Sunday, November 21, 2004

WaPo profiles Examiner owner Anschutz

The Washington Post, perhaps fearing Phil Anschutz's entry into Washington's newspaper market, has printed this profile of the Denver billionaire. Anschutz bought the San Francisco Examiner last year and some observers have speculated that he plans to start free dailies in other citees.

Some quotes from the article:
    • "In 1992, Anschutz contributed $10,000 to a group called Colorado Family Values, to support an amendment to the state constitution that invalidated state and local laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Anschutz's money helped pay for an ad campaign that said such anti-bias laws gave gays and lesbians 'special rights.' The U.S. Supreme Court later overturned the amendment as discriminatory."

    • "In 2002, New York Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer sued Anschutz and four telecom executives, accusing Anschutz of making $1.5 billion in "unjust enrichment revenue," including the sale of initial-public-offering stock Anschutz received in the hopes he would steer investment banking business to Citigroup Inc. Anschutz and Spitzer reached an agreement in which Anschutz admitted no wrongdoing and later paid $4.4 million to law schools and charities, and Spitzer agreed to drop the suit."

    • "Anschutz persuaded a movie studio to pay him $100,000 to film Adair putting out his well fire for a 1967 John Wayne film called 'Hellfighters.' The fire was put out and Anschutz saved his business."

    • The billionaire wants to change people's way of thinking: "In a rare public speech in February, reported by the Wall Street Journal, Anschutz told the audience: 'My friends think I'm a candidate for a lobotomy, and my competitors think I'm naive or stupid or both. But you know what? I don't care. If we can make some movies that have a positive effect on people's lives and on our culture, that's enough for me.'"

    • "Anschutz is an active Republican donor. Since 1996, he, his companies and members of his family have given more than $500,000 in campaign contributions to GOP candidates and committees."

    • "However, none of these scandals has yet to tarnish Anschutz's reputation ..."
But in San Francisco, they have an idea of what Anschutz is up to. "When he bought the Examiner, we thought, 'What the hell is this guy doing?' Its business prospects were not phenomenal," said Tim Redmond, executive editor of the liberal San Francisco Bay Guardian. "When we found out who he was, we were nervous he was going to bring his Christian-evangelical politics to San Francisco."

Anschutz has supported socially conservative causes. In 1987, Anschutz's family foundation gave Focus on the Family founder James Dobson an award for his "contributions to the American Family." According to its Web site, the Denver-based group works to "counter the media-saturating message that homosexuality is inborn and unchangeable" and one of its policy experts called legalized abortion an example of when "Satan temporarily succeeds in destroying God's creation."

Saturday, November 13, 2004

California paper puts out an 'Extra!'

Talk about a throw back to the 1920s and 30s! A free daily newspaper in Northern California published an extra (as in "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!") minutes after the verdict in the Scott Peterson murder case came in. Extras were common before broadcast journalism emerged, but they're unheard of today. The last one we heard of was in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated, and morning papers wanted to compete with evening papers on the story. The extra was printed by the Redwood City Daily News, which is part of the five-paper Palo Alto Daily News group. According to the AP, the Extra was handed out by Daily News employees within 15 minutes of the verdict. Extras were distributed in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, San Mateo and Burlingame. The editor of the group is Brian Bothun and the publishers are Dave Price and Jim Pavelich, longtime innovators in the free daily field.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Third U.S. Metro paper opens today in NYC

Newspapers have been published in New York City since 1725. But the first free paper, amNewYork, started seven months ago on October 10. Today the second free daily started. Metro New York is part of the Swedish chain of more than 50 papers which includes editions in Philadelphia, Boston and Toronto. Like amNewYork, Metro will be circulated on subway platforms, on the streets and through news racks. In the past seven months, amNewYork's circulation has jumped from 150,000 to 209,000 (audited). Publisher Russel Pergament says that since the audit, the circulation is up to 221,000 copies a day. Metro has got a long way to go. Both papers will be striving to reach the 18- to 34-year-old reader who has largely stopped reading newspapers and is coveted by advertisers. Metro New York's publisher is Henry Scott, who launched the NY Times's @times, a site on America Online.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Dallas: AM Journal closes, Quick wins

The war between free dailies in Dallas has ended after five months. The A.M. Journal Express, started November 12 by Jeremy Halbreich and his American Consolidated Media, published its last issue yesterday, April 30. When plans for the A.M. Journal Express were revealed in September, Belo's Dallas Morning News swiftly created its own free daily newspaper, called Quick, which hit the streets two weeks earlier than the Journal Express. The Dallas Business Journal says Halbreich's investors decided to pull the plug. The Journal had 26 staffers who will reportedly be offered jobs within American Consolidated Media. Halbreich complained in the Dallas media about "overly hostile" actions by the Morning News that included confrontations with A.M. Journal's distributors and threats against advertisers. Meanwhile, the Morning News says Quick is gaining acceptance with readers as it grows.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Metro coming to New York

Metro International, the Swedish company with 34 free dailies worldwide including Boston and Philadelphia, plans to launch in New York in May. The launch was delayed because amNew York hit the market first in 2003. Metro NY's publisher will be Henry Scott, who worked in new media at The New York Times and also was president of Out magazine. The editor will be Stefano Hatfield, who wrote for Advertising Age and was Ad Age Global's editorial director.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

More about the Frisco Examiner sale

Look, I'm confused as everybody else about why a conservative Christian has bought a struggling newspaper in San Francisco, a city that Christians might consider a modern day sodom and gomorrah. Tim Porter, a respected journalist in Northern California, has this view:
    Anschutz is politically and religiously conservative, and has financially supported measures and organizations that are anti-gay and crusade against "overly sexualized" magazines, the Chronicle reported. Could it be that Anschultz wants to establish a conservative media voice in San Francisco to cater to that part of the city who is not thrilled, for example, to see gay couples lining up by the thousands to married in City Hall?

    Bob Starzel, a longtime executive for Anschutz and now chairman of the Examiner, hints at this when says, as the Chronicle put it, that the paper "will concentrate on local news, business and sports coverage, with an emphasis on neighborhoods."

      "People in San Francisco live in separate neighborhoods, but to a degree they do not know each other that well," said Starzel, who lives in the outer Richmond district.

    "Neighborood coverage" is a code phrase used by San Francisco's conservatives -- and, yes, there are some, enough, in fact, to rise up occasionally and elect one of their own mayor -- when they decry front-page stories about gay rights or the homeless. Conservatives, of the moderate variety, are generally thought to represent about a third of the San Francisco electorate and most live on the west side of the city, Starzell's neighborhood.

    Perhaps Anschutz intends to take one of journalism's core tenets and give voice to those San Francisco conservatives, who regularly complain they are voiceless in the Chronicle.

    Anschutz was waged a proxy campaign for decades against gays. What better place is there to make that battle more personal through the pages of a newspaper than in San Francisco?
So let's say, for the sake of argument, that Frisco is two-thirds liberal and one-third conservative. The Chronicle would get the two-thirds of the liberal readership and the Examiner would get the rest. Each might be able to survive. Who knows? It all depends on how a newspaper is edited -- if a liberal paper is interesting, everybody will read it. If a conservative paper is interesting, everybody will read that too, though the liberals will deny reading it.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Conservative billionaire buys San Francisco paper

Conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz (pictured; AP photo) has bought the San Francisco Examiner from the Florence Fang family for a reported $20 million. The Fang family bought the paper in 2000 from the Hearst Corporation, which sold it in order to buy the San Francisco Chronicle, the morning paper it had prized for many years. The Hearst's first choice would have been to close the Examiner, but the political powers that be insisted on two newspapers in Frisco, so the Examiner stumbles on. It's unknown what Anschutz will do with the Examiner, but his politics are conservative and anti-gay, which could mean trouble in San Francisco. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
    Same-sex marriages appear decidedly out of step with values openly espoused by Anschutz. In the 1990s, he backed Colorado's Amendment 2, the highly contentious measure that sought to restrict Colorado's cities from adopting civil-rights protections specifically for gays and lesbians. The issue reached national proportions, with opponents boycotting business with the state.

    According to published reports, Anschutz donated $10,000 to Colorado for Family Values, backers of the amendment, during the heated final days of the campaign. The amendment passed in 1992 but was later overturned by the state's Supreme Court. The media watchdog group Morality in Media, established in 1962 and based in New York, reportedly has received generous support from Anschutz for its crusades against pornography and obscenity in magazines, movies, television and other outlets.

    The nonprofit, interfaith group advocates letter-writing campaigns to government agencies and company executives in its efforts to stamp out material it deems inappropriate. Morality in the Media has made news for, among other reasons, its high-profile statements calling Cosmopolitan (owned by The Chronicle's parent firm, The Hearst Corp.) and Glamour magazines "overly sexualized" and its support for Internet filters on computers in public libraries.
Whether Anschutz will discard his morals in San Francisco, or use his paper to change the community, is an unknown at this point. Much of San Francisco's business community, including people in ad agencies and ad-buyers, are gay. It will be interesting to see if they read up on the Examiner's new owner or just watch his people's Powerpoint presentations without asking questions.