Holy mackerel, media junkies! I came across this gem on Salon.com and what a doozy it is.
My impetus in writing on media issues for the Bohemian is to make the media landscape a better place. That may be bold and ambitious, possibly megalomaniacal—and oddly enough, if it worked, I would ostensibly be making myself irrelevant. But that's my goal.
I was a reporter with the North Bay Business Journal for about three and a half years. I have written for myriad other publications, but nowhere else did I receive regular press releases about and from businesses and institutions I wrote about. The job of marketers is to market, and they did it, and did it well. My job as a reporter was to sift through and find the "news," and this was my judgment call. For some reason I was allowed to be the "gatekeeper." (A term thrown around in J school which I find sort of funny.) But the point is that I looked at these releases and determined whether there was real news value or whether they were things marketers were trying to slip past me as news so they wouldn't have to pay for advertising.
It's a tough job, but someone has to do it.
Anyway, this well-written column from Salon, by Andrew Leonard, is about exactly the sort of thing that has troubled me.
That trusted news sources (in this case, the author is calling out a Forbes magazine article for saying Google shouldn't discriminate between news and sponsored content, i.e. ADVERTISING) aren't making sure their readers know the difference between actual stories and advertising is maddening.
The Forbes writer, Jeff Bercovici, argues that Google's recent stance against this kind of media manipulation is OK.
But even if Google’s stance isn’t a threat to the native business model, its approach here leaves something to be desired. When Google wanted to address the infestation of content farm crud in its search result, it didn’t have to threaten to block the perpetrators from showing up in search unless they played by its rules. It simply watched how its users responded to content farmed articles and used those signals to adjust its algorithm accordingly.
That’s the sort of elegant engineering solution we’ve come to expect from Google, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t apply here. If Google News users think some sponsored content is news, who is Google to say otherwise?
I'm sorry, but I am a Google News user, and I absolutely mind if there are paid-for or even not-paid-for advertisements posing as news stories!
How can we have a press that actually makes a difference in our lives if it is half advertising masquerading as editorial? We can't. I think they call that propaganda. Kudos Google, at least this time, for drawing a line in the sand.
Sonoma Media Group (not to be confused with Sonoma Media Investments, who own the Press Democrat, the Petaluma Argus-Courier and the Sonoma Index Tribune and other associated publications) today announced a $4.5 million deal to buy five local radio stations which were owned by Maverick Media Group, LLC.
I wish the investment group had chosen a different name, as it could be confusing to media consumers which local group owns which local press. The similarity is reminiscent of when North Bay Biz magazine changed their name after the North Bay Business Journal, which targets the same audience, changed its name so long ago.
Maverick Media sold KSRO, The Mix, Hot, The River and Froggy in the multi-million dollar deal. According to the Press Democrat's story, Lawrence Amaturo, "who previously owned KSRO and several other radio stations," will take over the radio stations as owner/operator in May.
A round of applause to Chris Coursey for his self-critique published today in the Press Democrat.
After going through several front-page stories that acknowledged "human error" (Winnie-the-Pooh fake being one) or otherwise contained mistakes in judgement, he chastised himself for not seeing the forest for the trees in the Willits bypass story—i.e., calling the Mendocino County tree-sitting demonstrator's tactics "futile and dangerous" and having faith that "cooler heads" (i.e. CHP and Caltrans) would work something out.
Of course, that was before bulldozers and SWAT teams were unleashed.
Whoever made that call was obviously a lot more of a hothead than anyone predicted, and I'm not sure Coursey needs to concern himself with too much hand-wringing in this case. (Not like the torrent of apologies a few weeks ago by journalists who supported the Iraq War.) But we have to say, it's always nice to see some self-editing and ownership when errors have been made.
In a Los Angeles Times article republished Monday in the Press Democrat, reporter Maria L. La Ganga writes about the saga starring George Lucas, his abandoned film studio project (pictured) and his promised replacement of hotly contested affordable housing.
His next move, some here say, was payback for what Lucas described in a written statement as the "bitterness and anger" expressed by his neighbors.
Interesting to me is that this story is written by someone from the Times, over 400 miles away. A planning commission meeting where affordable housing minimums are discussed isn't often statewide news—but then again, this is Marin we're talking about here. La Ganga mentions the statistic that that 60 percent of Marin's workforce commutes from out of the area. She also reports there have been protestors seen in Marin wearing buttons with the slogan "End Apartheid in Marin County" as a stance against the disparity.
A report from Live Local Marin, Miles From Home, puts into detail the commuting numbers mentioned above, along with plenty of other pertinent info—like that many of those workforce commuters make less than $40,000 per year.
Lucas' projects, along with the topic of affordable housing in Marin — which some would call an oxymoron — have garnered quite a bit of attention in the local press. The issue is far from resolved, and this reporter is looking forward to reading the sequels and finding out how the story unfolds.
For a little back story on the project and Marin's housing issues:
Zack Darling, head honcho at Zack Darling Creative Associates and local legend of dance party fame, recently introduced Go Local to the Ladybug Demographic, something University of Kansas demographer Dr. Harold Swanson calls "mostly 18-24 year old women skulking the underground club scene in mid-western small towns."
Thinking it was a joke, Go Local dismissed Darling's claims until today, April 1, when they realized Darling's cutting-edge conception is indeed a reality - and decided to tap into that demographic with a new branding concept.
It promises to be a brilliant breakthrough for Go Local, which until now was reaching somewhat older small business owners, local bankers and overly-hippied-out Sebastopudlian Earth mamas.
The catch? To reach the "Ladybugs," as they like to be called, Go Local has teamed up with genetic engineers and is creating a ladybug that, instead of spots, has "Go Local" and "Local First" and "Grown Local" all over its back.
Sorry Mother Nature, Zack Darling is in the house, and it's about to get crazy up in here.
The investment group—which already owns the Sonoma Index-Tribune, the Press Democrat, the North Bay Business Journal and the Petaluma Argus-Courier, along with the rest of the Press Democrat's magazine and online properties—is headed up by lobbyist and developer Darius Anderson, a man of increasing infamy around these parts.
Anderson, speaking at a CNPA convention in Sacramento earlier this year, emphasized his desire to own more newspapers (to wit: he wants to "rape and pillage" other media properties). The Napa Valley Register, located just over the hill from Anderson's home in Sonoma, makes for a convenient newspaper to rape.
It might also be an easy one: I called the Napa Valley Register repeatedly today for a confirmation or denial of the rumor, and for hours, there was no answer. How does a newsroom get tips without answering the phone? (Neither the Sonoma Valley Sun nor William Hooper, one of the main investors of Sonoma Media Investments, responded today to calls either.)
The Napa Valley Register predates the Civil War—it was founded in 1853. Now, 160 years later, the paper is published by Napa Valley Publishing, which also publishes a series of smaller newspapers throughout the Napa Valley: the St. Helena Star, the Weekly Calistogan, the American Canyon Eagle and Hispanos Unidos. (Presumably, those papers would be included in a sale of the Register.) Napa Valley Publishing is owned by Lee Enterprises, which is headquartered in Iowa.
Meanwhile, Darius Anderson has been in the pages of his own paper quite a bit this week.
Spurred by the sad death of the Boston Phoenix, the New York Times posted a video today of A.O. Scott talking to David Carr about those strange, supposed fossils called alt-weeklies. It takes a certain suspension of disbelief to watch two critics from a daily newspaper talk about how alt-weeklies are becoming outdated because they've been replaced by the Internet, but whatever. David Carr worked for Washington City Paper and thinks The Stranger is awesome, so we humored their New York Times-ness and watched it anyway.
What this video does—really what all the post-Phoenix coverage has done—is try to define exactly what alt-weeklies do, what purpose they serve, what void would be left if they all went away. The two go through it point-by-point. For those under 30, they say, alt-weeklies are those papers you can get for free. They have (or once had) epic journalism, that you couldn't find anywhere else (which is pretty cool to hear on the Times' site). They're insanely local—almost tribal. They're crusaders. They're cheap, smeary newsprint with pictures of naked people in the back and hard-hitting, investigative reporting up front.
It's a decent summation, but let's take it a step further. After all, we at the Bohemian know what alt-weeklies are, because we work for one. We know that our staff IS bizarrely passionate about local arts and politics, to the point that we wonder why the rest of the world doesn't laugh at our incisive jokes about Assemblyman Jared Huffman's guitar. We can recite City Council quotes off-hand. We know that there's always at least one copy editor (only one, in our case) who dislikes social media and harbors some weird theories about the 30-year-old office robot's sex life. Also, we have a 30-year-old office robot. (Contrary to what our copy editor says, he doesn't have a sex life.) We've all, at one point or another, published pictures of our dogs. We love newspapers, and movies about newspapers, and books about newspapers with a fanatic, spiritual love, and sometimes, if we've had a strong beer, the mere thought of newspapers can make us cry.
>Anyway, you can watch the video here. Be careful. It might start making you feel nostalgic for something that still isn't gone.
It's great that the Marin County Kumbaya Patrol is ready to talk about gun control, and even better that they've been ready for quite some time now.
Still, now that the entity that sprang full-formed from the brain of Jon Stewart is a Facebook page, perhaps it could turn its attention to some issues closer to home. True, the hot-tub lovin' mecca of open space and naked people is always chock-full of love, except when it's not. Here are four local issues that could use some kumbaya.
1. Stop the Lawsuits!
Central Marin Sanitation Agency and Ross Valley Sanitary District have long waged costly legal battles with each other, despite multiple grand jury reports on the pair's disfunction. The latter has also been associated with a million-gallon sewage spill, an EPA investigation, claims of eco-terrorism, allegation of mismanaged housing dollars and a blog called "Ross Valley Sewer Truth."
2. Do Something About Eldercare
All you need to start cashing in on the eldercare industry in California is a business license, and in this elderly county, the industry is veering out of control.
3. Address Affordable Housing
We've said it before: According to Marin Community Foundation, 60 percent of the workforce commutes in. Of course, someone brought up the helpful point to the New York Times—upping the county's supply of low income units could turn Marin into Syria.
4. Talk About Domestic Violence
The wealthy county's number one violent crime, this often-underreported tragedy resulted in 800 calls to police, 2,500 calls to local hotlines and 2 deaths in 2009, according to a 2010 Grand Jury report.
The sale creates strange bedfellows indeed. The Bay Guardian, sold by Bruce "Read My Paper, Dammit" Brugmann to Vogt last year, played the role of Riff to the SF Weekly's Bernardo in a much-publicized altweekly turf lawsuit that ended in a $15.9 million settlement to the Guardian. Basically, the SF Weekly and the Guardian hate each other's pulp. Now they're both owned by Pappa Vogt. How's this going to play out?
The Voice also sold Seattle Weekly, because duh, The Stranger.
Press Release, Come On Down:
Voice Media Group today announces the sale of SF Weekly and Seattle Weekly. Specifically, SF Weekly LP has closed on the sale of SF Weekly to the San Francisco Newspaper Company, which is the publisher of The San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
The deal, effective immediately, means that the San Francisco Newspaper Company (“SFNP”) will assume operations for the paper beginning today. The sale of SF Weekly will allow Voice Media Group to focus on growth opportunities for mobile and online platforms and to develop core digital offerings in its other key markets.
“This is a strategic decision aligned with the long-term business goals of VMG,” said Scott Tobias, CEO of Voice Media Group. “Todd Vogt is known for his expertise in the local paper space and he is a great choice to take ownership of SF Weekly.”
Todd Vogt, President and Co-Owner of SFNP, added, “This is an exciting day for our company as we add a title that is recognized as one of the leading alternative weekly newspapers in the country. Village Voice Media Holdings built a great company of excellent newspapers. SF Weekly expands our commitment to deliver the very best local media coverage in San Francisco.”
Best of luck to all our friends at the SF Weekly, who no doubt are very nervous right now. Don't worry, guys—Tim Redmond's "JDLR" speech is actually kind of endearing the first 28 times you hear it.
The book also lists the top ten jobs with the highest rate of psychopaths.
1. Chief Executive Officer
3. Media (Television/Radio)
7. Police officer
8. Clergy person
10. Civil servant
I'm particularly interested in the reasoning behind #6, and not at all surprised by the the job that takes the #1 spot. Corporations were already diagnosed legally insane way back in 2003!
It's comforting to see that only one of these career paths allows for the legal use of gun power. Though it might make you think twice about getting surgery.
According to SF Gate, Smithsonian magazine makes it appear that psychopaths actually make nice neighbors and maybe even drinking buddies.
"Psychopaths don't procrastinate," the Smithsonian reports. "Psychopaths tend to focus on the positive. Psychopaths don't take things personally; they don't beat themselves up if things go wrong, even if they're to blame. And they're pretty cool under pressure."
I'm definitely bringing a psychopath along the next time I go on a high-stress adventure filled with eminent danger. Oh wait. As a journalist, I don't have to since I bring the psychopathic danger zone to all the parties.
The list of professions with the lowest rate of psychopaths is good too.
1. Care aide
5. Beautician or stylist
6. Charity worker
8. Creative artist
Seriously, craftsperson totally makes sense. What's more relaxing than constructing macrame plant holders and God's Eyes while wearing a knitted vest? Absolutely nothing. Hmmm, might be time to run out and get a loom to balance out all the psychopathic tendencies inherent in the newspaper business.