Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Coursey: Strong Enough to Admit Lapse in Judgement

Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 8:11 PM


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.

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NIMBY? Not I, Said the Little Green Marin

Posted By on Wed, Apr 3, 2013 at 11:26 AM


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.

She writes:

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:

A Bohemian article on Marin's affordable housing issues.

A Bohemian article on Lucas' promises of affordable housing.

A Press Democrat article on Lucas abandoning the original project.

A Marin Independent Journal article on the local opposition of the zoning.

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Genetically Engineered Marketing: A New Reality

Posted By on Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 1:11 PM


Sonoma County's Go Local campaign exists because a "more economic self-reliance a community achieves the greater the economic health for them," according to its website.

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.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Is Darius Anderson Buying the Napa Valley Register?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 10:36 PM

According to a post earlier today by the Sonoma Valley Sun, the "word on the street" is that Sonoma Media Investments will soon buy the Napa Valley Register.

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.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Watch the New York Times Talk About That "Stack of Free Newspapers" Called Alt-weeklies

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 4:12 PM

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.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Four (More) Jobs for the Marin County Kumbaya Patrol

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 6:23 PM

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.

This is not what Kumbaya looks like.
  • This is not what Kumbaya looks like.

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.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SF Weekly Sold to the Guy Who Also Owns the Bay Guardian

Basically, the SF Weekly and the Guardian hate each other's pulp. How's this going to play out?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 9, 2013 at 11:31 AM


Just in time to miss what would have been the world's most awkward company Christmas party, Village Voice Media announced today its sale of the SF Weekly to the boringly-named San Francisco Newspaper Company. The company, led by Todd Vogt, also owns the Examiner—which I guess is still a paper?—and more importantly, the competing Bay Guardian.

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.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

What Would a Psychopath Do?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 7, 2013 at 3:10 PM

Did you know that 1 in 25 bosses have psychopathic tendencies? Actually, that sounds about right. The information comes from a new book by psychologist Kevin Dutton, The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success.

The book also lists the top ten jobs with the highest rate of psychopaths.

1. Chief Executive Officer
2. Lawyer
3. Media (Television/Radio)
4. Salesperson
5. Surgeon
6. Journalist
7. Police officer
8. Clergy person
9. Chef
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
2. Nurse
3. Therapist
4. Craftsperson
5. Beautician or stylist
6. Charity worker
7. Teacher
8. Creative artist
9. Doctor
10. Accountant

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.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Trouble with Narcissism: Finding a Balance Between Journalism and First-Person Narratives

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 3:26 PM

When all else fails, just read Joan Didion.
  • When all else fails, just read Joan Didion.
A piece by Gawker reporter Hamilton Nolan, Journalism Is Not Narcissism has stirred up quite the discussion. In the post, which has amassed thousands of page views and many comments since it went up yesterday afternoon, Nolan takes to task journalism students (and teachers) that emphasize writing about the self at the expensive of writing about the world. "Writing about yourself can be part of a balanced journalism diet, but it sure ain't the whole fucking meal," writes Nolan, before encouraging young writers to look beyond the mirror towards the billions of people in the world with interesting lives, and with stories that need to be told.

Stephan Elliott, the author of skewed and brilliant memoir The Adderall Diaries begs to differ in The Problem With the Problem With Memoir up today at the Rumpus. Elliot argues that writing about the self, in a form most often called memoir, doesn't necessarily equal narcissism.

"If you know journalists then you know there are many among them you would consider narcissists. And if you know memoirists, especially the really good ones, you know they are more curious than most about the world around them. I’m thinking of the few that I know well, Dave Eggers, Tobias Wolff, Cheryl Strayed, Nick Flynn. These are all amazing listeners. They inhale their surroundings."

For Elliot, good writing,whether about the self or the world (or both), means making connections to the larger world. This can be done with both the memoir and the journalism form. Over on her Tumbler, Roxane Gay (a writer who has mastered the art of making her own life into art without forgetting about the larger world) makes an argument for the necessity of telling a story in her post The Things They Carry, while arguing that its possible to make room for our own stories and and those of all of the more "interesting" people in the world. Like Elliot, who uses as Joan Didion and Tobias Wolff as examples of people who use the self to illuminate grander ideas, Gay argues that great writers can take any raw material and make it into something worth reading.

Besides, what's so awful about letting people tell their stories? "There is a proliferation of first person narratives because our stories are the one thing we carry with us that cannot be discarded or lost or, we hope, forgotten," she writes.

This morning, we had a short discussion in the Bohemian office about "navel-gazing" and its place in writing. The conclusion was that it's all about balance. Mention yourself, but don't worship yourself. And make sure to spend just as much time not mentioning yourself at all. Truthfully, journalists should be careful of over-using "I," especially when the self becomes more important and interesting to the writer than the subject at hand. But journalists and memoirists are two different animals. A journalist is not a memoirist. A memoirist is not a journalist. I've written my share of "first-person" stories for the paper, but just as often enjoy writing third-person pieces about fascinating people and events in my small community. Stories like these provide a chance to step outside of the self and to make connections outside of the almighty pit of the I. It's all about finding the middle ground between the two forms.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Press Democrat Ownership Includes Sandy Weill, Norma Person, Jean Schulz, More

Posted By on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 1:36 PM

As reported in this week's news story, the Press Democrat is being sold to a local group of investors, including lobbyist Darius Anderson and former congressman Doug Bosco.

The sale of the Press Democrat was completed today, with additional investors in the 115-year-old paper, though not a sale price or each individual's percentage of ownership, announced just now.

They include:

Norma Person, whose late husband, Evert Person, sold the Press Democrat to the New York Times in 1985. She lives in Santa Rosa.

Sandy Weill, former Citigroup CEO with an active role in repealing the Glass-Steagall act and donor to the Green Music Center. He lives on Sonoma Mountain.

Jean Schulz, widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. She lives in Santa Rosa.

Gary Nelson, founder of Nelson staffing. He lives in Sonoma.

Bill Jasper, CEO and president of Dolby Sound from 1983 to 2009. He lives in Sonoma.

Les Vadasz, founding member of Intel Corporation. He lives in Sonoma.

The makeup of the Press Democrat's ownership is getting very, very interesting. The involvement of Norma Person is welcome, surely—when owned by the Persons, the Press Democrat had a decidedly local feel. But expect plenty of noise to be made about Sandy Weill, whose $12 million donation to the Green Music Center was not without considerable scrutiny, even in the pages of the Press Democrat itself. A reliable source once related that Weill wasn't pleased with the Press Democrat for the criticism his history on Wall Street was garnering. You know what they say: if you can't beat 'em, buy 'em.

Best of luck to our many friends over at the Press Democrat as this sale goes through. Often, change of ownership is a reason to cut staff and restructure benefits, and we truly hope that this isn't going to be the case for the newspaper's employees. More importantly, we hope that what ownership spokesman and former San Francisco Chronicle publisher Stephen Falk says is true: that this new ownership won't meddle in the objective reporting of the newsroom.

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