Mirkarimi resolution takes on merger deal


[Urging the U.S. Attorney General to consider the antitrust implications of the proposed acquisition of Knight Ridder Inc. by the McClatchy Company]

Resolution urging the U.S. Attorney General to consider the antitrust implications of the proposed acquisition of Knight Ridder Inc. by the McClatchy Company

WHEREAS, On March 13, 2006 the McClatchy Company agreed to a deal to purchase Knight Ridder Inc., the second-largest newspaper company in the United States; and
WHEREAS, The McClatchy Company has announced plans to sell twelve of the Knight Ridder newspapers, resulting in the MediaNews Group gaining ownership or control of three major Bay Area newspapers: the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, and the Monterey County Herald, and twenty-nine other Bay Area community newspapers; and,
WHEREAS, The thirty-two newspapers that MediaNews Group would gain control of have a total daily circulation of 524,210; and,
WHEREAS, MediaNews Group would gain ownership or control over every major daily in the San Francisco Bay Area except for the San Francisco Chronicle; and,
WHEREAS, The owner of the San Francisco Chronicle-the Hearst Cooperation-is partnering with MediaNews Group in this acquisition; and,
WHEREAS, The acquisition of the Knight Ridder newspapers was apparently not opened to all qualified bidders; and,
WHEREAS, Such a consolidation of media ownership could deprive Bay Area readers of the quality and depth of news coverage that more varied ownership offers; and,
WHEREAS, The MediaNews Group’s proposed acquisitions could also hurt advertisers by a diminution of print and Internet media outlets and a likely increase in advertising rates that a single owner in the market could demand; now, therefore, be it
RESOLved, That the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco urges the United States Attorney General and the California Attorney General to carefully consider the antitrust implications of the proposed acquisition of Knight Ridder Inc. by the McClatchy Company, and the McClatchy Company’s proposed resale of thirty-two Knight Ridder newspapers to the MediaNews Group.

How to fight Singleton’s monopoly


EDITORIAL Six members of Congress wrote to the Bush administration last week urging a full Justice Department review of the pending deal that will give one company the Denver-based MediaNews Group control over virtually every daily newspaper in the Bay Area. The letter is a signal that federal regulators may be unable to simply duck this merger but it will take a lot more pressure to block it.

As we reported last week, MediaNews, run by Dean Singleton, is planning to take over the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, the Monterey Herald, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. That would mean every big central Bay Area daily except the San Francisco Chronicle would be owned by one company. And to make it worse, Hearst the New York Citybased owner of the Chron has signed on with MediaNews as part of the deal: Hearst will buy the Monterey and St. Paul papers, then immediately trade them to MediaNews in exchange for stock in some other MediaNews ventures.

The implications are staggering. The deal sets the scene for an unprecedented level of local media consolidation and could lead to a scenario in which all the business, advertising, and even editorial functions of almost every Bay Area daily would be run out of one central office.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, George Miller, Anna Eshoo, Ellen Tauscher, Barbara Lee, and Mike Honda wrote: "We are concerned that this transfer could diminish the quality and depth of news coverage in a Bay Area of more than 9 million people." That’s a good concern: Singleton, known as "lean Dean," is known for ruthless cost-cutting and is likely to reduce news staffing at all of the papers to save money. He’s also likely to take advantage of a virtual monopoly on daily print to jack up advertising rates, hurting businesses and consumers.

The letter quotes Reps. Mark Kennedy and Jim Oberstar of Minnesota as noting: "A monopoly in the newspaper industry is certainly no less dangerous, and is perhaps more so, than in any other American industry." Which is exactly the point: When control of something as essential as civic information is in the hands of too few people, it’s a direct threat to democracy.

It’s clear that the Internet has made daily newspapers less powerful and less essential. But in the Bay Area (and in most of the country) there’s simply no Web alternative that can do the work of a daily paper. Real watchdog journalism requires a staff reporters to go to meetings, to challenge politicians, to stay on top of City Hall and so far, nobody’s found a financial model that allows that to happen purely online.

So the threat of one single entity controlling news and information to such a huge extent ought to be a major issue across the state, particularly in the area where MediaNews has most of its holdings. We’re glad that some members of Congress are pressuring the White House, but we don’t really expect Bush’s Justice Department to mount a full-court press on this one. That effort is going to have to come from the state and from local government.

We’ve asked both Democratic candidates for governor about the issue, and both at least showed some interest. Phil Angelides didn’t seem to know much about it until we clued him in, but he said he was "concerned." He needs to do better: A strong statement opposing the deal would be a good start. Steve Westly is friendly with the Newspaper Guild folks in San Jose and has supported their efforts, but he has also stopped short of a blanket statement that the merger must be derailed. And neither the current attorney general, Bill Lockyer, nor either of the major contenders for the job (Jerry Brown and Rocky Delgadillo) has said much of anything.

However, state senator Carole Migden expressed some interest in holding hearings in Sacramento, and that ought to happen immediately. Lockyer should be asked to explain what he’s doing to stop the deal and the publishers should be asked to reveal the details of the merger and their future plans (see "A Few Questions for the Publishers," page 7).

Every city in the Bay Area should take this on too, starting with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which should hold hearings and pass a resolution demanding that Lockyer block the deal.

Only serious grassroots opposition can prevent this monster of a media monopoly. There’s no time to waste. SFBG

PS Where were Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Tom Lantos on the congressional letter? We’ve left word with their offices, but haven’t heard back as to why they didn’t sign it.

Single town?


Like Clear Channel radio stations, many smaller papers would have little or no staff, nobody to answer the phone, nobody to take local tips and cover local news … they would be nothing but shells of once-thriving community newspapers.

This map, prepared by the San Jose Newspaper Guild, shows all of the newspapers that will soon be owned by Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group. MediaNews started out with 11 papers, and the addition of 33 Knight-Ridder papers will give the Denver-based outfit a total of 44 daily and community papers in the Bay Area.

Most of the daily newspaper coverage of the deal (including the coverage by Knight-Ridder and MediaNews papers) has focused on the four biggest papers involved and ignored the smaller papers altogether — a sign, perhaps, that neither chain cares that much about community publications.

Currently owned by MediaNews: (1) Alameda Times Star; (2) Fremont Argus; (3) Hayward Daily Review; (4) Marin Independent Journal; (5) Milpitas Post; (6) Oakland Tribune; (7) Pacifica Tribune; (8) San Mateo County Times; (9) Tri-Valley Herald; (10) Reporter (Vacaville); (11) Vallejo Times-Herald.

Currently owned by Knight-Ridder, soon to be taken over by MediaNews: (1) Alameda Journal; (2) Almaden Resident; (3) Berkeley Voice; (4) Brentwood News; (5) Burlingame Daily News; (6) Campbell Reporter; (7) Concord Transcript; (8–11) Contra Costa Newspapers (Contra Costa Times, West County Times, Valley Times, San Ramon Times); (12) Contra Costa Sun; (13) Cupertino Courier; (14) East Bay Daily News; (15) El Cerrito Journal; (16) Antioch Ledger-Dispatch; (17) Los Gatos Daily News; (18) Los Gatos Weekly-Times; (19) Montclarion; (20) Monterey County Herald (not shown); (21) Palo Alto Daily News; (22) Pleasant Hill/Martinez Record; (23) Piedmonter; (24) Redwood City Daily News; (25) Rose Garden Resident; (26) San Jose Mercury News; (27) San Mateo Daily News; (28) Saratoga News; (29) Sunnyvale Sun; (30) Salinas Valley Advisor (not shown); (31) Walnut Creek Journal; (32) West County Weekly; (33) Willow Glen Resident. MediaNews owns 29 other California publications.

Stop Singleton’s media grab!

EDITORIAL At first glance, it looks like one of the oddest deals in recent newspaper history: McClatchy, the Sacramento-based newspaper chain, buys the much bigger Knight-Ridder chain, then sells two of the Knight-Ridder papers to MediaNews Group, run by Dean Singleton out of Denver, and two to the New York Citybased Hearst Corp., which owns the San Francisco Chronicle. Then Hearst immediately sells its two papers to Singleton’s shop, in exchange for an equity share in MediaNews operations outside of the Bay Area.

The upshot: MediaNews will take over the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, along with some 33 small-market dailies and weeklies, which, combined with the 11 Bay Area papers the chain already owns, will give Singleton control of every major daily newspaper in the Bay Area except the Chronicle.

It creates the potential for a newspaper monopoly of stunning proportions and threatens the quality of journalism in one of the most populous, educated, and liberal regions in the nation. Singleton, known as "lean Dean" for his cost-cutting moves, is likely to slash staffing at papers like the Times and the Merc, consolidate news gathering, and offer readers less local news.

In fact, in its most recent annual report, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, MediaNews outlined its strategy for profitability. "One of our key acquisition strategies is to acquire newspapers in markets contiguous to our own," the report states. This so-called clustering strategy allows the company to consolidate advertising and business functions as well as news gathering. "We seek to increase operating cash flows at acquired newspapers by reducing labor costs," the report notes.

In other words, a smaller number of reporters will be doing fewer stories, which will run in more papers. This, Luther Jackson, executive officer of the San Jose Newspaper Guild, argues, "means cookie-cutter coverage and fewer voices contributing to important public policy debates."

There are deeper concerns with this deal including the possibility that Hearst and Singleton could be forming an unholy alliance that would nearly wipe out daily competition in the Bay Area.

The whole mess has its roots in the decision by the Knight-Ridder board several months ago to put the company up for sale. It was the kind of decision that demonstrates the problems with treating newspapers like baseball cards, to trade on the open market: Knight-Ridder was quite profitable, ran some of the better newspapers in the nation, and had a reputation (by chain standards, anyway) of being willing to spend money on the editorial product. But the stock price wasn’t quite high enough, and a few big shareholders (who weren’t satisfied with 20 percent profits) were complaining, so the entire company went on the block.

McClatchy, a well-managed company that has the Sacramento Bee as its flagship, wanted some of the Knight-Ridder papers but only the ones in fast-growing markets. So after submitting a winning bid, the McClatchy folks starting looking for ways to dump the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times, the Monterey Herald, the St. Paul Pioneer-Dispatch, and some 20 smaller community papers in the Bay Area.

But why, exactly, is Hearst getting involved? Well, Peter Scheer, a former antitrust lawyer who runs the California First Amendment Coalition, has some theories. The first possible reason? Hearst has plenty of cash on hand, and the deal would allow MediaNews to avoid having to seek as much financing from bankers.

More likely: Hearst through the Chronicle would have been Singleton’s only local competitor, and is the only significant political player in California that could have pressured regulators to oppose the deal. The arrangement, Scheer says, turns Hearst from a potential foe into a partner. Already the two companies have announced they may seek to share distribution systems. And there may be other plans in the works.

In fact, one of the most interesting ideas about the deal comes from a former Chronicle assistant managing editor, Alan Mutter, who writes a blog called Reflections of a Newsosaur ( Mutter suggests that the deal might lead to the end of real newspaper competition in the Bay Area, for once and for all. "Hearst," he speculates, "hopes at some point to work with MediaNews to extricate itself from the costly problem posed by the San Francisco Chronicle, which is widely believed to be losing about $1 million per week."

The idea: Down the road, Hearst merges the Chron with MediaNews or, if the Justice Department won’t allow that, the two companies enter into a joint operating agreement. A JOA works like this: The two companies share all printing, business, sales, and distribution operations, run two theoretically separate newsrooms, and at the end of the day split the profits. The Chron and the Examiner were run for years under a JOA, and it was terrible for readers: With no economic incentive to compete, both papers stagnated. But it can be the equivalent of a license to print money.

"Unlike some publishers who shun JOA relationships," Mutter notes, "Dean Singleton has embraced them and seems to be making them work in places like Denver and Detroit. Is the San Francisco Chronicle next on his list?"

Imagine what a near-complete monopoly of Bay Area dailies in the hands of a notorious cost-cutter would mean. For starters, we can count on more standardized, conservative politics (at least the Knight-Ridder papers opposed the war). Perhaps all reporting and editing would be consolidated into one newsroom, in San Francisco or San Jose. Like Clear Channel radio stations, many smaller papers might wind up with little or no staff, nobody to answer the phone, nobody to take local tips and cover local news … they’d be nothing but shells of once-thriving community newspapers. They would have abandoned the crucial local-watchdog role of a daily newspaper (and made life more difficult for the few remaining independents).

The fact that this is a possible, even likely, scenario is alarming. In short order, one company could control every major daily in the Bay Area (except the Examiner and the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat) fixing prices, sharing markets, pooling profits, and keeping ad rates artificially high and the quality of journalism abysmally low.

Have there been discussions around this? What is Hearst’s real interest here, and how does it jibe with Singleton’s dream of a massive regional "cluster"? Until we know the answers, the MediaNews-McClatchy deal should never go forward.

It’s almost too much to ask that the Bush administration, which loves big-business mergers, give it a thorough review. But the California attorney general has grounds to challenge it too.

AG Bill Lockyer completely ducked on the deal that merged the two largest chains in the alternative press, Village Voice Media and New Times. He can’t be allowed to duck this one: There must be a detailed, public investigation, and the newspaper chains must come clean and release the details of the deal. The two leading Democratic candidates for attorney general, Jerry Brown and Rocky Delgadillo, need to make this a top issue in the campaign. It should be an issue in the governor’s race, and every city and town that’s affected, including San Francisco, should pass a resolution against the merger. SFBG

PS Local arts and community organizations on the Peninsula are alarmed about the deal for another reason: Knight-Ridder contributes millions of dollars a year to those groups. Will Singleton continue that tradition?

Bay Area Congressional letter to DOJ re. KR sale antitrust concerns 

The Village Voice meltdown continues


The guys from Phoenix seem to have their hands full these days dealing with the Village Voice. Note to Mike Lacey: It’s a different world in New York. Everything you do is going to be watched. Your policy of ducking the media isn’t going to fly. Lacey did give an interview to the New York Observer , in which he argued that he wants real reporters, not just thumbsucking columnists. Hey, so do I (and so, I think, do the folks at the Voice) – but I want reporters who care, and who take stands, and newspapers that are a part of their communities. In other words, Lacey is pushing a false dichotomy, making it look as if he’s cleaning out the dead wood, getting rid of lazy people who only pontificate – when what he’s really doing is getting rid of the people who have strong political leanings. He’s going to turn the Voice into another city magazine, and destroy it as a progressive newspaper.

March of the ants


MEXICO CITY (March 7th) — Civil War in Iraq! Riots across the Islamic World! Coups and killer mudslides! The Bush administration sinking daily in the quicksand of corruption and lies!

When played against the backdrop of incipient cataclysm that darkens the globe from east to west and south to north, “the Other Campaign” of the largely Mayan rebel Zapatista Army of National Liberation seems more like a march of ants across the Mexican landscape than breaking news.

The Other Campaign is, indeed, a campaign of ants.

This March 1, La Otra Campana marked the start of its third month on the road since the Zapatistas’ charismatic mouthpiece, Subcomandante Marcos, now doing business as “Delegate Zero,” roared out of a jungle camp in the EZLN’s Chiapas sanctuary zone on a silver and black motorcycle January 1, the 12th anniversary of the Zapatistas’ 1994 rebellion. In the past 60 days, Delegate Zero has traveled thousands of miles through ten states, a third of the Mexican union. The jaunt now constitutes the longest road trip the rebels have taken in their 12 years on public display.

The ski-masked spokesperson plans to visit all 31 states in the Mexican union (he will be on the U.S. border in June) and the federal district (where he will take part in the May 1 International Workers Day march) before Election Day July 2, when Mexico selects a new president and congress. The Other Campaign is staunchly anti-electoral, arguing that the political parties and the electoral system are hopelessly corrupt and unrepresentative.

La Otra Campana contrasts sharply with the opulent campaigns of Mexico’s three major political parties — the right-wing National Action (PAN) Party of President Vicente Fox, the once-ruling (71 years) Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and the leftish Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and its front-running candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO.)

Traveling close to the ground in a muddy white van, Marcos whistle stops a Mexico rarely visited by the “presidenciales,” huddling with the most pissed-off and marginalized Mexicans in down-and-out rural communities and ragged “popular colonies” in provincial cities, “the ones no one else is listening to.” The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, which gave birth to the Other Campaign, instructs the Zapatistas to “walk and question” rather than deliver the answers.

The idea of the Other Campaign is to build a new Mexican left from the bottom, an anti-capitalist, anti-electoral alliance that does not depend upon the political parties to bring about social change. “I am not a candidate — I am an anti-candidate,” Marcos tells audiences after hearing out their frustrations. “I cannot change these things, but we can do this together, because together we have the power.”

Nonetheless, the anti-candidate seems to be working twice as hard as the candidates — the PAN’s Felipe Calderon, the PRI’s Roberto Madrazo, and AMLO — in getting the word out. In stump speech after stump speech, Delegate Zero lambastes the political parties and their candidates, with particular emphasis on Lopez Obrador, who seems destined to become Mexico’s first president from the left since Lazaro Cardenas, and Latin America’s latest leftist head of state come July 2. The Other Campaign is, after all, a battle for the hearts and minds of the Mexican Left.

Delegate Zero’s withering attack on AMLO has led to charges by the PRD that he is fomenting absenteeism and handing the election to the right. The Other Campaign ran into angry PRDistas during a recent pit stop in Juchitan Oaxaca, once a stronghold of EZLN sympathy. Scuffling during a visit to teachers’ union offices in Oaxaca City was also a sign of PRD resentment at the Zapatista spokesperson’s pronouncements.

Delegate Zero adamantly refutes allegations that he is telling constituents not to vote in July — “each person must make his own decision.” Marcos is an inviting target of PRD fury because AMLO’s campaign has not yet ignited much interest. Aside from a 100,000-plus drummed out in Mexico City, where he was a wildly popular mayor, Lopez Obrador, as well as the PRI’s Madrazo and the PAN’s Calderon, have thus far not generated much buzz. The registration of only 57,000 Mexicans living in the United States out of a potential expatriate electorate of 3.4 million is an ominous signal that the 2006 presidenciales have not triggered much enthusiasm amongst a citizenry that voted for change in 2000 and was bitterly disappointed by six years of Vicente Fox’s empty promises.

But the butt of Delegate Zero’s on-running rap is not always AMLO: The Subcommandante expends equal dollops of time roasting Mexico’s last three neo-liberal presidents, Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, and Fox, often calling for their imprisonment. In this sense, the Other Campaign is a significant test of free speech in Mexico. Thus far, Delegate Zero has not been clapped in jail for attacking the powerful and preaching class war, although he has been allowed to enter prisons twice so far to visit political prisoners in Tabasco and on the Tehuantepec isthmus of Oaxaca.

Although the Fox government professes that it’s not listening to the Other Campaign, its plainclothes intelligence agents monitor every meeting. The events are often patrolled by machine-gun toting police, and local organizers have been harassed and jailed for such crimes as posting notice of the rebels’ arrival in town.

The Other Campaign moves cautiously in convoy on the road, cognizant of possible assassination attempts or “accidents” — in 1994, the Zapatistas’ candidate for Chiapas governor, the late Amado Avandano, was nearly killed in a highly suspicious head-on crash with a license-less 18 wheeler on a lonely coastal highway. Earlier that same year, the PRI presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, was gunned down in Tijuana.

Marcos’s audiences are the “simple and humble” people that the Other Campaign seeks to recruit — “those who have never held a microphone in their hand,” writes John Gibler who is accompanying the odyssey for the San Francisco-based NGO Global Exchange. At such meetings, Delegate Zero takes copious notes as he listens intently to the outrage of the locals, always counseling the attendees that they themselves, in alliance with other “simple and humble” Mexicans, have the power to alter the equation between rich and poor, justice and injustice. The EZLN is proposing the writing of a new Mexican constitution to achieve this end.

This was the message Delegate Zero brought to a pink-doored Casa de Citas (house of prostitution) in the tiny Tlaxcala town of Apaxio. After three hours of conversing with the sexoservidoras (sex workers), the Sub called for the formation of a national union of sex workers (“not prostitutes — the prostitutes are the politicians who sell themselves to the highest bidder.”)

Other Other Campaign venues have found the quixotic rebel spokesperson tilting at windmills in La Ventosa Oaxaca, the site of a transnational wind farm that impacts local Zapotec Indians; in Oaxaca’s Juarez Sierra, talking the evils of transgenic corn with campesinos; speaking to a few thousand protestors at a new airport site in Hidalgo; hobnobbing with transvestites in Orizaba Veracruz; straddling a tricycle (poor peoples’ transportation in southern Mexico) with the Union of Triciclistas in Merida Yucatan; promising a thousand ex-braceros who have been cheated out of moneys due them by both the U.S. and Mexican governments that he will march with them May 1st; and encouraging Mayan artisans barred from selling their wares at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza to take matters into their own hands.

Humor is a Zapatista weapon, and Marcos has armed the Other Campaign with a satiric edge. He is accompanied on the tour by his pet beetle Don Durito of the Lacandon (representing “the autonomous municipality of Charlie Parker”) and in Merida, the Sup actually removed his mask to the gasp of hundreds of admirers. Of course, he had his summer mask on underneath.

The steady grind of the Other Campaign is gaining “traction” in the eyes of Narconews founder Al Giodorno, who has been accompanying the adventure as it wends its way through Mexico. Narconews is just one of dozens of alternative media that file daily reports on the Other Campaign. The EZLN has extended preference to alternative rather than corporate media — only two national newspapers, La Jornada and Milenio, cover the Otra, and international attention has been short-lived (although Al Jazeera headlined the campaign’s first days.)

In mid-February, hundreds of alternative journalists and writers from all over Mexico convened in Tlaxcala to pledge allegiance to “the other journalism,” which focuses on reporting social change from the bottom up.

The traction that Giodorno senses the Other Campaign is gaining comes at the expense of the PAN, PRI, and PRD. As their presidential candidates fail to stimulate enthusiasm and the opulence of their campaigns elicits the dismay of the nation’s 70 million poor, the Other Campaign wins adherents.

On a continent that has elected the left to high office in important numbers and where the citizenry has been frequently disenchanted by government’s failure to improve daily lives, the Zapatistas campaign to build change from down below is bound to have an echo.

Invited to attend new Bolivian president Evo Morales’s all-star inauguration January 22, in La Paz, the EZLN responded “it is not our way to meet with the great leaders.” Addressing a few hundred indigenous farmers in rural Campeche state, Delegate Zero explained “we have come instead to listen to you because no one ever does.”

Bolivia’s new president heard the Zapatistas’ message loud and clear, pledging to mandar obedeciendo — to serve by obeying the will of the Bolivian people, the EZLN’s leadership ethos.

John Ross is sleepless in Seattle. These dispatches will continue at 10-day intervals until he returns to Mexico in mid-March. His latest opus, Making Another World Possible — Zapatista Chronicles 2000-2006, will be published this fall by Nationbooks (if he ever finishes it.)


Seven months late, mainstream media discovers school asbestos problem


A little known group of teachers, union representatives and parents of school children called the Asbestos Council, has met twice a month since its inception in March to monitor the district’s asbestos program with no attention from the press. But when the Council and staff members met July 23rd with Tom Sammon, executive assistant to the superintendent of schools, and Eduardo Escobedo, head of general services, the superintendent’s stuffy little conference room was packed with television cameras and reporters from just about every major news outlet in town.

Suddenly, asbestos in the schools is big news. The Chronicle and Examiner have run several front-page stories on the problem, and all three TV news shows in the city have given it extensive coverage. KRON’s NewsCenter 4 alone has aired six segments on the problem in the past week.

KRON Reporter Emil Guillermo presented detailed, hard-hitting stories outlining the extent of the potential hazards the substance poses to district students and staff, and forced top district officials to acknowledge that they had misjudged the situation in the past and allowed it to continue unabated.

Overall, however, the rash of news stories have provided very little information that wasn’t published in the Bay Guardian seven months ago. Back in January and February, the rest of the local media, with the exception of KKCY radio and the San Francisco Progress, seemed remarkably uninterested in asbestos in the schools. (Only KKCY even mentioned during the recent rush of reports that the Bay Guardian had broken the story in January).

And even today, with the exception of KRON, none of the newspapers or broadcast outlets with a newfound interest in the crisis have sought to explain why the school district allowed the asbestos problem to go unacknowledged and unabated for so many years — and who is to blame.

The rash of mainstream news reports, however, does raise an interesting question. For months, top school officials, including Superintendent Ramon Cortines and Escobedo, who directly oversees the school district’s facilities, have sought to downplay the extent of the problem. Although district consultants and some staff have recommended that several schools be shut down and fully cleaned up before students are allowed back, only in July did Cortines decide to close McAteer High School. In recent interviews, the superintendent has still dismissed the staff, students and media concerns as “asbestosphobia.”When the Bay Guardian first warned of the serious and pressing asbestos danger, school administrators and some Board members accused the paper of “scare tactics” and “journalistic misrepresentation.” Now that just about every news outlet in town has confirmed our reports, will the district begin to change its tune?*

Bay Guardian wins awards


The Bay Guardian has won two prizes in the National Newspaper Association’s 1987 National Better Newspaper Contest.

Bay Guardian reporter and columnist Tim Redmond won a second place award in the “Best Column, Serious” category for newspapers with a circulation of 10,000 or more, for his commentary and opinion forum “Unsafe at Any Speed.”

In addition, the Bay Guardian also secured the third place award in the “Best Coverage of Environmental News” category for Redmond’s July 1986 coverage and analysis of the Santa Fe-Southern Pacific Company’s waterfront development plans, which helped stimulate the formation of an East Bay citizens’ action committee to fight future development.

The winners were selected from more than 3,500 entries submitted by daily and weekly newspapers nationwide. The NNA will present plaques to the winners October 3rd, during its 102nd Annual Convention and Trade Show in Portland, Oregon.