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Muni to start express bus to ease crowding on N-Judah

Jerold Chinn, Jun 9 2011 - 11:19am

Muni N-Judah streetcar riders may soon get some relief during their packed morning and evening commute home. A six-month pilot project to run an express bus between Ocean Beach and the Financial District will begin on Monday. With 38,000 daily boardings, the Municipal Transportation Agency says the N-Judah is the most used and crowded of all the rail lines. Complaints have been coming in to the transit agency from passengers who are not able to board the N-Judah during peak hours, according to the agency. The six-month pilot project will operate on weekdays during peak morning and evening hours making stops between Ocean Beach and 19th Avenue and Judah Street in the morning before heading to Montgomery and Bush streets.

‘Bliss’ sculpture, a Burning Man icon, returns to Treasure Island birthplace

Monica Jensen, SF Public Press — Jun 8 2011 - 12:27pm

 Marco Cochrane began production of his sculpture, Bliss Dance, on Treasure Island, starting with a foot-tall prototype. The 40-foot-tall structure took over a year to complete and was unveiled for the first time at Burning Man 2010 in Black Rock City. Cochrane used two geodesic layers to build the 7,000 pound sculpture. It has been returned it to Treasure Island where it is currently on display until at least October.

City gave up $3.5 million in community benefits before passing Twitter tax deal

Nina Frazier, SF Public Press — Jun 7 2011 - 12:17pm

The April tax break for social media giant Twitter was supposed to include sweeteners to help community organizations, small businesses and the arts in the blighted mid-Market neighborhood. But just before the Board of Supervisors approved a tax exemption, which is projected to save Twitter $70 million, it abandoned a draft community benefits agreement worth at least $3.5 million, plus 1 percent of the company’s pre-tax income and myriad other community service projects. These included improvements to public parks, the opening of a neighborhood grocery store, a local hiring provision and free Wi-Fi for neighbors, the Public Press has learned. The board now has a chance to retroactively approve a committee to come up with such an agreement, but neighborhood activists say the city is in a worse bargaining position now that Twitter has its tax break.


Harder to Chronicle: fewer reporters cover more territory as Hearst, Media News reduce coverage overlap

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Jun 2 2011 - 12:02pm

BYGONE BUREAUS: 8 of 9 local offices of the San Francisco Chronicle shuttered in last decade

This story appeared in the spring print edition as part of the Public Press’ media package of stories.

The days of the major daily newspapers in the Bay Area battling on each others’ home turf for domination is over, as consolidation and staff reductions forced them to slash bureaus and zoned editions. The San Francisco Chronicle, which a decade ago had nine news bureaus scattered across the entire Bay Area,  now just has one, in Oakland. And in San Mateo County, where the pressroom used to be packed with reporters from radio, TV and newspapers, most days there is only a single reporter from a regional wire service.

Story of a survivor: coastal paper maintains civic coverage despite cuts

Tom Honig, SF Public Press — Jun 2 2011 - 11:31am

This article appeared in the spring print edition as part of the Public Press’ media package of stories.  

When the Santa Cruz Sentinel was sold by Ottaway Newspapers to the ever-expanding MediaNews Group, editor Tom Honig didn’t like what he was seeing. The printing plant was shuttered, layoffs were orders and the newspaper moved out of Santa Cruz itself to nearby Scotts Valley. He made himself one of the layoff victims. But looking back, he now sees that civic journalism has survived thanks to the hard work of the smaller staff.

Editors’ note: reporting on ourselves

Editors, SF Public Press — May 31 2011 - 5:52pm

ON THE MEDIA REPORTING PROJECT: Traditionally, news organizations have drawn clear distinctions between opinion and factual reporting. And in the event of even the appearance of a conflict of interest, the reporter is reassigned. The problem is, the media are powerful. What journalists write and say can make the difference in clarifying complex public policies, helping consumers make wise decisions and preventing social and even criminal injustice. The Public Press commissioned a team of experienced journalists to report — and in some cases reflect on — the rapidly changing media landscape. All have conflicts of interest in that they make their living, as best they can, in what remains of the news industry. Nonetheless, we thought that this was an important story to tell.

I.F. Stone’s radical idea

Michael Levitin, SF Public Press — May 26 2011 - 1:00pm

ESSAY: He believed that solid reporting could overcome the financial turmoil that plagued newspapers

In January of 1953, writing in the first edition of I.F. Stone’s Weekly, the Washington investigative journalist Isadore Feinstein — universally known as I.F. Stone — declared: “This weekly represents an attempt to keep alive through a difficult period the kind of independent radical journalism represented in various ways by PM, the New York Star and the Daily Compass,” three esteemed publications that for financial reasons had recently shut down. “This new enterprise,” he wrote, “embodies the hope that by beginning on a rock-bottom basis it will prove possible to survive and expand. The bald economics of daily newspaper publishing is enough to make the stoutest heart quail.” And for 19 years, week after week, Stone delivered audiences across North America and around the world a four-page newspaper pumped with meticulously documented research and witty analyses on the thorniest political subjects of his time, from McCarthyism to Vietnam. Nobody has rivaled his effort since.

New survey reveals age and number of new homeless rising in SF

T.J. Johnston, SF Public Press — May 25 2011 - 5:34pm

The biannual study of San Francisco's homeless population showed that while the amount of shelter dwellers actually dropped, the number of people aged 50 or greater nearly doubled and the percentage of people experiencing their first homeless episode grew by 8 percent.

Union leader says jobs will not return, urges media workers to reinvent selves

Shawn Gaynor, SF Public Press — May 24 2011 - 2:35pm

LABOR: Organized labor needs to do more to help freelancers, says Guild officer

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

Former San Francisco Chronicle science writer and union activist Carl Hall took a buyout from the newspaper in 2009. He is now executive officer of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, which represents union newsroom workers at Bay Area newspapers. He talked about changes in the Bay Area’s print news landscape and the future of unionized journalism.

Pharmaceutical industry yields to pressure from San Francisco to fund a drug take-back program

Siri Markula, SF Public Press — May 24 2011 - 10:39am

Starting as soon as August, San Franciscans will be able to dispose of their unused medicines for free at 16 independent pharmacies and five police stations throughout the city. The pharmaceutical industry is funding the pilot program with $110,000, after facing city plans that threatened to extend producer responsibility to pharmaceuticals. For decades the industry and government waste experts told consumers to flush medications down the toilet. But with increasing recognition of the effects of human drugs on wildlife, regulators at all levels are seeking to get medicines out of the waste stream.

City steps in where state fails to regulate toxic manis and pedis

Kyung Jin Lee, SF Public Press — May 23 2011 - 3:56pm

WORKING CONDITIONS: San Francisco program pushes nail salons to use safer chemicals

Heidi Hoang was pregnant when she first started working at Nails by Linda in San Francisco’s Sunset District. “There’s a lot of people who say, ‘You have to be careful with this kind of job. Maybe, no more baby,’” Hoang, now the salon manager, said. “I was so nervous.” Nail salon workers, many of whom are Vietnamese immigrants and refugees with limited English skills, have long endured toxic chemicals that emanate from products they use to beautify their clientele. The chemicals not only produce noxious fumes, but workers often complain of itchy skin, rashes and headaches after prolonged exposure to the substances. In an effort to combat the problem, San Francisco is developing guidelines to encourage nail salons to go green. In the absence of federal or state regulations protecting salon workers from toxic exposure at work, the city is working to educate salon owners about healthier alternatives.

Half of Bay Area newspaper jobs gone in last decade

Jeremy Adam Smith and Michael Stoll, SF Public Press — May 23 2011 - 11:32am

MEDIA CENSUS: Newspapers hardest hit, losing nearly 4,000 workers

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

State and federal labor statistics show that employment among Bay Area media workers fell 43 percent since 2001, a result of massive restructuring at local news outlets whose financial losses measured in the billions of dollars. Newspapers were hit the hardest, shedding upwards of 4,000 employees. As dozens of papers merged in an effort to cut costs, reporters who used to compete for scoops found their jobs redundant. While employment appears to have risen in the television and radio sector over all, journalists among them did not fare so well, state employment data suggest.

Apocalyptic beliefs hasten the end of the world

Jason Mark, Earth Island Journal — May 20 2011 - 4:26pm

Commentary: Americans’ Judgment Day visions make it harder to gain traction on climate action

Billboards and bus stop ads, plastered in cities from Florida to California, announce that this coming Saturday, May 21, will be Judgment Day. This “guarantee” actually comes from an 89-year-old Christian fundamentalist, radio host, and co-founder of the Oakland-based Family Radio network, whose outfit has paid for 5,500 billboards worldwide (including many in the Bay Area). That thousands of people around the world are convinced that tomorrow a massive global earthquake is a sign — but not of the biblical sort. Fringe religious rhetoric confuses the very real and urgent issues of environmental degradation and climate change.


In new film, Tenderloin finds uplift in participatory public artwork

Erica Reder, SF Public Press — May 19 2011 - 6:41pm
Last Friday’s screening of “A Brush With the Tenderloin,” a film by Paige Bierma, revisits the making of an important new neighborhood landmark — a mural that captures the residents who frequent one downtrodden corner. The artist, Mona Caron, worked on the painting for a year. The project became a focal point for the community and a vision for how it might improve its own self-image. 


Don’t build neighborhood on SF Bay salt flats, Redwood City voters say in new poll

Maureen Nandini Mitra, SF Public Press — May 18 2011 - 5:49pm

A new poll by a regional environmental group, Save the Bay, puts a new spin on the controversy in Redwood City over plans to build a massive development on unused salt ponds on the edge of San Francisco Bay. Fifty-seven percent of voters polled said they opposed Arizona developer DMB Associates’ proposal to build a mini-city by partially paving over 1,436 acres of low-lying salt ponds on the eastern edge of Redwood City. Only 28 percent of those polled supported the plan while the remaining 15 percent were neutral. Save the Bay says the poll should be a warning sign to politicians inclined to approve the plan. But developers called the poll itself flawed.

Local biotech companies help low-performing schools teach science

Siri Markula, SF Public Press — May 18 2011 - 2:45pm

An under-performing school in East Palo Alto is working on a new initiative started by a Northern California science education network to boost students’ science comprehension and, optimistically, make scientists out of them. The network enables Bay Area biotechnology companies to send visiting scientists to schools, giving kids an up-close interaction with science. Local biotech companies are working with students from middle school to community college to increase the labor pool of workers in research and lab work. The companies want students not only to learn science but also to make it a career option. In the process, the schools and volunteers there hope this focus will increase students overall performance and improve graduation rates.

Bay Area directors explore post-9/11 FBI entrapment in ‘Better This World’

Michael Levitin, SF Public Press — May 16 2011 - 3:56pm

Winner of the best documentary feature award at the San Francisco International Film Festival earlier this month, “Better This World,” a film by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway, looks at what happened to two young Texas activists imprisoned for allegedly plotting terrorist acts at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, and the dubious role that one charismatic activist played in their downfall. The co-directors spoke with the Public Press about domestic security problems, what drove them to make the film, and why the rest of us should care.

10 years on, a daily Chronicle 60% lighter; Mercury News shed 66%

Erica Reder and Justin Morrison, SF Public Press — May 13 2011 - 8:19am

Shrinking newspapers: Both papers lost sections, pages and advertisers

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

 In early May, when the official industry rankings came out, the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News touted slight gains in Sunday circulation after years of declines, suggesting that the local newspaper industry just might be coming back. But the number of papers thrown on Bay Area doorsteps tells only part of the story. Even the most optimistic interpretation of readership statistics can’t hide the publications’ anemic page counts. Both papers have shrunk dramatically in the past 10 years. 

5,000 new media startups — can one save local news?

David Weir, SF Public Press — May 12 2011 - 8:10am

RISE OF THE NEWS MACHINES: The future has arrived and it’s called the Age of Data

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories.

San Francisco sits at the epicenter of a brand new tech boom revolving around several thousand variously funded startup companies. The organizer of the premier mixer for entrepreneurs in the city, Christian Perry of SF Beta, estimates that there are between 4,000 and 6,000 such outfits in the city. (His current mailing approaches 5,000.) Many other ventures can be found in the Valley or in tech-focused business strips all over the East Bay and Marin.At the same time that all this feverish activity is taking place — and some would say because of it — there have been massive dislocations among the people who traditionally dug up the news. So how might these new ventures impact the future of journalism?


One million missing stories

Jeremy Adam Smith, SF Public Press — May 11 2011 - 1:52pm

POST PINK SLIPS: Displaced journalists see opportunities to cover community on their own

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

Since 2000, metro newspapers across the country have laid off an estimated 14,000 (out of 56,400) editors and reporters — a number that does not include journalists working for wire services, weekly newspapers or other media, all of which have suffered their own losses — according to blogger Ken Doctor, who writes the influential Newsonomics blog for the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. There are simply fewer trained eyes on city halls, police departments, schools and corporate boardrooms. As Doctor writes on his blog, “That news-gathering ... is what’s key to community information and understanding, fairly prerequisite in our struggling little democracy.”