Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ESPN's attitude riles high school coaches

SacBee sportswriter Joe Davidson says ESPN created a lot of animosity when it decided to telecast a high school football game between teams from Folsom and Sacramento's nationally-ranked Grant High School:
    Coaches said the sports network barged into Folsom this week, flexed its biceps and took control of seemingly every working detail of the Folsom-Grant encounter, turning a lot of heads and stomachs.
    It wasn't the broadcasters or reporters or the grunt crew that laid down yards of cable or put in portable lights that muddled matters. It was the overall sense of the ESPN superiority that flustered school and district officials who did their best to make this a smooth, memorable event. 
    ESPN, in conjunction with Paragon Marketing Group, requested the student bodies of both schools to engage in early morning, on-campus rallies. They pulled players out of class to do interviews. 
    ... 
    The coaches were glad to see ESPN arrive, then frowned as a season opener turned into a chaotic circus late in the week. And the coaches were collectively glad to send the "World Wide Leader" on its way. "Playing the game," Folsom coach Kris Richardson said, "was the easy part."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tougher traffic laws urged for journalists

The California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) has issued the following legislative bulletin, which should be of interest to anyone who uses a car to gather news:
    Assembly Speaker Emeritus Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, recently amended her bill to rein in "out of control" Hollywood paparazzi to allow for severe criminal punishment of photojournalists that violate traffic laws. CNPA has filed a new letter in opposition to AB 2479
    The bill was approved Tuesday, Aug. 24, by the Senate Public Safety Committee on a party line vote over the objections of CNPA and the California Broadcasters Association. On Friday, Aug. 27, the Senate returned the bill to the Assembly on a 21-13 vote. 
    The Assembly will likely take the bill up before the Legislature adjourns Tuesday, Aug. 31. The Aug. 20 amendments, drafted and sponsored by Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, would make it a misdemeanor instead of an infraction to violate any of three existing Vehicle Code Sections -- tailgating, reckless driving and interfering with the operation of a vehicle -- “with the intent to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of another person for a commercial purpose.” 
    The bill would create enhanced punishment: more than two-and-a-half times the penalties for reckless driving without the intent to capture an image, and in the case of reckless driving that places a child in harm’s way, six times as much punishment than for regular violators, up to a maximum $5000 fine and one year imprisonment. AB 2479 would also amend the state's civil anti-paparazzi law (Civil Code Sec. 1708.8) to include "false imprisonment that is committed in order to obtain a visual image or other impression of the person.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

High school journalism boot camp set for Oct. 1

Attention high school newspaper advisers: Save Friday, Oct. 1, for the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club's High School Journalism Boot Camp! It will again be at College of San Mateo (but in a new, bigger space) from 1-4:30 p.m. More information on speakers and presentations to come. Your entire staff is welcome!

Video shows McElhatton anchoring in a crisis

Dave McElhatton and Hank Plante
One more post about Dave McElhatton, the longtime KCBS and later KPIX anchor who died on Monday. A few years ago, KPIX posted several historic films and videos on its website, though they're a bit hard to find. Where it says "top stories," toggle down to "Classic KPIX."

Here's a link to a riveting 39-minute tape of Channel 5's coverage of the 1989 earthquake showing McElhatton anchoring during a crisis. While he's on the air, he rolls through aftershocks at the newsroom's flash desk.

Above, McElhatton gets a first-hand report from Hank Plante, who tells him that he saw "people shouting 'This is the big one.'"

Wayne Walker, Barbara Rodgers and Wendy Tokuda
During this 39-minute span, viewers see the first grainy pictures of the damaged Bay Bridge and the collapsed Nimitz Freeway. They also see in a live shot from Candlestick Park with Wayne Walker, Barbara Rodgers and Wendy Tokuda. Also on the tape are Kate Kelly and Dave Ryan.

At one point McElhatton reads a bulletin that the third-floor of Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo had collapsed. What he didn't say is that his daughter worked at that shopping center. She wasn't injured, but he didn't know that at the time. A few minutes later, however, he says, "People are going to be trying to call to find out if the people they love are OK, if they survived this. And I've got a couple calls I can't wait to make."

Friday, August 27, 2010

KTVU trumpets its August numbers

The following graphics are part of a press release Jeff Holub of KTVU issued today touting his station's ratings in August. If the other stations send us press releases about their August ratings, we'll post those too.



The pie graph shows the share of the morning audience each station has between 5 and 9 a.m., M-F, among adults 25-54. The numbers explain why Channel 5 is shaking up its morning show.



Here's a look at the evening news numbers for adults 25-54. At 11 p.m., KPIX is No. 1 followed by NBC11in second and KGO in third place. In the past few ratings periods, KGO and NBC11 have been swapping the second-place position at 11 p.m. Meanwhile, KTVU points out that it out-delivered Channel 11 and Channel 7 combined.


MNG's California papers hire new digital media VP


In its quest to monetize its websites, MediaNews Group's California Newspapers Partnership (Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, etc.) has named a new vice president for interactive. Jeff Herr, who appears in the You Tube video above, comes to CNP from Lee Enterprises, where he has been corporate director of interactive media for the past seven years.

According to his bio at Lee Enterprises, Herr began his career in 1985 as a newspaper reporter and editor covering business, politics and state and federal government, working for the Arizona Daily Star and other metropolitan newspapers in the West. In 1994 he began his Internet career with an online international trade law service and newsletter. In 1995 he joined Paul Allen's Internet company, Starwave, working through 1999 on major sites including ABCNews.com, ESPN.com, Outside Online, and TheStreet.com. In 1999 he returned to Arizona to develop a suite of Internet-based financial calculators and tools that were licensed to more than 100 of the largest banks in the United States.

In the You Tube, he talks about the "Smart Phones for Smart Journalists" workshop sponsored by the Online News Association and the Freedom Forum on April 9, 2010 in Nashville, Tenn.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Report: John Kessler leaving CBS5

Kessler
Media blogger Rich Lieberman reports that John Kessler, morning co-anchor at CBS5, will leave the station after his contract expires in mid-October.

"I'm not in their plans," Kessler told Lieberman. "I'm very disappointed I was not able to deliver the audience they expected from me. For those that did tune in, thank you. It's been a great ride."

Before he got to KPIX in 2002, Kessler was an anchor at KRON. Before that, he was a radio disc jockey, working in Detroit, San Diego, Jacksonville and Charlotte. Kessler studied journalism at San Diego State and is the father of two boys.

Online bulletin board signs MediaNews

The technology news website TechCrunch reports that MediaNews -- publisher of the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and other Bay Area dailies -- is among several newspaper groups to sign with San Francisco-based PaperG to provide ad platforms for their websites. The newspaper's ads will be shown in a "virtual bulletin board" format called Flyerboard, according to TechCrunch.
    PaperG’s Flyerboard is effectively a virtual bulletin board, the standard design even mimics the appearance of fliers on a corkboard. A local retailer submits an image and some basic information and Flyerboard automatically converts that data into an interactive ad that can be easily shared via social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, or e-mail. Through the ad platform, publishers can quickly post and manage their ads, look at analytics, and bill clients.
Terms weren't disclosed but PaperG typically gets 20% to 30% of a publisher's gross revenue from Flyerboard ads. Advertisers pay $150 to $400 a week.

While others shrink, KQED expands news

In the past few months, KQED has hired eight news staffers and added 10 newscasts to its FM schedule. Katie Donnelly, writing for PBS MediaShift, says the expansion will continue over the next several months. Among the additions will be a new news blog, she says.
    The expansion is not without its challenges, however. KQED's clear strength is in radio news, but, as [KQED vp of digital media and education Tim] Olson noted, "text and images are required for a robust online news presence." 
    Improving the text on the site is a major priority, and as the site continues to expand, this emphasis will grow as well. 
    Olson noted that NPR has gone through a similar transition over the past few years, which was addressed by gradually training reporting staff, and adding photo editors and copy editors.

How McElhatton got into TV: reluctantly

Dave McElhatton
1928-2010
Former KPIX news director Joseph Russin wrote the following letter in today's Chronicle:
    I read with extreme sadness of the passing of Dave McElhatton ("Respected TV and radio news anchor," Aug. 25). 
    As your story says, Dave was one of the sweetest people in the business. He was not, however, immediately enthusiastic about television. I was news director at KPIX and wanted an anchor knowledgeable about the area and able to beat Van Amburg at KGO. I had heard Dave on KCBS radio for years and felt he was perfect. He thought he might flop on TV. 
    The folks at Westinghouse also were less enchanted. Dave, they thought, had a face for radio and was overweight for TV. Good sport that he always was, Dave agreed to a series of secret training sessions and auditions on camera. We met in motel rooms at Fisherman's Wharf, hoping no one would see us. 
    Dave proved to be so likable on camera that KPIX management was willing to sign him. And Dave launched himself on an eight-glasses-of-water-a-day diet to become camera-svelte. 
    That completed the package: a wonderful man whose good nature burst through the camera and whose knowledge and judgment could always be relied on. 
    Joseph Russin, Glendale

Santa Rosa PD publisher quits chamber board

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that its publisher, Bruce Kyse, has resigned from the board of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce after that organization decided to start endorsing political candidates.

Kyse said he wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict. The paper, owned by The New York Times Co., has an editorial board that also endorses candidates, and Kyse sits on that board.

“I did not want the perception that it (the chamber) was influencing our decisions,” Kyse said.

Given the economic downturn, the Chamber wants to endorse candidates who support job creation and promote a business-friendly environment, said Chamber president Jonathan Coe.

Franz Schurmann, journalist and professor, dies

The Oakland Tribune reports that Franz Schurmann, a UC-Berkeley professor and journalist who co-founded the Pacific News Service, died Friday (Aug. 20) in his San Francisco home at age 84. He had struggled with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease for several years.

He co-founded PNS in 1970 to promote independent research and writing in the context of the U.S. war in Vietnam and throughout Indochina.

By the time of his death, he had learned 12 languages -- dedicating himself in the early 1990s to written Arabic after a flirtation with quantum physics, said his lifelong partner, New America Media director Sandy Close.

The Tribune reports that a memorial service is scheduled from 2-5 p.m. Sept. 19 at the UC-Berkeley Alumni Center. Contributions may be made to the Franz Schurmann Memorial Fund to support freelance journalists on special travel assignments. More information, including links to many of Schurmann's writings, go to newamericamedia.org. (Photo credit: New American Media website)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anchorman Dave "Mac" McElhatton dead at 81

Dave "Mac" McElhatton, a long time anchor at KCBS Radio and KPIX Channel 5, died this morning from a stroke related illness at his home in Rancho Mirage, surrounded by loved ones. He was 81.

McElhatton, an Oakland native, retired from the CBS5 KPIX anchor desk on Nov. 30, 2000 after nearly 50 years on the air in the Bay Area.

Among the major stories McElhatton covered were the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the 1989 earthquake and the 1993 murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas.

The following is from the obituary CBS5 posted on its website:
    Mac was an Oakland native who was in one of the first classes from then San Francisco State College and now San Francisco State University. He used his G.I. Bill money to finance his education. He graduated in 1951 with a B.A. in liberal arts. 
McElhatton and Kate Kelly in 2000.
    Just two weeks after earning degree, he landed his first job at KCBS Radio. It wasn't long before McElhatton shot to stardom. 
    Newsman Al Hart, another legendary KCBS anchor, was McElhatton's producer. "He was so funny," Hart once recalled. "So quick-witted, Dave could do so many things and that's why that period of radio back there in the '50s and '60s was so much fun, because we could do whatever we wanted to do." 
    He worked for KCBS radio for 25 years in a variety of capacities including the Bay Area's first telephone talks show, "Viewpoint" and eventually news director and moved the station to its current all news format. He then made the shift to television. 
    A critic at the time questioned McElhatton's move to television, calling it "either a flash of genius or an incredible blunder." 
Wendy Tokuda and McElhatton in 1986.
    Some of the new technology did prove challenging for McElhatton, but he met it with a smile every time. 
    "Mac was very good humored about it, he knew he looked funny compared to the typical anchor man. He wasn't a young guy, he wasn't handsome, he wasn't perky and energetic, he was McElhatton," recalled Harry Fuller, who produced McElhatton's first television newscast. Fuller, later as news director and general manager, was there for some of the biggest moments of McElhatton's career. 
    "McElhatton was unflappable. I watched him work through the '89 earthquake, I watched him through period after period of election coverage when we'd go on and on for hours and hours without a script," said Fuller. 
    He co-anchored for 10 years with Wendy Tokuda and also with Kate Kelly, both of whom are still at the station. 
    "He was just rock-steady and I was nervous and green and insecure and he was so generous," added Wendy Tokuda, who shared anchor duties with McElhatton for more than a decade.
    "What you saw really was him, he really was that nice. In fact, he was nicer. And he really was warm, and he really was that genuine, honest person that you saw."
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to:

The Dave McElhatton Scholarship in Broadcast Journalism
Check Payable to: San Francisco State University Corporation
Attention: Carma Zisman
University Development
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132

The CBS5 obit has a secure link to donate funds.

(Photo credits: Top photo by Ray Chavez, Oakland Tribune. Bottom by Roger Ressmeyer, Corbis)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

NYT reports on SF alt-weekly court battle

Alt-weeklies share an editorial formula that marries anti-establishment politics with heavy entertainment coverage and listings," says Jonathan Weber of Bay Citizen writing in The New York Times' Bay Area section. "... The in-your-face, libertarian-leaning approach of New Times was perfect for Phoenix, just as [Bay Guardian publisher Bruce] Brugmann’s old-school leftism was a fit for San Francisco."

Vincent Young booted as CEO of KRON parent

Vincent Young, who decided to pay a record $823 million for KRON only to see its value drop like a lead balloon when NBC pulled its affiliation, is no longer chief executive officer of the broadcasting company that bears his name, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

In a struggle between two groups of creditors, Young was apparently removed from the CEO position and given the new title of non-executive chairman of the board, according to a company memo from Chief Restructuring Officer Kevin Shea to Young employees dated Thursday. The memo also says CFO Jim Morgan will leave in October but that President Deb McDermott will remain on board.

Young Broadcasting, which owns KRON and nine stations in the Midwest, was turned over to its creditors during bankruptcy proceedings and has since been renamed New Young Broadcasting.

Meanwhile, KRON Vice President/General Manager Brian Greif will also serve as interim general manager of KWQC-TV, Young's NBC affiliate in Davenport, Iowa. "Brian has done a great job restoring KRON to profitability in the past year," said a memo from New Young, according to B&C. "His vast experience in building great news operations will be instrumental to reestablishing our Davenport station's news superiority in that market."

Friday, August 20, 2010

AM station planning to shut down

This isn't exactly a Bay Area story, but it shows how difficult times are in AM radio in many places. David Jackson of the Bay Area Radio Museum (see item below for the museum's Hall of Fame) informs us that KMPH-AM 840 in Modesto will shut down on Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 9 a.m.

It's the sister station of San Francisco's KTRB-AM 860. Both are owned by the Pappas family, whose television stations were sold off in bankruptcy proceedings.

"As part of a broadcast tradition dating back to 1953 in Modesto, California, our company has always viewed its stewardship of the airwaves as a sacred trust to serve the public in our communities, while also recognizing that, as with any private business, we must generate enough revenue to pay for this service," Vice President and General Manager Jim Pappas said in an open letter to listeners, employees, advertisers and vendors. "With this in mind, taking our radio station off the air is a decision we were compelled to make only after investigating every possible alternative until, in the face of difficult economic circumstances, no other decision was possible. ...

"When future circumstances permit, KMPH-AM will return to the airwaves," Pappas concluded.

The AM station had played music ("modern standards") until 2008 when it switched to a conservative talk format called The Patriot, centered around Michael Savage.

Jackson notes that KMPH was Pappas' "replacement station" when it moved KTRB to San Francisco a few years back. In an e-mail Jackson says:
    The thought that engaged local owners could compete, especially in markets the size of Modesto or Stockton, by hiring less expensive and younger talent, marketing themselves aggressively in the community (both to advertisers and listeners) and become a vital part of the local landscape as such stations were from radio time immemorial up through the 1980s apparently didn't work in this case, as it didn't work for venerable KSTN (1420 AM) in Stockton, which also abruptly yanked the plug back in February. 
    If AM radio is going to survive, something has got to change soon. Yes, the economy is bad. But the economy isn't 100% to blame. Unimaginative programming and a failure to truly go out and be part of the community is also to blame. You can't just throw canned conservative talk shows on the air and expect that everyone will instantly tune in, even in a conservative hotbed like Modesto. 
    The next shot across the bow of AM radio will be if an AM station in the San Francisco Metro folds. It won't be one of the majors (KGO, KCBS, KNBR, etc.) but one of the smaller pea-shooters that 99% of the populace doesn't realize even exists any longer. Tune your radio past 1300 on your AM dial and see what I mean; they're still there ... but why?

Media information for Fiorina-Boxer debate

KTVU is asking news organizations planning to cover the Sept. 1 debate between U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina and Sen. Barbara Boxer to submit credential requests in advance. Here's a link.

Radio Hall of Fame Class of 2010 announced

The Bay Area Radio Museum, in conjunction with the California Historical Radio Society and Broadcast Legends, has announced its inductees for this year's Hall of Fame Class of 2010. More than 7,000 votes were cast.

News inductees are Stan Bunger and Dave McQueen.

In sports, the inductees are Jon Miller, Gary Radnich and Amaury Pi-Gonzalez.

The announcer/personality category is comprised of John McLeod, Dave Morey, Don Sainte-Johnn, Tom Sanders and Bonnie Simmons.

Art Lebermann is the sole inductee in the engineer catogory.

In the speciality category are Ben Fong-Torres and Isabel Lemon.

The "pioneer" inductees are Evangeline Baker, Hilario "Lalo" Caballero, Budd Heyde, Lewis Hill and Walt Jamond.

In the owner/manager category are Al Newman and Heber Smith.

This year's group of inductees will be celebrated at a gala gathering on Saturday, September 25, 2010, at the Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center on the Berkeley Marina. (To make reservations for the event, please visit http://www.BroadcastLegends.com)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Patch plans to be in 500 cities by year's end

The AOL-backed chain of hyper-local news sites, including several that are operating or planned in the Bay Area, is on a hiring spree, according to the Newark (N.J.) Star Ledger, where Patch just opened its 100th site in Morristown, N.J.
    Upstart hyperlocal ventures are increasingly vying for a piece of what they say is an untapped gold mine in local advertising dollars. Yet to be seen, though, is evidence that the sites can develop long-term, sustainable business models.
    "Something like Patch was eventually going to happen," said Kip Cassino, vice president of research at Borrell Associates, a media analyst firm. "Newspapers felt that as long as they owned the content, they were unassailable. History has proven them wrong."
    Patch was founded and bankrolled in 2008 by Tim Armstrong, a former Google vice president who became AOL’s chief executive last year. Under Armstrong, AOL quickly bought Patch for an undisclosed sum and pursued an aggressive franchising strategy, investing $50 million this year to expand Patch nationally.
And this from Forbes, which also has a story today about Patch:
    "This is the largest area on the Internet that hasn't been won," said Jon Brod, executive vice president of AOL Local, Mapping and Ventures. "Amazon has commerce, and eBay has auctions, but a big part of your income is spent at home, it's where you spend most of your time."

BALCO writer sees irony in Bonds' gift to journos

Lance Williams (pictured), who was part of the Chronicle team that reported on Barry Bonds' ties to steroids, says Bonds’ donation of $20,000 to the National Association of Black Journalists is fraught with irony:
    Throughout his long and exciting baseball career, the former San Francisco Giants star – now retired and awaiting trial on perjury charges – routinely treated the journalists assigned to cover him like dirt.
    ... it was especially true in San Francisco during the pressure-packed years when Bonds was driving to break Hank Aaron’s home run record, even as federal agents were investigating him for using steroids from the BALCO drug lab.
    In those days, the writers and broadcasters covering the home run chase endured grief, static and jacking around from the Giants star, along with occasional physical threats. In giving the press a hard time, Bonds wasn’t status conscious.
    He once invited Rick Reilly, then the superstar columnist for Sports Illustrated, to San Francisco for an exclusive interview, kept him waiting around for five days, and then told him to get lost.
[More at CaliforniaWatch.org]

Will KGO-AM ever broadcast on FM?

When All News KCBS 740 added an FM frequency almost two years ago, the natural question was when would KGO-AM add an FM channel, too. But Citidel, the owner of KGO-AM, was in Chapter 11, and acquiring an FM station was out of the question. Still the trend of news and news/talk formats going to FM hasn't stopped. Last week in Atlanta, the dominant AM news/talk station, WSB-AM 750, announced it is adding a 24-hour simulcast on FM.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Station owner drops KPIG music for ethnic format

Fans of KPIG-AM 1510 Piedmont — which simulcasts the rock/folk/blues music station KPIG-FM 107.5 Watsonville — were surprised this morning to hear Chinese programming.

No, it wasn't a KPIG prank. Mapleton Communications of Los Angeles, which owns radio stations in nine markets, decided to drop the KPIG format and replace it with a brokered Chinese format.

This year, Mapleton had increased KPIG-AM's power, allowing it to reach San Mateo County as well as San Francisco and Marin counties.

Here's a link to the announcement KPIG-FM posted to its San Francisco listners. In it, Market Manager Ed Monroe said he is trying to find an FM frequency in the Bay Area for KPIG.

David Jackson, executive director of the Bay Area Radio Museum, commented:
    Some will say that this is just another sign that AM is dead, and that music on the AM dial simply doesn't work. I disagree. 
    The KPIG format has a limited audience, and is among the niche-iest of niche formats. Music would work on the AM dial -- if a station owner would commit to it, do it right and try to promote it to a broader audience. (Yes, I am talking about Oldies and Adult Standards, as a matter of fact.) 
    It doesn't require a huge budget to do it right. It just requires passion, and a commitment to do it well. The folks at KPIG had the passion and the commitment; they just didn't offer something a lot of people wanted to hear.
KPIG-AM is licensed to Piedmont but transmits from five towers atop a warehouse in Oakland. 

Gilroy Dispatch has a new city editor

Jon Perez, 35, the new city editor of the Gilroy Dispatch, was at the Rocky Mountain News for five years. He handled a number of jobs there from online editing to designing the front page.

When the Rocky closed last year, he returned to his roots in San Jose with his wife and two young daughters and tried his hand as a poker floorman and a food vendor, only to be reminded that his true passion was in journalism.

According to the Dispatch, Perez graduated from San Jose State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism. An internship reporting on crime and covering sports for the San Jose Mercury News preceded positions as a page designer at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore., and the Tribune in San Luis Obispo. (Photo credit: Dispatch website)

Bill to seal autopsies advances

The San Diego Union Tribune reports that the California Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved legislation (SB982) that would allow parents of murdered children to seal autopsy reports and photographs despite the objections of Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Yee (pictured) cast the lone dissenting vote, saying autopsy reports are “the only source of information for the public to know how someone died. ... This bill would make it nearly impossible for the press to provide oversight of a government agency.”

Terry Francke, co-founder of the open government advocacy group Californians Aware, said coroners already routinely refuse to release criminally related reports and “the court of appeal has held that they need not be” distributed. Also, all evidence presented to juries in homicide cases are public, under the constitution, he said.

“They are kept transparent because just as justice delayed is justice denied, justice unseen is justice uncertain,” Francke told the Union Tribune.

The bill, which now moves to the Assembly, stems from the slayings of San Diego County teenagers Chelsea King and Amber Dubois, whose autopsy reports have yet to be released.

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is pushing Senate Bill 982 to seal autopsy reports. “The community was traumatized,” she told the Union Tribune in an earlier interview. “They don’t want to hear the details any more than they already have.”

Also read: LA Times editorial, "Bill to seal autopsy reports is misguided"

August 2010 Press Club board minutes

Aug. 11, 2010 -- Board Room, San Mateo Daily Journal

Present: Jon Mays, Kristy Blackburn, Dave Price, Melissa McRobbie, Antonia Ehlers, Darryl Compton. Absent: Micki Carter, Peter Cleaveland, Ed Remitz, Marshall Wilson, Jamie White.

The meeting was called to order at 6:40 p.m.

Minutes of June were approved as read. There was no July meeting.

High School Journalism Boot Camp

The boot camp will take place at the College of San Mateo, but the date hasn't been decided. It will either be Oct. 1 or Oct. 15. Darryl said he was told by Ed Remitz that we can use four rooms in Building 18, the college's theater, or both.

Bob Porterfield and Sarah Yokubaitis from Patch.com, a start-up chain of hyper-local websites backed by AOL, addressed the board. They said they would like to participate in the Press Club's annual high school journalism boot camp.

The Patch representatives said they would like to lead one of the half-hour discussions at the boot camp. The board accepted their offer of assistance.

Porterfield also said Patch would like to recruit high school journalists at the event.

Price told the Patch representatives that he would like their journalists to participate in the Press Club's annual contest. The contest's online categories could use more entries. The awards will provide more legitimacy to the start-up newsgathering organization.

Finance and Membership Reports

Darryl said the club is spending more than it is taking in, but is still in good shape financially. His report showed income at $17,364.52 and expenses at $25,432.93. Current assets: $29,244.64.

Finances are off a bit because the plaques that were presented at the banquet cost more than last year due to rising wood prices. They went from $3,500 to $5,600.

Darryl said that at a future meeting he will bring up the idea of changing the entry fees for the contest.

Another factor was that the scholarship line item was $8,500 this year (compared to $3,000 last year). That was because we paid a scholarship that was granted a couple of years ago, but not used until now, and because we funded four scholarships this year instead of two last year.

Annual awards banquet discussion

Everyone agreed that this year's event went well. No problems were mentioned.

November membership workshop/salon

The board agreed that November would be the right time for this Press Club event. Marshall had previously indicated that there would be a room in a county government building that the club could use. Jon said that Matt Richtel, the New York Times reporter in San Francisco who won a Pulitzer earlier this year, would be willing to speak at a workshop.

Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis

The board received an e-mail from the St. Louis club asking to become an affiliate with our club. Jon will look into the matter further and report back to the board.

Guest speakers

Kristy, who teaches journalism at Palo Alto's Gunn High School, said she is looking for guest speakers. Once a month a professional journalist addresses her class.

Judging

Press Club board members signed up to judge entries from a contest in Florida.

The meeting wrapped up at 7:45 p.m. Minutes recorded by vice president Dave Price.

Point Reyes paper will test new ownership model

Mark Fitzgerald of E&P says the 3,00-circulation Point Reyes Light in west Marin County is using a new ownership model called L3C that might save some newspapers from closing. By incorporating as a L3C, or low-profit limited liability company, papers could continue to operate as if they were for-profits, but also allow them to accepted tax-deductible donations and foundation money. But no newspaper has tried L3C ownership until now, Fitzgerald writes.
    But with an L3C, a high net worth individual could donate to a newspaper and get a 50% tax break. And the newspaper is allowed to turn a profit, so long as its primary purpose is to advance some public benefit. 
    The hang-up has been that the IRS has generally refused to recognize reporting on the news as the kind of social or educational benefit necessary to qualify for tax-deductible donations. 
    But Kim Butler, the Vermont attorney who set up the Light L3C, believes this structure will work not just in Point Reyes but for other newspapers, too. “There are certain parts of the newspaper component that work well with in the educational benefit of an L3C,” she says.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Appeals court upholds $21m verdict to Guardian

A state appeals court on Wednesday upheld a $21 million verdict in favor of the Bay Guardian, saying that the chain-owned SF Weekly and its parent company illegally sold ads at below cost in an attempt to run the locally-owned Guardian out of business.

Here's the ruling, the Chron's story and the Guardian's report. The SF Weekly, which until now had been continuously covering the case, hadn't posted anything about the ruling as of 4 p.m. Friday, more than 48 hours after the ruling was handed down.

"We are very pleased with the court's decision," Guardian owner Bruce Brugmann (left) told the Chron. "And we are particularly pleased because it upholds and strengthens the Unfair Practices Act, a 1913 legacy of the Progressive era. We are delighted to see the act properly updated in the current era of corporate and chain concentration."

On its Website, the Guardian called Wednesday's ruling a "dramatic victory for small independent businesses" which often find they have to compete against chain stores that temporarily lower prices below wholesale, knowing that the local independent store can't afford to compete. After the local independent goes out of business, the chain store raises its prices and then opens a store in another community where it does the same thing all over again. It's often been said that Walmart grew this way, moving into a small town, selling products at a loss, running local independents out of business, then jacking up its prices once there was no competition. Essentially Brugmann's lawyers argued that the SF Weekly was behaving like Walmart.

The ruling noted that the papers had reached a settlement, but Brugmann told the Chronicle that negotiations were still continuing. Earlier, after the verdict in 2008, the Guardian has received court permission to take two of the SF Weekly's vans and intercept 50% of the money paid by SF Weekly advertisers.

The SF Weekly and its parent company, Village Voice Media (formerly New Times Media), had denied the Guardian's claims and argued that they violated the First Amendment.

Some reports have characterized Wednesday's ruling as a $16 million victory. Actually the original jury award in 2008 was for $6.2 million. Judge Marla Miller added $10 million in antitrust law penalities, raising the total to $16 million. Since then, interest had added another $5 million, bringing the total to $21 million.

The ruling cleared the East Bay Express, which had been a defendant in the case because at the time it was owned by the SF Weekly's parent company. But the ruling said that the Express had not been acquired by the Weekly's parent at the time when the pricing scheme was taking place.

Prior to Wednesday’s ruling, Village Voice Media was expecting a victory in the appeals court.
“We fully expect to win the case on appeal, and we are heartened by the fact that the Court of Appeal has already advised us that it has read all of the briefs, is familiar with the facts of the case, has conferenced the case, and is ready to set oral arguments,” executive associate editor Andy Van De Voorde said in a March 10 e-mail to the company’s employees.

In an interview with Westword earlier this year, Van De Voorde was quoted as saying, “The Guardian is trying to drum up headlines and damage our business by creating the entirely inaccurate perception that we’re going to start selling off papers in order to meet this judgment. And that’s not going to happen.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

UC Berkeley J-school ponders $5,000 annual fee

According to a UC Berkeley memo posted on the Romenesko blog, Cal’s Graduate School of Journalism is considering charging every student a $5,000 "professional degree fee" starting with those who enter the school in 2011.
Neil Henry, the school’s dean, sent a memo asking students already enrolled at the J-school for “advice and suggestions” about the fee. Henry also plans to convene an all school meeting in the library on Sept. 13, at 12:30 p.m., to discuss it. If the J-school goes forward with the fee, it would still have to be approved by the Regents.

'Wild Experimentation' in the local news scene

Christin Evans, owner of Booksmith in San Francisco, describes in a Huffington Post piece a panel discussion she moderated that included journalists who are attempting to reshape the business with new business models. The panelists were The Bay Citizen's Lisa Frazier, SF Public Press' Micahel Stoll, Mission Local's Lydia Chavez.
    All three said their news organization had not yet reached sustainability. They all described foundation and citizen donations, or "the NPR model" of news underwriting through sponsorship, as their aim. 
    Lisa Frazier disclosed the initial endowment of $5 million dollars the Bay Citizen received from Warren Hellman as a "tremendous gift" that has allowed her organization to fund its start-up costs, hire 26 journalists "at market rates" and develop a plan to reach sustainability in 5 years. ... 
    Today, the news stories they report are distributed online on their website. Lisa Frazier said that approximately 25% to 30% of people are getting their news from friends posts on Facebook and Twitter and that online is the first place to be. 
    But all three have news stories which have gone to print. Many of the Bay Citizen's stories are printed on Friday's and Sunday's in the Bay Area Report section of the New York Times. Mission Local recently printed copies of their top stories half in English, half in Spanish. And, Michael Stoll said that Public Press had just broken even with their first print edition which is sold for $2 at independent bookstores around the city and that they plan to print quarterly with their next issue in the fall.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chron offers workers a raise next year

The California Media Workers Guild, which represents Chronicle workers, reports that management has given some ground in contract talks including a "small wage increase" (no numbers were given) in 11 months (July 2011).

The Guild also reports both sides have reached agreement on sick leave, grievance procedures and layoff notices.
    Except for the small wage increase, the company offered no money to help protect our health and welfare benefits, and no indication pensions could be restored or that a 401(k) match could be offered. 
    While today’s small moves by management were encouraging, they still fall far short of addressing the clear message we’ve received from our members: 
    We’ve made huge sacrifices to save The Chronicle, and it is time those were recognized.
No date has been given for contract talks to resume. Newsroom and advertising workers have been without a contract since June 30.

SFGate using material from content farm

MediaPost.com has an article explaining the business of "content farms," which automatically assign "stories" to nonprofessional freelancers based on user interest and their search engine optimization potential.

SFGate began using content farm material this week for its "Home Guides" section.

It's a big business. One content farm, Demand Media, announced today it was planning a $125 million IPO. Another farm, Associated Content, was acquired by Yahoo in May for $100 million, according to Advertising Age.

"Associated is in the business of generating a great deal of freelancer-produced content that can earn as little as $5 a story, and is optimized for search. (Examples of stories include "Guide to Reducing Stress in Daily Activities" and "Five Hollywood Career Revivals Waiting to Happen.")," the Advertising Age story said.

Hearst is using Demand Media's Content Channels to supply material to the websites associated with the SF Chronicle and Houston Chronicle.

"In the case of the Houston Chronicle's Chron.com, the team worked with Demand Media to create a "Small Business Resource Center" to complement its existing business news coverage by incorporating thousands of business-related articles and videos," MediaPost reported.

Boxer, Fiorina agree to Nor Cal debate

KTVU, KQED and the Chronicle announced today they will sponsor an hour-long debate between Sen. Barbara Boxer and challenger Carly Fiorina on Wednesday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m. before a live audience at St. Mary's College in Moraga. The moderator will be KTVU Political Editor Randy Shandobil and the questioners will be Chronicle Political Reporter Carla Marinucci, La Opinion Senior Political Reporter Pilar Marrero and KQED Public Radio Host Scott Shafer.

As for the governor's race, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown have tentatively agreed to debate on KGO-AM's Ronn Owens show on Oct. 5. We reported Wednesday that Tom Brokaw will moderate an Oct. 12 debate between Whitman and Brown at Dominican University in San Rafael. Whitman and Brown have also agreed to debate Sept. 28 at UC-Davis and Oct. 1 on Univision from Sacramento's KCRA-TV.

Debate erupts over Patch working conditions

Joe Pompeo of BusinessInsider.com has a couple of interesting columns (Aug. 5 and Aug. 6) about whether the new chain of AOL "hyper local" Patch websites are sweatshops. Patch hires reporters/editors who cover news in one specific community, and the job can be pretty demanding. The pay is about $40,000 a year, according to Pompeo.

Patch started on the East Coast, but this year has opened sites serving Albany, Danville, Mill Valley, Pleasanton, San Anselmo-Fairfax, San Rafael, San Ramon and Walnut Creek. A San Bruno site is on the way, according to Patch's index page.

Pompeo quotes a letter from an anonymous Patch editor:
    The working conditions for local editors at Patch sites raise the question of whether this model is sustainable or about whether this is the reality for journalists working in this new media age.
    Basically, the job is 24/7 with so far little support in getting any kind of time off — nights, weekends, vacation days guaranteed under our AOL contract. (Some regional editors do try to help; others don’t.) This time-off issue has become a major concern among local editors. You might hear about the 70-hour work weeks. 
    Yes, 70 hours and more. It’s a start-up and all that, and I knew it would be hard work going in. But what is becoming distressing is this sense that I can’t get a break. I’ve worked in journalism for more than 20 years as a newspaper reporter, online editor, magazine editor, and I’ve never worked so much in my life.

Pompeo apparently got a lot of responses from Patch editors who disputed the sweatshop allegations, such as this one from one in New Jersey named Mary Mann.
    70 hours? Not my experience though I do think some editors have been putting in those hours. In Maplewood, NJ, I work something closer to 40-60 hours per week. 
    Yep, we do work hard as Patch editors, but this is the most flexible and rewarding full-time job I've ever had. I can pick up my kids from camp, do some laundry and grocery shopping and make my calls, visit my interviewees and post my stories. Also, the editors do not have to worry about the technical side of the site—we have a whole support team back at the central office working on that. 
    And all the ad sales are handled by ad sales staff. Also, you've got a network of other editors in your region to share stories with and help provide coverage. So, we don't do it all — a major difference between being a local editor for Patch and starting your own standalone site.
And another Patch editor wrote to Pompeo to say:
    I, too, am a local editor with Patch, and I feel the need to clear up a misconception — namely, that we were all somehow "duped" into long hours and middling pay. 
    Maybe there's some poor sap out there who went into this line of work thinking it would make him rich, but that certainly doesn't describe me or anyone I know. I could have gone into technical writing or advertising or consulting, but I didn't, because I genuinely_f&*$@*_love_journalism. And as crazy as it may seem, I was willing to trade a higher salary to practice it. So let's bear that in mind as we lament the fate of the poor, foolish Patch editor.

Perlman gets SPJ's lifetime achievement award

The Society of Professional Journalists is honoring veteran Chronicle reporter David Perlman with the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. Reporting for over seven decades, Perlman is revered for his comprehensive writings on complex developments in space, geology, paleontology, evolution, the environment and other science news. Perlman's 78-year newspaper career began at age 12 with his junior high school paper. Perlman started writing at the Chronicle in 1940. After serving in World War II, he worked at the International Herald-Tribune before returning to the Chronicle in 1951.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Brokaw to moderate Whitman-Brown debate

Dominican University in San Rafael announced today that Tom Brokaw will moderate the Oct. 12 debate between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman. The 6:30 p.m. debate will take place at Angelico Hall on the Dominican campus and will air on NBC stations around the state. Brokaw, anchor of the "NBC Nightly News" from 1982 to 2004, moderated the Oct. 7, 2008 Obama-McCain debate. In that debate, Brokaw enforced a no-response rule that appeared to frustrate Obama. At least one commentator labeled Brokaw's performance as "terrible." Going into the debate, critics on the left were concerned that Brokaw's ties to the McCain campaign would make him a less than objective moderator. (Photo credit: Screen grab from NBC's "Meet the Press," 2008)

Former Merc editor to head Audubon Society

David Yarnold, who worked at the Merc for 27 years rising to executive editor, has been named president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. Yarnold leaves his job as executive director of the Environmental Defense Fund, where he went in 2005 after leaving the Merc. Both environmental organizations are based in New York City. (Photo credit: National Audubon Society website.)

Bonds donates $20K to black journalists group

The National Association of Black Journalists announced on Friday that the Barry Bonds Family Foundation has given it a $20,000 grant to promote entrepreneurship among black journalists. The problem is that some NABJ members felt the award shouldn't be given now, with Bonds facing a trial on perjury charges. Some NABJ members plan to cover the trial. Richard Prince's Journal-isms has the complete story here.

The grant is to be used to fund an annual award, designated the Ray Taliaferro NABJ Entrepreneurial Spirit Award. According to Prince, Bonds wanted to name the award after Taliaferro in recognition of the KGO-AM overnight host's civic and public contributions to the Bay Area.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Press Club board meeting set for Wednesday

Meeting Notice
San Francisco Peninsula Press Club Board of Directors
Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010, 6:30 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-High school journalism boot camp
4-Annual awards banquet discussion
5-November membership workshop/salon
6-Other business as needed

At board member Jamie Casini White's request, Bob Porterfield of Patch.com will attend to discuss Patch's interest of running a workshop at the boot camp.

Why start a site to encourage corrections?

After we posted the item below about the creation of the MediaBugs site, we reached creator Scott Rosenberg via e-mail and asked him a few questions.

1. Was there any error or incident that prompted the creation of MediaBugs?
    It was really inspired by my work as managing editor of Salon.com, where I fielded error reports from our readers. I began to think we were doing it inefficiently: I was responding by e-mail individually to readers when what I really wanted to do was post our explanations in public, but we didn't have a mechanism to do that. 
    I was working on a book about software development at the time and became familiar with the public bug-trackers that open-source programmers use on their projects. 
    I thought it might make a useful model for the newsroom, so we could track problems and also better communicate how we were handling issues readers raised. I never implemented the idea at Salon but it stayed with me and I dusted it off, revised it and proposed it to the Knight News Challenge.

2. How will your site differ from "Regret the Error"?
    Regret the Error is great -- its creator, Craig Silverman, has been one of our advisers at MediaBugs -- but it's primarily made up of reporting about corrections and the issues surrounding corrections. MediaBugs is conceived as a pragmatic solution to a problem -- we hope to demonstrate a new model for improving the feedback loop between the newsroom and the public. So we're more of a hands-on, functioning service rather than a site that covers issues.

3. When the $335,000 in Knight News Challenge money runs out, how will MediaBugs sustain itself?
    We'll either continue the site on a volunteer basis or raise more money if we can. The costs are heaviest in the initial phase of the project (software development and community outreach); running the service isn't as expensive, and if we prove our value I'm confident we can keep it going.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Investigative reporter let go for financial reasons

Media blogger Rich Lieberman reports that KPIX CBS5 investigative reporter Anna Werner has been let go due to financial reasons. News director Dan Rosenheim would only confirm that Werner is no longer at the station, but Lieberman said he was told by a source that it was a financial move. She has been at Channel 5 since 2004 and has earned several Emmys. Previously she was an investigative reporter at the CBS affiliate in Houston, KHOU. Her bio page at the CBS5 website, which had described her as "one of the nation's top investigative reporters," has been removed. But the "CBS 5 Investigates" page, showing her most recent work, is still up as is her CBS5 Facebook page.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New website devoted to correcting errors

MediaBugs, a new website devoted to "correcting errors and problems in media coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area, says that 21 of the 28 news sites it examined provide no corrections link on their websites' home pages and article pages. The websites for 17 of the 28 news organizations examined have no corrections policy or substantive corrections content at all, MediaBugs said in a report titled "Hard to get a fix, the state of corrections in Bay Area news media."
    In many cases, news organizations that publish both in print and on the Web handle the corrections process much more effectively in print than online. We attribute this to the relative immaturity of online publishing; print has simply had more time to develop better error-correction policies and practices. Our survey concentrates on the online realm because it represents the likely future of news delivery -- and right now correction-handling there is in such worse shape.
MediaBugs checked the sites of the Examiner, Chronicle/SFGate.com, Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Marin Independent Journal, Wall Street Journal (SF section), Bay Citizen, New York Times (Bay Area Report), SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, East Bay Express, SF Business Times, Mother Jones, Wired, SF Public Press, Salon, SF Appeal, OaklandLocal, CNET News, KTVU, KRON, KPIX, KGO-TV, KNTV, KQED-FM, KALW-FM and KCBS Radio.

The project director is Scott Rosenberg (pictured), author of "Say Everything, Dreaming in Code," a co-founder and writer at Salon.com and an 11-year veteran of the Examiner. Associate Director Mark Follman was a news editor at Salon and contributed to Rolling Stone and Mother Jones. The MediaBugs website lists as advisers Lane Becker, Bill Gannon, Dan Gillmor and Craig Silverman.

The project is funded by a $335,000 grant from the Knight News Challenge, a contest to support innovative digital media projects. Here's how the Knight News Challenge website describes the MediaBugs project:
    All journalists make mistakes, but they sometimes view admitting errors as a mark of shame. MediaBugs aims to change this climate, by promoting transparency and providing recognition for those who admit and fix their mistakes. 
    MediaBugs will create a public test web site in a U.S. city for people to report errors in any news report – online or off-line. 
    Comments will be tracked to see if they create a conversation between the reporter and the error submitter, and then show whether corrections or changes resulted. Based on a system that technology teams use when releasing software, this aggregation process will display trends in errors and show which news organizations are responsible to public questions and comments.

MediaBugs appears to have started in the past few months. The first post on a blog associated with the site (titled "Gentle people: on your mark, get set, report bugs!") is dated March 24. The first errors the site's personnel "helped get corrected" were in May, when it was still in its beta phase. (Photo credit: www.dreamingincode.com)

Food critic Stett Holbrook hopes to do PBS pilot

SFeater.com, a foodie website, reports that Metro San Jose's food editor, Stett Holbrook, and producer Greg Roden, are co-creators of a new documentary TV series called "Food Forward." It will explore alternatives to industrial food systems like urban agriculture and profile people who are changing how American's eat. Holbrook and Roden are looking for money to produce a pilot for PBS. Here's a detailed write-up of their proposed show at grist.org.

Chronicle slashes home subscription rates

Maybe it's just a one-time-only promotion or maybe it's a shift in philosophy, but the Chronicle is now offering a year-long, Thursday-through-Sunday subscription for $19.99. The SFWeekly posted this picture of the offer insert (at left).

Normally, the Thursday-Sunday rate is $26 for four weeks. For 52 weeks, it's $338. So this is a $318.01 discount.

The SF Weekly called various Chronicle execs for a comment. None of them returned the calls. But the discount offer seems to contradict the new business plan announced by Publisher Frank Vega last year. He wanted the Chron to rely less on advertising revenue and more on money paid by subscribers and single-copy purchasers.