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Bruce Blog

Josh’s going-back-to-jail party at Crash


On the eve of Josh Wolf going to jail, and on the eve of Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada facing yet another federal decision moving them ever closer to jail, I was honored to be the lead speaker at the fundraiser and going-back-to-jail party for Josh last night at Crash, a club on Mason Street in San Francisco.

I made two major points: first, that this was the only city in the country to my knowledge that had three reporters who were in jail or heading to jail, on orders from Washington, for failing to produce sources and material in federal cases. This was no mistake. This was a direct hit at San Francisco, the country’s leading city for dissent and anti-war movements for decades, and came down directly from the Bush Administration and its PATRIOT Act politics as a way to scare the city and put its dissenters on notice.

My second point was that I was speaking as a member of many journalism organizations (from the Society of Professional Journalists, which has already contributed $30,000 to Josh’s defense, to the California First Amendment Coalition to the California Newspaper Publishers Association to international groups from the InterAmerican Press Association to the World Association of Newspapers to the International Press Institute) and that these professional organizations either are or would be in solidarity on this common ground journalism/public service issue. They could be counted on. But the Josh Wolf case was different because he was a lone freelance video photographer, without a news organization and attorneys behind him, and he looked like easy prey for the local cops and the feds.

That, I noted, was what was so important about the Crash event and the emerging Josh brigade. The event was lively, well attended, lots of fun, and demonstrated that a freelancer who stands tall, as Josh is doing, can build a strong grassroots constituency capable of mobilizing sustained resistance.

The real outrage is that the local cops turned Josh’s case over to the feds and gave them another timely target for Bush in San Francisco. And the cops did so secretly and unilaterally, without going to the mayor, to the supervisors, to the district attorney, to the Police Commission. The cops who are fighting like hell to keep beat patrolmen out of the neighborhoods and were happy to invite the feds to come to town and rough up our press and our public on their behalf. At minimum, that move demands public hearings by the supervisors to determine how this happened and what can be done to see that it never happens again.

Today’s Chronicle blaring front page head said: “SILENCE MEANS PRISON, JUDGE TELLS REPORTERS” No, silence in this case for these three reporters means principle and honor and holding your ground under fire. There is no principle or honor for the people in Washington who are working overtime to put in jail three reporters who were doing their job at this critical moment in the City and County of San Francisco.

T. Rowe Price: how to annoy the hell out of a good customer, Part 3


Repeating once again for even more emphasis: “Investment management excellence, world class service and guidance” (Positioning line at the top of the T. Rowe Price website)

By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

Five days after putting my pointed questions to a voice mail at the T. Rowe Price headquarters in Baltimore as to why the company was calling my wife an excessive trader of mutual funds, I got a call back from Ben Scherer, from the risk management team of T. Rowe Price Financial Institution Services, as he is called.

He was an affable chap with the air of a seasoned flak catcher out of Tom Wolfe’s short story on mau-mauing the flakcatcher. He apologized for the troubles, and said that the person I had been calling at Price (on my own dime) had left the company three weeks before and that it was the fault of Charles Schwab for giving me her name and not giving me the Price 800 toll free number for answering questions and complaints. (I didn’t even ask why, if she were indeed gone, that there was not a message on her answering machine explaining that she was gone and who to call in her stead. I made five calls to her number.)

I asked Scherer why Price had told my wife, via a telephone call from a Schwab customer rep, that she (and I) could no longer invest in any Price funds because she had violated Price trading policy (unbeknownst to us) by selling a Price fund (quite modest) in her IRA account (quite modest) because Price had a six month hold on trading its funds. My wife had bought her Price fund in July and sold it in September, on advice of our financial advisory newsletter, and Schwab had not advised us of any hold policy. (The Schwab rep told me that Price is one of only a very few fund families that impose such penalties and restrictions and that this restrictive policy is difficult for Schwab to deal with. He said Schwab was working on a pop-up to let investors know of such restrictions, but it was not yet up and running.)

Where, I asked Scherer, did Price notify its customers of its penalties and restrictions? He said it was in the fund prospectus and could be viewed or pulled down from the Price website. He e-mailed to me under the ominous head “Excessive Trading Policy” a copy of the fund prospectus. And there it was, buried deep in the prospectus under the title “excessive trading policy,” a line that said “persons believed to be short-term traders may be barred for 90 calendar days or permanently from further purchases of Price funds…”

Let’s have a show of hands: how many investors would turn cryptographer and plow headlong into a prospectus to ferret out this nugget of legalese before investing? Let’s have another show of hands: how many small investors, poring through a prospectus and running into the clunky head “Excessive Trading Policy,” would stop and think it applied to them and try to figure out that it meant expulsion and banishment? Further: Price policy says “may” and so Price has the discretion of barring or not barring investors from further fund purchases. So I emailed Scherer and asked more questions: why had Price used its discretion to designate my wife and me, without real proper notice or warning, for expulsion and banishment? Why, with such a severe and unappealable penalty, did Price not work out proper notice with Schwab? Why did it not highlight the penalties at the top of its prospectus or at least in the table of contents or somewhere and instead bury it under mountains of legalese? Why, when confronted by annoyed customers, did it not budge and try to make amends and work to keep longtime customers? Why did it not take the occasion to display “investment management excellence and world class service and guidance?” The email back from Price, unsigned this time, read like boilerplate and avoided most of my questions and notched up the stonewall.

And so alas I must have a chat with my crazed short term and excessive trader wife and see what we should do: fire Price or start reading every prospectus, line by line, page by page, from top to bottom, before investing in any more Price funds with Charles Schwab.

P.S. Unsolicited advice: to Price, Schwab, and all investment advisors and advisory newsletters everywhere: if anybody is imposing severe penalties and talking expulsion and banishment and exile for small individual investors with modest accounts, please give them fair warning in advance. And please don’t blame the victim when you get a complaint. B3

T. Rowe Price: how to annoy the hell out of a good customer (Part 2)


Repeating the positioning line at the top of the T. Rowe Price website:

“Investment management excellence, world class service and guidance”

As you will recall from my Part l blog on T. Rowe Price, I put in a call and left a message last Friday with the official at T. Rowe Price mutual fund family who could explain the mysterious restrictions and penalties placed without notice on my wife’s IRA account by Price for selling a volatile Price fund in some sort of violation of Price redemption policy.
Price also mysteriously applied the restrictions and penalties to my IRA account.

I asked for a call back and I still have not gotten a callback. So I called twice today and neither time could I even get through to an answering machine. The phone just rang and rang.

So I checked with the Price website and found five general information email addresses to send my blogs and questions to in an attempt to get someone to talk to me. Again, I am seeking an explanation of what happened and why we should ever again invest in the Price family of funds and “its investment management excellence and world class service and guidance.” Stay tuned.

Memo to Price: Where does a customer go with questions and complaints? B3, looking for just plain old-fashioned Rock Rapids (Iowa) service and guidance

Judge seals file in MediaNews trial


Some documents to be kept under wraps in suit claiming purchase of Times, Mercury News creates local monopoly

To the good: this is not a Bruce Blog head. This is the head and subhead on a surprisingly good story by George Avalos in today’s Contra Costa Times that gives some indication that the old Knight-Ridder fighting spirit on public access and accountability is still in play despite the new ownership of MediaNews Group/Dean Singleton.

More to the good: the story, unlike the Chronicle/Hearst coverage, lays out one of the key points of the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust suit: that, as the lead says, “a wide range of documents could be kept secret in a lawsuit involving a realty executive and the owner of most of the Bay Area’s newspapers, including the Times.” Still more: the ruling by a federal judge “enables the parties in the suit, including defendants MediaNews, Hearst, Gannett Co., Stephens Group Inc, and a partnership of several of the newspaper companies, to keep numerous documents confidential and free from public scrutiny.” And Avalos got a key point into his story with a quote from Reilly attorney Daniel Shulman: “Newspapers believe the public should know about everything, unless it is information about newspapers.”

To the bad: Avalos allowed Media News/Dean Singleton to put its position in the story via an anonymous “representative for one of the newspaper companies that are defendants in the lawsuit.” This anonymous source put forth without gulping the monopoly boilerplate position: gosh, golly, gee, “the newspaper companies could be hurt competitively if some of the information is released to the public.”

Unsolicited advice to reporters and editors who have the uneviable task of covering the monopolizing moves of their monopolizing superiors: Do not let them get away with anonymous quotes from anonymous executives. Tell them to speak by name and title or the Bruce Blog will get them.

The critical point: there is a big difference between sealing records in a standard civil lawsuit between two competing companies and sealing records in a lawsuit that aims to, as Avalos rightly puts it, “derail and unravel the MediaNews Group purchases of the newspapers” and stop MediaNews from wielding “monopoly power over the Bay Area newspaper market.”

The Galloping Conglomerati, as I call them, already operate in effect unregulated public utilities, because of their monopoly positions in their (mostly) one newspaper towns. And, unlike PG@E and other utilities, they are exempt from public regulation because of the First Amendment. Now they are quietly seeking to lock up the area for good and impose in effect a regional unregulated public utility under one partnership on the entire Bay Area. This is heavy stuff and every major development in this saga ought to be on the front page of every paper and lead the broadcast news of every station in the Bay Area.

Go, Clint, go!!! B3, still blogging away on behalf of independent and competitive journalism

Contra Costa Times

T. Rowe Price: how to annoy the hell out of a good customer (Part l)


“Investment management excellence, world-class service and guidance.” Positioning line at the top of the T. Rowe Price website.

This morning, my wife and I had an unusual message on our answering machine at home from a customer representative at Charles Schwab. It said that Schwab was notifying us formally that the T. Rowe Price fund family had notified Schwab that “they are restricting your account from any further purchases into Price funds. If you have any questions please call me back.”

I picked up the phone and asked the representative, a most friendly and helpful fellow in Schwab’s Phoenix office, to explain his mysterious message. He said, a bit sheepishly, that my wife had sold a Price fund in her IRA account after holding it for six weeks and that Price had a policy (unbeknownst to us) that you can’t sell a fund until you have held it for six months. Price was penalizing us by restricting us from making any further purchases in the Price family by my wife or me in our Schwab accounts. She bought the fund in July, on advice of our investment advisory newsletter, and sold it last week because it had become volatile.

Where did this policy come from, I asked, and why were we not notified of this policy when we bought and sold Price funds, and why were we suddenly hearing of it in this embarrassing way. I told him that our investment advisory newsletter had advised its readers to buy the fund and wrote that there was no redemption fee. Neither Schwab nor Price had given us any notice of such redemption restrictions and penalties. And, I emphasized, I had never heard of Price and Schwab imposing such restrictions and penalties on longtime investors and added that I had never heard of any funds or fund families anywhere imposing such restrictions and penalties without proper and timely notice to its investors. What in the world was going on here?

The Schwab rep apologized, said he was just the messenger bearing the bad news for Price, and gave me the name of a Price rep that the company had designated to answer questions on restrictions: Mia Bartee, at 4l0-345-5597.

I called her immediately and got an answering machine and instructions to leave a message. I detailed my complaint on her answering machine and asked her to call me back as soon as possible and explain the mysterious restrictions and penalties to me. I also asked her to give me any reason why we should ever again invest in the Price family of funds and its “investment management excellence and world class service and guidance.”

At blogtime, still incredulous, I am anxiously waiting for her to call back. Stay tuned.

P.S. Justice through blogging: I will regularly report on consumer problems that I or my colleagues encounter and you can follow how I go about it, as a semi-professional consumer complainer. Let me know of any juicy ones you encounter and how you have fared. Maybe we can provide some object lessons on how to get some justice through blogging. Anybody having any luck with Comcast? B3

Eureka! Finally, Hearst covers the censored story and admits it is partnering with Singleton


And now this: Are the Conglomerati going to buy the Santa Cruz Sentinel?

The timing was exquisite. This morning, in preparing to appear on the Will and Willie show on 960 the Quake, I checked the Chronicle/Hearst to see if there were any timely new developments on the biggest censored media story of the year—how the Conglomerati are censoring and trivializing their coverage of their move to regional monopoly. (See my blogs and the Guardian’s Project Censored package in last week’s edition).

I checked first to see if a Hearst policy story was tucked away as it often is on page 2 of the business section under the “Daily Digest” head. (The last one was a Reuters story out of New York.) Today I found that the Chronicle moved the story up a notch but still buried it under the fold on page l of the business section under a head that read “Complex deal ties Bay Area papers” and continued the Hearst strategy to confuse and bore anybody trying to follow its monopolizing shenanigans.

And so I was able to report on how Hearst portrayed the unprecedented deal: folks, this is a complex deal and a complex story and it doesn’t affect you and please don’t bother reading about it. Just move on.

But I noted that the story did acknowledge what the Bruce Blog and the Guardian had been reporting for weeks: that Hearst and MediaNews Group/Dean Singleton were partners in the regional monopoly deal, according to a sworn affidavit by James Asher, Hearst’s senior vice president and chief legal and development officer, filed in the Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust suit against Hearst and Singleton. And the story used this lead to characterize the partnership: “The two companies that own all the major daily newspapers in the Bay Area could become even more closely intertwined, according to a court papers filed in a federal antitrust lawsuit.” The second paragraph said that “New York’s Hearst Corp. could become part owner of MediaNews, a Denver company that owns the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, Marin Independent Journal and several other Bay Area. papers.”

I also pointed out that, to my knowledge, none of the Conglomerati (Hearst/Singleton/McClatchy/Gannett/Stephens chains) had (a) run the big Project Censored story and all had (b) censored and/or trivialized their coverage of their own deal. And I noted that all of this confirmed in 96-point Tempo Bold the value and virtue of Project Censored.

I was also happy to congratulate Willie Brown and Will Durst (the Will and Willie duo) and producer Paul Wells for being the only mainstream media show to my knowledge to give Project Censored an airing (featuring an extensive interview yesterday of Censored Project Director Peter Phillips and my Censored update today.)

Later, when I got back to my office, I found that a Peninsula Press Club blog jumped on paragraph eight in the Chronicle story, which said that the two parties in the lawsuit on Monday had “agreed to seal documents in the lawsuit unless they are already public information.” The blog noted that “newspapers usually fight attempts to suppress public records” and labeled the move a “self-imposed secrecy order” by Hearst and Singleton. It all but asked the obvious question: Will this kind of secrecy be yet another adverse effect of the coming of the Conglomerati? B3

Postscript: And now this: the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported today that the Conglomerati may soon own yet another daily on the outside ring of the Bay Area: the Sentinel, which competes for now with the nearby Monterey Herald/Hearst/Singleton and is up for sale by its owner Ottaway/Dow Jones. The Sentinel reported that “bids for the Sentinel are due today and while no one is making public who, if anyone, is interested in the paper, industry analysts name William Dean Singleton…” Media consultant John Morton said, “‘I wouldn’t rule out anybody, but the most likely buyer is the one who owns the most newspapers in the area.’” Hearst and Singleton papers didn’t carry this story. When will they?

Impertinent questions: Where are the antitrust consolidators in Justice and AG Bill Lockyer’s office? Will they once again remove all pebbles and hurdles in the path of yet another clustering consolidation?

Callers to the Quake show had good questions: what can be done about this march to newspaper monopoly? Not much, I said, ending with my stock answer: support your local alternatives.

Personal note to the caller who said I brought up these issues when he was a student in a journalism class I taught at Cal-State-Hayward in the early l970s: answer my blog or send me an email at bruce@sfbg.com and let’s catch up.

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Peninsula Press Club

Project Censored on the Will and Willie show at 8:05 a.m. Wednesday on 960 the Quake radio


Why didn’t the Conglomerati Media cover this major local news story?

Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored, will make a rare mainstream media appearance at 8:05 a.m. Wednesday morning (Sept. l3) to discuss the l0 big stories the nation’s major news media refused to cover last year, as the Bay Guardian put it in its cover story of the last issue.

Peter will explain lay out the stories and explain why the media
censored the following top l0 stories (in descending order):

l. The Feds and the Media Muddy the Debate over Internet Freedom.

2. Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technology to Iran.

3. World Oceans in Extreme Danger.

4. Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the United States.

5. High-tech Genocide in Congo.

6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy.

7. U.S. Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq.

8. Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act.

9. World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall.

10. Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians.

And then there are the junk food news stories that got far more attention than they deserved:

(l) Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Got Together. (2) Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson Break Up. (3) “American Idol” Hits an All-Time High. (4) The Runaway Bride who didn’t. (5) Martha Stewart is Back in Town. (6) “Brokeback Mountain” Breaks Through. (7) Britney Spears (it just wouldn’t be a list without her. (8) MySpace Infiltrates our Space. (9) Steroids in Baseball Get Pumped Up. (l0) “The DaVinci Code” ad nauseam.

A tip of the derby to Willie Brown and Will Durst and Producer Paul Wells and the Quake/Clear Channel Radio for being the only mainstream media in the Bay Area to our knowledge to give the proper publicity to this important local story and local project (Sonoma State University).

Memo to Phillips, Will and Willie: ask if anybody has spotted the story in any mainstream media. That proves the censorship point.

I (B3) will appear on the show at 9:05 Thursday morning (Sept. l4) to discuss why the local regional monopoly (Hearst/Singleton/McClatchy/Gannett/Stephens) has not only blacked out this major story but also one of the biggest local censored stories of the year (the regional monopoly). Memo to the editors and city desks of the Conglomerati: why did you black out these major censored stories? B3

Finally, the Conglomerati do a bit of reporting (actually only a little bit)


The Contra Costa Times report that Hearst could end up “partly” owning the Times and the San Jose Mercury News

I was about to start my daily blog by twitting the Hearst/Chronicle for its two telling heads in today’s paper: front page in big type (“HEWLETT-PACKARD SAYS IT SPIED ON REPORTERS.” And then a David Lazarus special across the top of the business page: “HP’s investigation broke state laws, attorney general says.” Good stories, important subject, good to see the AG awakening from his slumbers, but……why can’t Hearst and the AG move on the big CENSORED media monopoly story that I have been blogging on for days and George Schulz laid out in our current Project Censored package, “The Silent Scandal, How does media concentration affect the news we read? Just check out the coverage of the latest newspaper merger.”

Then I got a rocket from my reliable source in Contra Costa County who reported that the Times had run a major story today by George Avalos stating in its lead that Hearst “could wind up being partly owned by the current owner of the San Francisco Chronicle, according to documents filed in connection with a federal antitrust suit.” Its head: “Media firms’ deal disclosed, Lawsuit declaration reveals new details about MediaNews, Hearst financial arrangements.” The Merc ran a six-paragraph story, from “Mercury News Wire Services,” saying the same thing. The Oakland Tribune/Singleton ran a short version of the Avalos story. And the Chronicle/Hearst as usual blacked it all out and have yet to report its financial and stock involvement that in effect partners Hearst and Singleton.

Amazing. The documents have been publicly available for weeks. But only now, after the Bruce blogs and the Schultz story, have two Media News papers reported some critical details of the regional monopoly. And Hearst, with its vast business and court political reporting staff, somehow can’t cover the story.

There were significant quotes in the Times story: “Executives with MediaNews refused to comment. Frank Vega, publisher of the Chronicle, said, ‘I really don’t have any comment about the lawsuit. This is a Hearst-MediaNews deal.’” In other words, Dean Singleton/MediaNews out of Denver and Hearst out of New York are calling the shots and that is a prime reason for the local censored coverage in all Hearst/ Singleton papers. Impertinent question: Why don’t MediaNews executives and Vega demand that their editorial staffs cover the story or perhaps demand that they be allowed to cover the story?

Read the Times and Merc stories below, then read my previous blogs and the Schulz story to get a fuller perspective on what is going down here: a quiet move by Hearst/Singleton, aided and abetted by McClatchy/Gannett/Stephens, and facilitated by Justice and Atty. Gen. Bill (the Consolidator) Lockyer, to kill newspaper competition in the Bay Area and impose deadly regional monopoly. That is the real story and I hope the Conglomerati begin to allow their reporters and editors to start doing real reporting on the biggest censored story of the year. I am certain they would love to do it, allegro furioso.

Memo to Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto: you are doing good, keep on rolling. Memo to Carl Jensen and Peter Phillips at Project Censored: congratulations, you have once again confirmed the value of your project. Memo to the Conglomerati publishers: Publish the Censored stories and give us a ray of hope for the future of journalism in the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, to get the news on monopoly journalism. read the Bruce Blog, dammit! B3

P.S. Reporting in on Sunday evening: still no Hearst/Singleton/Gannett/McClatchy/Stephens story on the Project Censored package.

Contra Costa Times

The Mercury News

Eureka! Censored! Eureka! Will the Conglomerati publish the Censored stories?


Memo the readers of the Conglomerati (Singleton/Hearst/McClatchy/Gannett/Stephens papers):

Keep a sharp eye out to see if any of the papers of these big chains publish the Project Censored story. Or if they comment on it or on any of this year’s censored picks. Or if they run any real coverage of the coming of the regional newspaper monopoly, the Guardian’s pick as the biggest local censored story.
(So far, at blog presstime, my agents and I have not spotted any.)

If they don’t run the story, it would be further confirmation of the reason the Guardian is happy to run the story every year as a front page special, which is then run on the website of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) and in alternative papers throughout the country. It is confirmation of the fact that not only does the mainstream media censor or trivialize lots of major stories in favor of “junk food news,” but it even censors a major local story out of Sonoma State University that has become the longest running media censorship project in the country (30 years). Delicious: censoring the censored story.

Let the Guardian and the Bruce blog know if you spot anything.

Eurekaism is now more rampant than ever. Where it will all end knows only God and Dean Singleton.

P.S. All of this censorship only illustrates a key problem with the mainstream press. The bloggers have been blogging away on these stories throughout the year and they will continue to blog away on major stories the mainstream press (and its wire service, the Associated Press) censor or trivialize. B3, blogging away at sfbg.com

CENSORED! by Sarah Phelan

The silent scandal by G.W. Schulz

Junk food news

The runners-up

EDITOR’S NOTES by Tim Redmond

The business of censoring labor by Dick Meister

Eureka! Here comes even more Eurekaism! (part 3)


Hearst was last seen covering the big Hearst/Singleton deal via Reuters out of New York. Now it is blacking out the story completely. A tale of two footnotes tells all.

By Bruce B. Brugmann

Just in time to update our annual Project Censored package, the Hearst/Chronicle demonstrated yet again how the galloping Conglomerati are covering the big story in Eureka (where the MediaNews Group/
Singleton are competing headon with a local upstart daily) — and blacking out the much bigger story in the Bay Area where Hearst and Singleton are destroying daily competition and forming a regional monopoly, aided and abetted by the McClatchy, Gannett, and Stephens newspaper chains.

The major new development: The federal judge in the
Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto lawsuit against the deal okayed an agreement between lawyers from both sides to fast-track the suit and set a trial date for Feb. 26.
Obvioiusly, this is a major local news story. Josh Richman, a staff writer for the Singleton’s East Bay group, wrote a story dated Saturday, Sept. 2, headlined “Newspaper suit put on legal fast track.” The story quoted Alioto as saying on Monday Sept. 4 that he and Reilly “are grateful that the court has ordered an expedited trial date in this very important antitrust case which seeks to prevent the monopolization of newspapers in the Bay Area.”

The story quoted MediaNews president Jody Lodovic as offering “no comment except to note that the case was accelerated by mutual agreement. Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer (B3 note: who he? where he? New York? ) said his company wouldn’t comment.” It is always great sport, of course, when publishers under fire say “no comment” to their own reporters.

Hearst’s last story on the deal came from the Reuters New Service out of New York (which it butchered, see my earlier blog.) This time, the Chronicle simply blacked out the story completely. The Singleton story left out a key point: that Hearst had invested $399 million in the deal and that the two major chains were becoming jolly good business and editorial partners in creating an unprecedented Bay Area newspaper monopoly. Both chains are sweating mightily to create the impression this is no big deal, there isn’t much of a story here, that Justice and the AG have cleared it, and Clint Reilly is just, well, Clint Reilly, and there is nothing to the lawsuit, and certainly nothing for anybody to worry about. Peace!

However, there is a deadly time bomb in the deal and it is hidden in a tiny footnote in Hearst’s July 25 filing in the suit. The footnote disclosed that Hearst is a major potential major investor and partner with Singleton. Here’s how it works: Hearst has stated repeatedly that its $299 million equity investment in MediaNews will be based on what is known as “tracking stock.” In other words, the value of the MediaNews stock will rise and fall depending solely on the performance of MediaNews businesses outside the Bay Area, which was a legal structure set up presumably to help the deal survive anticipated antitrust scrutiny.

However, Hearst admitted in the footnote that in the future the “tracking” stock “will be convertible into ordinary MNG common stock.” Hearst added that any such conversion will require additional antitrust review. Federal Judge Susan Illston picked up on the significance of this footnote in her own footnote in her ruling knocking out the Reilly request for temporary restraining order. She stated, “Although Hearst’s proposed interest in MediaNews does not include MediaNews Bay Area publications, Hearst implies in its filings that it will seek permission at a future time to convert its interest in MediaNews into MediaNews common stock.” (See the G.W. Schulz story in the current print and online Guardian).

Voila! In this mysterious tale of the two footnotes, the closely held secret is finally revealed: Hearst and Singleton are working hard to be partners, cheek to cheek, jowl to jowl, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip. And this fact, among many others, demonstrates in 96 point Garamond Bold why they have employed Eurekaism and censored a big local story about newspaper monopoly, the local censored story of the year, while going hellbent to cover the story about Singleton’s competition in Eureka.

Stop the presses: Frances Dinkelspiel, in her Wednesday Aug. 30 blog (see link below), spotted a juicy Eureka and posted it under the head “Newspaper Coverage in the Bay Area is Shrinking.” Her lead: “the latest evidence of media consolidation in the Bay Area screamed out all over the front pages on Wednesday.”

She pointed out that the four major papers in the region (Hearst/Chronicle and the Singleton/Contra Costa Times/San Jose Mercury News/Oakland Tribune) all prominently displayed the same story–the story of the motorist who deliberately drove his car into l4 pedestrians, killed one man in Fremont, and injured l3 others in San Francisco.

“On Wednesday,” she said, “instead of four distinct stories on the region’s front pages, there were only two—one from the Chronicle and one from the MediaNews group.” (Merc reporters did the story for the three Singleton papers.) She concluded, “That’s a huge loss for Bay Area readers. Competition improves news coverage. What will readers miss out on in the future? What will readers miss out on in the future? This was just a police story; imagine the impact when the big story deals with corruption or another important, but less easily reported event. If fewer reporters are tracking the story, there will be fewer revelations.”

Postscript: Let’s keep the Eureka exercise going. Anybody who spots a Eurekaism, an example of the galloping Conglomerati censoring a local story, please send it along to the Guardian and the Bruce blog and any of the handful of independent voices left in the Bay Area. B3

The silent scandal

The Mercury News

Ghost Story

Newspaper suit put on legal fast track – Inside Bay Area

The Village Voice, 1953 to October 2005 (the date the New Times purchased the Voice), RIP


The hitman cometh

There’s a key phrase in this morning’s New York Times account of the Mike Lacey massacre at the Village Voice (“Village Voice Dismisses 8, including Senior Arts Editors, a ‘reconfiguration’ leaves the critic Robert Christgau unemployed”). Click here

It followed the standard boilerplate press release that always accompanies what a former Voice press critic Cynthia Cotts called “the signature New Times bloodbath.” The boilerplate: Village Voice Media/New Times/Mike Lacey described the layoffs as an effort to “reconfigure the editorial department to place an emphasis on writers as opposed to editors.” The company added: “Painful though they may be in the short term, these moves are consistent with long-range efforts to position the Voice as an integral journalistic force in New York City.”

Then comes the standard line that is widely known to all of us who have tried in vain for years to get Lacey, the editor in chief of VVM/NT and the l7 paper chain from Phoenix, Arizona, to respond on the phone or by email to legitimate news issues:

Lacey “did not return calls seeking further comment.”

Lacey is a colorful editor. After New Times purchases a paper, he loves to ride into town and shoot up the saloon
and massacre the staff and the paper. He did this in San Francisco when the New Times bought the SF Weekly and he did it with the Voice in New York. He loves to whack away at me and the Bay Guardian with long screeds (his latest, a 20-pager of high volume vitriol up on the web somewhere, with the head, “Brugmann’s Brain Vomit, cleaning up the latest drivel from San Francisco’s leading bullgoose looney.”) It full of marvelous stuff and is one of my prized possessions.

But Mike and the New Times folks have a fatal flaw: They love to hit, run, and hide.

That’s how I started guerrilla blogging awhile back. The local version of Lacey’s journalistic ethics, the SF Weekly, would through the years blast away at me and the Guardian and our issues with a distinct pattern: they rarely would call for comment before publication. When they did call, they would get the quote wrong or out of context. And, when we would write a letter to the editor to correct the quote or get our point out, they would refuse to run the letter and would not explain why.

So I started doing some guerrilla blogging and sending my points by email to the SF Weekly/New Times people-and, of course, to Mike safely hunkered down in his foxhole in Phoenix.

The classic was when the SF Weekly/New Times/Lacey gave me a Best of award in 2003 for “Best Local Psychic.” It 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 story headlined ‘The New Vietnam.’ The article was accompanies 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 turned 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 around 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 delegitimize yet another liberal cause. Bush, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft send their sincerest thanks, Bruce.”

Three years later, the war drags on, “reputable publications” all over the country are calling it another Vietnam–and Lacey and his Best of writers and editors look like fools and we still don’t know what the Lacey/New Times position is on Bush, the war, and the occupation. But this is vintage Lacey and vintage New Times politics distilled into their publication run largely on a centralized format out of Phoenix. The key point: the article was not bylined and I tried, again and again by guerrilla email and phone calls to Lacey and his SF Weekly editors, to get someone to 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 John Mecklin, then reported to be Lacey’s favorite editor and hand-picked by Lacey to take on the Guardian in San Francisco. I confronted them with emails, asking for confirmation or comment. I have not gotten any to this very day.

Alas, that in a nutshell is the political and journalistic and ethical policies that Lacey and the New Times have imposed on the Voice. No more liberal politics. No more James Ridgeway in Washington. No more Press Critic Syd Schanberg and no more press clips columns. No regular section criticizing the Bush administration and the war. No more editorials and no more endorsements and no more legendary Voice thundering away on the major New York and national issues of the day that cry out for a strong news and editorial voice from the Left.

And, according to the Times story, Voice layoffs and firings that “decimated the senior ranks of its arts staff,” including theater editor Jorge Morales, dance editor Elizabeth Zimmer, senior editor in charge of books Ed Park, art director Minh Uong, and Robert Cristgau, 64, who as a senior editor and longtime pop musit critic “helped put the Voice on the map,” as the Times put it. Cristgau had been with the Voice off and on since l969 and is quite rightly known as the dean of the Voice.

No more Village Voice as we have known it through all these years.

Instead, the Voice has Mike Lacey. I last ran into Mike at the annual business meeting of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) in Little Rock in June.
I held out my hand for a handshake and said, in a friendly way, “Mike, how are you doing?”
He stopped, looked at me, and said, “Bruce, Go fuck yourself.” And he turned and scampered off, never to return to the meeting and never to come near me again.

Mike, get out out of your bunker and give people a chance to ask you some questions. Start a blog.

P.S. We had fun with the Best of issue. 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 too soon.”

Our postscripts drove home the points about Lacey’s style of hit and run journalism.
“PS: The real mystery of the city: who wrote the SF Weekly piece? Who assigned it? Who edited it? We’ve been calling, writing, e-mailing, and faxing the local office and corporate headquarters in Phoenix, but nobody will tell us.”

“PPS: Gee, what’s the New Times position on the war, anyway. We can’t seem to figure it out.”

And, let me add in retrospect, what was their position on Bush’s reelection? Well, as far as I can tell, the only endorsement published in any New Times paper came at the end of their syndicated sex column by their gay sex columnist Dan Savage just before election day. Dan, bless his heart, came out for Kerry and is now pushing publicly for impeachment. Where’s Mike? Mike? Mike? B3

A final PS point: If any one at New Times is still wondering about their pretty little month-long war that turned a president into an action hero, check out This nice item from the NY Times. We’re still at war, Mike, and kids are still dying. In case you hadn’t noticed.
‘Voice’ Staffers To Be Crying Into Their Bongs Tonight?

The Dean is Dead

‘Voice’ Issues Statement on Staff Decimation

Memo to reporters covering the escapades of the galloping Conglomerati:


Do not forget to check the Form 8-Ks for juicy information that is usually not disclosed in the corporate press releases of the conglomerati papers and usually not disclosed in their corporate house stories.

For example, the 8-K filing on Aug. 24, 2006, by the MediaNews Group, Inc. (Singleton) with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., disclosed that key Singleton executives got nice bonuses for their work in consummating the Singleton/Hearst deal:

Joseph J. Lodovic IV, president, got a bonus of $l,000,000.

Gerald E. Grilly, executive vice-president and chief operating officer, got $l50,000. More: Grilly, according to the filing, “will retire from the company effective Aug. 3l, 2006. In connection therewith, Mr. Grilly will receive severance of $l.25 million payable over three years, as well as payment of his fiscal 2000 performance bonus of $8l,250 and $35,000 in connection with the forfeiture of his rights under the company’s supplemental executive retirement plan.”

Anthony F.Tierno, senior vice president of operations, got $50,000 and Eric Grilly, president, MediaNews Group interactive, got $75,000.

The moral: there’s lots of money to be made amongst the top executives of newspapers when they do their monopolizing. But, as we shall find, there’s not much money if any, for the rest of us. In fact, there are enormous upfront and longterm costs to staffers, readers, advertisers, the health and welfare of the community, and the marketplace of ideas principle underlying the First Amendment.

And then there is the juicy legal boilerplate laying out the end of real daily competition in the Bay Area for the duration: “On August 24, 2006, in connection with the consummation of the acquisition by MediaNews Group, Inc…of the Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News, and the entry by the company into an agreement with the Hearst Corporation pursuant to which (l) Hearst agreed to make an equity investment in the Company (such investment will not include any governance or economic rights or interest in the company’s publications in the San Francisco Bay Area and (ll) the Company agreed to purchase The Monterey Herald and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press from Hearst concurrently with the consummation of such equity investment, the Company awarded bonuses to certain of its officers and employees in the aggregate amount of $l.875 million, including bonuses to the Company’s named executive officers as set forth below.”

Let us save and cherish the delicious key phrase: one of the great whoppers of all time: “such investment will not include any governance or economic rights or interest in the company’s publications in the San Francisco Bay Area…” Translation: this is Hearstese and Singletonese stating in effect: there will be no more of this messy and expensive competition stuff from now on. Trust us.

Remember when Phil Bronstein, editor of the Hearst-owned Chronicle, and Susan Goldberg, editor of the now Singleton-owned Mercury News, made some loud, brave noises early on about how the papers would still compete like hell, no matter how intertwined the companies were on the business side? Bronstein and Goldberg and their editors have a tough job selling this propostion to their staff and communities. I’m afraid the way Hearst and Singleton have put the axe and the shovel thus far to the conglomeration story is a telling sign of what’s to come.

The Bronstein/Goldberg statements violate Brugmann’s Law of Monoply Journalism: when there is no real economic competition between newspapers, then there is no real news and editorial competition between newspapers. Alas. Alas. We shall see. Let us hope for the best. The Guardian and the B3 blog will be watching.

Memo to readers: get your crap detectors at the ready. For starters, check the link below for the latest MediaNews SEC filing. B3

Medianews Group Financial Information

From bad to worse, the clustered conglomerati cometh


Just in: another example of how things are going these days in the daily newspaper business:

I just got off the phone with Tom Honig, the able editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. I had called him to see if the Sentinel was doing any special competitive coverage on the nearby Monterey Herald, one of the “jewels” that the Singleton Conglomerati is buying with the help of Hearst.

Bruce, he said, we just got word today that the Sentinel is up for sale. I said was astounded. Yeah, he said, there are already rumors about Singleton buying. We have a short story up on our website and we’ll have a complete story in tomorrow’s paper. Gotta go and take another call.

So note in the link below what he was talking about: the owner of the Sentinel, Dow Jones @ Co., which publishes the Wall Street Journal, is shopping six titles from its Ottaway Community Newspaper division, including the Sentinel. For more details, check the Sentinel website tomorrow morning. B3

P.S. I was surprised that, avalanched as he was, Honig answered his own phone and talked to me for a couple of minutes. The question: is there a job in the new world of the Conglomerati for an editor who answers his own phone and talks to people on deadline? Stay tuned (or should I say, stay blogged?)

Santa Cruz Sentinel – August 29, 2006

Why people get mad at the media, part 8, Business Week/McGraw Hill finally does the right thing and publishes two retractions


As you may remember from my spine-tingling serial blogs, I have now spent more than two weeks scampering up and down the hills and through the bogs with the BW/MH folks in San Francisco and their towering headquarters building in midtown Manhattan. I was trying to get a simple correction on some mistakes it made in its Aug. l4th cover story (“Valley boys: how this 29-year-old kid made $60 million in l8th months.”) Here is a recap and a play-by-play:

BW/MH in its first three lines in its first paragraph in its lead story made two bad mistakes. The lead: “It was June 26, 4:45 a.m., and Digg founder Kevin Rose was slugging back tea and trying to keep his eyes open as he drove his Volkswagen Golf to Digg’s headquarters above the grungy offices of the SF Weekly in Potrero Hill.” The first mistake: Digg.com is a tenant of the Guardian in the Guardian building at l35 Mississippi St., and its offices are above the Guardian offices. The SF Weekly is our chain competitor, owned out of Phoenix, Arizona, and its offices are on the other side of Mission Bay. The second mistake: our offices are not “grungy” and the BW/MH reporters were never in our offices.

I decided, what the hell, I’ll go through the drill and try to get a correction. And so I fought my way up the chain of command, by phone and email, from the sales offices in San Francisco to another office on the Peninsula to editorial offices high up in the BW/MG building on the Avenue of the Americas in New York. Finally, I got a call back from Mary Kuntz, an assistant managing editor who contended that the magazine had already done a correction in its online edition, replacing the SF Weekly offices with the Guardian offices.

This correction also ran in the Aug. 2l edition under a “Corrections and Clarifications” head: “The offices of Digg.com, featured in Valley boys” (Cover story, Aug. l4), are located above those of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, not SF Weekly.” Thanks, I said, noting the change from “grungy” offices to “grungy” lobby and how this was an admission that confirmed the reporters were never in our offices. I argued that leaving that pesky word “grungy” in the online edition and not taking it out of the printed edition only made the “correction” even more worse. She refused to budge, so my wife Jean Dibble, co-founder and co-publisher, went around the paper and took pictures and put them on my blog to try to prove our point that our offices weren’t “grungy.” Maybe this turned the tide. Kuntz went back to confer with some mysterious unnamed editor back in the headquarters ozone.

She called back a couple days later and said they were making another correction. Okay, I said, read it to me. The new correction said that the offices were not “grungy,” but the lobby was “grungy.” I was astounded. How in the world, I asked, can the editors in New York say that our lobby was “grungy” when they hadn’t seen it? She replied that her reporters had and they thought it was “grungy.” Well, I reminded her that the dictionary defined “grungy” as being in a “shabby or dirty in character or condition” and asked specifically what was “grungy” about our lobby? Was it our community bulletin board? Was it our community table for the city’s independent papers? Was it our “free press board” with a map from the Freedom House in New York showing the world’s free, partly free, and not free press, country by country? Was it the alerts from international free press organizations about murdered and jailed journalists? Was it our vintage UPI ticker machine, used in the old UPI office in San Francisco, one of the historic items in a San Francisco journalism museum project that we are helping establish? Was it the famous clock from the window of the old Brugmann’s Drug Store in Rock Rapids, Iowa, which the townsfolk used for decades to set their watches? (We display the clock on the wall near our reception desk.) Or was it perhaps the colorful mural of alternative San Francisco on the outside wall of the Guardian? She said no to all the questions. I then laid down the ultimate threat: Jean Dibble would this time around do pictures of the lobby, the clock, and the mural and put them up on my blog on the Guardian website. Maybe that did the trick.

Kuntz called back a couple of days later and read me the second correction. Fine and thanks, thanks, I said. It ran in the Sept. 4 edition as follows: “In our Aug. l4th cover story on Digg.com, we incorrectly described the offices of the San Francisco Bay Guardian as grungy. We regret the error.”

Amazing. I appreciate the corrections and I appreciate that BW/McGraw Hill did the right thing. I told Kuntz that, if she came to San Francisco, I would invite her (and that mysterious inside editor back in the stacks) for a Potrero Hill martini at the Connecticut Yankee. Or, when I come to New York, I would invite her (and that mystery editor) for a martini at the West End Bar (my old hangout on ll3th and Broadway when I was at the nearby Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.) Cheers!

Summing up: how to fight for a correction, how the media should handle reader complaints, the correction policy of the Guardian and the model policy of the Minnesota New Council, an impartial, independent, non-government organization that hears and considers complaints against the news media. The Guardian, let me note, places itself under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota News Council, as outlined in a special box in each Guardian under the letters column.

P.S. Memo to Business Week/McGraw Hill: keep your reporters and editors out of newspaper offices and lobbies. We’ll all be better off.

Eureka! There’s more Eurekaism!


What happens to the news when the conglomerati corner the Bay Area newspaper market

By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

As you will remember from my last blog, I unveiled the term Eurekaism to replace the term Afghanistanism for the bad habit of many daily papers to cover stories in Eureka, but not the local big scandal or embarrassing stories in their hometowns.

Well, as I was pedaling away this morning on my cardio machine at the World Gym,
I turned as usual in the Hearst-owned Chronicle to find the day’s real Eureka style news: the second page of the business section under the Daily Digest section. Today, surprise, surprise, the Eureka story was below the fold with a nicely disguised head that read: “State won’t challenge newspaper sale.”

Eureka! There was a rummy little five paragraph story that announced a major new development in the major running story of the emerging new regional media megaconglomerate (Hearst/MediaNews Group/Singleton/Gannett/Stephens/McClatchy). The development: Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer announced that his office will not take antitrust action over the McClatchy sale of the San Jose Mercury-News and Contra Costa Times to Singleton, but that he would investigate a three-way transaction between the companies and Hearst. The story quoted Lockyer as saying without blushing in his standard line to remove-all-pebbles-from-any-impending consolidation: “It does not appear that these transactions will result in a substantial reduction in competition,” though most everyone in the Bay Area knows otherwise. It is a major story that ought to be regularly covered on the front pages of all the papers, with context, perspective, outside expert opinion, mainstreet commentary, and some tough questions of Lockyer. But the megaconglomerate is either censoring, trivializing or burying the story with axe and shovel.

For example, the Chronicle story was not a Chronicle story, but a Reuters wire service story datelined New York (we pulled down the Reuters story from the Reuters website.) The difference between the Reuters and Chronicle stories was telling: Reuters had a better head, “California Oks McClatchy-MediaNews paper sale,” while the Chronicle left out the local Hearst angle. The Chronicle also cut out five key paragraphs from the Reuters story, notably three that made some embarrassing points:

“The move would result in MediaNews owning most of the largest dailies in the area, including the Oakland Tribune. Hearst owns the San Francisco Chronicle.

“San Francisco-based real estate investor Clint Reilly had filed an injunction to halt McClatchy’s sale of San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Monterey Herald.

“He argued the sale would put all three California in a partnership controlled by MediaNews and including Gannett Co. Inc. and privately held Stephens Media Group, therefore reducing competition and harm (sic) advertisers and readers…”

Meanwhile, on the Contra Costa Times, George Avalos wrote a misleading three paragraph story that the “state decision clears away the final regulatory impediment to the MediaNews purchase of the Bay Area papers.” No mention of the continuing Hearst/Singleton investigation nor the
Reilly suit.

Down at the Mercury-News, an unbylined story buried the AG’s statement in the last two paragraphs of a five paragraph story trumpeting the new four man team that will run the nation’s “4th biggest newspaper chain.” No mention of the Reilly suit nor the continuing Hearst investigation.

And what happens on a paper not owned by any of the conglomerati? The headline on the East Bay Business Times got it right: “Attorney General continues to look at Hearst deal.”

I repeat: show me a paper owned by any of the Hearst/MediaNews/Singleton/Gannett/Stephens/McClatchy papers that is really covering the story. Alas, the links below indicate the pattern of how badly they are covering the story. (At the time of this writing, we couldn’t find the Hearst story on the Chronicle website.)

Coming next: Let’s play Eureka!! B3

Contra Costa Times

Mercury News


Eureka! Here comes Eurekaism!


Why is it news when Dean Singleton competes in Eureka, but not news when he works to destroy daily newspaper competition in the Bay Area?
By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

In my first journalism class at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in the fall of l953, Professor Nathan Blumberg laid out the useful concept of Afghanistanism. This means, he said with gusto, that the press covers the big story in Afghanistan (obviously, times have changed) instead of covering the big local scandal in their own city (obviously, as I am reporting, times have not changed on this score). He spent the rest of the semester outlining local scandals that the local press in many cities was censoring or trivializing. He ended the semester with a rousing rendition of Upton Sinclair’s “The Brass Check,” his bible of the pattern of Afghanistanism in many American newspapers.

To bring the concept up to date, let us take the Sunday Aug. l3 story in the Sunday Magazine of the San Francisco Chronicle click here. It was a long, detailed, colorful story with lots of photos titled “RUMBLE IN THE REDWOODS, What happens when two daily newspapers duke it out in a market known more for its weed than its writing?” It details, way way up in the redwoods, out there by the ocean, up by the Oregon border, a long long way north of San Francisco, that rare example of head-to-head daily newspaper competition. A Dean Singleton/MediaNews group daily (the Eureka Times-Standard) is being forced to compete ferociously with a new upstart daily (the Eureka Reporter) founded by a local financier/tax attorney/banker called Robin P. Arkley II The lead sums up the point of the story: “It is the unlikeliest retail war in the unlikeliest market, a high-stakes game of chicken in a place so offbeat, it is now the setting for a new Sci-Fi Channel show.”

Just as in the old days when there was real daily competition in San Francisco, the publishers and editors and staff take public shots at each other. Arkley is quoted as saying that “I get tired of the Times-Standard saying ‘Rob is trying to put us out of business.’ I mean (the Times Standard and parent Media News) are a monopoly in every market they are in, whining like a bunch of babies…The first lick of competition they get they scream like they are getting (screwed)…They are not having any fun.”

Arkley says he launched the Reporter out of a desire for more local news. “I noticed over the generations the Times-Standard to the ‘Sub-Standard’ to the ‘Daily Disappointment.’ It was not publishing local news…Part of the challenge for local communities today is to keep our local identities. And one of the easiest and most direct ways to do that is with our local newspapers. I felt we needed a local paper again.”

Arkley says he no longer reads the Times-Standard but Singleton says he reads the Reporter, which he derisively calls “a shopper” because it is delivered free to people’s homes. “I watch (the Reporter carefully,” Singleton says in his Rocky Mountain twang (his company is based in Denver). “But when you get right down to it, it is not really a quality newspaper…I think it makes (Arkley) think he is a big man in town. I am not sure buying a printing press and throwing papers around makes you a big man in town, but he thinks it does.”

In short, Joel Davis, a former Times-Standard entertainment and news editor from l988 to l995 and now a Sacramento journalist and college journalism instructor, wrote a nice yarn that inadvertently made a most telling point on the state of journalism in California and the country today.

For Hearst in San Francisco, which finally got what it always wanted in San Francisco (a virtual morning daily monopoly), and for Singleton, who hates competition with a passion and now is moving lockstep with Hearst toward regional monopoly, old-fashioned daily newspaper competition is a slam bang big story—but only if it is up in Eureka. The real story, how Hearst and Singleton are destroying daily competition and imposing even more conservative monopoly journalism on one of the most liberal and civilized regions of the world, is not much of a story at all. It is only a story to be minimized, marginalized, censored, covered in fragments, and buried deep in the business section (See our coverage and our blogs)

The latest example: in Tuesday’s Chronicle, buried on page 2 of the business section, was a “Daily Digest” short under a wimpy little head titled “Foundation among MediaNews backers.” It was an Associated Press story out of Seattle which provided a nugget of new information from an Aug. 8th Securities and Exchange filing. The nugget: that the Bill @ Melinda Gates Foundation had invested an unspecified amount of money in the megaconglomerate deal.

The news was three weeks old. It was published a week after the Contra Costa times ran it. I did a blog on it a week ago. It was written by the Associated Press out of Seattle, not a Chronicle cityside reporter or one of the legion of Chronicle business reporters. The four paragraph story once again amounted to only a fragment of an item that begged for a real comprehensive story. Not once has the Chronicle or any of the papers involved in the deal (Hearst/Singleton/Gannett/Stephens/McClatchy) done the kind of full and complete story, on this unprecedented major local story, and its adverse consequences to their local communities, that they would have done on anybody else. Not once to my knowledge have any of the monopoly publishers or their editors or columnists had a cross word to say publicly about the others or about the march to regional monopoly.

Eureka! Here comes Eurekaism! B3

P.S.: One thing I like about Dean Singleton is that, when a reporter calls him for a quote, he is not afraid to give him some juicy ones.

P.S. l: Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps one of the megaconglomerators has done a real story on the real consequences of such consolidation and regional monopoly on their staffs, the health and welfare of their communities, and the competing voices concept underlying the First Amendment and all good journalism. So I will be announcing a blog game: LET’S PLAY EUREKA! And I will ask people to send me any articles or editorials or columns in any of the megaconglomerate papers that they think laid out the real story. B3

Benefit for a journalist in jail (Josh Wolf)


Benefit for a journalist in jail (Josh Wolf)

By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

The item below was sent out by Riley Manlapaz, the Guardian’s ace promotions manager, to our email action list for a Saturday night benefit for Josh Wolf, who was jailed on Aug. l for refusing to honor a federal grand jury subpoena for the “out-takes” of his filming of an anarchist rally against the G-8 Summit Bush Administration economic and foreign policies.

I think Wolf’s arrest is a direct strike by Bush and the Attorney General against the City and County of San Francisco, the nation’s leading center of dissent and reportage critical of Bush and the Iraq war. The federal threat to jail the Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, for their superb reporting in the Balco/Bonds case, only makes this point even stronger and more ominous.

If Bush can get away with putting reporters in jail in San Francisco, he can do it anywhere he wants with impunity and he can impose a chilling effect all across the land. His new weapon: claiming federal jurisdiction in a local case involving local law enforcement on the dangerous basis that a police car that was burned during the demonstration was paid for in federal money. (Actually, as the police report shows, only a rear tail light on the police car was damaged.) But the point is that, with federal money pouring into local communities all over the country, from Homeland Security money up and down, the feds can consider almost anything is under federal jurisdiction and they can move against reporters (and protesters) with federal muscle and jail power. From Hearst/Chronicle reporters to a 24-year-old freelance filmmaker, nobody in the media is safe for the duration, inside or outside San Francisco.

Go to the website of the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC.org) for its resolution condemning the federal contempt sanctions against the reporters and for the full text of an amicus brief making the First Amendment arguments but also making a new and persuasive legal basis for a reporter’s privilege. See Sarah Phelan’s entry at the politics blog and our ongoing coverage. And much, much more!!! B3

Join musicians and activists to raise money for the legal fees of Josh Wolf, the journalist incarcerated for contempt of court for his refusal to hand over unedited video “out-takes” he shot of a anti-G-8 rally held in the Mission on July 8, 2005. Spoken word artist Diamond Dave Whitaker of Enemy Combatant Radio, Oregon-based musician John Staedler, and DJ Chuck Gonzalez perform. Admission is free but donations will be greatly appreciated. Speakers on Wolf’s behalf include Liz Wolf-Spada, his mother; Krissy Keefer, the Green party congressional candidate in the Eighth District; and Harland Harrison, the Libertarian congressional candidate in San Mateo. 7pm-9:30pm. Can’t attend? Please consider donating online at http://joshwolf.net/grandjury/donate.html
August 19 @ Dance Mission, 3316 24th St

Why people get mad at the media, part 7, a letter to the editor of Business Week/McGraw Hill


Note to the reader:

This is a copy of a letter I emailed today to the unidentified “editor filter” at bw@businessweek.com, as instructed yesterday by Assistant Managing Editor Mary Kunz at Business Week/McGraw Hill headquarters in New York City. I copied her and Editor-in-Chief Stephen J.Adler and Executive Editors John A. Byrne and Kathy Rebello. I asked for an acknowledgment that they had received my letter and that, if there was any editing, that they show it to me in advance to help prevent further “correction” messes. I also asked that the letter run in both the print and online BW magazines. Let us see what happens.

Coming soon: due to popular demand, I will soon be supplying details on the Potrero Hill martini, how to make it and where to get it.

Letter to the editor of Business Week/McGraw Hill:

In your front page story on Digg.com, you made two major errors in the first three lines of the first paragraph of your lead article. (“How This Kid Made $60 Million in l8 months.”) First, you wrote that Digg.Com was situated “above the grungy offices of the SF Weekly in Potrero Hill.” This is incorrect: Digg.com is situated above the offices of the San Francisco Bay Guardian in the Guardian building, which we own. SF Weekly, our major competitor, has offices on the other side of Mission Bay. Second: our offices are not “grungy.”

You rightly corrected the first mistake in your online edition (not in your print edition). But you have refused, again and again, to honor my simple request for a retraction and explanation in your print and online editions of how your reporters and editors got their facts so wrong. Your reporters and editors did not visit the Guardian offices nor can they specify just what is so”grungy” about the Guardian, our offices, and our building. In short, your correction has only made an “atrocious” mistake even more “atrocious,” the word used by your writer in her conversation with me. Why? What great journalistic principle is at stake in refusing to correct or remove the word “grungy” from your story?

So I posted on my Bruce blog at SFBG.com some candid snapshots of our building and our offices. I invite your staff and your readers to go to my blog and judge for yourself. And I invite you to leave your splendorous offices in mid-town Manhattan and come to San Francisco. I will give you a personal tour of our “grungy offices” and serve you a Potrero Hill martini in my office.

Bruce B. Brugmann, founder, editor, and publisher, San Francisco Bay Guardian, printing the news and raising hell and spreading sunshine inside and outside San Francisco since l966

Why people get mad at the media, part 6, “Grungy” or “not grungy,” the Guardian presents some candid photos of its offices and building


Well, to continue this “grungy” saga, Mary Kuntz, an assistant managing editor at Business Week/McGraw Hill, called me from the splendorous McGraw Hill building in midtown Manhattan.
She was, it turned out, the designated editor and stonewaller to deal with my complaints that a cover story in the Aug. l4 edition of Business Week had made three major errors in the first three lines of the lead story. The first errors: the article referred to the “grungy offices offices of the SF Weekly,” our chain competitor, when the offices were those of the Guardian. The second error: our offices are not “grungy,” as you can see by the candid photos below.

She repeated what others down the masthead had told me before: that the magazine had indeed corrected what she called “the factual error” (the one misidentifying our offices as the offices of our competitor). But she said the magazine would not correct or remove the word “grungy” because the use of that adjective was a matter of opinion.

How, I asked again (see my earlier blog items), could she and BW/MH say that our offices were “grungy” when the reporters on the article never came into our offices and could not specify what was “grungy” about the Guardian, our offices, or our building, which we own? Did BW/MH just intentionally want to annoy me further and make the situation worse? She was adamant, as if she were upholding some major journalistic principle and the institutional honor and structural integrity of BW/MH. If so, what in the world was the principle she was fighting for over the use of one word: “grungy?” She wouldn’t say. More: she would not send or fax me the company’s retraction and corrections or reader response policy. She kept saying, we only correct factual mistakes, write us a letter, this is our corrections policy. And so the “grungy offices” phrase remains in the print and online versions of the article for the duration and my simple request to get a full correction ended up only making an “atrocious” mistake even more “atrocious,” to use the phrase of the reporter in confessing her original “factual” mistake to me.

I realize all of this might get tedious but there is a serious point here: this incident illustrates the kind of corporate arrogance and stonewalling that make people mad at the media. All BW/MH had to do was to say in effect, sorry, we made a mistake, we will correct it, we regret the error. And not jack me around for l0 days over a phony charge that they could not back up or explain. (Summary report coming on the company’s stonewalling policy on corrections.)

Note the pictures below, taken by Guardian co-founder and co-publisher Jean Dibble. From top left: the side of our three story building, known as the Guardian Building, at l35 Mississippi St., at the bottom of Potrero Hill in San Francisco; the front of our building; our lobby; our reception desk; our conference room; the stairs in the middle of our advertising offices on the first floor; Jean Dibble’s office, and the alternative view of San Francisco from Potrero Hill from our rooftop.

SFBGlogo.jpg outside1.jpg

lobby.jpg frontdesk.jpg

confroom.jpg stairs.jpg

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Grungy or not grungy? That is the pressing issue of the day. I’m ready for a Potrero Hill martini. B3

Where are Hearst and the Chronicle? The conglomerate cometh


Yet another signal on what is happening to daily newspaper competition in San Francisco and the Bay Area:

The Contra Costa Times, now a MediaNews/Singleton paper, ran some minimalist stories Friday by George Avalos on the new developments in the new conglomerate that is poised to destroy local newspaper competition, according to a Singleton filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission inWashington.

Among other things, the story disclosed that Hearst made a $299 million equity investment in MediaNews and that MediaNews had “obtained a financing package from a syndicate of lenders that enables the newspaper company to borrow up to $597 million to help finance its acquisitions…The syndicate of lenders includes the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, General Electric Capital Corp and several financial and other organizations.” Not a word in the Friday Chronicle. And only skimpy details in the CCTimes and Oakland Tribune coverage. Why? The conglomerate cometh.

More troubling signals:

+Serious newsroom cuts are coming: In an accompanying article, Avalos reported “some pain looms.” He quoted Kevin Keane, the new vice president/new for the new partnership north, as saying that “Some tough choices are going to have to be made.”

+And there are the stock ludicrous statements about “competition.” “We want to take it to the Chronicle,” says Chris Lopez, editor of the Contra Costa Times. “This puts us on a path to attack them in areas where they have strength.” Then he writes without gulping that “MediaNews officials say they believe the combined resources of the papers, along with a readership clout that surpasses the Chronicle, will help in the newspaper wars.” And then he quotes John Armstrong, who heads MediaNews operations in the East Bay, as saying, “We are winning the battle against the Chronicle. This will hasten the inevitable.” Did he or anybody else on any of the conglomerate papers ever call an outside expert, a journalism or law school professor, for some independent comment on this market allocation scheme? Or are they already under the shackles?

I suggest all staffers on all the McClatchy/Singleton/Hearst/Gannett/Stephens conglomerate papers take a look at the complete Clint Reilly/Joe Alioto antitrust filings in federal court and the SEC filings. And I hope they follow the story along as it develops. The emerging one newspaper company for the Bay Area is there for all to see. B3

Why people get mad at the media, part 5, up pops a real editor at BusinessWeek/McGraw Hill


Following up on my reports of the BW/MGH stonewall on my modest request for a full correction to what has become an “atrocious” correction:

I got a call today (Friday) on my answering machine from Mary Kuntz, who is listed as an assistant managing editor on the BM/MGH masthead. She said that the Aug. l4th Business Week with the original errors was a double issue, every one was off this week, and so there would be no issue this week for any correction to appear. She said she was leaving the office for the weekend, but would call me on Monday. She said she was “very sorry” that I felt that “we have been unresponsive because that is not what we aim for.” I called her back and thanked her for the call but pointed out that the online version of the story still stood on the world wide internet with the phrase “grungy SF Bay Guardian offices in Potrero Hill.” I asked her to fax me a copy of the BM/MGH corrections and retraction and reader response policy.

Meanwhile, Erik Cushman, the publisher of the Monterey County Weekly, blogged in with a suggestion: that we take some pictures of the controversial Guardian offices and let the readers decide. I have assigned my wife and co-publisher Jean Dibble to take the pictures and hope to have them up early next week. Stay tuned. (I know, I know, that is a broadcast term. What is the correct blogging term?) B3

Why people get mad at the media, part 4, will guerrilla email help?


It looks to me as if there isn’t anybody from Business Week /McGraw Hill that will be graduating from the Rock Rapids College of Community Journalism (see my first blog about journalistic principles as practiced at the Lyon County Reporter in Rock Rapids, Iowa.) The Business Week folks really don’t want to deal with readers who have legitimate complaints.

As you will remember from my last post, the stonewall continues. The Business Week author Jessi Hempel refused to correct the erroneous statement about the “grungy SF Bay Guardian offices,” and sent me merrily along to her editor in New York, Elizabeth Weiner. I called Weiner twice, on two successive days, and left messages on her answering machine asking for a full correction on the Business Week errors. No reply.

So I finally figured out her email address and sent her an email. I got an automated email response that said she is “on vacation and will return on Aug. 28th.” Great. That will be well after the next issue is out, the issue that ought to have contained a full correction. It would have been nice if I had been told that she was on vacation and it would have been even nicer if I had been given another real live editor for me to talk to. Are all the editors in hiding at Business Week/McGraw Hill?

So, since I was still getting stonewalled after almost a week of trying to get a full correction and explanation of the errors, I figured out the email address formula of Business Week staffers and sent off guerrilla emails to them with my request for a full correction to everyone from the editor in chief Stephen J. Adler to President William P. Kupper Jr to President of Information and Media for McGraw Hill Glenn S. Goldberg, to others listed on the masthead of Business Week. I suggested that they go to my blogs for background on the issue. Most important: I asked for a copy of the Business Week/McGraw Hill policy on corrections and retractions and dealing with reader complaints. No reply as yet, but I will keep you posted.

The operating principle seems to be: set up a track field of hurdles and make it as difficult as possible for a reader (particularly a reader with a legitimate complaint) to talk to a real editor, to get a full correction, to get some satisfaction for a grievance. The point: It doesn’t have to be this way, as you will soon see. Stay tuned. B3, still grunging away down here in my office at the bottom of Potrero Hill

Why people get mad at the media, part 3, The case of “grungy offices” and “grungy journalism”


Following up my attempts to my attempt to get a full correction from Business Week/McGraw Hill:

I finally got a call yesterday (Tuesday) from Jessi Hempel, one of the two authors of the front page piece on Kevin Rose. She apologized and said the error about mixing up the Guardian and the SF Weekly/VVM/New Times offices was “atrocious” and that Business Week/McGraw Hill would correct it in their next issue.

Fine, thanks, I replied, can you read me the correction? No, she said it is our ethical policy not to do that. Why, I questioned, I need to see the proposed correction, or at least know what is in it, so that the correction does not make “the atrocious error” even more “atrocious.” For example, I said, is Business Week going to correct the phrase that states our Guardian offices are “grungy,” which Webster’s dictionary defines as meaning “shabby or dirty in character or condition.” She said this phrase would not be corrected because it was a subjective evaluation. Well, I replied, did either of you visit the Guardian offices and if so when? And specifically what is “grungy” or “shabby” or “dirty” about the Guardian offices? (I stipulated that my desk is “grungy.”) She couldn’t convince me she had answers to those questions. She said she could do nothing more for me and suggested I write a letter or call her editor in New York, Elizabeth Weiner, and talk to her. Then she hung up. Click.

I then checked to see how the “correction” looked on the Business Week online version of the story. This made my point in 96 point tempo bold: The lead to the story, which of course goes out to a worldwide internet audience, now said that Digg’s offices were above the “grungy offices of the SF Bay Guardian in Potrero Hill.” This identification thus made the “atrocious mistake” even more “atrocious,” as I had feared. The Guardian is now, despite my attempts since last Friday to get a full retraction, as having “grungy” offices and the reporters on the story cannot back up or explain their use of this pejorative adjective.

I called Weiner in New York and tried to leave a message on her answering machine, but got cut off before I could complete my complaint. So I immediately called again and finished up on the second call.

It’s as if the Business Week/McGraw Hill policy on reader complaints and corrections comes down to this: complain and we’ll stick it to you, buddy. In short, we are witnessing, not some dreadful “grungy offices,” but some “grungy journalism” as practiced by Business Week/McGraw Hill. I now wonder if the reporters and editors on the story will ever be up for a Potrero Hill martini at the Connecticut Yankee. B3

P.S. l: Steve R. Hill, director of development for the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska Foundation, was in our office on Tuesday as I was wrestling around with this issue. I gave him a full tour of our two floors of offices and even took him up to our rooftop for a spectacular “alternative” view of the city from Potrero Hill. He told me, for the record, that he could find nothing “grungy” about the Guardian offices or the view from the Guardian building.

Help, BizWeek, Help!!! Why the public gets mad at the media, part 2



Below is a letter I have just emailed to the only email address I could find in the Aug. l4th Business Week of Business Week, formally asking for a correction and explanation for three factual errors the magazine made about the Guardian in the first paragraph of the lead story (note my previous blog). Follow along and see how a major communications company (McGraw-Hill) handles reader complaints about factual errors in their stories.

To the good people at
Business Week:

Can you get the questions in my first blog item below (the ones outlining three factual errors in the first three lines in the first paragraph of the lead story with the head: “How this kid made $60 million in l8 months.”) Could you get this message to editor in chief Stephen J. Adler and President William P. Kupper jr and Glenn S. Goldberg, president, information @ media, McGraw-Hill Companies? Or to anyone else locally or in the New York headquaters at Business Week that can help me (a) get an appropriate correction; (b) tell me how such egregious factual errors happened, (c) give me a copy of your retraction and corrections policy on factual errors, and (d) give me the whereabouts and contact information and credits of the two writers of the piece (Sarah Lacy and Jessi Hempel).

I looked extensively through the issue but I couldn’t find any information on how to contact the writers and editors and staff of Business Week, either by phone or by email. How does a reader (or in my case, a reader with a serious complaint) do this? I would appreciate any immediate help that you can give me.

Thanks very much. Bruce B. Brugmann, editor and publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, proud landlord for Digg.Com, but a landlord wrongly identified in your piece (you named our chain competitor) and wrongly characterized as having “grungy offices” that weren’t up to the standard of Business Week. My phone is 4l5-255-3l00, email at Bruce@sfbg.com, Bruce blog at sfbg.com.

P.S. No word back from either the San Francisco or San Mateo offices today on my calls for help on last Friday. I will start in again on the phone, but I’m already beginning to wear out. B3

For more info: