Metro Silicon Valley Stops Press, Breaks Story

Accusations of mayor's affair with staffer brought to light by San Jose weekly.

“Stop the presses!”

In the movies, Michael Keaton socks Glenn Close in the eye and the audience cheers. In real life, there’s little applause when this rare, expensive decision has to be made, especially when it’s the result of an inaccuracy or potential libel.

But fear of legal liability wasn’t the culprit last week when Metro Silicon Valley called timeout. Its editor hit the magic button a third of the way through the press run to report allegations of marital infidelity by the mayor with a member of his staff. Metro broke the story and was credited by the area’s other news organizations for doing so.

“This story had been floating around for months,” said Dan Pulcrano, editor of the San Jose, Calif.-based AAN-member weekly and president of the Metro Newspapers 10-paper chain. “It was the worst kept secret around … [but] nobody had confirmation.”

Pulcrano didn’t realize how much buzz the unreported allegations had generated until after the paper was put to bed and he heard people outside the newsroom speculating about the mayor’s relationship with a woman nearly half his age. He decided to run the story in Public Eye, a “chatty,” unsigned political column. It was the first time Metro has ever stopped the presses to change a story in the middle of a press run.

It was a good call. Within hours after the paper hit the streets, the mayor held a press conference and admitted the affair (he is in the process of seeking a divorce). Pulcrano said he doesn’t want to be known as the paper that breaks sex scandals, because his reporters are better than that. Nevertheless, the weekly’s editors are glowing in the aftermath of their success, even granting interviews to other news outlets.

“This wound up being a huge Bay Area story,” Pulcrano said.