Why people get mad at the media (l3) The latest example of how Hearst and Singleton monopolize the news in the Reilly antitrust case
By Bruce B. Brugmann
The Guardian and Media Alliance won a major victory in federal court to unseal the records in the Reilly vs. Hearst antitrust trial but it didn't last long: Hearst and Singleton quickly went into overdrive to maintain their cloak of secrecy and monopolize the news in the latest round in court.
Here's how they did it: The newspaper chains that are trying to kill daily competition and impose regional monopoly in the Bay Area tried to knock Reilly out of court by claiming in a specious argument for summary judgment that he was just a lone reader, poor soul, and thus did not have standing in court. Reilly and his attorney Joe Alioto are suing to block the Hearst/Singleton deal.
The San Francisco Chronicle story on the filing, by Bob Egelko, laid out the publishers' case in detail with lots of quotes in a page 2 story in the Bay Area section. He didn't report the Reilly side of the story because (a) he didn't contact either Reilly or Alioto for comment and (b) Reilly's legal response was under court seal and Federal Judge Susan Illston allowed them to stay under seal despite her earlier ruling to open.
The publishers, who usually are bellowing away about courts and government suppressing documents, submitted declarations in support of keeping the documents secret from Daniel S. Ehrman, vice president of planning and development for Gannett, and Joseph J. Lodovic, president of Singleton's Media News Group.
And then, in virtually identical proposed orders to seal, they laid out the "compelling reasons to maintain the documents and excerpts of documents...under seal."
So the Hearst/Singleton side of the story got published in their papers, not the Reilly side. And then on Saturday April 7 the Chronicle continued the publishers first coverage with a short story on the hearing the day before.
"Mr. Reilly's injury here is pure speculation," the Chronicle quoted Gary Halling, Singleton attorney, as saying.
The Reilly/Alioto comments were at the end of the story. The story reported that Illston was inclined to allow Reilly to sue as an individual, which is likely to be her ruling.
Hey, Citizen Reilly here is representing the public and he, as well as the rest of us, deserve to know the grisly details of how the barons got together and how they are dividing and clustering up the Bay Area newspaper market to their financial advantage and to the public's disadvantage. So our attorneys, James Wheaton, David Greene, and Pondra Perkins of the First Amendment Project in Oakland, went back into court to reup their court victory and try to open up the records and maintain a public policy of sunshine in the courts.
The key journalistic and public policy point: not one iota of the Hearst/Singleton's repeat move for secrecy was considered newsworthy by any of their papers. The first time around, as attentive Bruce blog readers will remember, they mangled the story, made it look as if the Guardian lost our motion to open the records, and we even had to ask the Associated Press, their wire service, for a correction.
Stay tuned. B3
P.S. The Hearst/Singleton reasons for secrecy and stonewalling are delicious, so delicious that tomorrow I will put them up on line for readers to savor in the original (I am a typewriter fugitive and need help on these things.)
A preview of coming attractions: the proposed order to seal the documents says, for example,
that "the court finds that the Subject Documents contain information that was not prepared not for public consumption but to analyze the proposed acquisition of the McClatchy newspapers and to negotiate a single equity investment by Hearst. these documents contain detailed non-public financial information about MediaNews and/or CNP (the special partnership arrangement), including valuations of certain company assets, projections for future earnings, pro forma financial information about the company's current and future business plans. MediaNews and CNP do not publicly disclose information of this nature."
Tough: if you want to monopolize an entire region, and seriously undercut the marketplace of ideas principle underlying the First Amendment the big boys love to quote, then you'd better be prepared to disclose these basic documents in court when you are sued in a public-spirited antitrust case.
P.S. Repeating for emphasis: Where is the U.S. attorney's office, which was so quick to put Josh Wolf in jail and keep him there for 226 days, when the real lawbreakers in the publishing business are making monopoly millions by eliminating competition? And where is Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who lives in Oakland under the shadow Dean Singleton's Oakland Tribune?