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February 14-20, 2007

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Newspapers: Collect the Whole Set!

Ever since William Dean Singleton closed the deal that gave his MediaNews Group ownership of the Merc, the Contra Costa Times and the Monterey Herald, he's been taking heat from those who consider him the engineer of Bay Area media monopoly. All because, as has often been repeated, he owns every major daily newspaper in the region other than the San Francisco Chronicle. Imagine how silly we feel having forgotten the Santa Cruz Sentinel! Well, no problem, as it turns out, since now Singleton owns that, too. MediaNews picked up the Sentinel from Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., an-Alabama based company that had itself bought the paper from Dow Jones subsidiary Ottaway Newspapers Inc. just last October. That's not the best news ever for the Sentinel's staff, since one of MediaNews' claims to fame is cutting personnel from the newsroom and consolidating printing operations. According to newspaper-industry.org, the company has gone so far as to outsource advertising production from its Northern California papers to India. Merc employees learned this the hard way, with only a last-minute intervention from the San Jose Newspaper Guild saving half of the 70 jobs Singleton was set to cut. However, so far there have been no layoffs announced at the Sentinel, and the paper will continue to be printed at its local press. Sentinel editor-in-chief Tom Honig says he doesn't anticipate too much will change in the paper's coverage of local events, though he says he hasn't had much communication with the new owners. John McManus, project director for gradethenews.org, is more worried about the further dilution of news resources across the Bay Area. "I think what's likely to happen is that the breadth of information will diminish as one reporter covers for multiple papers, rather than having multiple reporters and news organizations compete," he says. "Generally when you have less competition, people and institutions being what they are, the public is served less well." Singleton's move seems all the more extraordinary considering that MediaNews is already knee-deep in a federal lawsuit that accuses it of conspiring with other newspaper chains to control the Bay Area newspaper market. Among other things, the challenge filed by San Francisco businessman Clint Reilly alleges that the Hearst Corporation, publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, violated antitrust laws by contributing financing to help MediaNews purchase the Merc and the Contra Costa Times. The United States Department of Justice is also investigating.

Support Your Independents

In this era of Singleton-type megamedia consolidations, it's a relief that we still have truly local media outlets like KKUP at 91.5 FM, still broadcasting 30 years strong in Silicon Valley. And KKUP is truly local—we're talking analog, 100 percent listener-supported, 100 percent volunteer-run, community-determined programming. It's always a wild ride—you can tune in and hear Corridos, then come back an hour later and hear Bollywood. KKUP boasts Native American programming hosted by tribal elders; traditional music from every corner of the world, storytellers, conspiracy theorists, unembedded public affairs and noncommercial favorites like Americana, reggae, blues and jazz. This weekend is KKUP's annual Bluegrass, Country, & Folk Marathon. From Friday afternoon through Sunday midnight they'll be broadcasting mostly live bluegrass, folk and country music in all its permutations—Western swing, honky-tonk, rockabilly and Hollywood hillbilly. "This won't be Top 40 country music, and it will be live." Says Jackie Locken, country, bluegrass department head and DJ. "It's the good stuff like Sidesaddle, '60s folk legend Mary McCaslin, Chuck McCabe and Houston Jones, the country/bluegrass band with an attitude."

Faux Paw

San Jose-based Micrus Endovascular Corporation is staying tight-lipped after a dog died during a sales demo it arranged at a Cleveland, Ohio, clinic last month. The company manufactures medical equipment used to treat brain aneurysms for domestic and global markets. In the recent stunt to impress about two dozen salespeople (some of whom participated in a hands-on exercise), Micrus hired a neurosurgeon to induce a blood-vessel bulge in the brain of a large, mixed-breed dog so the company's special microcoils could be threaded through the animal's vein. Afterward, the dog was killed. The gory powwow might have gone unnoticed, but for a whistleblower who tipped off People for the Ethical of Animals (PETA). Enraged activists have stirred up national media attention and incited an investigation by Animal Care officials from the United States Department of Agriculture. According to documents posted on the agency's website, investigators found the clinic violated two federal regulations because the procedure took place in a nonsterile room cluttered with boxes and went unapproved by facility administrators. A clinic official told the USDA that it has a policy against workshops involving animals for the sole purpose of training sales staff and has since banned the surgeon from performing animal research for the next two years. A USDA representative told Fly that the investigation has been closed. Meanwhile, Micrus has ignored all press calls, including ours. It wouldn't be the first time the company got off easy. In 2005, it struck a sweet deal with the U.S. Department of Justice after it got caught bribing European doctors to get hospitals to buy its medical equipment. Instead of prosecuting, DOJ officials accepted a $450,000 fine and a boy-scout pledge for the company to "accept responsibility for its misconduct." So much for the honor code.


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