SF Weekly

PG&E’s candidates


EDITORIAL We’ve seen plenty of allies of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. We’ve seen a few PG&E bagmen, PG&E shills, and PG&E fronts. But there’s never been anyone elected to the board in our 40 years who was actually a paid attorney for PG&E.
This year there’s at least one and possibly two candidates who have worked as PG&E lawyers — and that alone should disqualify them ever from holding public office in San Francisco. The most obvious and direct conflict involves Doug Chan, the former police commissioner who is seeking a seat from District 4. Documents on file with the California Public Utilities Commission show that Chan’s law firm, Chan, Doi, and Leal, has received more than $200,000 in fees from PG&E in just the past two years.
Chan won’t come to the phone to discuss what he did for the utility, won’t respond to questions posed through his campaign manager and press secretary, won’t return calls to his law firm, and thus won’t give the public any idea what sorts of conflicts of interest he’d have if he took office.
This is nothing new for Chan: back in 2002 he put his name on PG&E campaign material opposing public power and earned a spot in the Guardian’s Hall of Shame.
Then there’s Rob Black, who worked as an attorney for Nielsen Merksamer, the law firm that handled all of the dirty dealings for the anti-public-power campaign in 2002. Black worked with Jim Sutton, his former law professor and PG&E’s main legal operative, during that period but insists he did no work on anything related to PG&E or the campaign. That’s tough to believe.
All of this comes at a time when PG&E is going out of its way, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to buff up its image — and to fight the city’s modest but significant plans for public power.
As Steven T. Jones reports on page 16, the notorious utility is well aware that its future in San Francisco is shaky. The city is bidding to provide public electric power to the Hunters Point shipyard redevelopment project and preparing to provide public power to Treasure Island. There is a study in the works to look at developing tidal power. The supervisors are moving forward on Community Choice Aggregation, which will put the city directly in the business of selling retail electricity to customers (albeit through PG&E’s grid). And there’s talk brewing of a public power ballot initiative for next November.
PG&E president Thomas King met with Mayor Gavin Newsom this summer and sent him a nice, friendly letter afterward discussing all the ways the city and PG&E could work together.
But in fact, the utility is already opposing even the baby steps coming out of City Hall: PG&E has bid against San Francisco for rights to sell power to the shipyard, and that’s forced the city to cut prices and reduce the revenue it could have gained from Lennar Corp., the master developer. PG&E is trying to stop the city from selling power on Treasure Island and has financial ties to a private company that has rights to Golden Gate tidal power development until 2008. Meanwhile, the utility just hired the former secretary to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission — a woman who sat in on every closed-session strategy meeting the panel held, including sessions dealing with litigation against PG&E.
In other words, PG&E is gearing up for all-out political warfare — and the mayor and supervisors need to start preparing too. From now on, people should see whatever PG&E does as hostile — and on every front the city needs to adopt an aggressive strategy to move forward toward eliminating the company’s private power monopoly.
For starters, it’s ridiculous that the city should have to fight PG&E for the right to sell power at the Hunters Point shipyard. The Redevelopment Agency should have made public power a part of the program from the start, and the supervisors should examine that plan immediately to see if it can be amended to require Lennar to buy power from San Francisco. Newsom needs to take to the bully pulpit and say that if PG&E gets this contract, nobody on the Redevelopment Agency Commission will ever be reappointed.
Meanwhile, when Chan and Black appear anywhere in public this election season, they need to be asked to fully disclose their ties with PG&E and outline their positions on public power.
And it’s time for the public power coalition to start meeting again, with the aim of crafting a ballot measure that will create a full-scale municipal system, perhaps as soon as November 2007. SFBG
PS PG&E already has one staunch ally on the board, Sean Elsbernd, a Newsom appointee who also worked in the late 1990s for the Nielsen firm. That’s three too many.
PPS If Newsom is really for public power, as he claims, then why is he pushing so hard for two PG&E call-up votes for the board? And why is he not publicly denouncing PG&E’s attempt to scuttle public power and lending his political capital to a new municipalization effort?
PPPS The SF Weekly’s Matt Smith last week all but endorsed Doug Chan — but made no mention of Chan’s PG&E ties. Did that somehow slip through Smith’s investigative reporting net?

Doug Chan, PG&E’s man at City Hall


By Tim Redmond

Matt Smith, the SF Weekly columnist, did a little investigative reporting last week and discovered that Doug Chan, candidate for supervisor from District 4, does, indeed, live in the district, has a messy house and hasa neighbor who complains about him hogging the laundry room. But after what appears to have been a brief conversation (summarized in a couple of paragraphs), Smith concludes that Chan is really a hell of a guy, and would be a fine supervisor. (He main claim to fame, according to Smith, is that he thinks “ideology is killing San Francisco.”) What an ass.

Smith’s bang-up investigation, however, missed a little fact that’s easily accessible to anyone who checks some state and local public records. Chan is an attorney for Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

In fact, California Public Utilities Commission records show that Chan’s law firm, Chan, Doi and Leal, has received more than $200,000 in legal fees from the utility in the past two years. Chan himself, as a partner, has pocketed at least $10,000 of that money, according to his economic interest statements.

It’s hard to figure out what Chan has done for PG&E — he clearly doesn’t do utilities law (or much else that fits PG&E’s needs, according to his own website.)

Should the city elect a candidate who has derived a substantial amount of his personal income from one of the greatest lawbreakers in town, a company the city is fighting now over public power in Bayview Hunters Point and will be fighting bitterly over citywide public power in the next few years?


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

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.

When the assholes take over


By Tim Redmond

What happens when the people who run the SF Weekly take over a paper in Seattle? It’s not pretty. No more endorsements, no more politics, half the staff flees … Too bad for Seattle.

Vote to impeach


EDITORIAL Mainstream media reporters and pundits, as well as our cynical colleagues at the SF Weekly and the rest of their corporate alt-weekly chain, love to bash the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the city councils of other Bay Area cities for passing resolutions on big questions like war, human rights, or impeachment.
We don’t share that view. Resolutions take almost no time or effort to pass, yet they are important barometers of popular political sentiment, tools that are particularly important given how both major political parties have shown more willingness to listen to their corporate backers than their lowly constituents. People need avenues to make their voices heard without the filters imposed by the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties.
That’s why we’re happy that citizens in both San Francisco and Berkeley will get a chance to vote this November on the question of whether Congress should initiate impeachment proceedings against President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for their many high crimes: fraudulently leading the United States into war, illegally spying on Americans, torturing enemies, claiming unconstitutional executive power, vioutf8g binding treaties, and engaging in war crimes and profiteering, among others.
Berkeley and San Francisco will be the first major American cities to allow a popular vote on this question. The Guardian in January was one of the first publications in the country to lay out in detail the impeachable crimes of the Bush administration (“The Case for Impeachment,” 1/25/06), joining a chorus of activists, scholars, and legal experts who say this is the only way to slow the country’s slide into empire and penetrate the Bush administration’s veil of secrecy.
Our congressional representatives have been terrible on this issue, showing more concern with seeking partisan advantage than upholding the Constitution. Rep. Nancy Pelosi has said the Democrats won’t pursue impeachment even if the party retakes Congress this fall. But maybe they’ll listen to the people directly telling them that we want Congress to finally launch a serious investigation into the many crimes perpetrated by the Bush administration.
This is a vote that the world wants to see us take. We commend the Berkeley City Council and SF supervisors Chris Daly, Ross Mirkarimi, Tom Ammiano, and Jake McGoldrick for giving the people this opportunity to be heard on the most important issue of our time. SFBG

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

office.jpg roof.jpg

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

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.

Why people get mad at the media, part l


We have a tenant on the third floor of our Guardian building at l35 Mississippi St, at the bottom of Potrero Hill in San Francisco, called Digg.com, a new and bustling and highly publicized Dot.com operation.

It is getting lots of publicity these days and so I was highly interested to find that the company founder was displayed in full color on the front page of the Aug. l4th edition of Business Week magazine. He was a good looking young guy of 29, obviously full of Mexican jumping beans, wearing a T-shirt and some sort of earphones beneath a cap turned backwards. He was doing a jaunty thumbs up and between his thumbs in the middle of his T-shirt was the headline: “How this kid Made $60 million in l8 months, Digg.com’s Kevin Rose leads a new brat pack of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.”

I opened the magazine and read 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.”

I was astounded. The article had three major factual errors in the first three lines of the opening paragraph. First: Digg.com, we are happy to report, is a good tenant on the third floor of the Guardian building. Second: the SF Weekly is our chain competitor, the Village Voice/New Times conglomerate based in Phoenix, Arizona, with offices on the other side of Mission Bay near the Giants ballpark. We are suing the VVM/NT for predatory pricing. Third: we don’t have “grungy offices.” Did this pattern of factual errors, I wondered, continue throughout the piece?

Well, to be objective and fair, I am known to have a grungy desk and many people have commented on it through the years and it has even attracted a bit of publicity. In fact, there is a photo of me, sitting amidst a mountain of papers and books, grinding away on my trusty Royal typewriter (which I call fondly my l876 Royal), in the l988 edition of the book titled “A Day in the Life of California.” There is a similar photo of me at my grungy desk, back in the early l970s, in an old National Geographic magazine, with the cutline: If a writer in San Francisco was going to write like Mark Twain, he would be writing for the Bay Guardian. Reporter Sarah Phelan, hearing me mutter the word “grungy,” immediately pointed out that “grungy” is cool. She may be right. I am not going to argue the point.

However, I was curious to know how a major national business publication, an ornament of McGraw-Hill publishing, could make three such major embarrassing factual mistakes in its lead story. I also wanted to know what McGraw-Hill was going to do about it and what its policy was on corrections and retractions. I was also curious to know the whereabouts and the credits of the two writers, Sarah Lacy and Jessi Hempel, so I could ask them directly how this happened. Perhaps I could orient them over a Potrero Hill martini at the
Connecticut Yankee.

So I went to the phone book and found a Business Week office at 160 Spear St., in San Francisco, phone number 260-5390. I called and gave my questions to the young lady who answered the phone. Oh, she said, you will have to call Elizabeth Moses, an editorial assistant, at our editorial offices in San Mateo at 650-372-3980. I promptly called the number and got one of those deadly you’ll-not-get-in-here-if-we-can-help-it computer answering systems. After some fumbling and bumbling, I did get through to a voice mail with a name that I could not quite distinguish who told me she was unavailable right now but directed me to leave my phone number and email so that she could contact me. I did so. And I am now waiting patiently for an answer.

I will file my next bulletin as soon as I get the word back from Business Week/McGraw-Hill. Good luck and good night, or was it good night and good luck, B3

P.S. l: Wow! “$60 million in l8 months?” I must be in the wrong line of work.

P.S. 2: You will note that I say Giants ballpark. After the name changed from PacBell park (bad enough), to SBC park (terrible) to AT@T park (godawful), I will never again use any formal corporate name of any kind for the ball park. In this blog, it will always be the Giants ballpark in San Francisco. I hope you understand. B3

Here is what happened to Lani Silver, a Bay Guardian reader and occasional Bay Guardian contributor in an e-mail she sent to me:

I am still waiting for a call back from the San Francisco 49ers. Six weeks ago I saw a headline in the S.F. Chronicle that announced the campaign to build a new stadium, for $600-800 million. The sub-headline, said that if anything fell through, the team reserves the right to move to Santa Clara.

As a native San Franciscan, I called John York’s office to suggest that they not make an announcement and threaten a population in the same breathe. After being transferred a half dozen times, I left a message on a voice-mail system meant for community feed-back. I wanted to tell York and others, but wound up telling a machine that it’s rude to launch a campaign and threaten a city in the same moment. I thought my comment to the 49ers would be a valuable p.r. tip for the company.

This is what happens with big companies. You can never reach the top managers. You’ll get transferred many times and then you’ll have to leave a message on a machine that will never get to the people for whom they were intended.

I left my message, something nicely put about jamming a stadium down a community’s throat, when there is a perfectly fine stadium already, and how a corporation should not say that if they don’t get what they want, a billion dollar stadium that they will move. I am still waiting for a call.

Now, this is really lame


By Tim Redmond
Everyone knows that the East Bay Express and the SF Weekly are owned by Village Voice Media (formerly New Times), but this weeks editions were a sign of what that sort of industry consolidation can mean for readers. The cover story in the Express? A profile of talk-show host Michael Savage by Ron Russel. The cover story in the SF Weekly? A profile of Michael Savage by Ron Russel.

I know that for years, NT/VVM headquarters in Phoenix has been pushing the members of its chain — there are 17 now — to share stories as a way of saving money. But we’ve never actually seen a shared cover story in the Bay Area before.

The art is slightly different, and so is the headline, but come on: The same cover story on two papers that circulate in the same market area? That’s really lame.

(Even sfist, which ranks the local weeklies every week, took these guys to task.)

SF weekly sold


Bill gates bought the sf…