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


To the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

This morning I got an email from Carl Jensen, the founder of Project Censored at your nearby Sonoma State University, complaining that the Press Democrat published an “irresponsible page one article” about Project Censored and its annual Sonoma State Conference. He and Peter Phillips, the current director of the project, have asked for answers to the questions they have raised about your coverage.

As the editor and publisher of the alternative paper that has for years proudly run the Project Censored story, and then sent it out for publication in alternative papers throughout the country, I would appreciate your response to their charges of omission and commission as noted below. And I also have some questions. I am sending them via the Bruce blog at our website sfbg.com to the reporter, and the editors and publsher of the Post Democrat.

I have been astounded through the years that the Press Democrat has never to my knowledge written up this annual story. And then, this year, instead of running a fair story on a major local story by a major local university on its 30th anniversary, I was further astounded to find that you go on the attack mode and pick out one story and use it to lambaste the project on the front page of the Press Democrat. I find it particularly galling that, after censoring the story for three decades or so, you finally do the story on the project’s 30th anniversary, a major journalistic and academic milestone. Bush. Real bush.

Some questions:

+Will you answer the questions raised by Jensen and Phillips in their notes to you? (Please send them also to me for publication in the Guardian and the Bruce blog.) Will you run the Phillips’ answer in an op ed?

+Why have you never run this story through the years? (If you have, I would appreciate knowing about it and would love to see copies.)

+Why this year, instead of running a fair account of a nationally recognized project in journalism, did you center on just one story, which was number l8 on the list, and left out a flood of stories on important issues. (See the Guardian Censored package link below). In fact, in our coverage, we did not even go down this far on the list and concentrated on the top l0 stories, which ranged from number one (“The Feds and the media muddy the debate over internet freedom” to number ten (“Expanded air war in Iraq kills more civilians”). We did synopses and comments on the other stories and cited the source. Why didn’t you at least do this and run a list of the stories, so people had a chance to judge the project for themselves, if you were going to do a hit attack and not a fair story? (We ran the entire list in our online package.) Why didn’t you at least say this was the project’s 30th anniversary and provide some history and context?

+Why didn’t you get comments from any of the distinguished Censored judges through the years or from any of its many supporters, including Ben Bagdikian, author of “The Media Monopoly” and former dean of the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and Noam Chomsky, and Robert McChesney, a prominent media critic and author, and many many others. Or from any of the alternative press that regularly runs the Censored story as one of its most widely read and highly respected issues of the year?

+Each year, Censored runs l0 stories that it considers Junk Food News. Doesn’t this story qualify as a top entry this year?

I would also appreciate it you would address the larger issue of “censorship” that this project, and many of us, try to address. As the only daily paper in the Bay Area not aligned with the emerging Singleton/Hearst regional monopoly, you have a special responsbility to report the news, not censor it and mangle as you do annually with this story.

This is particularly the case with the paper of Jayson Blair, Judith Miller, and the uncritical news stories and editorials that helped march us into Iraq and a deadly occupation. The “censored” Iraq stories, let me emphasize, were a major staple of Project Censored and the Guardian, and other alternative papers that ran Censored stories and took the anti-war side and condemned the preemptive invasion before and during the war and up to the present day.

Last impertinent question: has the Press Democrat/NY Times done a major local story on the impact of the Hearst/Singleton moves to destroy daily competition and impose regional monopoly in the
Bay Area (and the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto suit to break up the unholy alliance)? If not, why not? If not, when will you start doing this kind of major local story and stop doing attack stories on major local projects such as Project Censored? Have you run the major Hearst scandal story on prescription drug pricing (from the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, and previous Bruce blogs). This is a story, let me emphasize, that Singleton papers are also censoring as yet another example of the Hearst/Singleton mutual benefit society. Until you do this Hearst/Singleton story and pursue it properly, until you run the major Hearst scandal story, until you start doing fair and balanced stories on major local projects such as Project Censored, you have no business criticizing anybody on much of anything involving media criticism. Thanks very much.

Dear Colleague:

On October 4, the Press Democrat published an irresponsible page one article about Project Censored and a conference it held at SSU. The article, written by Paul Payne, appeared to be set up to attack Project Censored. He interviewed two well-known critics of the project before the conference took place. They didn’t even attend the conference to know what the speaker said.

In all my years in journalism, as a journalism professor, and as an advisor to the SSU STAR, Payne’s hit-piece definitely was one of the least objective articles I have ever read.

In the weeks following, the Press Democrat published just two letters concerning the ethics of Payne’s article leading readers to believe there was little public reaction. However, there were well over 100 comments submitted to the Press Democrat on line with the great majority castigating the PD.

Following is a letter Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored, wrote to Payne questioning his article Further, Phillips is submitting an op ed article to the PD this week, in hopes of letting the public know the truth about the conference and the speaker.

I thought you, as a journalist, should be aware of this unethical behavior by Payne and the Press Democrat.

Carl Jensen

Dear Paul Payne,

Staff Writer for the Press Democrat

October 6, 2007

Subject: There’s that other theory on 9/11: SSU hosts discredited academic who says U.S. could have planned attack.? Page 1 October 4, 2006 Press Democrat

Were we at the same lecture last? Friday night?? Somehow you missed reporting? Dr. Jones’? first 45 minutes on the?collapse speeds of building 7 and the Twin towers, which where the principle physics questions? presented that evening.??

Did you? tape the lecture, because nowhere can we find Dr. Jones making a statement that the US Government did it? He was quite clear in saying he doesn’t know who placed the thermite in the building,? if indeed that is what was used.

When you write that Jones’ theories have been discredited/condemned by other scholars and critics as groundless,? it would be nice to actually cite who is making these charges.? If you look on the 9/11 Scholars for Truth website you will find the names of over 2 dozen structural engineers, physicists, chemists, and other scientists who support his work . That sounds to us like a valid scientific dispute not a total or even partial discrediting.?

When we discuss journalism at the University we clearly talk about objectivity and balance as the hallmark of solid reporting. So we are wondering how the effort by you to present both sides of the issues was missed? Obviously, the quotes from the two well-known enemies of Project Censored were obtained before you came to the lecture, but why weren’t the numerous other professors present at the event or Project Censored people, or even Jones himself given the opportunity to respond to the critics???

The article was so one-sided and biased that we will be formally requesting to Pete Golis to provide space for a 700 word response sometime within the next two weeks.??

Disagreeing on scientific issues is one thing, slandering a visiting scholar is quite another.? I saw Dr. Jones’ face when he read your article.? He didn’t deserve such a mean-spirited slight. What a terrible thing to do to him personally.??

Dr. Jones spoke at the University of Colorado the? weekend before last and I have attached the Denver Post story for your review.? Perhaps this will assist you in understanding what balanced objectivity in news is about.

Peter Phillips


SFBG Project Censored

And now Mike Lacey goes to Seattle. A former Seattle Weekly political columnist charges that the Weekly’s pre-election cover story was “faux outrageousness”: a fictional cover story detailing a nonexistent business enterprise of the mayor


Repeating: whenever the Voice/New Times buys a paper, there is usually some sort of signature bloodbath when Editor Lacey and Publisher Larkin begin to impose the cookie cutter New Times template. Thus, when the New Times bought the old SF Weekly years ago, Larkin and Larkin swarmed in, denounced the staff, and cleaned out the office as if they were cleaning out a waterfront saloon.

After buying the Voice chain, they neutered the Voice, did a neutering job on the Seattle Weekly, and are in the process of neutering the LA Weekly. The Lacey rule: the more liberal and activist the paper, the worse the bloodletting. Geov Parrish, former political columnist of the Seattle Weekly, reports on the Seattle situation in a letter that was posted on the LAObserved website. He notes that, among other things, “another wave of SF feces is in the process of hitting the fan here with (last week’s pre-election) entirely fictional cover story (not identified as a parody) by the new managing editor, purportedly detailing a (nonexistent) business enterprise of the mayor.”
Scroll down for the letter and the story. B3, still savoring the ascension of San Francisco
Values and Guardian editorial positions
Some advice from Seattle – About the changes in store at the LA Weekly…

Greg Nickels’ Quiet Storm

Congratulations, Dan Savage!


By Bruce B. Brugmann

Congratulations to Dan Savage, editor of the Stranger in Seattle who writes a syndicated sex column called “Savage Love” for the Voice/New Times chain and other papers. I am toasting him once again with a Potrero Hill martini at our neighborhood local.

Dan performed heroically in the referendum on Bush, the war, and neocon policies. He helped knock out Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania with personal appearances in the state. He managed to get key endorsements into his column in the ll New Times papers that traditionally don’t endorse. He helped voters in Arizona (the non-endorsing Voice/New Times is headquartered in Phoenix) to be the first in the nation to reject a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage. He kept a liberal and activist spark alive in his column in the Village Voice (and the other Voice papers purchased last fall by New Times and were therefore shut out of doing endorsements and strong election coverage. They were besides the Voice, the Minneapolis City Pages, Seattle Weekly, Nashville Scene, LA Weekly, and OC Weekly, all of whom traditionally did endorsements and strong election coverage until the sale to the Voice. The OC Weekly to its enormous credit did endorsements.)

Dan also wrote a typically useful op ed piece in today’s New York Times, titled “The Code of the Callboy” in which he explains why the callboy outed Ted Haggard, one of the most powerful evangelica ministers in the country. “Ultimately,” Savage wrote, “it was Ted Haggard’s hypocrisy–railing against homosexuality and campaigning against gay marriage while apparently indulging in sex romps with a gay escort–that prompted Mr. Jones to shove him out of the closet. The homophobia promoted by Mr. Haggard and other agents of intolerance, if I may use John McCain’s phrase (he’s not using it any more), undermined the callboy code of silence that Mr. Haggard himself relied on. Most callboys are gay, after all, and most are out of the closet these days.

“And while most callboys will continue to respect a code of silence where the average closet case is concerned, the Ted Haggards of the world have been placed on notice: You can’t have your callboy and disparage him too.”

Repeating: Dan, in this critical election, showed he had more real balls than MIke Lacey, the editor of the Voice/New Times papers.Dan, Keep it up, B3, savoring the ascendancy of San Francisco Values and Guardian editorial positions

PS: Repeating: The staffs of New Times papers have been long baffled by the New Times non-endorsement policy. And the staffs of the Voice and other Voice papers who had been endorsing and doing strong election coverage were particularly baffled when Lacey shut down their endorsement process this year without explanation. What are Lacey and the Voice/New Times afraid of? Of annoying their advertisers? Of giving up control to local chain editors who may be (gasp!) more liberal and activist than the gang in Phoenix? Are they worried that endorsements and strong political coverage would disclose just how cynical and out of touch Lacey and New Times are in their politics and in their view of the cities i n which they have papers? That chain-driven endorsements would expose the template that Voice/New Times uses in their papers? As always, I will send this blog and these questions to Lacey in Phoenix for comment. Stay alert.

By the way, MIke, what do you think of the election results? Will your papers be allowed to comment on them?

Is Mike Lacey for real? More on Mike’s massacre at the LAWeekly/Voice/New Times and the culture war at the LA Weekly
By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

Lacey’s Wednesday night massacre. The LA Weekly’s Harold Meyerson says to all staffers on the l7 Voice/New Times papers: Don’t deviate from the template or you are out. Lacey publicly savages Meyerson.
By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

The comments roll in on the search for endorsements in Village Voice/New Times papers? Is it a snipe hunt? Does San Savage or Mike Lacey have the real balls?
By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

Dan Savage comes through in the clutch. The gay sex columnist endorses in his pre-election column in the Voice and other New Times papers, but the Voice and New Times papers do not endorse. Hurray for Dan Savage!!!
By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

Is Mike Lacey for real? More on Mike’s massacre at the LAWeekly/Voice/New Times and the culture war at the LA Weekly


Just in from a former LA W’eekly sales staffer (from LA Observed.com, the online media site that people in the media business read in LA). For the best coverage of this rollicking tale, go to the LA Observed site.

Culture war at LA Weekly: A former sales staffer speaks out…

STOP THE PRESSES: The most timely reason to vote against Bush and his Iraq policy


I posed a question to my grandson Nicholas Perez, age l2, a math whiz and computer games afficionado,
to figure out for the Bruce blog how long the Iraq War has lasted in comparison to the U.S. involvement in World War II.

He just sent me an email answer, on deadline, for my pre-election blog.

He says that WWII lasted l,328 days from Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, l94l, to VJ day (Victory in Japan) on Aug. l5, l945.

Which means, he says, that Nov. 7, the day of the election, the Bush War in Iraq has lasted as long as did the U.S. involvement in WW II.

Imagine: That ought to be front page news on election day across the land: REPEATING AND UNDERSCORING: THE WAR IN IRAQ HAS LASTED AS LONG AS THE U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN WW II. Vote against Bush and for peace on as many fronts as possible. Vote early and often.

Personal note to Tara and Murali in Chennai, India: Thanks for your call just now on my blog deadline and your encouragment to Sock It To Bush. My prediction is that the U.S. voters will put the Democrats back in power in the House, will win or come very close in the Senate, and will all in all deliver a resounding rebuke to Bush on Iraq.

Postscript: On the non issue of Kerry’s “botched joke”: I found most annoying the people who criticized Kerry, and who ought ought to have known better and were purely grandstanding (starting with Hillary Clinton among the Democrats and John McCain among the Republicans) and the media that took it seriously and helped the Republicans pump up yet another phony campaign issue. They gave the cheap shot a new dimension. b3

Lacey’s Wednesday night massacre. The LA Weekly’s Harold Meyerson says to all staffers on the l7 Voice/New Times papers: Don’t deviate from the template or you are out. Lacey publicly savages Meyerson.


By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

As the rest of the press (mainstream and alternative) was publishing endorsements and election coverage for Tuesday’s referendum on Bush and Iraq, Mike Lacey, editor in chief of the Village Voice/New Times papers, was down in Los Angeles at the LA Weekly stoking yet another of his signature bloodbaths (see my previous blog below).

Lacey killed the Weekly’s influential and widely read political endorsements, making this election the first time in memory that the Weekly did not run endorsements. He oversaw the firing of News Editor Alan Mittelstaedt and the hiring of Jill Stewart, described by Kevin Roderick in LA Observed as a “Lacey favorite columnist at the old New Times Los Angeles.” Lacey also oversaw the sacking of Harold Meyerson, the highly respected veteran political columnist who was regarded as a Lacey target because he was liberal and activist. (Lacey wouldn’t renew his contract.) And, when Meyerson complained in an email to the staff about a front page story in the current edition in the New Times template, Mike savaged him publicly with a classic New Times rant and rave.

Michael Sigman, former president and publisher of the LA Weekly, made the appropriate comment to LA Observed: “I worked with hundreds of smart writers and editors during nearly 20 years at LA Weekly. Harold Meyerson is one of maybe two or three whom I would describe as a genius. His loss is unfortunate for the paper, and more unfortunate still for LA.”

Sigman was being diplomatic. In my five decades or so in journalism, I do not know of a more vicious public attack by an editor on a staffer. Moreoever, this was not just an attack on Meyerson as a columnist and major Weekly presence for years but it was an attack on the paper, on principled journalism, on the Weekly constituency, and on Los Angeles by the editor of a predatory chain headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Here is the lineup that shows the Voice/New Times priorities in the runup to the election:

+Meyerson’s farewell column.

+Meyerson’s email to the LA Weekly staff in which he said, among other things, that “Anyone who spends a nano-second looking at the paper understands that New Times template is already in place, and I know from countless conversations that editorial staffers live in fear of geting the ax if they deviate from it. That’s sad for the city, sad for the paper, and sad for those of you who work there and are in no financial position to leave (a position I understand very well).”

+Lacey’s “Hey Hack” response.

+And my previous blog on Voice/New Times policy of not allowing their papers to endorse–and my critical question arising therefrom: Does Dan Savage or Mike Lacey have the real balls? My vote is for Savage. He got endorsements in every one of his pre-election sex columns run by New Times papers. A bravura performance on pre-election deadline. And Lacey of course was being Lacey. And, thanks to Lacey and his regime, the LA Weekly of Jay Levin, Ron Curran, Harold Meyerson, Mike Sigman, and scores of fine journalists and staffers on a special journalistic mission is gone. Alas. Alas.

Our Town, Our Paper
L.A. and the Weekly, in hindsight and foresight


Lacey on Meyerson and LA Observed

Dear kids: Meyerson sad about Contreras piece

The comments roll in on the search for endorsements in Village Voice/New Times papers? Is it a snipe hunt? Does San Savage or Mike Lacey have the real balls?

The comments roll in on the search for endorsements in Village Voice/New Times papers. Is it a snipe hunt? Does Dan Savage or Mike Lacey have the real balls?


I put out a call to the alternative press across the country to see if anybody could spot an endorsement or strong political story in pre-election issues of Village Voice/New Times papers. (Scroll to the bottom for some vintage Mike Laceyism and some answers to the pressing question of the day: who has the real balls: Dan Savage or Mike Lacey?

The OC Weekly in Orange County did endorsements this year, but that appeared to be the only one of the l7 Voice/New Times papers that did. I also asked Voice/New Times CEO Jim Larkin and Editor in chief Mike Lacey, as well as the new Voice editor David Blum for their comments and for their rationale for not running endorsements in one of the most important mid-year elections in U.S. history. No reply. Here are a few of the replies that came to me by private email:

From: Ron Kretsch, Art Director, Cleveland Free Times, which competes with the Voice/New Times-owned Cleveland Scene

Sending the entire altweekly industry on a snipe-hunt, Bruce? Niiiiiiice.

(B3 comment: Back where I come from, at Camp Foster on Lake Okoboji in northwest Iowa, we called it whippenpoof hunting. But we never found any.)

Actually, I found something – Derf has this in the obScene this week: Cleveland Scene Election 2006. Then again, you did specify “serious coverage” – yeah, go ahead, post my comment. I doubt I’ll have much crow to eat.

And yeah, we had pretty substantive election coverage – I think in terms of quantity of coverage we actually outdid our election ’04 issue, which by my reckoning has never happened before for a midterm or an off-year. Even some obscure-seeming judicial races got the flashlight shined on ’em. It worked out to be a pretty damn fine issue.

From: an East Coast blogger
Okay, I’ll play. Here’s a story broken by Bob Norman in Broward-Palm Beach that could have a big impact on the gubernatorial race there.
Broward Palm Beach

You won’t find endorsements, of course, because they don’t do any. But you will find coverage of the elections. Bob Norman down in south Florida (who wrote the piece I just sent you) is one of their good reporters on the politics beat.

(B3 comment: Thanks, glad to see an election story in a New Times paper in Florida. But they still didn’t do endorsements. And I’m still looking for someone who can tell me the reason for this policy.)

From: Jonny Diamond , editor in chief of The L Magazine in New York City

Yes, the Savage stuff is in, but it’s the only thing remotely related to the election in the entire issue. This is the cover story: Village Voice Cover Story – remarkable stuff from the country’s formerly foremost alt-weekly on the eve of the most important midterm election in a long, long time.

I’d say this is the final, no-doubt-about-it end of the Voice. As for our own coverage, we’re working on something for Friday… best Jonny Diamond

It is as silly as it seems. The movie stuff is atrocious. The cover stories laughable. And people are noticing. Here’s our endorsement, btw. The L Magazine Endorsements. I’d really appreciate if you could link to this, it deals explicitly with the The Voice’s failure to step up. Thanks, jd

(B3 comment: Perhaps this is a snapshot of the situation in New York. The Voice, a liberal bastion in New York for its entire history, endorser in all elections, didn’t endorse or even run a strong election story in its pre-election issue or an explanation of its knuckling under to the New Times template. However, the L Magazine, a a relatively new arts and entertainment fortnightly, did, happily and with gusto and with every intention of beating the Voice/New Times in every election hereafter. Note its coverage in the link above.)


From: a Manhattan media watcher

Bruce, they don’t have anyone on staff at the Voice any more who is either competent or even interested in covering local politics. It’s just way too cerebral for any of them now. Sad to say, but it’s all fluffernutter stuff. Anything above 34th Street doesn’t exist.


From: Anthony Pignataro (former OC Weekly staffer)

Editor, Maui Time Weekly
This week’s OC Weekly has tons of political coverage, including this list of actual endorsements: OC Weekly

(B3: at last, a Voice/NewTimes paper that made endorsements, the OC Weekly in Orange County. So Will Swaim, a strong liberal editor, joins Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, as the only two who got endorsements into New Times papers. How did Will do it? I sent him an email but didn’t hear by blogtime.)

From: The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies
Speculation About VVM’s L.A. Moves ‘Simply Silly,’ Lacey Says
From: LA Observed
Dear kids: Meyerson sad about Contreras piece
Lacey on Meyerson and LA Observed

Scene at the Weekly
Stewart gives notice
On Jill Stewart at the Weekly
Big turmoil at the Weekly

(B3: There was so much turmoil at the LA Weekly that it was hard to tell what happened this year. Harold Meyerson “quit” writing his excellent political column and no endorsements appeared in the paper, though the paper has for years been a traditional endorser and many ex-staffers and ex-managers were pushing for endorsements this year.)

Meanwhile, the LA Observed media site summed up the Weekly’s sudden knuckling under to Voice/New Times non endorsement policy: “Since the Weekly has dropped its well-read pre-elecition endorsements, City Beat (B3: the competitive alternative in LA) has jumped in to fill the void. The paper backs Democrats for all the state offices except Governor (no endorsement) and insurance commissioner (Steve Poizner over Cruz Bustamente.) Locally, they recommend yes on H and no on R.” And they give a link to the full list.

Meyerson addressed the issue in a farewell email to the staff (see link above) in which he addresses the New Times template: “The paper’s decision, for the first time since forever, not to run endorsements makes that even clearer (that Lacey/New Times have have forced a reverse in editorial policy). Tha’s unfortunate, but it’s no disgrace. But becoming a tabloid in the New Times model is absolutely a disgrace. The New Times model churns out ‘gotcha’ news stories, it snipes at an undifferentiated establishment, it makes little effort to understand larger social issues at work in a city (that would require deviations from the model), it has a weakness for rants. It produces columns like ‘LA Sniper,’ in the Jill Stewart mode of reducing commentary to drive-by shootings…” (B3: Stewart is the new deputy editor in charge of news and wrote in her last independently syndicated column that
she was “thrilled to be joining the Village Voice Media chain under Mike Lacey.”

More on Lacey’s management style: In a letter responding to Meyerson’s criticism of the LA Weekly (see above link), he sums up: “But the reasons why Meyerson’s contract with LA Weekly was not renewed transcend finance and are on display in his embarrassing note to the staff. His ethical lapses, motivated by decades of cronyism, are aggravated by his insufferable pomposity.

“‘Hey, Kids,’ is his salutation.

” ‘Hey, Hack,’ is my response.”

(B3: Lacey, for all his lathering and steaming, still does not address the fundamental issue of why the New Times and now, sadly, the Voice papers, refuse to endorse. So once again: Is there someone somewhere, inside or outside the Voice/New Times, who can say why their papers do not endorse in any election and in particular in a extraordinarily critical election that amounts to a referendum on Bush, the war, the occupation, and his domestic policies?

What’s Lacey and the New Times afraid of? Of annoying their advertisers? Of giving up control to local chain editors who may (gasp!) be more liberal than the gang in Phoenix? Are they worried their endorsments would disclose just how cynical Lacey and the New Times are in their politics and in their view of the cities in which they have papers? MIke? Mike? You sound real big and tough, writing from a safe haven in corporate headquarters in Phoenix, and attacking as a hack a highly respected liberal LA Weekly veteran.

(Could you explain why Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist, has the only real endorsements in all the Voice/New Times papers in his sex column (excepting the OC Weekly, bless their hearts)? Why do you and the Voice/New Times contiinue to duck the tough issues and endorsements in election after election as a matter of institutional policy? As you will recall, Dan went into Pennsylvania at a critical moment in the campaign and gave Sen. Rick Santorum some much justified trouble on the gay family issue. if Santorum goes down, Dan can take some credit. What can you and the Voice/New Times say about the way you wimped through another election? Why does Dan have the balls and you do not? Mike?

B3, working hard in San Francisco to create and perpetuate San Francisco Values (note: SF Chronicle head yesterday: THREE DIRTY WORDS: SAN FRANCISCO VALUES, front page, lead story, big type, no blushing)

More Impertinent Questions on Hearst shenanigans on the drug pricing scandal (part 5) Why did Hearst censor an AP story on McKesson profits?


By Bruce B. Brugmann

Let me cite yet another example of the dangers of the Hearst/Singleton move to destroy daily competition and impose regional monopoly in the Bay Area.

As attentive Bruce blog readers know, I always turn to the second page of the Chroncie/Hearst business section called “Daily Digest” to pick up the news that Hearst is censoring. Yesterday, I spotted yet another nugget
that demonstrated how Hearst was censoring a major scandal story involving its own subsidiary in San Bruno and McKesson Corp., one of the nation’s largest drug wholesalers.

The story looked harmless enough, a six paragraph Associated Press story headlined “McKesson soars above expectations,” with a lead that said that the company’s “quarterly profit climbed 37 per cent to soar past analyst expectations, prompting the nation’s largest prescription-drug distributor to brighten its financial outlook.” Another five paragraphs provided the details of this seemingly rosy McKesson story.

So, knowing there was much more to this story and getting my blogging genes at the ready, I checked the online version of the story. Imagine my surprise when I found that the guts of the Chronicle story had been cut out of the paper and the juicy stuff was tucked away in the online version. A full seven paragraphs had been chopped from the print version of a l6 paragraph story by Michael Liedtke from the San Francisco AP bureau.

Let me quote the key chopped out paragraphs to make my point: “McKesson released its results and bullish outlook after the stock market closed Tuesday. The company’s shares fell 60 cents to finish at $50.09 on the New York Stock Exchange. After an early rebound in after-hours trading, the shares shed 5 cents.

“The downturn extended a recent slump triggered nearly four weeks ago by news of a tentative legal settlement that could depress prescription drug prices. (b3: a dreadful thing.)

“The settlement covers a class-action complaint alleging that drug price publisher First DataBank Inc. (B3: a Hearst subsidiary in San Bruno) had conspired with McKesson between 2002 and 2005 to boost the wholesale cost of most prescription medicines by 5 per cent. (B3: a tidy newsworthy sum).

“Although McKesson has denied any wrongdoing and isn’t joining the settlement, investors are worried the agreement will force the company to lower its prices (b3: another dreadful thing). Consumer advocates have estimated the settlement will save health insurance plans about $4 billion (b3: a nice newsworthy figure). The settlement still needs approval by a Massachusets federal court, something unlikely to happen before April…”

Note my previous blogs to get the scope of the Hearst shenanigans at work here. AP doesn’t put Hearst into the story where it belongs and doesn’t even identify FirstDateBank as a local subsidiary owned by Hearst, the biggest daily in Northern California and a big bankroller and participant in the Singleton move to monopolize the Bay Area. Hearst doesn’t properly edit the AP story and put Hearst high up where it belongs. And Hearst actually cut the print version of the story and put the guts of it up online at SF Gate so it will be hard to spot. And of course Hearst never ran the original story of the scandal (reported first in a lead story in the Oct. 6 Wall Street Journal, with versions by the AP, the Guardian, and even the Hearst-owned Houston Chronicle, see my previous blogs.)

The hinge point: Hearst went to these embarrassing lengths to censor a major scandal story involving Hearst, and three local companies, to protect its corporate interests and refuses to explain this professionally glaring omission in the stories, or to its readers. It also refuses to answer my questions directed to Hearst corporate in New York City via Hearst San Francisco and publisher Frank Vega, Executive Editor Phil Bronstein, Managing Editor Robert Rosenthal, and Business Editor Ken Howe. And the “competitive” Singleton papers haven’t done the story either to my knowledge and won’t explain why.

Impertinent Questions: If Hearst and Singleton won’t compete on a major scandal story like this, where will they compete and when do they start? How can they censor and cover up a major story like this in the midst of investigations by Justice and the AG?

This sorry episode illustrates a key issue for the current Justice and AG investigations into whether the Hearst/Singleton deal violates U.S.and state antitrust laws. It also illustrates a key issue for the highly important Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust suit seeking to blast apart the Hearst/Singleton financial relationship. I refer again to Brugmann’s Law: Where there is no economic competition, there is no news and editorial competition. So the thrust of any real antitrust investigation ought to be to stop monopoly moves like this and insure real newspaper and media competition.

We hear that Justice is at least doing lots of interviewing. God knows what Lockyer and his antitrust crew are doing as he heads into the sunset to be state treasurer. His probable successor, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, operating under the thumb of the Oakland Tribune/Singleton, has refused to comment or answer questions as to whether he will continue Lockyer’s purported investigation. Reilly and Alioto are hard into discovery, working with the media documents they obtained from Justice and the AG as a result of their suit. The documents were filed by the principals in the original merger (McClatchy, Hearst, Singleton, Gannett, Stephens) to get preliminary Justice and AG approval. They are certain to be illuminating. Impertinent Question: Why is it that, once again, Relly and Alioto must do the heavy lifting in a private suit because Justice and the AG have so far knuckled under to the chains and refused to do their job.

Repeating the Impertinent Questions to Hearst and Singleton editors and publishers: Why haven’t you done this major scandal story? When will you do it? If you won’t do the stories, please explain. Until then, let’s have no more macho talk about competition between Hearst and Singleton papers. B3

P.S. Let me quote the third paragraph from the WSJ to dramatize the heft of this story: “A 2002 email by a manager of (McKesson) describes how pharmacies would be able to more than doiuble their profit for dispensing the cholestrol drug Lipitor and adds, ‘that is awesome.'” The article quoted an economist hired by the plaintiffs who estimated that savings in 2007 alone at $4 billion. There is much, much more. The Hearst and Singleton papers would cover this national scandal in a flash if it involved any other big company in their territory. Hopefully.

A tough pill to swallow by G.W. Schulz

McKesson’s fiscal 2Q profit rises 37 percent to top analyst views by MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Business Writer



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…


‘SF Chronicle’ to Outsource All of Its Printing By E&P Staff
ChainLINKS. Scroll to the bottom of the website to join the e-mail list

PRESS RELEASE: The Hearst Corporation


The New Media Offensive for the Iraq War by Norman Solomon

You`ll be pleased to hear we run our endorsements in a sidebar on the cover monday in addition to longer editorials in the weeks leading up to the election.
Bruce Mitchell
The Athens NEWS
(740) 594-8219

The Wall Street Journal
Justice Department Press Release
A tough pill to swallow by G.W. Schulz

Nov. 7
Culture war at LA Weekly: A former sales staffer speaks out…

Dan Savage comes through in the clutch. The gay sex columnist endorses in his pre-election column in the Voice and other New Times papers, but the Voice and New Times papers do not endorse. Hurray for Dan Savage!!!


By Bruce B. Brugmann

Hurray for Dan Savage, the gay sex columnist for the l7 Village Voice/New Times papers in major markets with major battleground races for the election.

Savage performed heroically under fire and managed to get some key election endorsements into the second to last paragraph of his syndicated sex column in the crucial issue before one of the most important elections in modern history, a plebescite on Bush, the war, and the occupation. (New Times papers historically don’t do endorsments and don’t allow their writers to endorse.) He ran a letter in his column from a Wisconsin male who wrote, “Wisconsin needs your help!. On Tuesday, Nov. 7 we’re voting on an amendment banning gay marriage. As a married heterosexual male I’m supposed to feel threatened by gays getting married, but I’m smart enough to realize it doesn’t affect me at all. I also realize that I got to marry whomever I wanted, and everyone should have that right. Urge your readers in Wisconsin to vote NO on the marriage amendment. Thanks!”

Savage gave the writer the ultimate Savage compliment: “You put it better than I could, JIW. I would add: The amendment in Wisconsin bans gay marriage and civil unions. Vote no.”

Then Savage continued his endorsement: “And to my readers in Colorado, Idaho,
South Carolina, Tennessee, Virignia, Arizona, and South Dakota: Please vote against the gay marriage bans in your states, too. And in South Dakota, please vote to overturn your state’s idiotic abortion ban. And to my readers in Canada: Be glad you don’t have to put up with any of this shit.”

In the presidential race two years ago, Savage snuck his Kerry for President endorsement in the last line of his pre-election column. This time, he slipped his endorsements into the second to last paragraphs, with a neatly disguised ending to his column with a diverting letter from a woman who claimed she couldn’t have an orgasm until age l8. She then took some pot with a “cooperative boy friend and–bam! –six orgasms in five minutes.” And he signed off, “Thanks for sharing.” And sent his readers off to a Savage website to learn more about pot and sex. Well done, Dan. A masterful job.

Meanwhile, Savage’s endorsements were the only real endorsements to be run in the pre-election issue of the Voice, probably one of the first times in Voice history, if not the first, that this bastion of New York liberalism has been Voiceless and neutered and has not endorsed candidates or run serious political coverage in an election. (Why? I put the questions by email to Voice/New Times CEO and chief executive officer Jim Larkin, Executive Editor Michael Lacey, and David Blum, the new Voice editor in chief, but got no reply by blogtime.)

Instead, the Voice this week ran a gripping “report from the trenches of ‘Saturday Night Live’–dress rehearsals, wrap parties, last-minute sketch changes, a l a.m. phone call from Lorne Michaels (and yes, Andy Samberg!”) with a front page illustration of a smiling comedian doing the Bronx shrug. I kid you not. Check the link below and the Voice website and see what has happened to the mighty Voice in the short nine months since Larkin, Lacey,and the Arizona Gang got ahold of it. Meanwhile a quick check showed that none of the other l6 Voice/New Times papers ran any endorsements in their pre-election issues, with the possible exception of the OC Weekly in Orange County. An editor sent me an email saying they were doing endorsements but I could not find them at blogtime.

Well, Nathan Blumberg, my first journalism professor at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in l953, used to say that a paper that didn’t run endorsements didn’t have any balls. He used the word testicles, because this was Nebraska in l953, but the class all got the point. So: does this mean that Dan Savage has balls, and Jim Larkin and Mike Lacey don’t have balls? Let us let the readers decide.

P.S.1 It’s hard for the staff members of a Village Voice/New Times paper to say much inhouse or publicly about the management style and editorial policies of Larkin and Lacey. For example, note what happened to poor David Schneiderman, the former Village Voice top guy since l978, who they sacked unceremoniously last week. VOICE BOSS GAGGED,” chided the New York Post head. The Post noted Larkin’s subtle style when it quoted an insider as saying about Schneiderman: “The new guys held him in complete disregard. It got so bad that one source said that while Schneiderman was in New Orleans recently delivering a presentation on the company’s web progress, Larkin made a point of taking out a newspaper and reading it while Schneiderman spoke.” Schneiderman will go down in journalism history as the guy who sold the Voice to New Times, and pocketed $500,000 for his work on the deal, but even he probably didn’t deserve the Larkin/Lacey treatment.

P.S 2: Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, the SF Weekly/
Village Voice/New Times ran a front page page illustration of two gay comic figures I can’t quite characterize, but sported the head, “DRAWN TOGETHER, Graphic Homosexual comics and the young women who love them.”
Smith came the closest to a political endorsement when he meandered around with the two major candidates in District 6, Sup. Chris Daly and challenger Rob Black, and wrote a self-immolating piece titled, “Vulgar posing, How our columnist was seduced into watching the World’s Largest Female Bodybuilder beat up on Rob Black.” After missing, mangling, mushing, and making fun of the issues, Smith came up with two summary questions but no clear endorsement: “Isn’t Daly the vulgar jerk who threatened the democratic process? What about the gentility-in-public-life rap Black’s been giving SOMA condo dwellers? Black is gone. I don’t feel like chasing after him with my facile questions.” Well, Smith concludes, “Alone, in SF Weekly’s offices, beer on my breath, an awful sort-porn video on the VCR, I realize I’ve beens seduced by the poses of two political hacks.”

News flash to Smith: There are real major issues in this district. For example, Calvin Welsh lays out a big one in a Guardian op ed this week, “Don’t for a minute believe that he (Daly) is in the fight of his political life because he’s rude, because he doesn’t care about lw and order, or because he prefers dirty streets upon which to raise his son. These petty and silly charges mask a far more serious objection: the way his opponents see it, Daly has been too slow in adopting the massive wave of market rate housing slated for this district and is far too protective of lower income residents in District 6.” He concludes: “There’s a working majority of the Board of Supervisors willing to fight for current neighborhoods and residents and a future that includes them. The battle in District 6 shows that the fight is not without risk. Do the rest of us realize it? Smith, Larkin, Lacey, Voice/New Times folks, do you realize it?

P.S.3: At blogtime, Jonny Diamond, the editor in chief of L magazine in New York, replied to my query about Voice endorsements with this quote: “Yes, the Savage stuff is in, but it’s the only thing remotely related to the election in the entire issue. This is the cover story (and he gave me the link). Remarkable stuff from the country’s formerly foremost alt-weekly on the eve of the most important midterm elections in a long, long time. I’d say this is the final, no-doubt-about-it end of the Voice. As for our own coverage, we’re working on something for Friday.”

So, to get election endorsements and coverage in New York, forget the Voice and
go to the website of the L magazine, a zippy New York arts and entertainment biweekly under the direction of the Steadman brothers.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we may have heard the final word on the eve of the election from the Larkin/Lacey/VillageVoice/NewTimes/SF Weekly crew in San Francisco and New York. Maybe Larkin will stop reading the paper long enough to send me comments or explain to the readers of his l7 papers why they don’;t endorse or do serious election coverage. I’ll let you know. If anybody spots a political endorsement in a Voice/New Times paper, flash me the word. B3, hoping good news is on the way on the way Nov. 7th


October 27, 2006 — DAVID Schneiderman is out as president of Village Voice Media nine months after Phoenix-based New Times took over the alternative weekly newspaper chain.

Following the takeover of the Voice by New Times CEO James Larkin and Editorial Director Michael Lacey, Schneiderman stayed on as president of the combined company, which took on the Village Voice Media name. He split his time between the company’s headquarters and Seattle, where his wife Dana Faust, a New York Times ad executive handling the Pacific northwest, is based.

However, few expected him to stay for long as he was clearly a man without a power base. He was given the job of exploring Web opportunities for the company, an area in which he had scant expertise. Even after he immersed himself in the new role, it didn’t impress the new cowboys from Phoenix.

“The new guys held him in complete disregard,” said one insider. It got so bad that one source said that while Schneiderman was in New Orleans recently delivering a presentation on the company’s Web progress, Larkin made a point of taking out a newspaper and reading it while Schneiderman spoke.

Reached yesterday, Larkin said of Schneiderman, “He resigned.”

Asked if there would be a replacement, Larkin said, “We are going to restructure.” He declined further comment, saying, “We don’t comment on personnel matters,” he said.

When reached by Media Ink, Schneiderman, said, “I’ve been approached by people in the venture capital and private equity world. I just felt the time to move on was now.”

He insisted that his deal as Voice president was “open ended” and that he could have stayed longer.

But making frequent trips between New York, Phoenix and Seattle “was wearing on me.”

“Waking up in my own bed for awhile is important to me,” he said.

The Boston Phoenix was reporting yesterday that its editor Bill Jensen had resigned to accept a job running Web operations for Village Voice Media, its parent company.







Fast times in Rock Rapids, Iowa, what really happened on Halloween Eve in l951


By Bruce B. Brugmann

As I was getting ready to do my daily blog, anxiously awaiting the political endorsements in the Savage Love column in the Village Voice (see my previous blogs), a dispatch from the San Francisco Sentinel caught my eye on my email display.

“City Plans For Safe Castro Halloween,” the headline read.

A safe Halloween? Who wants to read about a safe Halloween? I can speak for a generation or two back in my hometown of Rock Rapids, Iowa, where Halloween was the one night of the year
when we could raise a little hell and and hope to stay one step ahead of the cops.

Or, in the case of Rock Rapids, the one and only cop, who happened to be Elmer “Shinny” Sheneberger. Shinny had the unenviable job of trying to keep some semblance of law and order during an evening when the Hermie Casjens gang was on the loose. Somehow through the years, nobody remembered exactly when, the tradition was born that the little kids would go house to house trick and treating but the older boys could roam the town looking to make trouble and pull off some pranks.

It was all quite civilized. The Casjens gang would gather (no girls allowed) and set out about our evening’s business, being careful to stay away from the houses of watchful parents and Shinny on patrol. Dave Dietz and I specialized in finding cars with keys in the ignition and driving them to the other end of town and just leaving them. We tipped over an outhouse or two, the small town cliche, but one time we thought there was someone inside. We never hung around to find out. There was some mischief with fences and shrubs.

After an evening of such lusty adventures, we would go home about ll p.m. and tell our parents what we had been up to and how we evaded Shinny the whole evening and they would (generally) be relieved. Shinny would just drive around in his patrol car and shine his lights here and there and do some honking. But somehow He never caught anybody or made any serious followup investigation. And the targets of our pranks never seemed to make police complaints. I once asked Paul Smith, the editor of the Lyon County Reporter, why he never wrote up this bit of zesty small town lore. “Bruce,” he said, “I don’t want things to get out of hand.” During my era, they never did.

Nonetheless, the city elders decided to keep Halloween devastation to a minimum and scheduled a dance in the Community Building, with the misbegotten idea the pranksters would give up their errant ways and come to the dance. The Casjens Gang would have none of this. In fact it was the year of the dance diversion that we made our most culturally significant contribution to Halloween lore in Rock Rapids. We happened upon a boxcar, loaded with coal, parked on a siding a block or so from Main Street, which also served as a busy main arterial highway for cars coming across northwest Iowa.

It is not clear to this day who came up with the idea of rolling the boxcar across Main Street and blocking all traffic coming from both directions. We massed behind the car and pushed and pushed but it wouldn’t budge. Then Bob Babl came up with a brilliant stroke: to use a special lever his dad used to move boxcars full of lumber for his nearby lumberyard. Bob slipped through a fence behind the yard and somehow managed to find the lever in the dark. We massed again, now some 20 or so strong, behind the car and waited for the signal to push. Willie Ver Meer climbed to the top of the car and wrenched the wheel that set the brakes. We heaved in unison and the car moved slowly on the tracks until it reached the middle of Main Street. Willie gave a mighty heave and ground the car to a dead stop, bang, square in the middle of the street. Almost immediately, the cars started lining up on both sides of the car, honking away. Grace under pressure. An historic event. Man, were we proud.

We slipped away and from a safe distance watched the fruits of our labor unfold. Shinny, the ever resourceful police chief, soon came upon the scene. He strode into the dance in the nearby Community Building and commandeered enough of the dancers to come out and help him move the car back onto its siding. We bided our time and then went back and pushed the car once again into the middle of the street. Jerry Prahl added a nice touch by rolling out a batch of Firestone tires onto the street from his Dad’s nearby store. Suddenly, Main Street was a boxcar- blocked, tire-ridden mess. Again, the cars started lining up, honking away. Then we fled, figuring we were now wanted pranksters and needed to be on the lam.

The Casjens gang and groupies have retold the story through the years at our regular get togethers at the Sportsmen Club bar at Heritage Days in Rock Rapids and at our all-Rock Rapids Cocktail Party and Beer Kegger held in the back lawn of the Mary Rose Babl Hindt house in Cupertino. We would jokingly say that the statute of limitations never runs out in Rock Rapids and so we needed to be careful what we said and ought not to disclose fully the involvement of Dave Dietz, Hermie Casjens, Ted Fisch, Ken Roach, Jerry Prahl, Bob Babl, Romain Hahn, Willie Ver Meer, and lots of others, some who were there working in peril, others who declared they were there safely after the fact.

Last year, just before Halloween, I was invited back to Rock Rapids to speak to a fund-raising event for the local high school. It was a a crisp clear night just like the night of Halloween in l95l and a perfect setting to tell the story publicly in town for the first time. The event was at the new community building, on Main Street, just a block or so from the old Community Building, and a block or so from the siding where we found the boxcar. I told the audience that Shinny had assured me the statute of limitations had run out in Rock Rapids and that I could now, 54 years later, tell the boxcar- across -Main -Street caper with no fear of prosecution. And so I did, with relish.

Chuck Telford was in the audience and I recalled that he had driven up to us that night, as part of a civilian patrol, and inquired as to what we were doing. When he could see what we were doing, he just quietly drove off. “Very civilized behavior,” I said. Afterward, I told Chuck I would back him for mayor, on the basis of that incident alone. Craig Vinson, then the highway patrolman for the area, came up to me and said he remembered the incident vividly because he was on duty that night and came upon the boxcar blocking the highway with long lines of honking cars. “I got ahold of Shinny that night and told him it was his job to move the boxcar and get it off the highway,” he said. Others said they had gotten a whiff of the story but were never able to pin it down. The high school principal and superintendent didn’t say much and, I suspect, were worried my tale might lead to the Rock Rapids version of the movie “Ferris Buhler Takes A Day Off.”

For years, I said in my talk, I didn’t think that Shinny ever knew exactly what happened or who was involved in the caper or how we pulled it off, twice, almost before his very eyes. Shinny retired in Rock Rapids and I saw him twice a year when I came back to visit my parents. But I never said anything and he never said anything but finally a couple of years ago I found the right moment and cautiously filled him in. He chuckled and said, “Let’s drink to it.” We did. And we have been drinking to it ever since. He calls me now and then in my office in San Francisco and he always tells the receptionist, “Tell Bruce, it’s Shinny. I’m his parole officer in Rock Rapids.” B3

Those were the days, my friends. The days of “safe” Halloweens.

P.S. I love smalltown lore and will from time to time lay out the life and fast times and wild adventures of my hometown, the best little town in the territory. I invite you to contribute your smalltown stories and lore. B3

Let us lift a Potrero Hill martini for Thomas Peele of the Contra Costa Times/Singleton papers. He criticized Singleton by name for sealing court records in the Hearst/Singleton antitrust case.


I’m drinking a Potrero Hill martini in honor of Thomas Peele, the investigative reporter on the Contra Costa Times/Dean Singleton papers.

He did what few editorial staffers do in these dread days of mega media mergers and resulting layoffs: he sharply criticized his new boss in a “guest commentary” column in his own paper, the CCTimes.

He was commenting on the federal court ruling that sealed the records in the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust case aimed at breaking up the Hearst/Singleton deal that would destroy daily competiton and impose regional monopoly on the Bay Area.

His lead: “Many believe newspapers are too much of a public trust to act like any other business. Their corporate owners are not among them.” His conclusion: “With his recent acquisitions, Singleton has moved up another notch in his publishing ascent. His friendship with Bush, his considerable wealth, his abundant Texas charm, combine to allow him lead on free-press and freedom-of-information issues through the principles he avows. His position would be stronger if he begins applying those principles to his own company.”

To his credit, Singleton answered Peele’s tough questions and Peele quoted him in the article. And Singleton and the CCTimes and Singleton managers allowed Peele’s piece to run in Sunday’s paper and posted it on the CCTimes website this morning.

Could this ever happen at the Chronicle/Hearst? Well, it won’t happen until the moment Hearst starts allowing its staff to cover such censored stories as the PG@E/RakerAct scandal (a censored story since the late l920s after Hearst got some timely fresh capital from a PG@E-controlled bank in return for flipping on their support of public power (to be laid out in coming blogs). The latest censored Hearst story: the Chronicle still hasn’t published the big Hearst prescription drug price scandal story, which was run as a lead story in the Wall Street Journal, with versions by the Associated Press, the Guardian, and even the Hearst-owned Houston Chronicle. (see previous blogs).

And nobody from Hearst corporate or Hearst San Francisco will answer my email questions as to why the story wasn’t published in the Chronicle and when it would be or provided an explanation for the embarrassing corporate blackout. B3, who can see the fumes from the Potrero Hill power plant from my desk, courtesy of PG@E and Hearst.

P.S. And the Potrero HIll martini? That is a story for another blog.

Freedom of information must be an unwavering principle by Thomas Peele

Who will Dan Savage endorse in his column in the Village Voice/New Times papers? Will the Voice and other New Times papers be allowed to endorse in this crucial election?


Who will Dan Savage be endorsing in his pre-election sex column in the Village Voice/New Times chain of l7 papers?

Since his is the only endorsement that may see the light of day in any VV/NT paper (they don’t allow endorsements),
I emailed him on Friday in hopes I could get a scooplet. Dan was uncharacteristically shy. He didn’t respond by blogtime.

Savage, the editor of The Stranger alternative paper in Seattle who writes “Savage Love,” two years ago managed to slip in a Kerry for President endorsement in the last line of his last pre-election column two years ago. The crucial questions: What will he do this time? Will he be allowed to do it again?

Savage has already in his current column done more on the endorsement front than his New York paper, the VV/NT. In a note to his New York readers, he plugged a political fundraiser by writing, “I hauled my ass all the way to Philadelphia to help raise money to defeat Rick Santorum. The least you can do is haul your ass to the party at Drop Off Service…Admission is free, but it is a fundraiser. So, like, bring some funds.”

He ended his column with an even more subtle pitch to his Phiadelphia readers: “I had a blast at the Trocadero–and hey, a a shout-out to hometown hero Atrios, whom I neglected to mention when I rattled off a list of inspiring lefty bloggers. The whole country is counting on you guys to get out and vote against Rick Santorum on Nov. 2. To raise money and help get out the vote, Philadelphians Against Santorum is hosting a Halloween party at Ortlieb’s Brewery Cabaret…Free if you’re wearing a costume, $l0 otherwise. If you don’t live in Philly but would like to help defeat Santorum, go to www.phillyagainstsantorum.com and make a donation.”

I’m emailing NT Chairman and CEO Jim Larkin and Editor in Chief Mike Lacey, at New Times headquarters in Phoenix, and Voice David Blum to see if they will allow Savage to keep endorsing and to see if they will allow the Village Voice to endorse this time around (a Voice tradition)–and if they will allow the other five Voice papers now under NT aegis to endorse (Minneapolis City Pages, Seattle Weekly, Nashville Scene, LA Weekly, OC Weekly, all papers in areas with critical races). Also: to see Larkin and Lacey will maintain this ban on endorsements on their other ll papers.

I’m not hopeful in reaching Larkin and Lacey. The New York Times, in its Oct. 28th story headlined “Village Voice Stalwart Resigns In Latest Postmerger Shake-up,” ran into the Larkin/Lacey stonewall in reporting that longtime Voice CEO David Schneiderman resigned last Thursday. Schneiderman, who came to the Voice in l978 from the New York Times, told the Times that it was his decision to resign. “I knew once we’d completed the merger and everything went smoothly, that would be the proper moment,” he said, adding he had no regrets about the merger. “I felt then and I feel now that it was a very smart business decision.”

And then the Times reported as many of us have for years: Neither Larkin nor Lacey “responded to messages left yesterday.”

Smart business decision? Well, maybe, but Schneiderman couldn’t say “smart editorial decision” after Larkin and Lacey quickly gutted the Voice, cut out much of its cultural staff, and neutered its political coverage. Would the Voice be voiceless on Bush, Iraq, and other major political endorsements for the first time in memory? Thank the Lord for Dan Savage! l B3

Village Voice Stalwart Resigns in Latest Post-Merger Shake-up


So why did the SF Weekly’s Matt Smith endorse a PG@E attorney for supervisor?


Matt Smith, a columnist for the SF Weekly/Village Voice/New Times, parachuted into the Sunset to check out the field of supervisorial candidates and ended up last week all but endorsing Doug Chan as the PG@E candidate for supervisor.

What Smith’s investigation didn’t turn up was the disturbing fact that Chan is an attorney whose law firm, Chan, Doi, and Leal, has received more than $460,913 in fees from PG@E in the past five years, according to documents on file with the California Public Utilities Commission. (See my earlier blog and our editorial for more details).
Chan is also the beneficiary of a tidal wave of sleazy independent expenditure mailings to Sunset residents, probably from the same PG@E/downtown gang creating the tidal wave of IE sleaze on behalf of Rob Black in the Chris Daly race. (See our stories). The PG@E gang want Chan and Black in City Hall. I asked Smith by email if this were a continuation of the PG@E-smitten campaign that then editor John Mecklin and then reporter Peter Bryne conducted on behalf of PG@E and against the two public power campaigns in 200l and 2002. He parried the question. Chan and the Weekly both ended up in the Guardian’s Hall of Shame after the PG@E victories.

The point: maybe, if this is how the New Times would go about endorsements, it isn’t such a good idea to raise the issue. Their politics appear to be desert libertarianism on the rocks, with stalks of neocon policy. What would the Village Voice/New Times position be on the war and Bush et al? Well, back to Dan Savage, the Voice/New Times sex columnist who has been known to slip an endorsement into his column. (See my previous blog).

P.S. Full disclosure: I live out in the West Portal district a few blocks from the Sunset District. And I am getting tired of supervisors like Sean Elsbernd and Fiona Ma and supervisorial candiates like Doug Chan who come on as “neighborhood” candidates but once in office quickly become anti-neighborhood, pro-PG@E, pro-Downtown supervisors and callup votes for the mayor, PG@E, and downtown. My alternative choices for the Sunset:
Jaynry Mak and David Ferguson, who understand the perils of PG@E and the virtues of public power. B3

Will Dan Savage and Savage Love save the Village Voice/New Times chain? Will the chain allow any of its 17papers to endorse candidates in this critical election?


Maybe it’s up to Dan Savage, the editor of The Stranger in Seattle who writes a sex column called Savage Love with a left political slant for the Village Voice/New Times chain of l7 papers.

Let me explain. The New Times editor MIke Lacey and publisher Jim Larkin have historically refused to allow any of their papers, including the SF Weekly and the East Bay Express, to do editorials, endorse candidates, or take real positions on such critical issues as the war and occupation of Iraq, the Bush vs. Kerry presidential race, or even local races for mayor, governor, and the U.S. House and Senate. Why? It has always baffled me and it baffles the staffs of their l7 papers. And now, this year for the first time, the staffs and readers of the six old Voice papers that were purchased by the New Times last fall (the Voice, the Minneapolis City Pages, the Nashville Scene, the Seattle Weekly, the LA Weekly, and the OC Weekly) will find that they can no longer run the endorsements and strong political coverage they ran so proudly in their papers for years.

What was the New Times position on Bush’s reelection? New Times ducked the issue and, as far as I can tell, the only endorsement published in any New Times paper came from Savage’s column just before election day. Dan, bless his heart, came out for Kerry in the last line of his column and has been pushing for impeachment. He even went out to Pennsylvania a few weeks ago to make trouble for Sen. Rick Santorum. He was successful.

There are major races in almost every one of the Village Voice/New Times cities, from New York to the state of Washington to Tennessee to Florida to Ohio to almost every city and region where the Voice/New Times has a paper. The mission of a real alternative paper is to be alternative to and competitive with the local monopoly daily. Instead, the Voice/New Times papers, by not endorsing, cede valuable political terrain and influence to their local daily competitors with their standard establishment endorsements, usually conservative and establishment to the core, in local and national races (see the Chronicle and Examiner endorsements.) And so the question remains: will Lacey and Larkin, operating out of their headquarters in Phoenix, allow any of their papers, in this terribly critical election, to finally break the taboo and take an editorial stand and do some editorial endorsements?

I bet they won’t. I bet they continue their policy of making no explanation to their staffs and readers. And so once again it will be up to Dan Savage, the zesty gay sex columnist, to save the day and come out with some anti-Bush endorsements in his pre-election column in the l7 Voice and New Times papers. Will he do it? Will Lacey and Larkin allow the Savage endorsements to run in their papers? Let us stay alert. Meanwhile, the Bruce blog will keep you posted.

P.S. What has been the Lacey/Larkin/New Times position on the war and occupation? Let me recap an example from an earlier Bruce blog. Back in 2003, as the Guardian was pounding away on Bush and the invasion with front page stories and strong editorials, Lacey/Larkin/SFWeekly/EastBayExpress/NewTimes gave me a Best of Award for “Best Local Psychic.”

Their Best Of item read: “Move over, Madam Zolta, at least when it comes to predicting the outcome of wars, Bruce-watchers will recall with glee his most recent howler, an April 2 Bay Guardian cover storyheadlined ‘The New Vietnam.’ The article was accompanied by an all caps heading and a photo of a panic-stricken U.S. serviceman in Iraq, cowering behind a huge fireball. The clear message: Look out, folks; this new war’s gonna be as deep a sinkhole as the old one. Comparing a modern U.S. war to Vietnam–how edgy! How brilliant! How original! And how did the prediction pan out? Let’s see now: More than 50,000 U.S. soldiers got killed in Vietnam vs. about l00 in Iraq. Vietnam lasted more than l0 years; Iraq lasted less than a month (effectively ending about two weeks after the story ran.) Vietnam destroyed a U.S. president, while Iraq tuned one into an action hero. Well, you get the picture. Trying to draw analogies between Vietnam and Iraq is as ridiculous as Brugmann’s other pet causes. Scores of reputable publications aroiund the nation opposed the Iraq war, but did so in a thoughtful, intelligent manner. Leave it to the SFBG,our favorite political pamphlet, to help delegitimate yet another liberal cause. Bush, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft send their sincerest thanks, Bruce.”

I am not jesting. This is what they wrote. I proudly display this Best of in my office. And this was yet another example of New Times journalism: hit, run, and hide. The article was not by-lined and I tried, again and again, by phone calls and by guerrilla emails to Lacey and his SF Weekly editors, to get someone to stand up and say who conceived, wrote, and edited the item. Nobody would fess up. But I was told reliably that the writer was the cartoonist Dan Siegler and the editor was then editor John Mecklin, who was reported to be Lacey’s top editor and hand-picked by Lacey to take on the Guardian in San Francisco. I then confronted them with emails, askijng for confirmation or comment. I got none then and, as the war worsened, I updated my request now and then. I never got a reply.

We had lots of fun with their Best Of award. We did a counter Best of, a full page ad, titled “Best Premature Ejaculation,” a special award to the editors of the SF Weekly/New Times. We ended with this note: “Sorry, folks: We wish the war in Iraq were as neat and tidy as you, Bush, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft would like to think it is. But you, um, spoke to soon.”

We added a postscript: “Gee, what’s the New Times position on the war anyway. We can’t seem to figure it out.” Three years later, l2 days before the election that is a plebescite on the war and Bush the Perpetrator, the question is more timel than ever: what is the Lacey and Larkin position on the war?

Will they tell us? Or is it up to Dan Savage? B3

Just in: More investment info on PG&E’s candidates for supervisor


Just as the Guardian went to press on Tuesday afternoon, our investigative interns returned from the Californa Public Utilities Commission with more information on the investments that PG&E has made in supervisorial candidates Doug Chan and Rob Black through two key law firms.

Documents on file with the CPUC show that Chan’s law firm, Chan, Doi, and Leal, has received a total of $460,913 in fees from PG&E between 200l and 2005. In 2002, the year of the second public power initiative, the Chan firm received $49,969.78. Chan lent his name to PG&E for use in PG&E’s campaign material and thereby earned a spot in the Guardian’s Hall of Shame.

As our editorial and my previous blogs pointed out, Chan, his campaign, and his law firm refuse to answer our telephone and email requests for an explanation of what he did for PG&E and whether PG&E’s investment will affect his position on public power. Chan is running in District 4 (the Sunset), backed by Mayor Newsom, PG&E, and downtown money.

Black, a PG&E and downtown-backed candidate against Sup. Chris Daly in District 6, worked as an attorney for Nielsen Merksamer, the political law firm that handled all of the dirty dealings for the nasty public anti-public power campaign that PG&E and its allies waged in 2002 with a huge warchest. Black worked with Jim Sutton, his former law professor and PG&E’s main legal operative, during that period but insists he did no work on anything related to PG&E or the campaign. We and many others find that hard to believe. In any event, he is eloquently vague about his current public power position. Nielsen Merksamer received $338,294 in 200l, the year of PG&E’s first victory over the first public power initiative, and $24,303.90 in 2002, the year PG&E beat back the second public power initiative. In 2003, with PG&E fighting numerous major campaign violations on ethical and campaign spending, Nielsen and Merksamer got $496,7l6.87.

In 2004 the firm got $443,50l.24 and in 2005 it got $8l6,97l. The interns who fought their way through the CPUC bureaucracy were Jeff Goodman and Sara Schieron, adding their names to a long list of Guardian staffers who have helped fight the good fight against PG&E for almost 40 years.

“All of this comes at a time when PG&E is going out of its way, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to buff up its image–and to fight the city’s modest but significant plans for public power,” our editorial points out. PG&E is also fighting the city in several expensive legal actions, from conflicts over the city’s right to power municipal buildings to PG&E’s working against the city building more solar sites.

At the end of Steven T. Jones’ story on “PG&E’s Extreme Makeover,” he quotes Peter Ragone, the mayor’s press secretary, as saying, “We’re going to do what’s in the best interests of the city of San Francisco. This is the first mayor to support public power, and that hasn’t changed at all.”

Okay. Maybe so. But then why did the mayor appoint Sean Elsbernd to the board, a staunch PG&E ally who worked for Nielsen Merksamer in the l990s? And then why is he now strongly backing PG&E’s supervisorial candiates in this election (Chan and Black)? That would give PG&E three callup votes on the board for PG&E. Fair play: If Chan and Black aren’t potential callup votes on the board, then they need to come clean, right now, and give us and the public an explanation of the PG&E investments in their firms and what their position on public power is now and will be as supervisors.

SOS: it’s time for the public power forces to regroup and start hammering back at the PG&E offensive. Things of great moment are once again in the making. B3

Chan stonewalls on PG@E questions: will anybody be able to pin him down before the election?


As our editorial for the Wednesday Guardian states, “We’ve seen plenty of allies of Pacific Gas and Electric Company on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. We’ve seen a few PG@E bagmen, PG@E shills, and PG@E fronts. But there’s never been anyone elected to the board in our 40 years who was actually a paid attorney for PG@E.

“This year, there’s at least one, and possibly two candidates who have worked as PG@E lawyers–and that alone should disqualify them from ever holding public office in San Francisco. The most obvious and direct conflict involves Doug Chan, the former police commissioner who is seeking a seat from District Four. Documents on file with the California Public Utilities Commission show that Chan’s law firm, Chan, Doi and Leal, has received more than $200,000 in fees from PG&E in just the past two years.

“Chan won’t come to the phone to discuss what he did for the utility, won’t respond to questions posed through his campaign manager and press secretary, won’t return calls to his law firm and thus won’t give the public any idea what sorts of conflicts of interest he’d have if he took office.

“This is nothing new for Chan: Back in 2002, he put his name on PG&E campaign material opposing public power and earned a spot in the Guardian’s Hall of Shame.”

At blogtime last Monday afternoon: still no word from
Chan, his campaign, nor his law firm. (See my blog below for the Guardian questions.) Key question: will anybody be able to pin Chan down on his PG@E connections before the election? Let us know. B3

Dear Jerry Brown: more impertinent questions on the Hearst shenanigans (part 4)


Followups on Hearst: No word back from the Chronicle on my questions on why they are blacking out the big local story involving three big local players (Hearst, McKesson Corporation, and First DataBank). Let me give you the lead front headline on the Oct. 6 Wall Street Journal story to make the point about what a big big story they are stonewalling on:

“How Quiet Moves by a Publisher Sway Billions in Drug Spending, Lawsuit Forces Hearst Unit To Lower Prices on List Widely Used as Benchmark, A ‘Survey’ of One Company”

Anybody out there annoyed at the ever escalating price of prescription drugs? That is the point. Below are my questions emailed Thursday to the campaign headquarters of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, who is the candidate most likely to be the next attorney general (no word back at blogtime).

Fair warning: next week I will start asking similar impertinent questions to the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News, San Mateo Times, and other Media News Group/Dean Singleton papers that claim, along with Hearst, that they are really aggressively competing away out there even though they have formed what amounts to a regional news monopoply. Have they done the story and if not, when will they? And will they pursue the story as real competitive newspapers once did and as they ought to do again if they want to retain credility and financial viability? Repeating: Where are Justice and Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and their antitrust departments.
Take note, Clint Reilly and Joe Alioto, a key part of your antitrust case is being made right here and now. B3

Dear Jerry Brown,

I am requesting some information and answers to questions from you, as a candidate for attorney general, for stories we are doing at the Bay Guardian and for my Bruce blog at sfbg.com.

The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 6, and the Bay Guardian in its current edition, have done stories on a major settlement in which a Hearst subsidiary (First Data Bank in San Bruno) has ” agreed to stop publishing its list of wholesale medicine prices, which numerous critics have blamed for driving up drug costs,” as an AP story in the Houston Chronicle/Hearst puts it. (See story on the link below). Would you as attorney general investigate this issue and determine if it would save health plans $4 billion and if there should be any further action in this case?

Hearst and Singleton interests have, as charged in the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust suit, effectively destroyed newspaper competition in the Bay Area and imposed regional monopoly. Would you continue the Lockyer investigation into this case? And/or would you join the suit as a co-plaintiff or an amicus? Thanks very much.

Sincerely, Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

Why won’t the PG@E attorney for supervisor answer some questions?


Douglas Chan, an attorney with the law firm of Chan, Doi, and Leal, is a candidate for supervisor from the Sunset District. PG@E has paid $2l0,054 to his firm the last two years, according to PG&E’s filings with the California Public Utilities Commission.

Chan also disclosed that he has received more tthan $l0,000 during the last year in gross income including his pro rata share of the gross income of the firm from five clients (PG&E, Ferry Plaza Limited Partnership, Chess Ventures Legal Challenge, Sugarbowl Bakery, and Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association), according to his Statement of Economic Interest filed with the Ethics Commission. This is nothing new for Chan: Back in 2002, he put his name on PG@E campaign material opposing the public power initiative and supporting PG@E and thus earned a spot in the Guardian’s Hall of Shame that year.

The PG@E connection raises some serious questions for Chan. He refused to be interviewed for our Guardian editorial endorsement interviews of candidates for supervisor (even though most other candidates in other races came in for interviews.) And he and his campaign staff have refused to talk to us about these questions. So it may be up to the residents inside and outside the Sunset District to ask him these questions at candidates’ nights and when they spot Chan on the campaign trail. Good luck! Let us know. These are the questions I emailed today to Chan, his campaign manager Tom Hsieh jr., and his firm.

To Doug Chan, Tom Hseih jr., Nicole Yelich, and to Chan, Doi and Leal:

We’ re sorry that Doug Chan, as a candidate for public office in the Sunset District (not far from where I live), has decided not to come to the Guardian for our normal round of candidate interviews, as almost everyone has done in other campaigns.

We’re also sorry that we cannot reach him, or anyone in his campaign, who can answer some important questions about the relationship that he and his law firm have had with PG@E for years. So I am asking these questions by email (for Guardian coverage and for my Bruce Blog at sfbg.com):

l. PG@E has paid $2l0,054.ll to the Chan, Doi, and Leal law firm during the last two years, according to PG@E filings with the CPUC. What has PG@E paid the law firm so far this year? Will PG@E be an ongoing client of the firm? What is the total that PG@E has paid the law firm through the years? What percentage of the firm’s revenue has been paid directly or indirectly by PG@E, year by year? If elected, will Chan fully divest himself and disengage completely from the firm?

2. What work has Chan himself done for PG@E? In reading through the resume of Chan and the partners of the firm, it doesn’t appear that this firm or its partners have any specific utility or energy expertise. Why then did PG@E hire this firm?

3. Did PG@E encourage Chan to run for the Sunset supervisorial seat?

4. Have you asked the city attorney for an opinion on how PG@E’s hiring of the firm and Chan would affect his votes and whether he would have to recuse himself on such votes as public power, the community choice aggregation project, and the many other projects and votes involving PG@E? If you have an opinion, what is it?

5. What is Chan’s position on enforcing the Raker Act and bringing Hetch Hetchy power to the city for our residents and businesses? Would he vote to put on the ballot an initiative proposal to buy out PG@E’s transmission lines and make San Francisco a public power city? Would he for example support proposals such as the last two public power proposals that went on the ballot? We would appreciate his reasoning on this critical issue that costs the city hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

6. Would he vote to direct the city attorney to sue PG@E to make null and void the city’s l939 PG@E franchise fee, which is the lowest in the state, and PG@E claims is signed in perpetuity? If not, why not? We would appreciate his reasoning on this critical issue that costs the city tens of millions a year.

7. What is Chan’s position on the community choice aggregation proposal now before the board? On the city’s development of alternative power sources such as solar, tidal, etc.? ON tearing down the ruinous Potrero Hill power plant?

7. The critical question: given PG@E’s heavy investment in Chan and his firm, could Chan explain to us and the people of the Sunset how you would represent them fairly and honestly on these critical public power/public resource issues and not be under the influence of your former client PG@E?

Thanks very much. We would appreciate talking to Chan directly or, if that is not possible, getting his answers to the above crucial public power and public policiy quetions from him. Thanks very much. B3

Doug Chan, PG&E’s man at City Hall

Impertinent questions on the new Hearst shenanigans (part 3)


Email questions sent on Thursday to Chronicle Publisher Frank Vega, Editor Phil Bronstein, Managing Editor Robert Rosenthal, Metro Editor Ken Conner, and Business Editor Ken Howe


I have some questions I would appreciate if you (or Hearst corporate in New York) would answer.

As you may know, the Guardian did a story this week on the Oct. 6th Wall Street Journal story on the Hearst subsidiary and prescription pricing. And I have done two blogs on the Bruce blog at sfbg.com.

Has the Chronicle/Hearst done any stories on the First Data Bank/Hearst settlement and story? (Note the AP story in the Houston Chronicle on a link below). If so, could you send them to me? (We couldn’t find any.) If not, will you do a story? If not, could you please explain?

Note also the Justice press release below, dated Oct. ll, 200l, with the head stating that “HEARST CORPORATION TO PAY $4 MILLION CIVIL PENALTY FOR VIOLATING ANTITRUST PRE-MERGER NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS, Largest civil penalty a company has paid for violating antitrust pre-merger requirements.” Did you do a story on this at the time or later? If not, please explain.

Are these decisions not to publish these two major stories made in San Francisco or with Hearst corporate in New York and, if so, by whom?

Thanks very much. This is for my Bruce blog and perhaps for follow stories that our reporter G.W. Schulz is doing for the Guardian.

Sincerely, B3

The Wall Street Journal
Justice Department Press Release
A tough pill to swallow by G.W. Schulz

Impertinent questions on the new Hearst shenanigans (part 2, see previous blog)


Whenever a big media conglomerate like Hearst tries to cover up its corporate transgressions, the questions start flying like machine gun bullets. These are a few of mine following up my previous blog on the Guardian’s G. W. Schulz story:

Questions to Hearst Corporate (via Hearst/Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein and Business Editor Ken Howe):
Your sister paper, the Houston Chronicle/Hearst, ran a story on Oct. 6 by Theresa Agovino, an Associated Press business writer, with a New York dateline. This story was headlined “Lawsuit May Save Health Plans $4 billion” and the lead read: “A publisher of prescription drug prices has agreed to eventually stop publishing its controversial list of wholesale medicine prices, which numerous critics have blamed for driving p drug costs, as part of a settlement that alleged it had conspired to increase markups.”

Second paragraph: “The plaintiffs said the settlement, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts late Thursday and still needs a judge’s approval, will save health plans $4 billion.” Impertinent questions: why didn’t your local Chronicle/Hearst run the story or do its own since it involved three local companies (Hearst, the Hearst-owned subsidiary in San Bruno, and McKesson Corp., the big drug wholesaler)? Did you order the blackout of the story or was this decided at the Chronicle? When will you do the story? If not, why not?

Questions to Singleton corporate and Singleton papers (who claim to be competitive with Hearst): will you do the story and its ramifications on prescription costs? If not, why not?

Questions to Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and rough and tumble antitrust crew: The Hearst/Singleton blackout on this story suggests that the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto suit has a major point: that the financial deal between Hearst and Singleton papers will destroy daily competition and impose regional monopoly. Will you have any comment or take any action on your investigation of the deal before you leave office?

Questions to Atty. Gen. heir apparent Jerry Brown: Are you familiar with the Wall Street Journal/AP/Guardian stories on the Hearst prescription pricing scam? Will you as attorney general do your own investigation? Regarding the Hearst/Singleton media merger deal, will you as attorney general continue the investigation that Lockyer has started? Will you consider joining or appearing as an amicus in the upcoming Reilly/Alioto antitrust trial aimed at stopping the Hearst/Singleton monopoly move?

Impertinent Journalism l0l question to AP and the Houston Chronicle: AP, which prides itself on getting the lead and the story upfront, put the lead involving a major client in the last line of its story. The line read: “First DataBank is a unit of Hearst Corp.” Why didn’t it say in the lead or upfront in this 20 paragraph story that this was a Hearst owned subsidiary that was being charged in a billion dollar prescription price gouging scheme? Why didn’t the Chronicle edit the story and put Hearst in the lead where it belonged?

Stay tuned. If there is anything the media and its investigators hate to do, it is to answer questions about their own transgressions and cover-ups? B3

The Wall Street Journal
Justice Department Press Release

The Guardian turns 40: some things never change


As we were working away on our 40th anniversary issue, we got a new lead from an unusual venue on a 40-year-old Guardian story: Hearst was once again blacking out major stories to protect its corporate interests. And this time, the Hearst blackout was helping bolster a key point in the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust suit aimed at breaking up the emerging Hearst/Media News Group/Dean Singleton conglomerate that would put a hammerlock on the Bay Area newspaper business.

The key point: that the Hearst/Chronicle and the Singleton papers that now ring the Bay aren’t competing, as the two publishers loudly claim, and they aren’t going to as long as there is an economic/financial umbilical cord tying them together. To explain:

The Wall Street Journal reported in a lead front page story on Oct. 6th that two Bay Area companies, Hearst and McKesson Corporation, were accused in a major federal case in Boston of inflating the cost of prescription drugs by an estimated $7 billion. The Journal reported that a Hearst subsidiary, a drug data publishing company called First DataBank, in San Bruno, had reached a settlement with a group of unions in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania over how the company gathered and presented prices in the pharmaceutical catalog it has published for years. First DataBank/Hearst price listings play an enormous role in determining what Americans pay for medications.

As G. W. Schulz makes clear in his Guardian story, “A tough pill to swallow, how a drug data publisher owned by media giant Hearst inflated the cost of medicine,” this is a major story for anybody anywhere who is agitated over the ever escalating price of prescription drugs. Moreover, it was a major local story because it involved two big San Francisco companies and a third company just down the Peninsula in San Bruno. Still more: when George started checking out the story, he found that there were more Hearst clinkers: Hearst was fined $4 million in 200l, the highest pre-merger antitrust fine in U.S. history according to Justice, for failing to turn over key documents during its monopoly move to purchase a medical publishing subsidiary. Hearst was also forced by the Federal Trade Commission to unload the subsidiary to break up its monopoly and disgorge $l9 million in profits generated during its ownership. Hot stuff. And particularly so since Justice and the AG claim to be closely investigating the terms of the Hearst/Singleton monopoly arrangement. Yet Hearst blacked out the stories-and the Singleton papers are not as yet pursuing the stories with the vigor of real competitive papers.

So the questions pop up: Will Justice and the California AG, given the recent Hearst transgressions, bear down harder on a Hearst deal aimed at destroying daily competition and imposing regional monopoly in the Bay Area? Will they disclose the documents and the results of their investigations? Questions to Hearst corporate in New York and Singleton corporate in Denver: Why didn’t you allow your city desks and business desks to cover this major local story involving prescription costs that affect most everybody? Will you now? If not, why not? Or do you want people to read the story only in the local independent alternative paper? B3

SFBG stories:
A tough pill to swallow by G.W. Schulz
The first 40 by Bruce B. Brugmann

Off to Mexico City and IAPA


I’m off to Mexico City where democracy is being tested on an almost daily basis. I am attending as a delegate the 62nd annual assemble of the Inter American Press Association. IAPA is an effective organization in promoting and defending press freedom in the Americas from Canada to Argentina and points in between. It has been for decades a key player in promoting democracy in the Americas. The Guardian’s John Ross has been filing excellent reports from Mexico City (see links below – more online at www.sfbg.com):

Warning: Blue jeans are dangerous to human rights

Anatomy of a scandal foretold

The Delegate Zero factor

No Pasaran!

I’ll try to keep you posted, B3.