The San Francisco Bay Guardian executive editor offers his take on the deal announced last week that will merge the Cleveland Free Times and Cleveland Scene under new owners Times Shamrock. He wonders why "VVM couldn't create a monopoly, [but] another newspaper outfit apparently can." He's referring to when the Justice Department nixed a similar 2002 deal between New Times and Village Voice Media (then two separate companies) that shuttered the Free Times. Justice forced the sale of Free Times to a group of investors, and the paper reopened in May 2003. "I'll leave it to you to speculate on why we couldn't do this deal, but Times Shamrock could," VVM executive editor Andy Van De Voorde says. Redmond says the Justice Department has yet to respond to his request for comment.
Executive editor Tim Redmond and former ad director Jody Colley were called as witnesses yesterday in the predatory pricing trial against the Weekly and Village Voice Media. Redmond's testimony centered on local ownership and the crucial matter of editorial spending. The Guardian is arguing that the Weekly was trying to put them out of business because it refused to cut editorial spending while it lost money overall. On the other hand, the Weekly reports that Redmond said he has had to struggle with laying off writers and editors over the past few years. "If [ad] revenue goes down, I have to cut costs. The Weekly editors don't have to meet that kind of budget; they can just get more money from headquarters," Redmond writes on the Guardian's blog. Colley, who is now the publisher of the East Bay Express, testified mostly about the Weekly's dealings with concert promoter Billy Graham Presents, which the Guardian claims is an example of illegal below-cost pricing. Her testimony will continue when the trial resumes this morning.
"My mother back in Kansas City likes to tell her friends that I work at the Washington Post, because I think she's embarrassed about alternative newspapers," says Tim Carman, who writes the Young & Hungry column for City Paper. He tells Cork & Knife that working with the award-winning critic Robb Walsh at the Houston Press earlier this decade (when Carman was managing editor) jump-started his desire to "do something with food," but his bum knee prevented him from actually working in a restaurant. He landed the City Paper gig ("I didn't think I had a shot," he says), and now eats in restaurants close to twice a day. "Your dining routine is an endless search for the new and interesting," he says when asked about the toughest part of his job. "Sometimes, I (or my wife, Carrie, god bless her) would just like to relax and unwind in an old familiar place."
In a preview of an on-campus panel discussion about The Onion, Tim Keck tells a student newspaper that he and Chris Johnson (now publisher of Albuequrque's Weekly Alibi) started the satirical newspaper in their dorm room in 1988 in honor of Keck's hometown paper. "At the time, (the Oshkosh Northwestern) was really bad, and the headlines were unwittingly hilarious," Keck says. He also tells the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's The Spectator that Johnson's uncle came up with the name, which derives from the steady diet of onion sandwiches that penury compelled the co-founders to consume during their college days.
"The Bay Guardian and Media Alliance have succeeded in getting about 90 percent of the previously secret records in the (MediaNews/Hearst antitrust) case opened to public review," says editor Tim Redmond (pictured). "But you wouldn’t know that from reading the news stories in the monopoly dailies that the suit challenges." The San Francisco Chronicle and the Associated Press both botched the story, claims Redmond, because they ignored the fact that, among other things, the newspaper chains immediately agreed to surrender most of their secret documents when the Bay Guardian and its non-profit partner filed a motion to unseal the records in the case. The Associated Press reporter admitted his mistake, Redmond says: “I plead guilty to leaving out the background,” David Kravets told Redmond, who says the inaccuracies are emblematic of the "monopoly media world of the Bay Area, 2007."
That was one of the questions asked last night during a panel discussion in San Francisco on "The Coming Media Monopoly: Concentration of Press Ownership and Its Effects on Democracy." It will surprise few AAN members that panelists Stephen Buel, editor of Village Voice Media's East Bay Express, and Tim Redmond, executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, didn't see eye-to-eye on the matter. According to the "alternative online daily" BeyondChron, Buel said the Express' sale to VVM-predecessor New Times allowed the paper to hire more staff, purchase new computers and rent more office space. "In the past year, I've seen members of an alternative newsweekly buy houses in the Bay Area, and I think that's cool,” Buel said. Redmond disagreed, arguing that conglomeration results in homogenization of content and the pricing out of any true independent press.
The impetus behind the walkout was apparently a refusal by the newspaper's publishers to print the Danish cartoons that caricature Muhammad and have caused protests and riots in several countries. In an e-mail to the New York Observer, editor in chief Harry Siegel explained that "the editorial group -- consisting of myself, managing editor Tim Marchman, arts editor Jonathan Leaf and one-man city hall bureau Azi Paybarah ... have no desire to be free speech martyrs, but it would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we'd criticized others for not running." Siegel went on to say that he had long dreamed of running the Press, thought that the staff had "come quite a ways in only a few months towards restoring the paper's tarnished editorial reputation and credibility," and hoped "that under new ownership and leadership it can again be an invaluable read for all good Gothamites."