Thank heaven for bloggers’ reports on Citgo, 7-Eleven, Foley page setup, now elite media spying on journalists

——Mick Gregory

Now a blogger sheds light on the Foley gay outing story. The young man is 21, he was 18 at the time of the IM gross exchanges.

William Kerr, of Moore, Oklahoma is the author of the blog Passionate America, which is being credited with discovering the identity of the former House page who may have exchanged inappropriate instant messages with former Rep. Mark Foley, and that the former page now works for Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate Ernest Istook.

Kerr said he received e-mails and phone calls from national media outlets Wednesday, including the tabloid television program Inside Edition and Internet pundit Matt Drudge.

“I started thinking, ‘I’m not big enough to put this story out,’” Kerr said. “In the four days that we really worked on this, we just said to each other, ‘Do you know how big this is?’”

Kerr said he stumbled onto the former page’s AOL screen name when looking at transcripts of the instant messages on ABC’s Web site Saturday.

He said he typed a slightly-different Web address into his browser and found a version of the transcript with the screen name.

Kerr and another blogger spent several days researching on the Internet.

They had determined the page’s identity and were about to publish it when they found out he worked for Istook.

Kerr said he accidentally posted the story before he intended. Although he removed the post, the information already had spread.

He tried to verify the former page’s identity through Istook’s campaign office, but was turned away. Great work! This is turning out to be the Democrats’ October surprise.

Last week we learned on the network news about 7-Eleven dropping Venezuela-backed Citgo as its gasoline supplier after more than 20 years. This news has been posted on blogs for a month.

Management at 7-Eleven were worried anti-American comments made by Venezuelan President Hugo “Boss” Chavez might prompt motorists to fill up elsewhere. The 7-Eleven chain, which sells gasoline at 2,100 of its 5,300 U.S. stores, will now purchase fuel from several distributors, including Tower Energy of Torrance, Calif., Sinclair Oil of Salt Lake City and Houston-based Frontier Oil Corp. None of the gas will be from Venezuela.

Today we see that Citgo’s el presidente, Felix Rodriguez, appointed by Hugo Chavez, is making statements to Spanish television stations such as Univision that it was Citgo’s decision to drop 7-Eleven! That’s what 7-Eleven management gets for trying to downplay their decision.

The reality of the situation is that Hugo ‘the Hut’ Chavez signed a huge deal to sell oil to China and would like to keep the price per barrel as high as possible and try to ruin America’s economy. Hugo ‘the Hut’ would also like to be able to stop shipments of oil to America.
In another developing story, reporters attack HP for possibly spying on their managers and directors including the use of private investigators.
HP executives had to appear before a congressional hearing yesterday to explain themselves.

Yet, the San Francisco Examiner hired private investigators to follow reporters and used the evidence compiled to fire them. The Examiner staff, now merged with the San Francisco Chronicle, have their e-mails monitored and their Web use watched. The use of private eyes is most likely still in use. Those stories never see the light of day in the press.

Most IT companies monitor employee e-mails and Web use. Many use private investigators, but they are not the “high and holy” media. The media elite believe they are above the law.

And it’s The Chronicle editors telling the U.S. courts they have the right to leak (and profit from) grand jury content in the BALCO case.

Michael Rains is Bonds’ attorney. He pointed out in a rebuttle to The Chronicle reporters trying to use the courts to shield them, that Barry’s trainer and boyhood friend, Greg Anderson, has been found in contempt of court twice for refusing to testify and is in jail for a second term. Anderson, who earlier served three months after pleading guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering, has refused to tell the court whether he gave Bonds steroids. At issue is whether Bonds lied under oath when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he never knowingly took steroids.

Anderson’s testimony appears to be key to making a successful perjury case against Bonds.

They (the Chronicle reporters) need to be in jail,” Rains said of the reporters, whose work cast Bonds as a steroid-enhanced cheat.
“Other media people, of course, take exception with my attitude about that; but I say unless they go to jail, you make a complete mockery of the grand jury system. Since when can anybody declare that the purpose of our dealing with this issue has a larger purpose, and that is to educate the public?

“How can these guys sit there and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ve convinced kids in the Central Valley that they shouldn’t take steroids. And look at all the good that is coming.’

Come on, give me a break. This is all about money. It is all about a newspaper that was having financial problems. It is all about them making dough and how much they can make [from the book smearing baseball greatest players].”

Follow the money.

Follow the money in The Chronicle grand jury leaks

—–By Greg Michael

San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada gained fame and fortune, and made hundreds of thousands of dollars on their book that could destroy the careers of some of the biggest stars in the game of baseball. Their entire book was based on illegal leaks of grand jury evidence and private medical records of individuals.

If the players were minor leaguers, and not Barry Bonds, and Jason Giambi there would not have been the market for their smear book. Bonds denies knowingly taking steroids, but admitted using creams and concoctions provided by trainer Greg Anderson, who was indicted along with Conte of BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative). Bonds thought the meds were liniment and flaxseed oil.

The press is not a judicial branch of government; it is free enterprise, the free press. Most of the newspaper’s content is entertainment, local political arguments, gossip and sports. It is not a noble cause to illegally smear successful athletes, as is being orchestrated by the French media and sports organizations to defame Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis.

An Orlando reporter states the simple truth: “The Chronicle reporters knew the risks when they made a promise they have to keep. Setting that vow aside, it would be easy to avoid jail. Just tell the judge who fed them the information.”

To leak grand jury information ruins the court proceedings. The leak could be from one of the possibly guilty BALCO defendants, a friend of the Chronicle editor or the reporters. It could be a washed up baseball player who has everything to gain and nothing to lose by smearing bigger stars. Just follow the money. One who didn’t benefit was Bonds. I think history will side with Bonds, because history now takes in the research of citizen journalists on the Web, and not just the mainstream news.

This week, Barry Bonds was able to tie Hank Aaron’s NL home run record in the same city where Aaron started and ended his career.
Bonds’ hit his 733rd homer Friday night in Milwaukee. Yet Bonds’ hometown paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, plays up its reporters as the heros for illegally leaking medical records and grand jury comments.

Start the cuts at the LA Times at the top

 ——By Mick Gregory

The Tribune Company is under pressure to sell its largest paper, the Los Angeles Times, as you’ve read here and in the business press. The major trouble was coming from the Chandler family, the former owner of the and one of the company’s largest share holders in the stock and cash deal.

The Wall Street Journal reports that several prominent Los Angeles billionaires are interested in buying the L.A. Times, the nation’s No. 4 paper in terms of circulation. Business leaders in Los Angeles are also joining together to urge the Tribune not to make further staff and cost cuts at the paper, saying that it should sell the paper if it is not satisfied with results.

The Tribune bought the LA Times as part of its purchase of the Times Mirror Co. in 2000. The purchase made the Chandler family the company’s No. 2 shareholder in Tribune Co., and made the newspaper publisher party to two complicated partnerships with the
Chandlers, which could not be unwound until this month without negative tax consequences.

Scott Smith, president of Tribune Publishing, dismissed the idea of a sale of the L.A. Times in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He told the paper he sees the Times and its staff as a central source of content for other Tribune Co. newspapers.

But the Journal reports that Eli Broad, philanthropist and founder of insurer SunAmerica, and supermarket magnate Ronald Burkle, recently sat down with representatives of the Chandler family and their investment bankers to discuss how they might structure a deal to purchase the Times from the Tribune. However the paper reports people close to the Chandlers said these talks didn’t go far.

In addition, entertainment industry mogul David Geffen made his own separate, informal, all-cash offer to buy the Times, according to people familiar with the situation and reported as a major story on today’s DrudgeReport.com.

In response to all three overtures, Mr. FitzSimons wrote a letter saying the board had decided unanimously to not discuss the transaction “at this time,” according to a person who saw one copy. Tribune stock is down nearly 40 percent since the end of 2003. The company took on debt to finance a $2 billion share buyback earlier this year to try to help share price, a move that was opposed by the
Chandler family trust.

The Tribune is just one of  many newspaper companies with its share price sharply declining over the last 12 months; Gannett, the largest newspaper-centric company has seen its stock fall even even further, dropping more than 20 percent in the last year, while the New York Times has lost nearly 30 percent in that period.

The “death spiral” started when Knight-Ridder, one of the nation’s largest newspaper companies, and considered to be the most Web savvy, was acquired by the much smaller, McClatchy chain earlier this year under pressure from shareholders to sell its assets to make up for share price declines there. Since that purchase, McClatchy has sold off several former Knight-Ridder papers, some to local ownership groups. McClatchy stock has fallen at double digit rates. It’s the equivalent of a carriage company buying up all the buggy whip factories when Chevrolet and Ford got into the auto business.

LA Times Editor Baquet sets the table for his last supper

 —-By Mick Gregory

In what some regard as a highly arrogant move, Dean Baquet, who was named editor of the LA Times last year, was quoted yesterday in his own newspaper — saying he was defying the paper’s corporate owner, the Tribune Company in Chicago and would not make the cuts they requested. 

The paper’s publisher, Jeffrey Johnson, said he agreed with Baquet. “Newspapers can’t cut theirway into the future,” he told his reporter. 

The number of jobs at stake is unclear but the paper,the fourth largest in the country, has eliminated morethan 200 positions over the last five years from aneditorial staff that now numbers about 940. Some experts in the field believe that number is way too bloated.  

“Newsrooms have benefited from all the automation of computers and  software products, yet, they are the most labor-heavy of all media,” said Greg Michael, media analyst.

“I am not averse to making cuts,” Baquet told the paper he manages. “But you can go too far, and I don’t plan to dothat.” 

The LA Times reported that Scott Smith, president ofthe Tribune Publishing division, had asked the paper’sexecutives to come up with a plan for trimming theirbudgets, but when Mr. Smith visited
Los Angeles late
last month, they had produced no such plan. 
Baquet “made his opposition to further cuts clearand said there was no need for further discussion,” the LA Times reported.  Smith said in a statement: “In this rapidlychanging media environment, we are all workingtogether to best serve our communities, customers andshareholders.” The decision by The to take its battle against Tribunepublic may signal that Baquet is trying to rally support on the paper’s behalf, to affect a sale to local investors. Local businessmen have expressed interest in buying the paper.

Sure, Hollywood, movie stars… Life is good as an editor or publisher of the LA Times. But life is not as glamorous for stockholders in Park Ridge, Barrington and Hoffman Estates who are paying their big salaries in tinsel town.  

But at what price? Investors know not to try and grab a falling knife — Greg Michael  

The stock prices of most newspaper companies has been falling for about two years, yet many of their publications remain profitable. The Los Angeles Times reported that its operating profit margin was 20 percent, higher than that of most oil companies.   Many papers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer — have announced buyouts and job cuts over the last year. Newspaper costs, predominantly for newsprint and personnel, areoutstripping revenues and the Internet is siphoningoff readers and advertisers. The Belo Corporation announced yesterday that 111 newsroom employees at their flagship, The Dallas Morning News hadtaken buyout offers, leaving 450 editorial employees to retrench and focus mainly on local news. The dust has not yet settled on Dealey Plaza. “I expect further cuts in staff due to attrition and the heavy hand of management,” said Greg Michael of sadbastards.wordpress.com.  

Last month, David Black, whose Black Press is the new owner of The Akron Beacon Journal, laid off 40 editorialemployees, about 25 percent of the newsroom staff.

The cuts in other departments are rarely reported. Circulation help-desks are being off-shored to India. In a few years, why not some of the newsrooms?  

At The Los Angeles Times, circulation has been falling from its peak of 1.2 million in 1990. For the six months that ended in March, it was 851,500, down 5.4 percent from the period a year ago. It was the biggest drop among the top 10 dailies and more than twice theindustry average. 

The Tribune has been in particular turmoil because of aconflict in recent months with the Chandler family,its largest shareholder.  The
Chandlers have said
the company, in which The Los Angeles Times is the biggest business, is mismanaged and have called for the company to sell its assets.

“This is ironic, because it was the Chandlers who profited from the  inflated sale of Times-Mirror to the Tribune stockholders, and a major slice of their pie is Tribune stock which has fallen as the market found that stockholders paid too much, several billion dollars too much for the antiquated media giant,” Michael said.  

The Tribune board has defended management and has beenin talks with the Chandlers to try to iron out their differences. The company earlier this year bought back $2 billion worth of company stock in an attempt to prop up the stock price. They also have to make $200 million in cost cuts company-wide overthe next two years. The statements in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times seemed to be a declaration that Tribune would not find much of those savings in Los Angeles — or it could lose its top executives. 

Note to executives, get your resumes up to date.

“Tribune isn’t shy or sentimental,” said Martin Kaplan, associate dean of the Annenberg School forCommunication at the University of Southern California. “My guess is that they don’t want to be backed into a corner.” 

My guess is that the LA Times newsroom can function well at 500. And that Baquet will be getting his walking papers in the next couple of weeks.  

As expected, Dean Baquet was forced to resign as editor of the Los Angeles Times at the request of the publisher after he refused to agree to further cuts of his editorial staff.

Baquet’s departure was to be announced Thursday but word leaked out this afternoon and the 50-year-old editor confirmed to his staff that he would be leaving the paper Friday.

Baquet will be replaced by James O’Shea, who is now managing editor of the Chicago Tribune and a long-time employee of the Tribune company.

O’Shea starts the job Monday.

Desperate Clinton White House–Why?

—-By Mick Gregory

The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz deserves credit for at least bringing up the manipulation today by the  party, but he did not tell the powerful story of “Sandy” Berger’s destruction of evidence and the fact that Clinton was more interested in his image and sexual appitite than Osama bin Laden. Top officials of the administration have launched a preemptive strike against an ABC-TV docudrama, slated to air Sunday and Monday, that they say includes made-up scenes depicting them as undermining attempts to kill Osama bin Laden.  

Too bad Clinton didn’t launch a real preemtive strike against Osama, one has to ask

Former national security adviser Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger said the film “flagrantly misrepresents my personal actions.”

Mr. Kurtz, did you forget about the documents Sandy Berger admitted he destroyed regarding and terror plots?

It’s breathtaking, that the Democrats are so used to getting the white glove treatment by the mainstream media, that when some truth is shed on the sloppy Clinton administration, they think they can confuse the public and even prevent a major network from broadcasting details. Update — the Clinton administration did pressure ABC to change wording and some other demands. We will know more by the weekend.

Web 2.0 and will now connect the dots. The truth will come out in blogs in the coming weeks. Don’t miss the docudrama on ABC this Sunday and Monday.

Berger said in an interview that ABC is “certainly trying to create the impression that this is realistic, but it’s a fabrication.” Why did you destroy several documents on this subject matter, Mr. Burger? ABC will get a big audience from this, unknowing football fans looking for “Monday Night Football,” may actually stick around and learn something. Scores of them will be blogging later and help capture the truth for today and history.  

One year ago — “The Sept. 11 commission (search) did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9/11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell,” said Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from
Indiana. “Had we learned of it obviously it would’ve been a major focus of our investigation.”
 

Check out Dr. Sanity for a top Web site that has been following the Berger/Clinton  cover-up. http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2005/08/motive-for-bergers-bizarre-behavior.html
On Friday evening, Bill Clinton’s lawyers sent a new letter to ABC chief Bob Iger demanding that ABC yank “The Path to 9/11.” We’ve obtained a copy of the letter, and it reads in part: “As a nation, we need to be focused on preventing another attack, not fictionalizing the last one for television ratings. `The Path to 9/11′ not only tarnishes the work of the 9/11 Commission, but also cheapens the fith anniversary of what was a very painful moment in history for all Americans. We expect that you will make the responsible decision to not air this film.”

You too could date a diva if you work out at a gym like this newsman did!

—-Mick Gregory

Actor Rupert Everett writes about his life with the – a new book hitting the market with excerpts on the This is London Web page. Google it for some great reading.  “She ( ) was radiant in a jeweled dress; her husband (Phil Bronstein) looked like a pug from a downtown gym. We kissed and chatted and raised our eyebrows (this was in the days when one still could) as he seethed quietly beside her.  Many of the girls from the old school end up at some point with a bruiser. Initially they love the feeling of protection and exclusivity.  The intense power they have achieved at the studio has left them completely isolated, hard as nails and yet vulnerable as twigs, deliciously snappable.   The man in question is usually decent, simple and respected. He feels ten feet tall. She feels cozy and petite. Sex is a constantly exploding volcano. But at a certain point the novelty wears off. She feels trapped behind the fence. Her girlfriends are vetoed, she can’t bat an eyelid at a passing waiter, yet she must flirt to keep her engine tuned.  I don’t know whether Sharon and Phil’s marriage was like that, but before too long it was all over.” See, journalists can even win over a beautiful sex goddess, if you have the total macho image. Start body building today.

Black Tuesday at Ohio Newspaper

 —-Mick Gregory

More tales of fallen journalists, not long ago, known as a ‘holy’ profession by many; today it is the place for rich kids and losers. Earlier this month, Dave Wilson, who worked for a total of 18 years, 10 as a reporter and editor for the Akron Beacon Journal,went to a party.  He was on his way to a wake of sorts.  A fairly common practice in this rust belt area, where funeral parlors out number Starbucks.

He snatched up the mug and headed to a co-worker’s house, where Beacon employees were mourning the end of an era. Knight Ridder, once one of America’s largest newspaper chains, with papers from Philadelphia to San Jose, was officially dead. “Anyone got a golf club?”Wilson asked when he arrived. Someone slipped him a Big Buddie-sized driver. He placed the mug on a tee, then smashed  it into a cloud of ceramic chunks.

“It was like saying adios to that whole scenario,” he said. Once upon a time that stupid little cup had meant something special — something that fought to better people’s lives, earned Pulitzers for doing so, and allowed Wilson to be a proud provider. Now, on this crappy August day, it stood for something ugly — something full of defeat, anxiety, and loss. Knight Ridder had spent the past four years trying to appease the bottom line with layoffs and cutbacks that shrank the Beacon to the size ofOhio
State’s student newspaper. Then it sold the paper off like a rusted junk Ford. But not even the new owner, McClatchy, wanted anything to do with it. The company spit it back onto the auction block just days later. McClatchy quickly sold the Beacon to Black Press for $165 million. The Canadian company’s owner, David Black, assured the staff that he cared about “journalism,” and wasn’t going to lay anyone off. Some breathed a sigh of relief. Others were more realistic, they knew that even Knight Ridder had trouble making a profit at a rust belt property with no growth. “We knew more layoffs were coming,” Wilson says. A few weeks later, Black must have had a good look at the real numbers and said, “What the frick did I get for 1.6 million bucks!” On Tuesday, Black laid off 40 of the newsroom staff.  As the layoffs were announced, people ran to bathrooms, crying. Others fled to a downtown bar to numb the news. Ridder’s reign of terror hadn’t really ended, it seemed. “I was a little bit taken by surprise,”
Wilson said. “I thought there were others who were more expensive. I pretty much spent the whole next day seething with anger.”
Over rounds of MGD and whiskey, staffers pondered what led to the latest bloodletting. Just as Black bought the paper, it was losing its biggest advertiser, Kaufmann’s. The department store was being purchased by Macy’s, with a top-rate marketing team, they wouldn’t be wasting their advertising budget on a token schedule in a suburb of Cleveland. The Plain Dealer won’t be getting much print from Macy’s either, the giant retailer is now a national chain and will leverage that with national TV buys. It was a financial blow the Beacon did little to prepare for. It simply raised ad rates and ignored the rest. “People were just hoping it was gonna fix itself,” Wilson said.

“Newspapers have often succeeded in spite of themselves. That’s no longer the case.” Adds columnist David Giffels, who is now dealing with survivor guilt, having withstood the purge: “Daily newspapers are big old traditional companies that are slow to adapt . . . There hasn’t been that sort of fire to adapt in an aggressive way. And until they start, those numbers are never going to turn around.” But Knight Ridder was the epitome of an old, lethargic company. “It became so bureaucratic,”
Wilson says. “There were too many committees, and committees always make bad choices.”

I saw the offices of the San Jose Mercury News about four years ago. I’d guess that 60 percent of the desks were empty, a couple were even truned over. I asked a secretary if there were layoffs recently, she nodded and said she was a temp. I stayed for the job interview, but I knew it was not the profitable, thriving flagship that Knight Ridder portrayed. The newspapers don’t air their own dirty laundry. They are not in the  business of  broadcasting their own demise. In fact, these quotes from Black Tuesday don’t come from the little Ohio paper. They are from a free paper in Cleveland. The new media model is pointing to free weeklies with Web 2.0 blogs. Google the Cleveland Scene for the story you won’t read in the  mainstream media.

The death of newspapers is not greatly exaggerated

It’s not just the large metro papers in the US that are drying up, watch the small local papers fall  even faster, because their advertising budget is often a tertiary add-on buy, and the first to  be cut by the Macy’s,  Home Depots and new home builders. And the papers large and small all over the world are entering the ICU stages of their long lives. Just this week (so far) The masthead of the Oakland Press is a little lighter following the summary dismissal of three top editors on Monday. Editor Neil Munro, Managing Editor Susan Belniak Hood and Dolly Moiseeff, assistant managing editor for features and entertainment, were told their jobs were being eliminated with no warning, according to two of those who were fired.“I was encouraged to leave the building right away,” said Munro, who was the paper’s main editorial writer. “Turn in my door card and leave the building.”The dismissals come only weeks after the paper’s owner, the Journal Register Co. of Yardley, Pa., announced that July ad sales for its 91
Michigan papers dropped more than 12 percent from the same time last year. Those losses severely lowered overall revenue for the company: Without the Michigan losses, the decline would have been only 2.2 percent, the company said.
On Monday, Journal Register announced plans to sell its cluster of five
New England daily papers and a group of weeklies.

London’s Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and Independent editor Simon Kelner were on BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Friday morning responding to another of those “newspapers are dead” pieces — this time the cover of The Economist.
Rusbridger said that not all newspapers will survive; he listed the combined pressures of declining circulation and ad revenue – both of which are shifting to the Web; disaggregation of advertising from editorial; fragmentation of audiences; and competition from free sheets – all at a time when newspapers will have to invest large amounts of payroll and IT into the  online Web 2.0 world.

Plain Jane ‘buyouts’ at the Plain Dealer

The Cleveland Plain Dealer is offering buyout packages to newsroom and business office employees. And they are taking them. With about 1,450 employees, The Plain Dealer is one of Cleveland’s largest employers. The newsroom’s 370 employees and a number of business office employees received letters last month outlining buyout packages that would provide severance pay, health care coverage, retirement benefits and outplacement services.
 The Plain Dealer sweetens the deal for employees who are 50 or older with at least 20 years’ service as of Dec. 31 — they could receive 2½ years’ pay and health care coverage.

Other employees could receive two weeks’ pay and health care for every full year of service. About 65 of the newsroom’s employees accepted the company’s offer to leave voluntarily in exchange for a severance package.

Next come the involuntary ‘muscle’ movements.

The Sac Bee Sacks it’s Entire Customer Service Circulation Department (Last Month)

In the era of The Graduate — the line of advice given to Dustin Hoffman was “plastics.” Today the line is “outsourcing.”

This morning, the Sacramento Bee has told employees they decided to outsource their circulation customer service call center operations to West Corporation. This means that they are closing a full-service call center and creating a small support department that will function as a liaison between The Sacramento Bee and West’s customer service operation.

This is McClatchy’s way of showing shareholders they may have paid too much for Knight Ridder papers, but they are willing to cut costs. There will have to be a lot more cuts to make up for billions of dollars. The matter of customer service, with a strange accent won’t set will with the tradionalists around Sacramento.