Eureka! There’s more Eurekaism!


What happens to the news when the conglomerati corner the Bay Area newspaper market

By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)

As you will remember from my last blog, I unveiled the term Eurekaism to replace the term Afghanistanism for the bad habit of many daily papers to cover stories in Eureka, but not the local big scandal or embarrassing stories in their hometowns.

Well, as I was pedaling away this morning on my cardio machine at the World Gym,
I turned as usual in the Hearst-owned Chronicle to find the day’s real Eureka style news: the second page of the business section under the Daily Digest section. Today, surprise, surprise, the Eureka story was below the fold with a nicely disguised head that read: “State won’t challenge newspaper sale.”

Eureka! There was a rummy little five paragraph story that announced a major new development in the major running story of the emerging new regional media megaconglomerate (Hearst/MediaNews Group/Singleton/Gannett/Stephens/McClatchy). The development: Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer announced that his office will not take antitrust action over the McClatchy sale of the San Jose Mercury-News and Contra Costa Times to Singleton, but that he would investigate a three-way transaction between the companies and Hearst. The story quoted Lockyer as saying without blushing in his standard line to remove-all-pebbles-from-any-impending consolidation: “It does not appear that these transactions will result in a substantial reduction in competition,” though most everyone in the Bay Area knows otherwise. It is a major story that ought to be regularly covered on the front pages of all the papers, with context, perspective, outside expert opinion, mainstreet commentary, and some tough questions of Lockyer. But the megaconglomerate is either censoring, trivializing or burying the story with axe and shovel.

For example, the Chronicle story was not a Chronicle story, but a Reuters wire service story datelined New York (we pulled down the Reuters story from the Reuters website.) The difference between the Reuters and Chronicle stories was telling: Reuters had a better head, “California Oks McClatchy-MediaNews paper sale,” while the Chronicle left out the local Hearst angle. The Chronicle also cut out five key paragraphs from the Reuters story, notably three that made some embarrassing points:

“The move would result in MediaNews owning most of the largest dailies in the area, including the Oakland Tribune. Hearst owns the San Francisco Chronicle.

“San Francisco-based real estate investor Clint Reilly had filed an injunction to halt McClatchy’s sale of San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Monterey Herald.

“He argued the sale would put all three California in a partnership controlled by MediaNews and including Gannett Co. Inc. and privately held Stephens Media Group, therefore reducing competition and harm (sic) advertisers and readers…”

Meanwhile, on the Contra Costa Times, George Avalos wrote a misleading three paragraph story that the “state decision clears away the final regulatory impediment to the MediaNews purchase of the Bay Area papers." No mention of the continuing Hearst/Singleton investigation nor the
Reilly suit.

Down at the Mercury-News, an unbylined story buried the AG’s statement in the last two paragraphs of a five paragraph story trumpeting the new four man team that will run the nation’s “4th biggest newspaper chain.” No mention of the Reilly suit nor the continuing Hearst investigation.

And what happens on a paper not owned by any of the conglomerati? The headline on the East Bay Business Times got it right: "Attorney General continues to look at Hearst deal."

I repeat: show me a paper owned by any of the Hearst/MediaNews/Singleton/Gannett/Stephens/McClatchy papers that is really covering the story. Alas, the links below indicate the pattern of how badly they are covering the story. (At the time of this writing, we couldn’t find the Hearst story on the Chronicle website.)

Coming next: Let's play Eureka!! B3

Contra Costa Times

Mercury News