Censorship -- or something else? - Page 3

Why did two Bay Area newsrooms dismiss Peter Byrne's story about conflicts of interest in UC investment deals?

When I asked Cooper about this, she emailed, "As for the Nexus, I think it's a learning experience for them. As I told the paper's editor and Dr. Brechin, I have never been intimidated into publishing anything—nor to refrain from publishing an article. And it won't happen in the future, regardless of whether the pressure comes from a scientist, another journalist, or a senator."

Then Cooper stopped responding to my emails.



On May 6, I received an email from the Bay Citizen's Stevens. She had been at a dinner party with Brechin. She asked me why the Chronicle story was languishing. She said the Bay Citizen might publish it. I told her I was not ready to go public.

On May 18, I emailed Asimov about the status of the story. She said the lawyer had it.

I called Cooper. She told me, "I would like to get [the story] in for Memorial Day because we need the copy. ... I am not responding to emails because I don't want any of this shit in print. ... Dick Blum can go fuck himself! Excuse my language. I don't know the guy. I am not afraid of him. If he is doing something shady I want to publish that ... [but] I am not going to be bullied into not printing it by Dick Blum and I'm not going to be bullied into printing it. ... The fact that he's called the editor and has an attorney in waiting makes us want to do it more. ... I absolutely want to run it. I would like to run it next weekend."

I asked if Blum was threatening the newspaper.

Cooper replied, "Yeah. The only people who know that are me and the executive editor and the managing editor. I don't think Nanette knows that. So you are now like the fourth person that knows that besides Dick Blum. ... People threaten to sue us all the time. But if we are going to mess with, you know, a billionaire, we are going to be a little cautious."

A few weeks later, on June 2, I asked Asimov if she knew about Blum's threat. She replied, "Of course, I knew. Heck, Blum told me as well. The presence of Blum's lawyers won't influence whether we run the piece, however. But this is getting increasingly ridiculous, and I've asked someone to find out the status for us."

On June 27, Asimov told me that the "final version" of the story would "run over the weekend" and that it had been cut to 1,200 words. It did not run.

On July 6, I asked Asimov what was going on. She replied, "What happened is that the lawyer looked at it, and made some tweaks. Most were minor, but a small number of them struck me as simply wrong—like he didn't understand the point. So I told Audrey, and its been the big chill ever since. So I don't currently know what's happening."

That same day, July 6, the Chronicle ran a profile of Feinstein praising her as "the most effective politician in California." Her well-documented conflicts of interest with her husband's various businesses were not mentioned.

A week later, July 12, the Chronicle printed an op-ed by Blum in which he said online education is the future. He did not mention that Blum Capital has a multi-billion-dollar stake in two of the nation's largest for-profit education corporations, each with a growing online component. Nor did the oped note that UC had invested $53 million in these companies after Blum joined the investment committee in 2004.

On July 19, Asimov told me, "The story was re-sent to the attorneys last night with the latest edits." She said that nothing was likely to happened for at least two weeks since people were going on vacation. She said she would "leave [Cooper] a note saying that if the lawyer approves it, you must approve the final version." And that was the last time I heard from anyone at the Hearst Corporation.