Between the sheets - Page 2

Are the Bay Area's two big newspaper barons planning to carve up the region and end competition? We're about to find out.
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They fought only to keep some parts of five exhibits and one brief sealed, which comprised 19 separate excerpts [of which six were duplicates, leaving only 13 distinct items]."

And all but a few pages of those documents will now be released to the public. They will almost certainly offer a broader picture of the relationship between the Bay Area's top media bedfellows.

Wheaton has asked both the Chron and the AP for a correction. Mark Rochester, assistant bureau chief for the AP in San Francisco, told Wheaton by e-mail that a clarification would not be "useful to member news organizations." We're waiting to hear from the Chron. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, Dean Singleton is slated to take over as chair of the AP this spring.

Illston also agreed to allow the Guardian and Media Alliance to remain as interveners, or parties to the suit, giving the two organizations the right to challenge any future secrecy.

For example, the interveners might seek to unseal the depositions Reilly attorney Joe Alioto took of top executives at the companies last week.

Hearst and MediaNews have claimed they need to protect some records to avoid giving competitors access to proprietary financial information. But the chains are hardly normal competitors.

Singleton reached a secret agreement with Hearst in 1995 to shutter the Houston Post and sell its assets to Hearst for $120 million, for instance. The deal gave Hearst's Houston Chronicle significant control over the southern Texas metropolis and its sizable suburbs before the two companies continued their westward expansion hand in hand.

In a downright hilarious side note, attorneys for the Chronicle managed to convince a Santa Clara County superior court judge in January to open confidential court documents in a shareholder suit filed against Silicon Valley–based Mercury Interactive, one of the first companies rocked by allegations that it had improperly backdated stock options for some of its top executives.

Chronicle attorney Karl Olson at the time righteously denounced attempts by attorneys for Mercury and its former executives, three of whom were fired during the height of the backdating firestorm, to seal court records detailing one of the more lurid executive-enrichment scandals to hit Wall Street in recent years (see "Off the Record," 1/10/2007).

Calls to seven people up and down MediaNews and Hearst, from attorneys to executives, weren't returned. We've even tried to reach CoCo Times executive editor Kevin Keane on his cell phone, but he wouldn't comment for us despite complaints he'd made about the East Bay Express not giving him a chance to respond to similar stories. *

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