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Bruce Blog

Is Nancy Pelosi up to it? Here are some telling details


By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

“PELOSI TO BE PUT TO THE TEST,” trumpeted Tuesday’s Chronicle front page lead story.
The Guardian has been down on Pelosi ever since she led the campaign to privatize the Presidio
and then refused to debate the issue at the time or in subsequent campaigns. But
she is now in a key leadership spot, at a critical time in U.S. history with the crises of Iraq and Bush,
and we wish her well. We hope she rises to the occasion and at minimum satisifies her hometown dailynewspaper, if not the Guardian on the other end of town.
But there are many telling details, as I like to call them, that raise some doubts.

First, Maureen Dowd’s lead comment in her Dec. 20th New York Times column.
Dowd wrote, “The only sects that may be more savage than Shiites and Sunnis are the Democratic feminiist lawmakers representing Northern and Southern California.

“After Nancy Pelosi and Jane Harman had their final catfight about who would lead the House Intelligence
Committee, aptly enough at the Four Seasons hair salon in Georgetown, the new speaker passed over the knowledgeable and camera-eager Ms. Harman and mystifyingly gave the consequential job to Silvestre Reyes of Texas.” Dowd then polished off Reyes by pointing out that Reyes, when questioned by a reporter for Congresssional Quarterly, didn’t know whether Al Quaeda was Sunni or Shiite (he is “profoundly Shiite,” as Dowd said) and didn’t seem to know who the Hezbollah were. “‘Hezbollah,'” he stammered. “‘Uh, Hezbollah. Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish?” He couldn’t answer in either English or Spanish.

Second, Steve Lopez from the Los Angeles Time found a few days later that Pelosi’s office was annoyed when Lopez called her Washington office and asked if Pelosi was going to “correct her blunder and reverse the appointment” of Reyes, as Lopez put it in his Dec. 27th column. He quoted Jennifer Crider, the Pelosi spokeswoman,as asking why Lopez was still interested in the story.

“Well,” Crider wrote, “partly because the committee has the name INTELLIGENCE in it. And partly because I’m still embarrassed as a Californian to have a San Francisco representative pick the one guy fom Texas who seems to know less than Bush. Lopez continued, “Couldn’t Pelosi reconsider, I asked Crider, even if Pelosi and Harman have their political differences?” Crider replied that Reyes “misspoke.” Lopez wrote that, “in the interest of national security and in the Christmas spirit, I’m sending Reyes a book I found at Amazon.com. It’s called ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East conflict.'”

Third, Pelosi and her local and Washington office refuse to respond to the entreaties of the supporters of Josh Wolf, the journalist jailed on orders of the Bush administration for refusing to give up videotapes he took of a demonstration in San Francisco. She and her office refuse to meet with Josh’s mother and supporters and she refuses to respond to questions about the case from the Guardian beyond saying through a spokesperson that she can’t interfere because it is a “legal matter” (which is nonsense, it is a political hit on journalism and San Francisco by the Bush administration). Pelosi does say that she does support a federal shield law for reporters, which is fine as far as it goes but it is not on her first l00 hour agenda or any other visible agenda. Josh, let us emphasize, is a constituent of Pelosi’s, and he is the only journalist in jail in the U.S. for refusing to give up material to the government, and soon will have been in jail longer than any journalist ever’ Question: If Pelosi refuses to even meet with Josh’s mother on such a serious journalistic and public policy issue, how can she be expected to effectively lead the charge against Bush and the war?

Fourth, Pelosi gives every signal, publicly and privately, that she won’t be leading a strong charge against Bush and the war and the sudden surge and acceleration of more troops into Iraq. She has already made it clear she won’t use the only real levers of power the Democrats have (impeachment proceedings and the the power of the budget to defund the war) or even the bully pulpit of her new office. As her constituents in San Francisco and the voters in the last election have made clear, there’s a misbegotten war on and they want it stopped and they don’t want Bush to be following fellow Texan LBJ in Vietnam by sending in more troops, more troops, more troops, to surge and accelerate in Iraq. They want U.S. troops out of this relentless descent into civil war maelstrom.
So: keep the pressure on Pelosi to try to insure she represents the real San Francisco values. That starts with peace and dissent on the war and Bush. B3

Postscript: Meanwhile, the New York Times reports Tuesday in a story headlined, “A Party, with Pelosi Front and Center,” that her party schedule is a splash of “Pelosi-palooza.” Anne E. Kornblut writes that “In a three day stretch of whirlwind events beginning on Wednesday, Mrs. Pelosi will celebrate her heritage (at the Italian Embassy), her faith (in a Roman Catholic Mass), her education (at Trinity College), her childhood (in Baltimore) and her current home (in a tribute by the singer Tony Bennett of ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco fame.'”) Okay, okay, but the tantalizing question remains: Pelosi can throw a party but is she smart enough and tough enough to go up against Bush and the war gang at this critical juncture and represent the real San Francisco values of her constituency? Follow along at the Guardian, at sfbg.com, and on the Bruce blog.

Nick Coleman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune is mad as hell and won’t take it any more. He writes, McClatchy’s profit-and-loss statement: They profit, we lose


By Bruce B. Brugmann

For months now, as the Knight-Ridder/McClatchy/Hearst/Singleton/Gannett/Stephens debacle has unfolded, I have been looking in vain to see if a staff member on any of the papers of the nation’s biggest chains (reporter, columnist, editorial writer, editor, union spokesperson, ad salesman, letter writer, blogger, anybody) would beallowed to blast away at this deal of ultimate toxicity in their papers, on their websites, or in their blogs. (Note my postscript to the newspaper unions to this effect in my previous blog.)

The closest I have seen is an excellent First Amendment column by Thomas Peele in the Contra Costa Times/Singleton, raising the right issues about why his owner/publisher had moved to seal the court records in the Reilly vs. Hearst antitrust case in federal court. (See my earlier blog.) James Naughton, former editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and a K-R stockholder, and a gang of former Knight-Ridder staffers, mostly retired or off staff, also published online a sharp letter rebuke to K-R Chairman Tony Ridder and the K-R board for rolling over and refusing to fight it out with the dissident private equity stockholders.

Now, two days after McClatchy tossed the Star Tribune into the snow banks of Northern Minnesota, columnist Nick Coleman on Thursday wrote a classic column that ought to go into the journalist textbooks at the University of Minnesota and everywhere else. He lays out in a snapshot of what happens to the Twin Cities when McClatchy and Knight-Ridder conspire in a misbegotten deal that leaves St. Paul with Singleton and Minneapolis with, gulp, a one-year-old New York private equity group firm with no newspaper holdings nor experience. Ironically, perhaps the reason the Star Tribune ran his column was because McClatchy was beating it out of town, fast, at full gallop, and the paper was suddenly thrust under the new ownership of Avista Capital Partners, which hadn’t gotten the knack of monopoly press control and censorship. Chalk up one good mark for the new owner.

Coleman flashed his sword in his lead paragraphs: “When the McClatchy Co. got the keys to the Star Tribune in l998, McClatchy’s patriarch hailed the merger. James McClatchy called it a wedding of two newspaper traditions that shared “‘a deep-rooted commitment to building a just society.’

“You are now permitted to laugh derisively.

“Eight years later, hardly anyone in the newspaper business talks about anything other than building profit margins that would choke a robber baron.

“Mercifully, McClatchy passed away in May and did not live to see the Sacrmento-based company that bore his name disgrace his legacy by dumping its largest newspaper–the most important one between Chicago and the West Coast, the one that serves 5 million Minnesotans and that can be a conscience, a scold, a cheerleader and an interpreter of life on the tundra.”

Coleman ended with a scathing flourish: “McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt did not bother to come to Minnesota on Tuesday to say he surreptitously had sold the paper and to kiss us goodbye.

“But McClatchy brass gave us some nice parting shots from afar, complaining that the Star Tribune had lost value (and proving it in a secret auction at fire-sale prices), calling the flagship a drag on profits and sayiong McClatchy would have shown a one-percent increase in ad sales if the Star Tribune weren’t included. One per cent Huzzah!
Sound the trumpets!

“There’s the market for you: the Star Tribune held down ad sales one percent. So One-Percent Pruitt axed his best newspaper. Brilliant.

“‘The Star Tribune is one fo the best newspapers in this country,'” Pruitt said in l998. “‘The Twin Cities is one of the most attractive newspaper markets in the country. And it was a near perfect fit in terms of values and traditions.’

“We didn’t change. But you, Mr. Pruitt? We don’t recognize you anymore. So long.

“Don’t bother to write.”

I like that, and I’ll bet a lot of Minnesotans will like that. I can speak with authority because, as a native of Rock Rapids, Iowa, situated five miles from the Minnesota state line just south of Luverne, Minnesota, I grew up with the Star Tribune and its sister paper, the Des Moines Register, both highly respected papers who looked upon the entire states of Minnesota and Iowa as their beats. They were owned at that time by the Cowles family, who lived in Minneapolis and Des Moines, and cared deeply about journalism and Minnesota and Iowa. I spent many a Sunday morning back in the late l940s riding about town proudly delivering the Sunday Register. Everybody, it seemed, in Minnesota and Iowa, read and lived by the Star Tribune and Register. They were our friendly hometown papers.

Coleman has set the standard: The least newspaper owners can do these days of monopoly mayhem is to allow their staff members and readers to write openly and honestly as appropriate in their papers and websites about the way they and their communities are being treated by their owners and publishers. In the meantime, I toast with a Potrero Hill martini Nick Coleman and his editors who passed his story into print. Bravo! keep it up!

Lingering question: Why didn’t Tony Ridder fight like hell to keep his family heritage chain of papers? And why didn’t the Knight-Ridder board, or his key executives, push him privately or publicly to put up a fight. Every Knight-Ridder executive I run into, I ask the question: how in the world did this happen and why didn’t Tony and Knight-Riddger put up a fight? I have yet to get a satisfactory answer. I kept reading Tony’s comments at the time to the effect that he had no choice and that a sale would keep the peace and minimize the tumult in his chain papers.

How could there be more tumult and more damage than there is now? Did Tony and his board really think that McClatchy could swallow their entire chain of papers and not peddle any of them off in fire sales? Why didn’t they get solid pledges from McClatchy that would at minimum save their best papers (Philadelphia Inquirer, San Jose Mercury-News, Contra Costa Times, St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune et al)? I believed then, and i believe now, that Tony and the Knight-Ridder people made a bad mistake by not putting up a big public fight and talking publicly, not just about its respectable 20 per cent profit margins, but also about its reputation for quality journalism, community involvement, the prestigious Knight Foundation, and major First Amendment and public access advocacy.

Moreover, while much of the mainstream press was marching us into Iraq and practicing stenographic reporting of the Bush administration, Knight-Ridder and its Washington bureau regularly did some of the most critical news reporting and editorial writing on Bush and the war of any of the major media. I assure you, Dean Singleton and Avista Capital partners aren’t about to pick up the slack, hit hard on Bush and the war, or even try to develop much original Washington and foreign news coverage. Alas. I hope I’m wrong. I refer you to Brugmann’s Law: once you damage quality papers like these, it’s tough as hell to bring them back. Alas. I hope I’m wrong.

Stay alert–we will keep running the major stories that the Hearst/Singleton monopoly papers refuse to print. B3

Nick Coleman: McClatchy’s profit-and-loss statement: They profit, we lose

McClatchy sells the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to a New York venture capital firm with no newspaper experience. It’s sad for the staff, for the state of Minnesota, and for the newspaper business


Bu Bruce B. Brugmann

It’s yet another WLSB, another wimpy little story in the business section of the Hearst/Singleton papers, except this time it was not even in the business section of the San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst.
And it was just a couple of paragraphs boiled out of an Associated Press story in the business digest of the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, and the San Jose Mercury News (all Singleton papers).

Why? This was probably because the latest McClatchy sale was the most embarrassing media monopoly story of them all: it showed yet again how the nation’s big chains were tossing newspapers around like drunks toss cards in a monopoly game in a waterfront saloon. This time, in a most unexpected development, McClatchy announced that it was selling the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, one of the great newspapers of the country, for less than half of the original purchase price of $l.2 billion that McClatchy paid in l998 to buy the Star-Tribune and its local Cowles Media parent company.

And it sold its largest paper to a one year old NewYork venture capital firm named Avista Capital Partners with no newspaper holdings and no newspaper experience.

Word came as a shock to the newsroom in Minneapolis, reported the New York Times Thursday. Employees received an e-mail message aet 3:5l p.m. saying that there would be an important announcement at 4:00.

“You should have seen the look on our faces,” said Nick Coleman, a metropolitan editor for the paper. “It was like, who? Everyone knows the whole industry is in play and that just about anything could happen, but nobody thought we could get sold. There’s a real sense of betrayal.”

Coleman said the paper was sold in a “fire sale.” He continued, “At a fire sale, people get discounted so we’re very concerned, worried and anxious.” On the other hand, he said, “maybe it takes someone from outside the newspaper business to see the way forward.”

Dean Singleton, the new owner of the competing St. Paul Pioneer Press, was astounded and was quoted in his own paper as saying he would never have expected McClatchy to sell the paper at such a large loss. “How often does a newspaper company sell its largest paper,” he said. “It doesn’t happen.”

For those of us who grew up with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Des Moines Register (both owned by the Cowles family), this is a terrible shock. It was bad enough when the Gannett Company took over the Register and turned a splendid statewide paper into a mediocre Des Moines metropolitan paper. I remember the precise moment when I knew that Gannett was ruining the Register. I was back visiting my parents in Rock Rapids, Iowa, and I stopped in to the Rexall store, as I always did when I was in town, to buy the Register from Jim Roeman, a high school classmate who ran the store. He didn’t have any and explained why: the Register had hiked the price so that the more papers he sold, the more money he lost and so he (and many other outlets outstate) stopped carrying the Register. And that was the Gannett strategy, to gradually cut back circulation and coverage to outer Des Moines and ruin a proud state paper.

It was worrying when McClatchy, a California paper, bought the Minneapolis Star but at least it was strong editorially and had solid management. But now, McClatchy sold to an unknown venture capital firm with no credentials and no track record and it did so even though McClatchy’s chainwide profit margin through September of this year was 25.2 per cent, according to Gary Pruitt, McClatchy CEO. Then Pruit coyly added without giving specifics, “Without Minneapolis, the profit margin would be higher.” Higher? That’s higher than most U.S. corporations are doing.

Even newspaper analyst John Morton, who rarely sees a newspaper sale or a merger he doesn’t like, told the Sacramento Bee that the sale was “a disappointment.” He said McClatchy is known as an operator of high quality newspapers and is giving up on a paper with a good reputation. “This is a shock,” he said.

Colby Atwood, an analyst at Borrell Associates, a media research firm, gave a chilling financial analysis to the New York Times. “The turbulence of equity holders trying to rebalance their portfolios and newspapers are properties to be bought and sold,” he said. “They’re buying cash flow and tax benefits. It’s not the sort of religious commitment that you hope to get from newspaper owners.”

The Star Tribune laid out this new form of “religious commitment” in its Wednesday story by Matt McKinney and Susan Feyder, who were assigned that uneviable job in journalism of covering the transgressions of their own paper. Here is their snapshot lead of how the nation’s second largest chain unloads its biggest newspaper:

“The Star Tribune’s new chairman is a Wall Street investor who says he’s driven by public service. Chis Harte is also a resident of Texas and Maine and a former newspaper executive who’ll be advising an investment group that has never owned a daily newspaper.

“A day after McClatchy announced the sale of the Star Tribune to a New York private equity group, there are more questions than answers about how the deal will reshape the newspaper and its community, and whether it will serve as a template for an industry in transition.

“Harte says he’s still trying to figure it all out himself.

“‘This whole transaction came together so fast, really in just the last week or so,'” Harte said. “‘At this point we just don’t know about things like my schedule.'”

The heads on the story synopsize the point about reshaping the newspaper and the community: “Twin Cities will lose Star Tribune Foundation” and “Sale could reset the bar for newspaper deals–lower.”

Well, we can get a little idea right here in the Bay Area about this kind of “reshaping” and “religious commitment.”
Only by reading the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the LA Times, and the many stories on Chain Links, the online network of the Newspaper Guild, (some links below), can you find out much of anything about this sorry deal. Not by reading the WLSBs in the local Hearst/Singleton press. And so once again we urge you to sign up for Chain Links and get the stories the local monopoly papers won’t print.

Full disclosure: we want to get the documents of collaboration of Hearst and Singleton and the other chains in the Bay Area monopoly deai (McClatchy, Gannertt, Stephens), and shed as much light as possible on the march of the Galloping Conglomerati. That’s why the Guardian and the Media Alliance, represented by the First Amendment Project, went into federal court last week to try to unseal the documents in Reilly vs. Hearst et al, the only real impediment remaining to unraveling the Hearst/Singleton deal and the fallout from the Knight-Ridder sale to McClatchy. Wish us luck. B3

P.S. I sent an email over to Ken Howe, editor of the Chronicle business section, asking him why the Chronicle did not run a story on the McClatchy sale. He had not responded by blogtime. I am sending a copy of this story (and the Nick Coleman column) to Hearst corporate in New York via Chronicle publisher Frank Vega and Editor Phil Bronstein. Will they comment? Will Hearst ever allow a Nick Coleman-type column in its paper or website SF Gate or its blogs? Will they allow David Lazarus to get to the bottom of it all in his excellent business column? Or Phil Matier aand Andy Ross…Or?…Or?…

P.S. 2: Note to the newspaper unions: the stories you are running on Chain Links are owner oriented stories, with almost no quotes from people from the community or journalism or law professors or union spokespeople. Do the unions have any comment or stories of its own that it can pass along? Any more Nick Coleman type columns?

The Star Tribune
The Minneapolis Star Tribune
The New York Times
Editor & Publisher

Of Hearst, Singleton, the WLSBs, and the documents of collaboration


By Bruce B. Brugmann

To get the citizen’s point of view, I have long maintained that every reporter and every editor and every publisher ought sooner or later to be the center of a story and see how the media works.

I found the exercise most instructive when the Media Alliance and the Guardian, represented by the First Amendment Project (Attys. James Wheaton, David Greene, and Pondra Perkins), went into federal court on Thursday to intervene and seek to unseal key records in the Reilly vs. Hearst/Singleton antitrust trial. Our three P.S. organizations put out a press release with the spokespersons listed for contact (Jeff Perlstein from the Media Alliance, James Wheaton and David Greene from FAP, and myself from the Guardian.)

I got several calls from the Associated Press (Terence Chea, who did an excellent story that ran around the country), Kate Williamson of the Examiner, James Allen from the alternative paper Random Lengths in San Pedro (who was rightly agitated about the Hearst/ Singleton deal to buy the Daily Breeze in Torrance and further encroach on his turf), Mark Fitzgerald of Editor and Publisher was in touch, and others. Significantly, even though Hearst and Singleton have a lock on the Bay Area press, not one of their many reporters nor editors contacted me. (Subtle point: that is the wave of the future with these folks). Nobody from Hearst or Singleton even called or checked in to try to make the point that, even though they have five law firms and l2 or so attorneys in federal court heaving and sweating mightily to argue they really aren’t collaborating, they don’t even have to make a show of doing the journalistic minimum of doing an honest story. More: they didn’t even have to put on a show even though the lawsuit was aimed at their Achilles heel: their secret documents of collaboration. And of course they didn’t quote me or, when they did in the case of the Examiner, they mangled my point about why we were suing.

For the record, I said in the press release and in interviews with reporters: “Our intent here is to ensure that the naton’s biggest chains (Hearst, Singleton, McClatchy, Gannett, Stephens), as they move to destroy daily competition and impose regional monopoly in the Bay Area, cannot do so in the dark of night with sealed records that set a terrible precedent for the free press, the First Amendment, and open government.”

And so the two big papers, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News, gave us two more wimpy little stories buried deep in their business section. Those who are attentive readers of the Bruce blog would know how to find them. For example, the Chronicle put its wimpy little story in the Daily Digest column just above the fold on page two of the business section under the rousing head, “Media groups want documents unsealed.”

Its last paragraph is classic monopolyese: “(Judge) Illston issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday barring MediaNews and Hearst Corp. from collaborating until at least April 30, when Reilly’s case is expected to go to trial. (B3: Is this premature collaboration? Is it like premature ejaculation?) Attorneys for MediaNews and Hearst have argued that no collaboration plan is in the works but that should one emerge in the future, it would not be illegal.” Repeating for emphasis: “Attorneys for MediaNews and Hearst have argued that no collaboration plan is in the works but that should one emerge in the future, it would not be illegal.”
Marvelous. Simply marvelous. That is Hearst boilerplate corporate policy and it is a classic of self-immolation. Compare it with AP’s version: “On Tuesday, Illston barred Bay Area newspapers owned by MediaNews and Hearst from consolidating some of their business operations until the lawsuit is resolved. When she issued a temporary restraining order against the alliance in November, Illston said she had been under the impression that Hearst’s investment was solely an equity stake, but an April 26 memo had surfaced suggesting it actually was a bid to merge some of their business operations.” Alioto got this scarlet letter in discovery and used it in his brief to show that Hearst was in effect lying in court about its documents of collaboration. The judge quoted from this critical letter, but it is still under seal and so are other key documents that would likely show the Hearst/Singleton plans for regional monopoly. Significantly, the AP story ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a Hearst paper.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the bay, the Mercury News
was doing its own wimpy little story in the “Business Digest” in its business section, a two paragraph story with the rousing head “Plaintiffs seek records in antitrust media case.” The story was not even a Merc story, it was pinched without attribution from the AP story (another wave of the future). From now on, I shall refer to these stories as WLSBs.

Over in the near East Bay, Josh Richman did a much better story that appeared in both the Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times (a one reporter-covers-it-all concept that is another wave of the future.) Richman got some good quotes, including a notable one from Joseph Alioto, Reilly’s attorney.
“‘Oh, good, it’s about time,'” Alioto said of the lawsuit filing, adding that it was crucial for all details of an antitrust case. ‘It’s the archetypal example of hypocrisy when major newspapers take the right of the people to know applies to everyone except themselves.'”(Note the copy editing issues, another wave of the future with the staff cutbacks).

Significantly, none of the Hearst/Singleton reporters could get a single Hearst nor Singleton executive to comment on the lawsuit in their own papers. The ducking was delicious. Richman wrote: “Alan Marx, MediaNews’ attorney, declined comment. A Hearst spokesman could not be reached.” The Merc/AP reported: “Hearst officials were reviewing the motion and could not comment Thursday, said spokesman Paul Luthringer. Representatives at MediaNews did not immediately respond to a request for comment.” In short, the nation’s biggest chains are seeking to impose an ever more conservative news, editorial and endorsement line on one of the most liberal and civilized areas of the world, just as they ought to be raising holy hell about Bush, the Patriot Act, and the unending war in Iraq. And they are stonewalling like hell, in federal court and in their own papers, to keep secret the documents of collaboration.

And so there you have it: the state of daily journalism in the Bay Area, Friday, Dec. 22, 2007. There is much more to come. Follow our stories and editorials in the Guardian, on our website, and in the Bruce blog. Things of great moment are in the making.

P.S. Repeating: where the hell are the antitrust attorneys in the U.S. Justice Department? And where the hell is outgoing Attorney General Bill Lockyer and incoming Attorney General Jerry Brown? B3

Eureka! More on how monopoly papers cover monopoly news


By Bruce B. Brugmann

And so there it was, buried today in the business pages of the Chronicle/Hearst, the Contra Costa Times/Singleton, and the San Jose Mercury News/Singleton, the latest major development in one of the great buried stories of our time in the local daily press.

Editor and Publisher, the trade magazine for newspapers, got this major story right: Its online head read, “S.F. Judge Blocks Hearst/MediaNews Collaboration,” and its strong lead made the key point: “In a victory for a local businessman seeking to overturn a complex San Francisco Bay Area newspaper deal between Hearst Corp. and MediaNews Group Inc., a federal judge Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction blocking the chains from collaborating on joint distribution or advertising sales of their papers.”

This was an important ruling in the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust case, which stands as the only real impediment to the Hearst/Singleton deal that would destroy daily competition and impose regional monopoly in the Bay Area.
(See Guardian stories and previous blogs.)

But the ruling and the coverage by burial by the Hearst/Singleton press illustrates a major problem with the case: the publishers, who are normally hollering about the government suppression of documents and government manipulation of the news, this time got the documents sealed and so only their side of the story is getting out. Hearst/Singleton got a stringent protective order that gives them essentially unreviewable discretion to control the documents in the case. (Alioto presumably agreed to the order to get an early trial date).

Here’s how this works: Hearst/Singleton designate any document they are producing in discovery as “secret.”Alioto cannot contest that under the order, nor is there any dispute mechanism by which he can challenge it. If Alioto wants the document, he has to accept it under the protective order. Then, if he wants to file it with the court, he has to do so under seal. And, under the protective order, the judge has no discretion and must appeal the seal order. Alioto’s brief is also sealed, if it references the sealed document. This was the case with the critical April 26, 2006 letter from Hearst to Singleton that outlined an agreement to explore joint national and internet adversiting sales as well as joint distribution.

The judge has referenced and quoted the letter and stated in her preliminary injunction order that the letter “is in the form of a potentially binding agremeent” and indicates the two companies have “expressed the desire, if not the intent,” to collaborate in the Bay Area. Yet the letter is under seal, as is another letter the judge has quoted and a whole batch of obviously explosive discovery documents which Alioto got under discovery.

The letter is a publisher document and is not under seal and they can talk about it if they want to. After all, if they want to disclose their own secrets, it is up to them. Thus: the publishers have crafted a protective order that gives them control of the documents, gives the court no power to control its own filings, and no way for anyone to challenge any secret designations. The effect is that the Riley/Alioto filings are secret, the publishers filings are public, the public gets only one side of the story. And then the Hearst/Singleton papers put its side out in wimpy little stories buried in their business sections with wimpy little heads. (Example: today’s Chronicle head, “Hearst-MediaNews ruling extended.” Now there’s a rouser.) And there is no explanation of how the publishers rigged the protective order to promote their side of the story and muzzle Alioto.

All of this amounts to a terrible precedent for Hearst and Singleton and their chain allies (McClatchy, Gannett, Stephens) to be setting in federal court against the free press, the First Amendment, and open government.

Repeating: Thank the Lord for Reilly and Alioto. And where the hell are the federal antitrust attorneys (they are still mucking about, pledging folks to secrecy and then asking softball questions)? And where the hell are outgoing Attorney General Bill Lockyer (who seems cowed by the case and is busy chasing those dread pre-texters in the Hewlett-Packard board room)? And where the hell is incoming Attorney General Jerry Brown (who has announced he is going to continue to live in Oakland under the heavy thumb of Singleton’s Oakland Tribune and his galaxy of East Bay papers, without making a peep to date)? B3

P.S. l: I am not blaming the reporters nor their editors for their patriotic Hearst First and Singleton First coverage. They have the unenviable assignment of covering the monopoly moves of their publishers in New York and Denver that are aimed at savaging their own papers and their own staffs and their own communities. It is not, let us stipulate, a fun job. I hope they are keeping detailed diaries. B3

William Brand’s Beer Column


William Brand’s Blog Craft Beer
Inside Bay Area

Those Nasty Elves: Where to Buy Them
By William Brand on Wednesday

I wrote about an English beer with a catchy name – Seriously Bad Elf – in my Beer of the Week Column today.

Here’s a list of bottle shops in the Bay Area that are carrying the gift packs, according to the distributor, Manzo Beer & Ale, Mountain View.

East Bay


Ledger’s Liquor, 1399 University Ave., (510) 54
Star Market, 3068 Claremont Ave., Berkeley, 94705, (510) 652-2490.
Whole Foods Market, 3000 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, (510) 649-1333.

Monument Wine and Spirits, 2250 Monument Blvd. (Just north of Oak Grove Road in the Safeway shopping center. (925) 682-1514

San Leandro:
Plaza Bottle Shop and Market, 15292 Liberty St., (on the bay side of the 580 fwy at 150th St., (510) 357-1810

San Ramon:
Jay Vee Liquors, 12191 Alcosta Blvd. (925) 828-1400.0-9243.J

South Bay

Whole Foods on Bascom Road and Hamilton

Whole Foods Market, 20830 Stevens Creek Blvd., (408) 257-7000

Mountain View/Los Altos
Whole Foods Market, 4800 El Camino Real, (650) 559-0300.

San Francisco

City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St.,#101. (415) 503-1033. Hours: Noon-10 p.m.The City Beer Store on Folsom between 8th & 7th St. Will also be selling individual bottles from the pack.

A memo to constituents of Rep. Nancy Pelosi


By Bruce B. Brugmann

To fellow San Franciscans:

Now that even the San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst has declared in a lead front page story that Pelosi will legislate
“from the middle,” the Guardian recommends at minimum three specific proposals for her constituents to push theincoming speaker of the house to do to seriously represent San Francisco values.

l. Pelosi needs to allow Congress to start impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. Bush has rejected the modest recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and Friday’s New York Times reported in one story that Sen. John McCain as saying in Baghdad that the “military considers sending as many as 35,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq” and another story that “Top commanders appear set to urge larger U.S. military.” Only impeachment proceedings will provide the leverage to halt the terrible losses of blood and treasure. See current Guardian editorial link above “Impeachment is now the only option.”

2. Pelosi needs to use the power of her new office to help pass a federal shield law that would uphold the rights of journalists and news outlets to protect the identity of their sources and to keep possession of their unpublished/unaired material. In the meantime, she needs to help push the Bush administration to stop wrongfully persecuting Joshua Wolfe, a 24-year-old freelance videophotograher now in federal prison in Dublin for refusing to give up his unedited tapes of a 2005 demonstration in San Francisco. He is the only journalist in jail in the U.S., has been in jail longer than any U.S. journalist ever and may stay in jail until the new federal grand jury is impaneled next July. She ought to also help push the Bush administration to hold its fire against two reporters from the Chronicle who face l8 months in jail for refusing to reveal the sources of a grand jury investigation in the Balco scandal. My feeling is that these abusive actions against the press in San Francisco by the Bush adminstration have targeted our city because of its San Francisco values, in this case its tradition of dissent and anti-war activity. Pelosi could start on this issue and promote lots of good will by meeting with the mother and supporters of Wolf. (See link below.)

3. Pelosi needs to introduce and push a a bill to eliminate the Presidio Trust, return the land to the National Park Service where it belongs, and overturn the precedent that is leading to a conservative movement to privatize the National Park system. She made the original mistake of leading the move to privatize the Presidio, on the phony argument of saving it from the Republicans, but now her Democrats are in power and it is time for her to right the wrong. Otherwise, the private Presidio Trust will keep asking for and getting tens of millions of federal money to subsidize a private, commercially driven, ruinous park operation, without sunshine and accountability, without any city zoning control, in growing opposition to neighborhors. Most important, the Pelosi park principle will further fuel the move to privatize the national park system. In effect, Pelosi created the model for the theft of one of our greatest resources, the national park system. (See Guardian editorial link, “A key test for Pelosi.”)

These are some real San Francisco values for Pelsoi to support. If she doesn’t, she risks leaving a legacy for failing to stop the Iraq War and selling off the Presidio and establishing the precedent for selling of our national parks. B3, celebrating San Francisco values since l966

PS: How to help Josh after the jump

Questions to Byron Calame, public editor of the New York Times? Why won’t the Times and its Santa Rosa Press Democrat cover Project Censored?


By Bruce B. Brugmann

Carl Jensen, the founder of Project Censored, Peter Phillips, the current director, and I have been waiting anxiously for weeks now to see if the New York Times/Santa Rosa Press Democrat would answer our questions about why they once again censored and mangled the annual story of Project Censored, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year at Sonoma State University? (See previous blogs.) We heard nothing.

So I am posing the following questions to Byron Calame, public editor of the New York Times, who answers questions about Times coverage and policies in his twice monthly column in the Op ed section of the Week in Review in the Sunday Times.

l. Why in 30 years has the New York Times never covered nor written about Project Censored, a nationally recognized media criticism project locating the 25 most important stories that were overlooked, under-covered, or censored?

2. Why in 30 years has the local New York Times/Santa Rosa Press Democrat either censored or mangled Project Censored, a local journalism/media criticism project done at a local university by local professors and local students?

3. Why did the Press Democrat this year, on the 30th anniversary of the Project, continue its censorious policy by sending a reporter to the celebration, not to do a real story on the project, its stories, and its history, but to do what amounted to a hatchet job on the project via one story, Censored Story No. l8, “Physicist challenges official 9/ll story?”

4. Why won’t the Press Democrat/New York Times answer the questions and complaints from Jensen and Phillips (and the Guardian, as the publisher of the project each year) as to why it censors and/or mangles this major story every year? What is going on here?

5. After the problems with the reporting of Jayson Blair and Judith Miller et al, how do you recommend targets of Press Democrat/New York Times news policy complain effectively and get some fair and balanced news coverage of a major local story?

In my accompanying email note to Calame, I wrote, “The Guardian has been doing this story for years, front page, with our local version of censored stories, and sending it out to the alternative press across the country. It is one of our most widely read and highly respected stories of the year and people look forward to it as a major journalistic and academic gem of distinction. I hope you see this as the terribly important and relevant issue it is, since much of the mainstream press helped Bush march us into a war without end at the very time that Project Censored, and its censored stories, were providing an alternative and more realistic point of view.”

Note the supporting material below, this year’s Guardian story on Project Censored, and the archives of some 750 or so issues or stories over a 30 year period of time. B3

San Francisco Bay Guardian : Home Page
… BY AMANDA WITHERELL Rob Strange Project Censored

Bruce B3: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat/New York Times “censors” the annual Project Censored story.

Bruce B3: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat/New York Times: still no answers on why…

Bruce B3: The new media offensive for the Iraq War. Why the Santa Rosa Press Democrat/New York Times…


A snapshot of what is going on these days in the world of the Galloping Conglomerati


Rumors just in:

This illustrative note came to me a few minutes ago from Chain Links, the online publication of the Newspaper Guild, which is fighting fires on all fronts in these days of the Galloping Conglomerati.

The email note:

“I wanted to let you know that two reporters from The (Santa Cruz) Sentinel called me today, wanting to know if I’d heard any rumors that CNHI, the Birmingham, Ala.-based company that just bought the Sentinel, is talking with Media News (Singleton) about a possible swap involving the Monterey Herald. Apparently–and this is what a source told one of the reporters–MediaNews would get a CNHI paper in Pennsylvania (the Sharon Herald in Sharon, Pa.) in exchange for the Herald. An announcement, according to the source, is supposed to come sometime this week and there is a meeting going on today between CNHI and Media News.”

So? Or not so? We shall see. We made some calls to check, but got nowhere. In any event, whether this rumor is true, it illuminates some sad truths about the current state of daily newspapers hereabouts: (a) that the chains are flipping papers about as if they are no more than playing cards in a game at the local pool hall and (b) that
these are the kinds of unsettling rumors flying about the newsrooms and boardrooms of the Galloping Conglomerati, the phrase I use for the chains at play. (See my previous blogs). Where it all will end knows only God. Alas. Alas. B3

Clint Reilly wins a big one against Hearst and Singleton. Fighting to keep one newspaper towns from becoming a one newspaper region.


By Bruce B. Brugmann

On April 26, 2006, the McClatchy newspapers and the Chronicle/Hearst and MediaNews/Singleton publicly announced a complex series of transactions that resulted in Singleton owning three major Bay Area dailies (Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News, and the Monterey Herald) that had been previously owned by Knight-Ridder and then McClatchy.

On the same day, April 26, 2006, Hearst and Singleton secretly signed a key centerpiece deal that set up a secret arrangement between Hearst and Singleton that in effect would allow them to join forces, destroy daily competition in the Bay Area, and establish a regional monopoly for the duration.

The key point: the two big publishing chains from New York and Denver lied in effect about the monopolizing features of their deal, and in effect concealed key evidence in the Clint Reilly antitrust case, according to Federal Judge Susan Illston. And then the two chains, who love to holler about freedom of the press and government suppression of documents, moved to keep the documents under seal, including the incriminating letter outlining the monopoly agreement. Their coverage amounts largely to rummy little business stories buried deep in their papers.

Illston neatly skewered the Hearst/Singleton lie that their deal was harmless and would not interfere with vigorous competition between the two companies. Illston quoted the April 26 letter, which she pointed out was not disclosed in the first hearing on a request for a temporary restraining order. (Alioto got the letter in discovery. It is an even bigger bombshell than his charge in the first Reilly trial that Hearst was “horesetrading” favorable coverage for political favors with then Mayor Willie Brown and others to get political help on its moves to create a morning monopoly.)

The letter of agreement was from Hearst Corporation Vice President James Asher to Joseph Lodovic, president of MediaNews. She quoted “in pertiment part” these statements: “The Hearst Corporation and Media News Group agree that they shall negotiate in good faith agreements to offer national advertising and internet advertising sales for their San Francisco Bay Area newspapers on a joint basis, and to consolidate the San Francisco Bay area distribution networks of such newspapers, all on mutually satisfactory terms and conditions, and in each case subject to any limitations required to ensure compliance with applicable law.

“In addition, Hearst and MediaNews agree that, with respect to the newspapers owned by each of them on the date of this letter, they shall work together in good faith to become affiliated with the networks operated by Career Builder…and Classified Ventures) on the same terms, and each of Hearst and MediaNews further agrees that neither of them shall enter into any agreement, arrangement, or understanding to participate in Career Builder or
Classified Ventures or their respective networks with respect to such newspapers unless the other party is offered the opportunity to participate on identical terms…”

Illston quoted extensively from the “secret” letter, but the Guardian and nobody else can see the letter, oor the supporting documents and depositions, that would further flesh out monopoly deal. That is a terrible position, let me emphasize, for big daily chains to be taking in federal court these days.

Illston said the letter “casts serious doubt on several key findings underlying” her previous order denying a temporary restraining order. She said that she had previously accepted Hearst arguments that “Hearst’s involvement in the transactions was solely that of a passive investor.” But she continued, “Though (Hearst and Singleton) offered no explanation why Hearst was willing to finance an acquisition that would only make competition stronger, the Court did not understand that Hearst expected, or would receive, any quid pro quo. However, the April 26 letter suggests, at the very least, that Hearst’s involvement was specifically tied to an agreement by MediaNews to limit its competition with Hearst in certain ways.”

This “cooperation” between Hearst and Singleton, she said, was “in fact, quid pro quo for Hearst’s assistance to MediaNews in acquiring two of the Bay Area papers.” (The quid pro quo was also a $300 million Hearst investment in Singleton, which I think might evaporate should Illston ultimately nix or water down the deal.) Illston also said the letter indicated that the Chronicle may not continue to be “strong competition” for the other Bay Area papers.

Had the letter been disclosed to the court, she said, it would have “affected the court’s analysis of the McClatchy-MediaNews-Hearst transactions in this case.” Summing up, she stated that “such agreements, the mere existence of the letter, and the cooperation between Hearst and MediaNews they reflect, increase the likelihood that the transactions at issue here were anti-competitive and illegal.”

And so she granted a temporary restraining order in part and temporarily restrained and enjoined Hearst and Singleton from entering into any agreements “of the nature described in the April 26 letter, including agreements to offer national advertising sales for their San Francisco Bay Area newspapers on a joint basis, and consolidation of the Bay Area distribution networks for their papers.” She ordered Hearst and Singleton to show cause at a Dec. 6 hearing why she should not impose a preliminary injunction. Quite an opinion.

As an antitrust attorney told us after reading the opinion, “How the hell does Joe Jr. keep getting the Hearst people to lie under oath, then cough up the documents that prove it? Haven’t they figured out that judges don’t react well to that little character flaw?”

Implicit in all of this is Brugmann’s Law of Journalism: where there is no economic competition, there is no news or editorial competition. Suddenly,for the first time ever by the terms of the proposed deal, daily competition would be eliminated and one of the most liberal and civilized areas of the world would be firmly under the monopoly thumb of conservative billionaires from New York and Denver. The result would give ad rates a monopoly boost, gut and centralize editorial staffs, make editorials and endorsements ever more uniform and conservative, and send all profits out of town on a conveyor belt to headquarters to buy more properties. The carnage is well underway (note our stories and those carried on ChainLinks, the newspaper guild publication)

Illston should disclose the letter and other documents in open court. And the U.S. Justice Department and California Attorney General should awake from their long naps and jump into this case and stop this secretive march to regional monopoly. Meanwhile, thank the Lord for Reilly and Alioto. Keep on rolling. B3, celebrating San Francisco values since l966

P.S. We are running lots of material on this story, including the judge’s order, because it amounts to a “censored” story in the mainstream media. Each year, as the local part of our Project Censored package, we cite the monopolization of the press story. We will follow the current version along in the Guardian and the Bruce blog. Send us your comments and evidence of Eurekas or Censored material. (See previous blogs)

The morning after by G.W. Schulz
While drunk on big newspaper purchases, Dean Singleton promised competitive papers and no layoffs. Now he’s swinging the ax, cutting deals with Hearst, and decimating local news coverage

Judge slams daily-paper chains by Tim Redmond
With a federal court ruling exposing a secret plan by Hearst and Singleton to join forces and end competition, the federal and state Justice Departments should intervene – and all records in the case should now be open

More on Singleton by G.W. Schulz

Read the judge’s decision
Judge Susan Illston’s ruling on Hearst-MediaNews collaboration

Repeating: So why won’t the New York Times cover Project Censored?


This is an important journalistic and public policy question. The Times claims to be the world’s pre-eminent newspaper, it publishes the International Herald Tribune, has a major news service, and owns a batch of media properties, including the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, the daily “of record” for the project, which is housed at nearby Sonoma State University.

Yet, in the project’s 30 year history, the Times has neither published nor written about the Censored Project and its list of serious stories the mainstream media censored or ignored. Peter Philips, the project director, told me that the awards ceremonies were held for a number of years in New York (l996-2000) and that Times reporters would often attend. Phillips remembered one reporter in particular who said, “Keep it up, we post your list in the newsroom every year.”

No representative from the PD ever came to any of the Project’s ceremonies or programs at Sonoma State, except for the reporter Paul Payne who came to a lecture on Nov. 3.
And he came, not to do a real story on Project Censored’s stories of the year or its history, but to do a hatchet job
on Censored Story No. l8, “Physicist challenges official 9/ll story.” (See previous blogs.)
Phillips and the project founder, Carl Jensen, retired and living in Cotati, and the Guardian, which has published the project as a major front page story for years and sent it out to the alternative press nationwide, all complained to the PD and asked for an explanation and an apology. The PD did run an op ed by Phillips but gave no explanation nor apology.

Obviously, the Times and the Post Democrat don’t like the project, but it is after all a local journalism/media criticism project at a local university done by local professors and local students that has gained national acclaim over a 30 year period. Don’t the Times and the PD cover local news any more?
So I put the question to Jensen.

“I am often asked, ” he said, “why hasn’t the New York Times ever written about Project Censored? My response is always the same: ‘You should ask the New York Times why it hasn’t written about Project Censored.’

“After all, Project Censored is the longest running national news media research project in the country. It is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Ih fact, Project Censored may well be the longest running academic research project in the country with the exception of health-oriented longitudinal studies.

“It expanded the definiton of news from the three original categories–religioius censorship, political censorship, and censorship of obscenities–to include the concept of news media self censorship which is now widely accepted. It also institutionalized the term ‘junk food news’ to describe the tabloid-type news thqat appears in the mainstream media. More than a hundred students, faculty, and other volunteers review up to a thousand news stories annually to locate the 25 most important stories that were overlooked, under-covered, or censored.

“Now why wouldn’t the New York Times want to report on that?”

Yes, why? I will query the New York Times public editor Byron Calame and editor Bill Keller, and other editors if necessary, to try to get an answer. Meanwhile, take a look at the link below and the website that has archived 30 years of Project Censored and see what an incredible array of 750 or so issues and stories they represent. Note the stories have synopses, sources, and updates by the authors. And note that the site includes Censored books, pamphlets, and indices from l976 through 2007. The Censored archives and web display were created by Gary Evans, of Sebastopol, who Jensen describes as “an extraordinary fan and honorary archivist of Project Censored.” The site makes clear that Project Censored is truly a unique and outstanding journalistic and academic achievement.

“All the news that fits in print,” proudly trumpets the Times masthead. Surely there’s some news somewhere in this project that would fit in print in the New York
Times. If not, Phillips, Jensen, the Guardian, and lots of other faithful Censored supporters around the world would like to know why. B3, who wonders why the Times runs Jayson Blair, Judith Miller, her stories on fictitious weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and backup editorials justifying the invasion, and still won’t write about Project Censored


Memo to the city desks of the Chronicle/Hearst and Media News Group/Singleton papers and the Associated Press: the Hearst/Reilly antitrust suit is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow (Wednesday) morning before Federal Judge Susan Illston. Will you cover it?


By Bruce B. Brugmann

Eureka! As you will remember from my earlier blogs, I coined the term Eurekaism to replace the old term Afghanistanism for the bad habit of many daily papers, notably the Hearst and Singleton chains, for reporting on stories in Eureka instead of reporting on the big local scandal or embarrassing story in their own communities. (Hearst did a rollicking Sunday story awhile back on the competition way way up in Eureka between a Singleton daily and a locally owned daily.)

Tomorrow (Wednesday) at ll a.m., in the courtroom of Federal Judge Susan Ilston, there will be a major story that will once again raise the issue of Eurekaism: the major antitrust case of Reilly vs. Hearst and the request for a temporary restraining order sought by Clint Reilly and his attorney Joe Alioto to halt the accelerating moves by Hearst and Singleton to destroy daily competition and impose regional monopoly in the Bay Area.

Illston earlier tossed Reilly’s request for a temporary restraining order against the Hearst/Singleton transaction, but she did state in her last order that she would “seriously consider” forcing Sington to gve up some assets if the court finds the company’s transactions to be anti-competitive.

Meanwhile, on other fronts, the Guardian has learned that the U.S. Justice Department has interviewed a wide variety of local people, including former Chronicle executives and local antitrust attorneys and professors, to further its investigation into the Hearst/Singleton part of the deal (See previous Guardian stories and Bruce blogs). “It seems to be a very vigorous and aggressive investigation,” one interviewee told the Guardian.

The unanswered questions: Where is the current Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the incoming
Attorney General Jerry Brown (nowhere, it seems)? Will Hearst and Singleton papers provide the coverage that a major regional story of this magnitude deserves: an advance in tomorrow’s papers and then followed with a thorough story on the outcome of the hearing and the impacts of the moves to regional monopoly? Will they continue to try to black out the story keeping the court documents under seal? Or will there be more Eurekaism? Stay tuned, B3

Introducing: the Telling Quote (the TQ):”Ross, you never learned to be a prisoner”


I have always had a weakness for one-liners and telling quotes, which I call the Telling Quote (the QD).

For example, Tim Redmond gave me a good one just a few minutes ago. He said that in the movie on Elliot Ness of fighitng gangsters in Prohibiition Chicago, Ness was asked what he would do once Prohibiton was over.
“I’d have a drink,” Ness said.

I spotted two quotes I liked in the tomorrow’s Guardian. The first is from the cartoonist Tom Tomorrow and his prescient penguin, who is asked to answer the favorite conservative question to the liberal on the disaster of Iraq: “What’s your solulion?” Responds the penguin: “We take the two hundred million dollars a day we’re currently pouring into Iraq and we funnel it all into an intensive top-secret project to deliver the world’s first working machine…and then we go back to 200l and pay some goddamned attention to everyone who opposed this idotic war of choice from the start. THAT’S MY SOLUTION.”

Memo to the New York Times and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat/New York
Times who have been censoring Project Censored: Take note (see other blogs).

John Ross writes in an op ed column about the jailed Josh Wolf and the murdered Brad Will (see link below) as examples of the “pogrom against independent journalists who refuse to conform to corporate media definitions of what a reporter should be.” He says that in the case of Will, murdered on the barricades in Oazaca, Mexico, by gunmen employed by the provincial governor, “the New York Times and its accomplices–including the New Times version of the Village Voice–intimate that Will was less than a journalist…a troublemaker rather than a young man who reported on trouble.” Ross points out he himself was once a trouble-making jailed journalist, for being the first U.S. citizen to be jailed for refusing induction into the Vietnam War military, and that he formed convict committee against U.S. intervention and wrote about it. When he was finally kicked out of jail, the parole officer who made his life hell for a year walked him to the gate and gave him a goodbye snarl:

“Ross, you never learned how to be a prisoner.”

Ross’s point to the New York Times: the Times’ Judith Miller, with “ll mendacious
front-page New York Times stories on Saddam Hussein’s fictitious weapons of mass destruction (that) helped justify the Bush invasion” was just as much an “activist” as Wolf, Will, and Ross himself. B3

Guilty of independent journalism by John Ross


The Santa Rosa Press Democrat/New York Times: still no answers on why it once again censored and mangled Project Censored and its stories on Bush and Iraq et al


On Sept. 10, 2003, while the New York Times and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and affiliated papers were running Judith Miller’s stories making the case for the Iraq War and then seeking to justify it, the Guardian published the annual Project Censored list of censored stories.

Our front page had a caricature of Bush, standing astride the globe holding a U.S. flag with a dollar sign, and a headline that read, “The neocon plan for global domination–and other nine other big stories the mainstream press refused to cover in 2002.”

The number one story was “The neoconservative plan for global domination.” Our introduction to the timely censored package made the critical point: “If there’s one influence that has shaped world-wide politics over the past year, it’s the extent to which the Bush administration has exploited the events of Sept. ll, 200l, to solidify its military and economic control of the world at the expense of democracy, true justice, and the environment. But President George W. Bush hasn’t simply been responding to world events. The agenda the administration has followed fits perfectly with a clearly defined plan that’s been in place for a decade.”

In many cases, we noted, the neocon story and the other censored stories laying out the dark side of the Bush administration and its drumbeat to war got little or no play–or else were presented piecemeal without any attempt to put the information in context. (The number two story was “Homeland security threatens civil liberties.” Number three: “U.S. illegally removes pages from Iraq U.N. report.” Number four: “Rumsfeld’s plan to provoke terrorists.” Number seven: “Treaty busting by the United States.” Number eight: “U.S. and British forces continue use of depleted uranium weapons despite massive evidence of negative health effects.” Number nine: “In Afghanistan poverty, women’s rights, and civil disruption worse than ever.”)

Project Director Peter Phillips told us at that time, “The stories this year reflect a clear danger to democracy and governmental transparency in the U.S.–and the corporate media’s failure to alert the public to these important issues. The magnitude of total global domination has to be the most important important story we’ve covered in a quarter century.” In our summary of the neocon plan, we wrote that “it called for the United States to diversify its military presence throughout the world, offered a policy of preemption, argued for the expansion of U.S. nuclear programs while discouraging those of other countries, and foresaw the need for the United States to act alone, if need be, to protect its interests and those of its allies.”

And we then asked the critical and timely question. “Sound familiar?”

In that critical year of 2003, only months after the ill-fated Bush invasion of Iraq, the timely and relevant Censored project and stories were not published in the New York Times and the Press Democrat and affiliated papers either censored or mangled the coverage. This year, as Iraq slid into civil war, U.S. war dead rose toward 3,000, and the U.S. public was well ahead of the media in turning against the war, the New York Times should have finally recognized its annual mistake and published the Project Censored story. It didn’t (and it never has). The Santa Rosa Press Democrat should have been all over the story, since it was a local and national story out of nearby Sonoma State University, it was reseached by local professors and students, and it was the project’s 30th anniversary highlighted with a special conference at the school. Instead, the PD did a front page hatchet job on the story and then refused to run a decent number of complaining letters, according to Phillips.

However, The PD did run an op ed piece in this morning’s paper by Phillips (see link below). Which is to the good.
But the paper never answered any of the questions and complaints submitted by Phillips, the project founder Carl Jensen (retired and living in nearby Cotati), or the Guardian (see previous blogs and links). Why? No explanation.
The key point is that the Times and the PD have once again demonstrated in 96 point Tempo Bold the point of Project Censored and the value of alternative voices.

Postscript: More impertinent advice: TheTimes papers that marched us into war, with their flawed front page reporting and backup editorials, ought at minimum to start covering the project and the stories and the voices who had it right before, during, and after Bush committed us to the worst foreign policy blunder in U.S. history. Repeating: the PD ought to invite Jensen, Phillips,and the Project in for a chat and discuss why they have so much trouble handling a local story. B3

Why the public deserves to hear alternative views on 9/11

SFBG Project Censored

Send mail to Josh. Josh’s mother reacts to the bad news that her son may be in federal prison through Thanksgiving and Christmas and until next July for the crime of committing journalism under the Bush administration


From: Liz Wolf-Spada
Subject: 9th Circuit Will Not Rehear Josh’s Case

Bad news, the 9th Circuit has decided not to rehear Josh’s case enbanc. Evidently no judge called for a vote. How depressing is that? Anyway, depressed is how I feel. I am steeling myself, and have been, for him being in jail until July, but I keep hoping against hope that something will change and he will be free again and out of jail. I knew the 9th Circuit rehearing was a long shot, but the brief was so good and made so much sense and there are so many big issues here that I really thought they might want to look at the case again in depth. But, no. Please keep Josh in your prayers and if you haven’t been writing him, please consider doing that, as mail is very, very important to him. Especially as he is facing the prospect of being in jail for Thanksgiving and Christmas.


Send mail to Josh at this address:
Josh Wolf # 98005-111
FCI Dublin-Unit J2
Federal Correctional Institute
5701 8th Street-Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568

Imprisoned journalist will be stuck behind bars until June, court rules

STOP THE PRESSES: And now the word from Montreal is that “Transcontinental signs l5-year deal to print Hearst Corporation’s San Francisco Chronicle.” Does this mean ever more branch office journalism?


Is this the wave of the future? Will our big local news come via Montreal and New York? And will the Hearst and Singleton papers become even more branch offices of corporate headquarters in Montreal, New York, and Denver? Is Hearst so contemptuous of its San Francisco paper that it releases major Hearst stories in New York and Montreal before it appears in the Hearst paper or on its website in San Francisco?
B3 and the Guardian, a locally owned newspaper safely situated at the bottom of Potrero Hill in San Francisco and not planning to go anywhere

PRESS RELEASE: The Hearst Corporation

SF Chronicle to Outsource All of Its Printing, reports Editor and Publisher Magazine. Will those “competitive” Hearst and Singleton papers cover the monopoly story and its impact on San Francisco and the Bay Area?


By Bruce B. Brugmann

Well, after checking page the Daily Digest on page 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle business section (where I sometimes find a spot of Hearst/Singleton news), I found the monopoly story of the day in an online Editor and Publisher story out of New York, sent via Chain Links, the online publication of the Newspaper Guild.

It was another jolly tip of the iceberg of what is happening to the chains that dominate the newspaper business. The head: “SF Chronicle to OUtsource All of its Printing.” The lead: “NEW YORK: Hearst Corp. has signed a l5-year contract with Transcontinental to print the San Francisco Chronicle and its related products as well as provide post press services.” Second paragraph: “Production is slated to start in spring 2009 in a new plant based in the San Francisco Bay Area.” Third paragraph: “Transcontinental is a Montreal-based company that prints several newspaper in Canada like the Montreal daily La Presse a well as the New York Times for the Ontario and upstate New York markets?” Montreal? In Canada?

The terse six paragraph story yet again raises some key questions about the impacts of regional Hearst/Singleton monopoly: Wil the “competitive” Hearst and Singleton papers properly cover the story and its impacts for readers and advertisers and the public interest in the Bay Area?

For example, does this mean the end of union contracts for the pressmen? What does Hearst plan to do with its existing press equipment and press facilities? Fourth paragraph: “The new facililty is expected to surpass $l billion in total revenue over the l5-year period.” One billion? And just why is that money suddenly going to a company in Montreal, Canada, at the same time that Hearst revenues are going to Hearst headquarters in New York? What’s left for San Francisco?

There are already reports that Singleton (and other newspapers) are outsourcing advertising material to India. And there are reports amongst Singleton staffers that copy editing may be next. And then….City Hall reporting?
Again: Will Hearst and the “competitive” Singleton papers tell us what they are really up to? Or will it have to come from depositions and discovery in the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust suit? We will do our best to follow the story at the Guardian and the Bruce blog. Meanwhile, I urge you to sign up for ChainLinks and follow the news from the Galloping Conglomerati. Some recent ChainLinks stories below: B3

‘SF Chronicle’ to Outsource All of Its Printing By E&P Staff

MediaNews profits up on acquisitions By Will Shanley
Denver Post Staff Writer

ChainLINKS. Scroll to the bottom of the website to join the e-mail list

George Bush doesn’t read the Guardian. Often.


Alas. Alas. (B3, disheartened by the news)

Posted Tuesday, Nov. l7th, on the website of the Guardian of London

From Guardian Unlimited: News blog 12:15pm

Here at the Guardian we have long suspected it. But today comes official confirmation: George Bush doesn’t read the Guardian often. During a press conference with the Australian PM, John Howard, in Hanoi today, Mr Bush was asked about the report in yesterday’s Guardian that he was planning a final push in Iraq involving an additional 30,000 troops.

“Is that something…,” began a reporter.

“Where was that report?” asked Mr Bush.

“In the Guardian newspaper,” the journalist replied.

“Guardian newspaper? Well, I don’t read that paper often. But I – look, I’m going to listen to our commanders, Steve. Ours is a condition-based strategy […] So I’m not aware of the Guardian article.”

Of course, the president may well have been thinking of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, a publication which also takes a sceptical editorial line on his policies. Who knows? But in the unlikely event you’re reading this, Mr President, Guardian Weekly has a four-week free trial on. Just say the word.

The new media offensive for the Iraq War. Why the Santa Rosa Press Democrat/New York Times ought to stop “censoring” and mangling Project Censored and its annual list of censored stories on Iraq and Bush et al


By Bruce B. Brugmann

Norman Solomon, a syndicated columnist who appears on the Guardian website, wrote a chilling column this week
on how the “American media establishment has launched a major offensive against the option of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.”

He noted that the “heaviest firepower is now coming from the most valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA–the front page of the New York Times. The present situation is grimly instructive for anyone who might wonder how the Vietnam War could continue for years while opinion polls showed that most Americans were against it. Now, in the wake of midterms elections widely seen as a rebuke to the Iraq war, powerful media institutions are feverishly spinning against a pullout of U.S. troops.”

Solomon cited a Nov. l5 front page piece by Michael Gordon under the headline “Get Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say.” Gordon then appeared hours later on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show, “fully morphing into an unabashed pundit as he declared that withdrawal is ‘simply not realistic,'” Solomon said.

“If a New York Times military-affairs reporter went on television to advocate for withdrawal of U.S. troops as unequivocally as Gordon advocated any such withdrawal during his Nov. l5 appearance on CNN, he or she would be quickly reprimanded–and probably would be taken off the beat by the Times hierarchy. But the paper’s news department eagerly fosters reporting that internalizes and promotes the basic world views of the country’s national security state.”

Solomon’s key point: “That’s how and why the Times front page was so hospitable to the work of Judith Miller during the lead-up to the leadup to the invasion of Iraq. That’s how and why the Times is now so hospitable to the work of Michael Gordon.”

And so it is not surprising that the New York Times and its Santa Rosa daily have been so inhospitable through the years to Project Censored, housed nearby at Sonoma State University. (See my previous blog and the scathing criticism by founder Carl Jensen and current director Peter Phillips of PD/NYT coverage of the 30th anniversary project and conference.)

I asked Jensen about the PD and Times record of covering what ought to be a top annual local and national press story. “At first,” Jensen said, “the PD merely ignored the Project. Then, after Newsweek ran a column about it, the PD was embarrassed into covering it. Which they did, using the annual results as an excuse to criticize me for being a liberal, left-wing agitator. Finally, they just started to run one story a year, or sometimes none, announcing the results. This year they didn’t even bother to announce the results for the 30th anniversary of the project. Instead, they did Paul Payne’s hit piece about Steve Jones. To my knowledge, and a Lexis-Nexis search, the New York Times has never run an article about the project.”

The PD has also not answered my impertinent questions about their censor-or-mangle coverage, which I emailed to the reporter, editors, and publisher.

Let us remember that IF Stone, in his famous IF Stone’s Weekly, exposed in l964 the Gulf of Tonkin scam only days after President Johnson used it as the excuse to expand U.S. involvement in Vietnam. And ever after he led the journalistic charge brilliantly against the war. It took years and tens of thousands of dead American soldiers for the New York Times (and the other big “liberal” papers, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post) to figure out that Stone was right and change their “we can’t get out now” news and editorial policies in support of the war. If Project Censored had been going at that time, Stone and his powerful little four page publication would have had major stories on the Censored list every year.

My impertinent advice to the Post Democrat and the New York Times: if you are are going to run Jayson Blair and Judith Miller and Michael Gordon and Paul Payne, then you sure as hell ought to be giving serious regular coverage to Project Censored at Sonoma State University and its annual roster of major “censored” stories the New York Times, PD, and the mainstream press don’t cover properly. Why not start by running Phillips’ op ed piece and inviting Jensen, Phillips, and their Project Censored crew into the PD for a full editorial conference and a podcast question and answer session? B3

The new Iraq-war media offensive
How powerful institutions like The New York Times are feverishly spinning against a pullout of U.S. troops


The Santa Rosa Press Democrat/New York Times “censors” the annual Project Censored story. Why? Some impertinent questions for the Press Democrat by Bruce B. Brugmann

Yes, the news is grim, but that is why journalists need to fight back


By Bruce B. Brugmann

SOS: The news in the media is grim and getting grimmer by the day. Journalists and journalism schools and journalism organizations have been much too passive in this time of great peril and need to start fighting back, particularly through their journalism organizations. The Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists struck the right note at its splendid annual Excellence in Journalism awards dinner last Thursday night. Below, in our editorial for Wednesday’s Guardian, are some of our ideas for action. We will be presenting more on a regular basis. Check our previous ideas in the Guardian and on the Bruce blog. Meanwhile, join SPJ, Media Alliance and FAIR, and follow the media news on the Romenesko media column at Poynter.org and ChainLinks.org, the newspaper union website of news alerts and stories in the land of ChainLinks.

And support the independent voices. And support the independent- minded journalists on the chain papers who risk their jobs to fight the forces of consolidation and chains-are-us journalism, mainstream and alternative.

Much more to come, send along your ideas, B3

SFBG: Journalists need to fight back

And now City Hall claims there’s a new “sunshine” problem. We suggest how to deal with it.


By Bruce B. Brugmann

The City Attorney and City Hall are lathered and steamed these days because of a barrage of public records requests from Kimo Crossman, a public records activist with few equals.

The principle seems to be: go after Kimo full bore but do not molest PG@E on its low franchise fee in perpetuity, the lowest in the state,or its private power monopoly that is illegal under public power mandates of the federal Raker Act and U.S. Supreme Court. So we offer some suggestions on how to deal with the new “sunshine” crisis.
For starters, Kimo has a good idea: create a publicly accessible database that gets automatic copies of every document created at City Hall (unless there’s a damn good reason to mark it secret). That way the busiest of advocates can spend their time searching the files on their own, and the city’s lawyers can do what they ought to be doing, fighting PG@E. B3

SFBG: The new sunshine “problem”