listeners, and was extremely proud of his career with CBS and KCBS."

He leaves two grown children, Melissa and Jeff, and an older brother, Vince.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chron offers 'exclusive' to paying readers

.
Those who pay for the Chronicle — presumably its print readers and those who receive the e-edition — got a bonus story this morning. The "Print & E-Edition Exclusive" is a change of course for the Chron, which has been pushing readers to its free SFGate.com site for 15 years. Last summer, Editor Ward Bushee decided to only put Phil Bronstein's column in the print edition, not on SFGate, as an experiment

Friday, January 8, 2010

Live 105 expands listener-controlled music format

CBS Radio's Live 105 is expanding an experimental format that blends the Internet and traditional broadcasting. As we noted back in October, Live 105's ratings doubled on Sunday nights when listeners of the alternative rock station were invited to vote online for their favorite songs. The listeners voted on software created by a San Mateo startup, Jelli. As Live 105's Menace explains in the video, listeners see a list of songs that will soon be played, and they can move the song up or down the list by clicking.

Guild planning a post-holiday party Saturday (1/9)

The Guild is hosting a post-holiday party Saturday (Jan. 9) for all newspaper units in the local, including the Mercury News and Chronicle, who will also be negotiating their work agreements this year. The party is 7-11 at 433 Natoma St., San Francisco. Free eats, cash bar. The evening will feature homegrown musical talents of Kevin Fagan, theHEAVYthin and other special guests. Music begins at 9 p.m.

MediaNews papers ask for candidates' tax returns

The San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other MediaNews Group papers in the Bay Area are calling upon the four major candidates for governor to release copies of their federal and state tax returns from the past decade. If the candidates comply, the newspaper group plans to post them on its Web sites, said Dave Butler, Mercury News editor and BANG's chief news executive. The Merc notes that while some candidates in the past have released their returns, no standard has emerged. Two of the candidates, Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, are billionaires. A third Republican, former South Bay Congressman Tom Campbell, has close Silicon Valley ties. Another unknown is whether Democrat Jerry Brown has outside income beyond his state paycheck as attorney general.

Guardian allowed to put lien on SF Weekly's parent

The Chron reports that the Bay Guardian has been granted court permission to put a lien on the assets of the parent company of the SF Weekly to satisfy a $21 million jury verdict. Randall Farrimond, representing the weekly's parent company New Times Media, says that now the Guardian will simply be treated like a limited partner, but won't get any money. The case stems over claims the SF Weekly sold ads at below cost in order to run the Guardian out of business. While the Guardian won the jury trial, it hasn't succeeded in collecting much money other than seizing a couple of the SF Weekly's delivery trucks and obtaining the right to collect rent from the Weekly's subtenants. New Times argues that a judgment in a California court can't be used to seize assets in other states, but it appears there is little stopping the Bay Guardian from going after New Times' OC Weekly and LA Weekly.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

KKGN 'Green 960' hires Karel for afternoon drive


Local media blogger Rich Lieberman reports that the openly gay radio host Karel, who lost his job at KGO after shouting obscenities on the air during a news report about "Joe the Plumber," is returning to the local airwaves. Karel, whose real name is Charles Karel Bouley, has been hired by Clear Channel's John Scott to do afternoon drive on KKGN "Green 960," an A.M. station that has a liberal point of view.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Judge allows televising of Prop. 8 trial

Bay City News service reports that a federal judge in San Francisco today approved the broadcasting on YouTube of a trial that begins next week on a lawsuit challenging California's same-sex marriage ban.

The video, which can be seen on the Internet or rebroadcast by television stations, will be the first time that a federal trial in Western states has been broadcast.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said at a pretrial hearing, "I think it's worth attempting in a case of this nature and of this public interest."

Walker will preside beginning on Monday over a two-week non-jury trial on a lawsuit in which two same-sex couples claim the state's ban on gay and lesbian marriage violates their federal constitutional rights.

The measure was enacted by California voters in 2008 as Prop. 8.

The trial itself will be the first in the nation on a federal constitutional challenge to restrictions on same-sex marriage, according to Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

The video will be taken by the court staff and transmitted to YouTube, where it will be posted after a delay.

The broadcasting was made possible when the Judicial Council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month approved a pilot program to allow cameras in federal courtrooms in civil nonjury trials in nine western states.

Walker's plan to allow broadcasting of the Proposition 8 trial must be approved by Chief 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski.

Walker turned down an offer by In Session, formerly known as Court TV, to do professional recording and broadcasting. The judge said, "I think it's important for the process to be completely under the court's control."

He said he will halt the broadcasting if it turns out to be distracting or to cause problems.

Roberta Gonzales: Yeah, you can call me 'hot'

SF media blogger Rich Lieberman interviewed KPIX weather anchor Roberta Gonzales and could hardly contain his enthusias. Here's his first question:
    Rich: So, Roberta, you are considered one of the most popular, jovial and sorry, yes, "HOT!" weather predictors in the Bay Area. What's your secret?

    Roberta: “HOT?” Hahahaha! It is believed I have been consistently forecasting weather full time on television longer than any other woman in the country (since 1982). So, to be considered “HOT," well, I’ll take it! Let’s just say, my two sons keep me active, my love for the sport of triathlons and Marathons keep me fit and I have been blessed with my mother’s “Native American Indian” skin.
Gonnzales is married to Sharks play-by-play announcer Randy Hawn. Lieberman wanted to know if "you and Randy ever have an argument, do you threaten him with "Honey, keep it up and I'm spending another hour on 'doppler radar?"
    Roberta: Actually, Randy is never in town long enough for me to have an argument with. Plus, have you ever heard him yell out, “He shoots, he scoressssss?” With pipes and a voice like that, I never want him screaming at me!

    Rich: Give us a typical work day; when do you wake up? When do you get to work? The works?

    Roberta: My day begins at 7 a.m. so I can spend time with my boys before they head to school. I then jump online and check the weather. Depending on the day, if I have no charity or speaking commitments, I am training for triathlons or marathons. Six times a week, I either, swim, bike or run. I also strength train at the gym. There is the typical grocery shopping, running of the errands, I try to figure out what the heck to wear to work and then the 40 mile drive into San Francisco. I usually arrive by 2:45 p.m. and have my first KCBS radio weather report at 3:18 p.m. I am on the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts as well as the 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts. I usually leave the studio at midnight and arrive home shortly before 1 a.m. I hit the sheets around 2 a.m.
Then Rich circles back to his first question.
    Rich: OK, I hate to break this to you, but ... YOU are considered very attractive by a lot of guys, men, whatever ... how much fan mail do you get?

    Roberta: Am I hotter than my BFF and co-anchor Juliette Goodrich? Hahaha!!
    OK … but please remember how very diverse the Bay Area is! I probably receive as much e-mails from my women viewers as I do the men! Hahaha! I receive roughly 500 e-mails a day ranging from “are you married” to “where do you buy your clothes” to “what is the difference between rain and showers?” to my favorite ... “My Grandfather loves watching you. Can you please send him an autographed picture? He is too old too type, so I am placing the request for him.” Hahaha!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

SF Weekly parent pins hopes on appeal

An update to our item last week about the Bay Guardian's fight to collect a $21 million judgment against its rival, the SF Weekly, and the weekly's parent company, Village Voice Media (formerly New Times). The Chron this morning put the story on page 1 and gave Village Voice Media's reason why it's not paying up. Randall Farrimond, a lawyer for Village Voice Media, said his client is looking ahead to a state appeals court hearing, perhaps late this year, that could overturn the entire verdict. "It's not surprising that they're not eager to write a check for the judgment until that process works its way through," Farrimond said.

Investigative journalism site launches

CaliforniaWatch.org, a project of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting, has launched its Web site, loaded with original reporting, databases and story ideas. Lance Williams and Chase Davis will cover money and politics. Corey Johnson has the K-12 schools beat. Erica Perez is covering higher education. On the health and welfare beat is Christian Jewett. The project has a data analyst, Agustin Armendariz. Radio reporter Michael Montgomery will focus mostly on criminal justice issues. In the spring, the project plans to hire two more reporters — one to cover public safety issues and another on the environment.

Searchable databases currently available on the site include stimulus contracts, lobbying, campaign finance, university fees, crime statistics and the census.

"For 32 years, CIR has done valuable investigative reporting, much of it with 'Frontline' and '60 Minutes.' But never before has CIR had a team of investigative journalists this large, and never before have we had the flexibility to pursue stories that focus on what arguably is the most important, most complicated, and most messed-up state in the nation," writes Robert "Rosey" Rosenthal, former Chron managing editor who is now executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Melanie Morgan quits national show, cites health

Joe Garofoli's blog at SFGate.com reports that conservative talk show host Melanie Morgan has resigned from her nationally syndicated morning radio program that was produced by the Washington Times. "I have some health issues that I need to attend to and that's the reason why I am leaving Washington, D.C. and returning to California where my family and friends can help me get through this challenging time," she told Garofoli. "But I expect to lace up my skates and get goin' again soon!" Her new show, "America's Morning News," is carried by her old station, KSFO 560, from 3-6 a.m. weekdays.

Deadline near for free-speech awards

Saturday, Jan. 9, is the deadline to submit nominations for the James Madison Freedom of Information Awards, which recognize Northern California organizations and individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of freedom of information and expression. The awards are presented by Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists' Freedom of Information Committee. Eligible for nomination are Northern California journalists, citizens, media organizations, or community groups who, during 2009, have defended public access to meetings, public records, or court proceedings or otherwise promoted the public’s right to know, publish and speak freely about issues of public concern. Here's a link for more information and to make a nomination online.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rosie Allen gives up KGO afternoon news post


Rosie Allen, after 25 years at KGO-AM 810, has given up her afternoon news anchor post.

"Rosie has been a terrific anchor, a dear friend and a great representative for KGO Radio," News Director Ken Berry said in an e-mail to the station's staffers. "We plan to continue using Rosie in commercials, personal appearances and as a fill in for talk. We will have an on-air send off for Rosie in the near future."

Her broadcast partner for many years was Greg Jarrett, who was laid off in January (and a few months later landed at WGN-AM in Chicago as its morning man). Rosie's broadcast partner since then has been Bret Burkhart. No replacement for Allen has been named.

She began her career at KNEW in Oakland, and then moved to KNBR Radio. In 1977, she became public affairs director at KGO-AM's then sister station, KSFX-FM. Later that year she went on the air at KGO as a weekend host. In 1984, she started co-anchoring the afternoon news. In March 2009, her 25th anniversary at KGO was marked with an on-air tribute. (Photo credit: KGO-TV)

CORRECTION/UPDATE: Yesterday the Press Club blog used the word "retire" to describe Rosie's plans, which is incorrect. She's just giving up her afternoon news gig, and will continue to be heard on KGO in the future. In fact, she's scheduled to be Ronn Owens' guest on Wednesday from 11 to noon, where she might expound on her future plans.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Marriage licenses now confidential

We're not sure if there are any newspapers left in the Bay Area that still print marriage licenses. But starting today (Jan. 1), but if there are any, they'll have to stop due to a new state law, AB130. Here's a story from the Marysville (Yuba County) Appeal-Democrat that says marriage licenses are one more public record that is no longer public.

Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, told the Appeal-Democrat that he wrote the law to prevent identity theft. Exactly how identity thieves would benefit by knowing a victim's marital status isn't clear.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California-based First Amendment Coalition, said his group might have to help educate county clerks and their staffs over what they can release under the law.

"I'm not sure people get married to keep it a secret," Scheer said.

About that 'questionable fluff' on the front page

Merc columnist Mike Cassidy, in his series about ideas for improving the Merc, today answers several questions from readers, such as this one:
    Q: "The front pages of many of the issues [of the Mercury News] ... appear to attempt to appeal to the nonprint readers — a lot of questionable fluff."

    Answer: The Mercury News does run stories about sports, entertainment and social trends on the front page. Why? Because we try to appeal to a wide range of readers, and a significant number of them are interested in those topics.

    "What you focus on on the front page," [Editor David] Butler says, "is largely what's going on in this multicultural, fascinating Silicon Valley." The paper, he says, works on "giving people information and taking people places that otherwise they might never get to."
Cassidy also explains why the Sunday TV book costs extra and why business is often found in the local news section. And he says the Merc is adjusting its subscription prices, which apparently have varied due to promotions for new readers.

Belva Davis writes about her career in new book

It seems hard to believe, but Belva Davis has been on the air in the Bay Area for 43 years. And Davis, anchor of KQED 9's "This Week in Northern California," has chronicled her career in a new book, "Beyond My Wildest Dreams." Lisa Vorderbrueggen of the Contra Costa Times has profiled Davis' career in this piece.
    Davis' big television break came in 1966 when KPIX hired her from a field of 67 applicants and she became the first black female television news reporter on the West Coast.

    She could write well. She could speak confidently.

    She knew little about television, but few did. It was a fledgling industry.

    "I didn't even know what 'stand-up' meant," said Davis, referring to the term for conducting an on-air interview at the site of a news event. "Fortunately, I was assigned to work with a crazy Hungarian cameraman who put his arm around me the first time we went out and said, 'Don't worry about a thing, baby,' " Davis said.
(Photo credit: Dan Honda, Contra Costa Times)