Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Outrage over Reilly case misplaced

Bay Guardian editorial:

In the days following the historic settlement of Clint Reilly's lawsuit against the Bay Area's newspaper barons, the local dailies, the media blogs, and the trade publications such as Editor and Publisher were buzzing with debate and speculation over a few of the agreement's terms.

Would Reilly actually get space in the local papers to make his political points every month? Where would that space go? Would it be paid ad space, or would he get it free? Would he be able to appoint a citizen member to the editorial boards of Dean Singleton's dailies (including the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times)? Or could the papers' managers reject his nominations?

Back and forth, back and forth. And all of it entirely missed the point.

This was the fine print of the deal, the stuff that, a few months from now, nobody will remember or care about.

You could get the real news from the headline in a blog post by former Chronicle city editor Alan Mutter: "Hearst-MediaNews deal scuttled."

That's what happened here: Reilly, acting with his own money, with no support from the federal or state regulators, broke up a deal that would have put the owners of the Chronicle directly in business with Singleton's MediaNews Group, the owner of almost every other major daily in the region. It would have been the end of daily newspaper competition in the Bay Area.

The Hearst Corp., documents that came out during the suit showed, wanted to combine some printing, distribution, and sales efforts with MediaNews Group. And Hearst wanted to convert an investment in MediaNews into direct stock in the company's local papers. That would have, in effect, made one of the last non-MediaNews papers in the area part of the same business group.

As G.W. Schulz reports in "Beyond the Reilly Settlement," on page 11, if Reilly hadn't intervened, nobody would have known about it until it was over and too late to stop. That's the point here, and that's what journalists, political scientists, and critics ought to be talking about.

Instead, we've heard outrage from some editors over the fact that Reilly might get some space in the papers. It's really a nonissue; he could have bought ad space for his opinions anyway, and all that the settlement did was give him that space free. And a lot of papers ask citizens to serve on advisory boards; Reilly's nominees are very unlikely to change anyone's editorial policies.

Meanwhile, where is the outrage over the original Hearst-MediaNews deal, which would have ended editorial competition the same way the 1965 joint operating agreement between the Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner did?

1 comment:

Kent said...

Hello Kathy,

My name is Kent Schnake. Nathan's aunt Sharon just moved out to our house in Oregon this week. She wants to get in touch with you and Nathan via e-mail. I told her that if the name was Shrenk and you both fooled with computers, it would be a simple matter to track you down using the superlative Google search engine ;-)
That was true enough, but I don't see an e-mail address on your profile. We can get things started if you send me your e-mail address, I am at kschnake@gmail.com

I can set Sharon up with her own e-mail account and she can use one of our computers to correspond.

Sorry to use a blog comment for a missive of this nature, but it seemed most expedient.

I have been using blogspot for years at www.kentslife.blogspot.com
I am a big fan of the whole web 2.0 deal. But this is not about me, just a bit of explanation about why this odd geezer named Schnake would use this odd way to contact you about your aunt :-)