TURKEY LEGS AND MATCHING SWEATSHIRTS: Hearst and MediaNews plan future after sordid tryst


By G.W. Schulz


So what’s going on with the Bay Area’s favorite media love affair these days? You know the one. Hearst and MediaNews met first in Houston two decades ago and engaged in a nefarious entanglement that made one of the nation's largest cities a single-daily town.

Since then, Hearst and MediaNews just can’t keep their hands off each other. They’re like that nerdy couple at the mall, both looking hopelessly vanilla in matching Banana Republic sweatshirts as they tear into one of those wax paper-wrapped turkey legs, grease dripping from their third chins.

Just like those matching sweatshirts, both MediaNews and Hearst had to outsource jobs lest one of them look slightly more or less provocative than the other. Hearst last year announced it was paying a Canadian company to build and maintain a billion-dollar press for the San Francisco Chronicle, owned by Hearst, swiftly defeating any headaches the pressmen’s union might pose for them in the future.

And MediaNews, fresh from finalizing its takeover of every major daily newspaper in the Bay Area except the Chronicle, complete with a $300 million equity investment from Hearst, announced it had hired a company called Express KCS to handle some of its ad production.

Express KCS, as the Guardian and others have pointed out, has operations in India. According to a March 21 e-mail from inside the MediaNews-owned San Jose Mercury News, the Indian outsourcing gig has so far been successful, “and creating one ad production platform for all California Newspapers Partnership properties is a critical component in creating the operational synergies necessary for success in this changing business environment.” So they're expanding the outsourcing plan, but it's not clear yet how far they'll go.

If for no other reason, the feds should shut down all of these acquisitions simply because MediaNews managers use the word "synergy."

This all makes sense, of course. MediaNews honcho Dean Singleton cuts expenses better than anyone else in the biz. He saves money by not spending it on ridiculous superfluities like reporters and editors. In an early March memo, Contra Costa Times publisher and CNP executive John Armstrong told employees the company wouldn’t be disclosing the total number of people laid off at all the papers purchased by MediaNews, but individual reports of the layoffs so far have appeared elsewhere several times now.

We wonder if Dean Singleton would conduct heart surgery on himself just to avoid wasting money on a group of trained surgeons.

In related news, Hearst and MediaNews attorneys are asking a federal judge to toss businessman Clint Reilly’s antitrust suit against the companies claiming newspaper readers have no legal standing to attack big-time corporate newspaper acquisitions under antitrust statues.

Reilly says the acquisitions, which occurred when MediaNews purchased the Merc, the Times and other papers from the Sacramento-based McClatchy Company with help from Hearst’s financing, would unfairly dilute the variety of editorial voices and advertising options available to Bay Area residents. If federal Judge Susan Illston tells the media companies (including the Gannett Co. and Stephens Group, participants in the California Newspaper Partnership) to stuff it, the case could go to trial some time in the spring.

*MNG logo from the company's site, where you'll find little to no information about its commitment to journalism, but you will find plenty on its earnings data and other fiscal activities.

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