As reported this morning, the Press Democrat has been sold by Florida-based interim owners Halifax Media Acquisitions to a group of local investors, including lobbyist and developer Darius Anderson and former North Coast Congressman Doug Bosco.
The company, Sonoma Media Investments LLC, also bought the Sonoma Index-Tribune earlier this year.
According to the report:
Other key players in the purchase group include Steven Falk, former president and publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle and chief executive of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and Bill Hooper, president of Anderson's development firm, Kenwood Investments, and a former executive with Clear Channel Outdoor, the billboard advertising company.
Darius Anderson has a long history as a high-powered lobbyist for companies like PG&E, Station Casinos, Pfizer, Microsoft and Catellus, and has worked for Clint Eastwood and been a fundraiser for Gray Davis. In 2010, Anderson was fined half a million dollars in a corruption probe. He currently wants to build a $30 million boutique hotel off the Sonoma plaza.
Doug Bosco is another beast entirely, and could wield the type of political influence over the Press Democrat that many of its newsroom writers may not like. With ties to the Savings & Loan scandal and, as a congressman, implicated in the check-bouncing scandal, Bosco is a behind-the-scenes powerbroker with deep interests in gravel mining, timber and development. His close friend, Eric Koenigshofer, is the attorney for the redwood-clearcutting Preservation Ranch project in northwestern Sonoma County, and appears to have Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo in his back pocket. Anderson, in fact, interned for Bosco in the mid-'80s, and another one of the "Bosco Boys" (yes, they have a cutesy name) is Robert Bone, responsible for the infamous race-mongering 2010 campaign mailer against Pam Torliatt.
Think we're going to get fair and balanced coverage out of this ownership?
Halifax hasn't been great to the Press Democrat, and all they've really done for the paper is put it up for sale to help recoup their purchase from the New York Times of 15 other news properties, all located in the southeast United States. Earlier last month, they imposed a gag order on the editorial board in endorsing candidates for elected office, but otherwise, they've kept the newsroom intact.
Let me be clear: I think local ownership of the daily paper of record is a good thing. But in his role as a self-styled political kingmaker, it's hard to imagine Bosco keeping his business interests away from the newsroom he now owns. You don't buy a newspaper in 2012 to get rich. You buy a newspaper in 2012 to gain influence. Remember that when you read the Press Democrat from now on.
UPDATE: An editorial source at the Press Democrat requesting anonymity tells us that we're rushing to judgement here, and that maintaining business and journalistic independence for the paper is the very, very clear intention from everyone involved. The source also tells us that this point will be much clearer in the coming weeks.
We certainly hope so.
Today we're hearing that the Pacific Sun, the weekly paper in Marin, has been sold by its current owners Embarcadero Media.
UPDATE: Editor Jason Walsh has made the announcement official.
The new owner is Bob Heinen, one of the initial employees and an early shareholder in Embarcadero Media, the Palo Alto-based company that has owned the Sun since 2004.
Heinen, who will relocate to Marin from Menlo Park and become publisher of the Sun, served as a senior financial and operations manager in Embarcadero Media until 2005, when he left to pursue other media-related projects.
According to the release, the Sun will stay in its current offices. The current staff will remain, except for current publisher Gina Allen—an unusually conservative figure who's signed petitions in support of Chik-Fil-A (adjacent), reposts about "Obama's Racial politics" and has a strange understanding of Planned Parenthood.
The Pacific Sun is the country's second longest running altweekly, established in 1963. Longtime owner Steve McNamara sold the Pacific Sun to Embarcadero Media in 2004.
This makes for a busy day in the altweekly media world. Village Voice editor Tony Ortega announced this morning that he's leaving the long(est)-running altweekly, and the Voice's irreplaceable Music Editor Maura Johnston appears to have been laid off, too.
Life in Hell, which ran in the Bohemian for over ten years, featured three talking rabbits (one of which has only one ear, curiously) and a gay couple. The characters began their careers through Groening’s self-publication in 1978, later running in the LA Weekly in the ’80s.
At the zenith of the strip’s popularity, Groening’s five characters appeared in 379 newspapers—but as more papers turned to cutting their comics content due to restraints in budget, this number dwindled down to 38. Even the comic’s first home canned the strip in 2009.
In an interview with USA Today, Groening admits that Life in Hell prevented him “from doing other projects.” He had originally blocked out his Friday afternoons for the comic but now hopes to spend the newly cleared time slot to other new things in his life. “I’ve had great fun, in a Sisyphean kind of way,” Groening told the Poynter Institute, “but the time has come to let Binky and Sheba and Bongo and Akbar and Jeff take some time off.”
Here's today's bonkers tidbit from a story about Facebook's impending IPO in the New York Times: In 2005, street artist David Choe painted some murals in Facebook's offices and was offered, as compensation, his choice of either a few thousand dollars or meager 0.1 percent of the company's stock.
He thought the idea of Facebook was "ridiculous." But he chose the stock.
And now he's expected to make $200 million when Facebook goes public.
Learn your lesson from Al Jolson, folks, who allegedly turned down a stock offer of 25-percent ownership in Warner Bros. to make The Jazz Singer, instead accepting $75,000. Take the stock!
Maybe it's because it my all-time favorite movie, but when the Bernard Herrmann score from the unfuckwithable Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo was hijacked and reused in The Artist, I sided with Vertigo star Kim Novak: "My body of work has been violated by The Artist," she said. "I believe this kind of filmmaking trick to be cheating. Shame on them!"
To no one's surprise, The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius defended the usage as a tribute, which is what everybody says when they steal an idea verbatim without adding anything of their own to it. Taking music from a very famous movie and putting it in your movie is not a "tribute." It's just a stupid thing to do.
Yo, Hazanavicius! Take a cue from Bike Monkey, who actually pay tribute to Vertigo by at least slightly manipulating some of Saul Bass' title design for the cover of their latest issue:
See what they did there? See how they changed it, so that it fits a magazine called Bike Monkey? See how they're not trying to pull one over on anybody, but slyly tip the hat to a master? (Like Antioch Arrow did with their stenciled Man With the Golden Arm-inspired LP?)
That's how it's done.
This morning, media blogger Jim Romenesko caught this screengrab from the site of Halifax Media Holdings, LLC, based in Florida, listing among their companies the Press Democrat and other regional papers owned by the NYT.
The arrangement was later announced formally in this NYT press release.
The Times' Regional Media Group consists of 16 small and mid-size newspapers. Forbes' Jeff Bercovici has more:
Why sell? For starters, the Regional Media Group’s fortunes have been trending downward. Its revenues were down 6.7% through the first nine months of 2011, versus a 0.4% dip for the New York Times itself and a 5.5% decline for the Boston Globe, which isn’t part of the sale.
Press Democrat publisher Bruce Kyse broke the news to staff in meetings this morning. No purchase price has been announced.
This cannot possibly bode well for the Press Democrat, especially since Halifax CEO Michael Redding does not exactly seem to have the best reputation. In April last year, he purchased the Daytona Beach News-Journal, slashed staff and immediately replaced the editor; this year, Redding shattered the long-respected firewall between editorial and sales and actually asked News-Journal reporters to sell advertising and subscriptions:
Daytona Beach News Journal Publisher Michael Redding marked the one-year anniversary of the newspaper under his co-ownership with an offer to most of the 400-some remaining employees of the paper, including editors and reporters: Anyone selling a three-month subscription to the paper would get a $25 bonus, or $50 for a six month subscription. Anyone selling $100 worth of advertising would get $50.
This, in brief, is a goddamn crazy, unethical, unheard-of thing.
Best of luck to our many friends over at the Press Democrat, who no doubt are today wishing they'd taken a Times severance package while they had the chance. The only silver lining we can see is that at least the paper wasn't sold to the Bay Area News Group, which basically owns every paper in the Bay Area except for the San Francisco Chronicle; media monopolies are never a good thing.
And one more thing: maybe, just maybe, the Press Democrat will now restore Luther Burbank's "chosen spot" quote to the top of the Empire News section. It was a beautiful local touch that for some reason died with the NYT acquisition.
But with headquarters in Florida, who knows what'll happen?
Christine Tafoya is busy. She and husband Patrick recently opened the riotously successful Restaurant P/30 in Sebastopol; she’s the owner of in-demand graphic design company Deluxe Modern, and she’s the proud mother of two zippy daughters. The woman’s plate is full. But when she read about Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teenager whose school canceled its prom rather than allow two girls to attend it together, Tafoya found time to be impressed by the situation’s intense witlessness.“It’s so ridiculous!” she told us. “What ages are we even living in? I guess being in California, I can never see that happening. People are so liberal and nonjudgemental, we’re kind of spoiled. Plus, one of my good friends is a lesbian and it’s the best thing that ever happened to her. She dated boys and when she came out she found total peace and happiness.”
The ACLU has taken on McMillen’s case, filing a complaint in federal court charging the Itawamba County School District with violating her First Amendment rights. As part of its outreach campaign, the legal group recently announced a logo design contest on Facebook, where the issue is carefully watched by 379,080 people and counting. “Constance will select her favorite from the entries,” the contest promised. Hundreds of logos flooded in -- Tafoya’s contribution among them. “I thought, well shoot, there’s no reason for me not to. This is what I sit around and do all day anyway. And I completely am passionate about creating something that would get their point across, put a picture to the cause.” Just like that, bam, Sonoma County’s own was in the top five designs presented to the teenaged celebrity.
McMillen has been interviewed by Dan Savage, appeared on the Ellen Degeneres, Wanda Sykes, and Joy Behar shows, the CBS Early Show, and MSNBC, and is scheduled to speak at this weekend’s GLSEN conference in Washington, DC. A court hearing was set for today, at which the U.S. District Court of Northern Mississippi may issue an injunction against the school board, preventing it from canceling the prom, and from preventing McMillen from wearing her tuxedo.
(We can hear you sputtering, and we validate your sputtering. We also sputtered when we heard about the tux.)
The winning logo, a serviceable affair featuring three mix-gendered couples, the relentless blue of Internet-land, and the legend “Prom Is For Everyone,” will appear on an ACLU Web site near you. But we like Tafoya’s design better, with its sweet and girly pair of girls in powder-blue and cotton-candy pink prom dresses complete with bows and flowers.
A good sport, Sebastopol native Tafoya (Analy Class of ’88) bears the winner no ill will. “I was thrilled to be where I ended up. Because this isn’t about being gay or straight; this is about being closed-minded. It’s a really big deal.”
We have taken so many kind calls today re the Oxycontin image in the Jan. 6 paper.
Here's the deal: Stephan R., the subject, was fine with having his name shown on his ID because a scan of that text is not (yet) Google-able. Our original caption reflected that. An hour before presstime, our copyeditor suggested that, just to do our highest diligence, we alter the image to obscure his name entirely and that we change the caption. We did both things. However, and no one can quite figure this out, the image that went to press was the original. Stephan R. is not harmed by this and, while we feel like dolts, we do thank all who have contacted us about it! One young woman just suggested that if we needed to take all the papers back off the streets (30,000 and counting) we could act today, so that's why she called. . . .
Good thing Deirdre Miller didn't wear a Nirvana shirt and flannels in 1994, or the SRJC wouldn't ever be able to get away with reusing the above 15-year-old photo for their brand-new 2010 Career Technical Education Guide, mailed out last week. Is it really so hard to shoot new photos instead of digging one out from 15 years ago? "Maybe I was the only girl to ever take an automotive class or something," says Miller, who now works in lingerie and thinks the whole thing is pretty funny.
DJ Brian Griffith mans the panels while some $1,000 worth of wine sits out at 8:30am on April 1 —no joke— after Ziggy's morning show. Barely seen to the left is Ziggy spreading French chévre onto bread before topping it with a smidge of fig jam because it's just so good with $600 Pinot in the morning. I had three sips—Three! Sips!—and was unable to remember today's cover story while on air.