Mercury News Executive Editor Susan Goldberg Responds

Has the Mercury News changed?

That was the September 8 headline on San Jose Inside. At last count, there were nearly 90 posts in answer to that question, though in truth about half of them seemed to be from two people arguing over who was more hateful and who was more racist.

I certainly have no intention of diving into that well. But I was struck by some of what I read about the paper, and, as the Mercury News’ executive editor, I’d like to address it. I appreciate the invitation from the editor of San Jose Inside to write a guest column to do so.

When you’ve worked at newspapers for 25-plus years, it’s probably unavoidable that you develop a thick skin about what people say about what you do. And at a large paper like ours—with more than 680,000 readers on weekdays, and some 740,000 on Sundays—you hear a lot, some of it positive but, given human nature, more of it not.

I’ve heard many times that we let the generally liberal stance of our editorial pages spill into our news coverage; it may surprise these readers, but I also hear from people, who, upon reading our coverage of the Iraq war, believe we are a tool of the Bush Administration. I hear from some readers that our Middle East stories favor the Israelis; from others that we are pro-Palestinian anti-Semites. Some readers decry our coverage of immigration, saying we do too many stories that paint a positive picture of illegal immigrants; some in the Latino community believe we all but ignore this important issue, thereby proving we don’t value their community.

But I have never heard before that we don’t cover local news. That was the message thread here on San Jose Inside that surprised me, and that I’d like to comment on today.

There is no coverage area that is more important to the San Jose Mercury News than local news—news about our communities, businesses, sports teams, cultural scene and the people who make it all happen. And at no time in the last 20 years has this news mission—carried out in print and on—been clearer.

Why? The answer has nothing to do with the change in our ownership. Instead, as with so much else in the Valley, the answer lies in technology: The internet has made news content available anytime, anywhere to anyone. It’s made news a commodity.

That single fact is profoundly reshaping our industry. It’s turned once-a-day readers who knew only what we told them into real-time viewers and listeners who already know most of the national and international news headlines by the time the paper hits their doorstep.

This change has caused every newspaper to rethink what it does, from its content to its business model to its circulation strategy.

From a journalism perspective, it is utterly apparent that what we have to offer the readers of the Santa Clara Valley is unique local content, not the same news that everyone else has. It’s not that Iraq is not important—it is and we will cover the story thoroughly. It’s that you can’t read about shenanigans at San Jose City Hall—or the new Stanford stadium or the HP spying scandal—anywhere else. And no one else will spend three years investigating the Santa Clara County criminal justice system. No one.

You are seeing more local news on page one, not less. That’s why I was surprised by the impression of some bloggers on this site.

But don’t just take my word for it. We went back and looked at front page story selection over the last 20 years. While we didn’t have time to look at every day, we took a snapshot that I think accurately reflects the trend.

We analyzed three weeks of papers for the years 1986, 1996 and 2006. In each of those years, we examined one week in January, April and July. We looked at the same week in each of the three years. Here’s what we found:

The percentage of local stories on page one in 1986 was 52.5 percent. In 1996, it was 61 percent. This year, it was 72.3 percent. And I’ll bet it is actually even higher. On the average day, we put five stories on the front page, not counting the news rail that runs in the left-hand column. On most days, we have four locally-written stories and one story about a national or international news event that we get from one of our wire services.

In addition to the front page, we still have the same sections we always did, each of which is centered on things happening in this community and region: local news, business, sports and features. And while it is true that the paper no longer publishes the weekly supplements, The Guide, which were all about neighborhood and very local news, our company did make a substantial investment in local newsgathering when it bought the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, a chain of local weeklies, and the Palo Alto Daily News, made up of five free local dailies.

When contributors to San Jose Inside say we don’t cover local news, they might be reacting to a change in the way we cover it. Twenty years ago, we would think nothing of running three separate stories from the same San Jose City Council meeting on the front of the local section. Today, we try hard to be less institutional and more interesting in our story selection. That means one story from the city council meeting—and also one on the conditions at local nursing homes and a column on Esther Medina’s need for a kidney transplant. Rather than assigning our local reporters only to cover municipalities, we ask them to cover legal affairs and health policy and the Asian-American community.

There is no doubt that this is a challenging time in our business. Our circulation, like that of just about every other newspaper, is down; our traditional business model is under assault. But technology also is providing us opportunities to do revelatory stories about our communities for even more readers and viewers. Technology can help us be creative in ways we never dreamed of, giving us the ability to reach people who wouldn’t think of picking up a newspaper, but who want our stories online or in a multimedia format.

This is the future. And you can see it unfolding at, where the monthly unique visitor count increased by nearly 70 percent from August 2005 to August 2006, to more than 2.8 million visitors.

Make no mistake: We understand that the draw is local, in print and online.

Let me close by sharing two things: our staff goals, and an invitation.

Here are our goals, which were written late last year and are posted all over our newsroom. They say:

“Above all, we are committed to local news that serves a diverse region with an economic engine driven by technology. We will favor exclusive local content in all areas….over commodity news.

“Our role as a watchdog in the community is paramount. We will retain a strong projects team and stress investigative reporting, here and in Sacramento.

“The profound changes afoot in our industry hold great promise for journalism.”

Accordingly, we will put far greater resources and emphasis on delivery of news content across multiple platforms, so we can best position the Mercury News to serve the needs of its readers.

Thank you for your time today. I am, always, distressed when I hear that the paper disappoints people, and those who write to me about it are assured of a response. We do make mistakes, which we acknowledge publicly and discuss internally. Sometimes, we agree to disagree with our readers. But we do want to listen, and to help you understand more about what we do, and to that end, I’ll issue this invitation:

We are happy to have guests at our news meeting, which takes place at 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. It’s the meeting where we pick an initial list of stories for the front page, and we like having company. If any of you are interested in attending, please call my assistant, Pam Larussa, at 920-5915, and she can work out a time that is mutually convenient.

Again, thank you for reading - and for caring about the Mercury News.
Susan Goldberg has been executive editor of the Mercury News since 2003; she was managing editor from 1999-2003. She also has worked in reporting and editing roles at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Detroit Free Press and USA Today.


  1. Susan, Thank you for your time in explaining the MN’s role in the community.  What you are not hearing from in the SJI blogs is the “Silent Majority”,  those who regularly buy and/or subscribe to the paper.  I have been a reader of the MN for over 60 years.  First it was the San Jose Evening News (Hays era) and the San Jose Mercury Herald.  My first job was delivering the Evening News when I was 11 and 12 years old.  Of course I can understand the political pholosophy of the Paper.  If I disagree then I disagree.  I read the paper daily from 1st to last page.  It can take 1-1/2 hours but I don’t want to miss anything.  I watch TV news and I am online and see the headlines.  Each has an important role in my life.
    Whenever I have written an email to you I have received an answer from you.
    I’m sorry but due to the sensitivity of my present position I have to remain anonymous for now.  Just keep fighting the good fight.  You won’t please everyone.  But the “Silent Majority” will continue to read your pages.

  2. Susan,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond here on

    If you want to understand why many of us do not think the Mercury News does a good job covering local stories, let me try to give an example.

    I live in San Jose, and work in Palo Alto.  On most days I read the Mercury News and Palo Alto Daily News.  I do not live in an area of San Jose that is covered by Silicon Valley Community Newspapers.

    After reading both papers for years,  I feel the Palo Alto Daily provides Palo Alto residents local news coverage we in San Jose can only dream about.  I cannot remember the last time I read an article in the Mercury News about our local school district.  Just recently there was a huge manhunt by SJPD in our neighborhood but no mention in the Mercury News. 

    I suppose this is the price we pay for living in such a large city.  It seems there is an opportunity here for better coverage in San Jose for local issues.  The Guide was a good attempt but that is now gone.  Unfortunately, I am afraid local news coverage is being driven by demographics.  The more affluent the area, the more willing publishers are to provide in depth local coverage.

  3. Your local news coverage throughout the paper is not bad. 

    My only gripe is the opinion pages.  There isn’t enough effort put to “local” issues.  you do have a fair amount from time to time; but not enough on a regular basis.  I get bored with the same “newswire” writers you use for opinion pages over and over.

    Also, would appreciate more coverage of San Jose State Sports as well!

  4. Just the fact that you took the time to respond to our comments, proves to me that the Mercury News is listening to and cares about what its readers want.  I hope your new owners will be as philanthopic to San Jose as was Knight Ridder.  Good luck in your efforts making the Merc. the best it can be.

  5. It sounds like the Merc decided to leave a lot of the local coverage to the SVCN’s.  I find the writing in those papers to be substandard with gaping holes in most stories.  Unless the Merc puts qualified reporters on the various SVCN staffs I don’t feel that those fluff weeklies are an option for serious local coverage.

  6. I have to use this forum to alert the citizens that the MUD and DIRT SLINGING is about to begin. As I said on Aug. 30, 2006,  in response to a comment on Tom McEnery’s article—look who’s throwing the first dirt / mud———the Vice Mayor.  This should give everyone food for thought. 

    The San Jose Merc. reported that a supporter of Cindy Chavez (who also happens to be an attorney) is raising questions and concerns about Chuck Reed and his involvement in the councils discussions on whether to allow gas stations to sell alcohol. 

    I was waiting for mud to be thrown like this, except I thought it would come from one of Cindy Chavez’s CRONIES on the council.  Does everyone remember when in the primaries—a council person, raised questions and concerns and wanted an investigation into the character and action supposedly taken by Dave Cortese.  After the primary, when the damage had been done, the council person retracted her comments indicating it was a misunderstanding.  Sure it was—it accomplished it’s goal—it smeared and cast doubt on a candidate running for Mayor and enhanced Chavez’s chance to get votes.  Here one of Chavez’s CRONIES did the dirty work so Chavez could sit back and look the innocent type.

    Well, I wonder when another of Cindy’s CRONIES on the City Council is going to come forward to do some additional dirty work for Cindy.  I’ll be waiting—remember Cindy is a MUD SLINGER and has learned plenty from her Mentor Ron.  The only question will be—which of her CRONIES steps forward to do Cindy’s bidding—- let’s all watch together. 

    As Tom McEnery said in his article on Aug. 30,  “truth is the first causality”—will this be the case now?  In her campaign thus far, Cindy has shown that truth has no meaning to her or her campaign for mayor—her tactics are now showing the character of person she has been all along.

    Concerned Citizen

  7. This just in:

    City may require fixing of pets

    I have a bettter idea.  Let’s require all politicians to be fixed!  Then we can have some new blood in this city’s leadership!

  8. Dear San Jose and Susan Goldberg:

    I appreciate Ms. Goldberg’s invitation to attend a meeting.  I plan on calling, and hope that I am received.

    I repeat:  the Mercury News missed one of the biggest stories in our city’s recent history.  The paper has been supplied with a copy of a city memo that showed that the alternative sites study for the new city hall was a complete “whitewash.”  the citizens of San Jose were duped by their government when high level staff arbitrarily assigned the high construction costs of the Meier designed building to their “analsysis” of the existing city hall site.  Bids were solicited for 18 other sites, but none were sought for the old city hall site. 

    Ladies and Gentlemen, we were deceived, and the Mercury News was, and remains, a party to this deception because they never looked into it, and they won’t publish the memo, or permit me to write an “Another View” column based on this factual material.

    I look forward to working with the Mercury News in a positive manner to finally bring this important information to the San Jose public.

    Pete Campbell

  9. #7 – Good reminder—Cortese’s percent didn’t go up one digit after the slander.  This fall should be really interesting, especially to see how The Mercury will handle the coverage.

  10. San Jose ( – 30 mimion in 06) and Santa Clara County ( -$200 mil) face serious financial budget problems due to low job formation and tax revenues and lose millions in retail sales dollars.

    San Jose government lack basic understanding of what drives local economy, how to work with businesses, how to encourage local job formation and how excessive government regulation kills jobs, retail and economy   San Jose is the worst example with very low jobs and tax revenues.

    Why did San Jose lose Nanosolar and Biotech center, Google expansion etc   Was it more mistakes or incompetence by City Council , city staff and our regional not local Chamber that what keeps San Jose struggling as a city and we do not have decent city services etc

    Your articles about Gilroy and Milpitas retail growth has another negative side –  Why are San Jose residents having to shopping in other cites and funding other city services. 

    What is history and decisions by whom and when about why there is no shopping centers or auto malls in North or South San Jose ( only Central or West )  – which means tens of thousands of residents / tax revenues go to Gilroy or Milpitas rather than San Jose?

    Mercury News should investigate who and why San Jose lost the many opportunities for new jobs, retail stores and tax revenues.

  11. I’m surprised to hear that the Merc is surprised by the charge of not providing sufficient coverage of local issues.  There’s a downtown neighborhood group called the Downtown Neighborhood Leadership Forum which has met off and on with the Merc editorial and executive staff for a number of years – because local coverage is weak.

    Does anything happen as a result of those meetings? No. This is why a number of Forum members have stopped attending the meetings.

    A quick google of PDO or “Park Dedication Ordinance” and “San Jose” pops up not one news reference. Yet, this is an exciting issue currently happening in San Jose. After decades of delaying an adjustment to the PDO fee structure and approval of the Park Reconciliation Trust report these two items are swiftly moving through boards and commissions with the aid of groups like CalSJ.

    Council and city staff are working closely to ensure San Jose residents are to be adequately represented by open space in our rapidly growing city.

    The neighborhood column which used to be printed on a regular basis was killed a few years back.

    San Jose’s Parks and Recreation department has closed 4 of San Jose’s 6 public pools.  There is apparently no plan to maintain or repair the pools but there are to be public meetings to determine what residents would like to see in future pools.

    One of these pools, Ryland Park, is rumored to be facing a bulldozer.

    Community centers are being shut down, libraries closed and staff moved to new libraries.

    As a San Jose resident I could care less that some nut claims to have killed Jon Benet Ramsey yet if I google “John Karr” and Mercury I get more than half a dozen articles in the Merc on the non-story.

  12. #12:

    The Merc did better than write an article on PDO, they wrote an editorial:

    Pools is another issue.  Herhold has failed to follow up on the pools issues this year, even though we had record heat.

    Personally I’d like to see the Merc provide searchable access to all their archives for free, ideally through Google.  It would sure help in these political debates and historical research.

    Also I’d the Merc to do an investigative report on PG&E.  Why do other cities such Santa Clara have less outages?

  13. Susan,

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to those of us who participate in this forum.

    While you make a good case for the Merc’s local coverage perhaps the fact that many readers see things differently should be instructive. Maybe readers evaluate coverage in a different way than Executive Editors.

    In particular you cite the number of local stories appearing on page one as evidence of the Mercury’s overall local news content. While page one prominence is significant, it does not give a complete picture.

    For example today’s paper contains only 13 local stories in The Valley section. (I am not counting columnists, obituaries, regional & state stories or the half page of weather.) Are there so few newsworthy stories today in an area the size of Santa Clara County?

    Looking at some of the other sections of today’s Mercury News…

    The Business section, as usual, does an excellent job today with numerous stories about local companies and issues of direct interest to Silicon Valley. (When it comes to Tech all news is local?)


    Today’s Arts and Entertainment section contains 0 stories about local arts or entertainment events!

    -Then Again-

    Today’s Sports section is a little better for local coverage. There’s a front page story about a former Marine who now plays football for San Jose State, a story about the Sharks and Mark Purdy’s column about the Stanford Band.  The Merc also did a credible job covering highlights of high school sports.


    On the Opinion pages to the Merc’s credit 2 out of today’s 3 editorials are about local issues (HP’s mess and the new housing development in Gilroy) but, as usual, your Letters section all but ignores local issues. Do you not get letters regarding hometown concerns?

    I may be missing a few items, but that’s my quick read of today’s Mercury News for local stories.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the Mercury News is a very good newspaper. The local coverage that you offer tends to be quite good. Blowing the lid off City Hall and the series on the courts are examples of the kind of local coverage for which you can be justifiably proud.

    I hope that you stay strong under your new owners. I also hope that you will consider the feedback from last Friday’s SJI to be constructive criticism that you can use to a positive end. Obviously your readers share your values regarding the importance of local news.

  14. To obtain a reasonable measure of how—and how well—the media covers local news one needn’t look any further than the exchanges that occur daily here on SanJoseInside. From city hall politics to local transit to downtown redevelopment, contributors to SJI reveal, through their opinions and arguments, the depth of their knowledge of local issues. And though there are many here who reveal and share their impressive insider knowledge of particular issues, it is clear that even amongst this motivated group of news consumers there are information gaps that go unfilled, questions that go unanswered, and conclusions that go astray.

    I doubt that anyone reading this blog believes that our government wants us fully-informed. Yes, our officials most certainly want us to know what “they did for us” when they’re cutting ribbons on new roads, but they go to great lengths to keep secret much of their day to day dealings. In reality, there exists between the government and the governed an Information Curtain constructed of rationalization, opportunism, self-protection, corruption, as well as a very small amount of prudence.

    Enter the journalist, with a professional commitment to bridge that curtain and a creed that includes the vow, “I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.”

    Instead of staying true to its professional responsibilities, for more than three decades the San Jose Mercury has used its power to inform and influence to instead play politics and grab power—in a manner indistinguishable from that of the most pandering politician. Seizing upon the Race Card, and playing it against even the best of our community’s institutions, the newspaper has over the years condemned our schools and teachers, assailed our police department and its officers, strong-armed our courts and judges, and all but destroyed the sanctity of the Civil Service system.

    Was I alone in noticing that the destruction of century-old academic standards coincided with the newspaper’s enthusiastic support of minority finger-pointing at our local schools. I guess I couldn’t help it because not only had I attended those “substandard” schools, but I had learned from those disparaged teachers, and would remain forever awed by their patience and efforts.

    But why let a little thing like dedication and honest effort get in the way when there are victims to create, papers to sell, and power to grab?

    Examine how the paper covers police-related news. If all you know about it is what you’ve read in the paper you’d think that racial profiling is a big problem, police misconduct is being concealed, and Rick Callender is a credible expert on law enforcement matters.

    In other words, you’d have it all wrong.

    Racial profiling? Try to find a cop who’d even heard of such a thing prior to having his department condemned for it. Oh, there have been lots of allegations (chumming the waters for civil suits is what the race merchants call it), but where are the documented cases? Seems pretty easy to me to nail a cop if he can’t justify a stop. Isn’t “why did you stop me, officer?” still a near universal response to being stopped? Not one case? Smells like agenda—not journalism—to me. 

    Misconduct covered-up? Now that would be news—especially to the police auditor, who is, as was her predecessor, 0 for her existence in uncovering cases where the department hasn’t conscientiously policed itself. 

    And then there is Mr. Callender, finger-pointer extraordinaire, treated with such deference by the Mercury that should he suddenly scream, “The sky is falling!” you can count on the next day’s headline being the simple, “Everybody, Run!” Surprising treatment for so obvious a race provocateur and convicted thug (and how many Mercury readers are aware of his violent criminal history?).

    The conduct of our local police is a huge issue; one that effects public trust, property values, local business, recruitment quality, and how the department responds to volatile situations (or, as in an infamous Seattle incident, how they don’t respond). Yet the truth about our police department—that it deserves our trust and respect—has been all but suppressed by a newspaper that is eager to frame every police issue as some sort of racial divide—just as Mr. Callender would have it.

    The Mercury has been very successful at acquiring power, and its ability to influence events and officials cannot be denied. But, what’s that old axiom about absolute power…?

  15. One weakness of the Merc is beginning a story but not finishing it. The PDO referenced above is a good one. The Merc had an editorial about the importance of this and mentioned it would be going to the Planning Commission for review. It went to the Planning Commission this week but I didn’t see anything in the paper telling what the commission did. This has happened many times before—the background is provided on an item and then the paper does not report on what happened to it. This would be one way to improve local coverage by offering a complete story from start to finish.

  16. From first hand experience with the slanted, biased coverage of a local news issue by the Mercury News I have to wonder what other local stories are accurate.

    I am referring to stories regarding the Reid-Hillview airport, and other local general aviation (GA) issues, written by a recently retired reporter whose initials are FS.

    Mr. FS is a pilot and is based at the Reid-Hillview (RHV) airport, and his wife is active in RHV organizations.  It was to Mr. FS’s advantage to insure that any RHV, and other GA, stories are positively slanted in favor of the GA community.  Sure enough, he used his position as a Mercury News reporter to suppress any anti-RHV information, and would make up pro-RHV support stories.

    For example, his coverage of the multiple community held RHV FAR150 noise meetings appeared to be based on some hallucination.  Mr. FS would ignore the 100s of local residents who attended the FAR150 meetings calling for reduced aircraft noise at RHV, and also for the closure of RHV.  Many times no pilots, or occasionally one or two, would speak.  Yet, Mr. FS’s articles would say things such as “a few disgruntled members of the community spoke, while many pilots and community members spoke in favor of the airport.”.  Every article I read by Mr. FS that dealt with RHV meetings which I attended were basically made-up.

    If Mr. FS could get away with this blatant manipulation of local issues to fit his agenda then how many other local stories are being manipulated to fit someone else’s agenda?

  17. Thank you for caring – but we need more local stories with indepth analysis and reporting as we saw in Merc over the years about local problems We need stories like —-

    Mayor and District 3 & 6 race candidate positions, issues and indepth differences
    Who has contributed to Mayor & D3 / 6 candidate and what special interest group expects to get for their money?  What are non monetary contributions?  Money from outside San Jose?

    Will Merc run a Fact Check on the numerous campaign accusations we will see in Mayor & District 3 / 6 races?

    After billions spent on downtown, Why it is not successful ?  Who are groups, history, what do they want and why can’t they work together ? Is it that not enoght downtown people with money to spend plus people outside downtown have negative downtown image and many non problem shopping areas shop?

    Who much tax $$$‘s are spent on downtown events and other costs each year and where does $$$‘s go – Chamber , Downown Business Association, Visitor / Convention, Sports Authority, Theaters , Events, Arena etc – For what downtown activities and who get city dollars etc   What is city oversight or reporting?
    Are we getting good value on our downtown tax dollars – Non downtown residents do not think so

    Which non profits and community groups get San Jose tax revenues, what is the oversight or reporting to the city and how does that conparre to oversight for other grant organizations or if came from private venture funds What is annual $‘s total and $‘s other city contributions – buildings , free services like police / fire etc

    Compare tax revenues that downtown , neighborhood business and each shoppiing center generates and what the ciity spends on each of these areas and is it fair or politics

    Why after 30 years of Silicon Valley high growth is San Jose is still short money and other cities have excess?  = Bad or clueless politicians , city mismanagement, special interest deals interferred with good planning , policy and spending,  giving away tax dollars to non profits, community groups and developers or special interests   What is it ?

    Articles showiung comparisions between San Jose and other cities on – parks, city services, city employees per thousand population , time to obtain lisenses , how cities do economic development and who is involved city / community and what are results city support for arts, theater etc

    Sunshine Task Force – what’s happening

    City Government turnover of senior staff and key employees How it affect services? 

    City by City comparison of average time to get permits, business license, development approval or start up or expand business store or homes

    What is history of San Jose city back room special interest done deal city government, Was it always there but hidden , Examples from 50’s, 60’s 70’s 80’s and 90’s How did we get in the mess we are in , when, how, who caused it – what changes need to be done,  how does campaign contributions dollars and free services or rent make it worst , who are large players who ” pay to play ” what are they getting for their money

    Should be a few better local news articles here

  18. Mrs. Goldberg, although you quoted the rise in coverage of local news, I would like to see more in depth coverage of the redevelopment agency and how it spends the funds it acquires. One of my greatest concerns is with the Redevelopment Agency and its relationship with the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative. As an example, I would like to point to the Guadalupe Washington Neighborhood, over the years; millions of dollars have been approved for various neighborhood improvements. However, waiting for projects to get started; let alone finish, is like watching Pluto orbit the sun.

    I used to attend neighborhood association meetings and stopped about six years ago for health reasons. I attended the last couple of meetings only to find several of the projects in the works since 2000 are still on the drawing board!

    I would like to see an itemized sheet of how the RDA has been spending the funds allocated to all the SNI groups since SNI was created, and if possible, since 2000. If the funding is available, projects should move forward with diligence, not left on the shelf until the next election or people forget.

    Refugio Moreno

  19. Do not believe #20 request fits exclusive local news for Mercury since it and other reports are publically available at

    SNI Five-year Implementation Plan’s Progress Report

    Current Status – Washington SNI

    Washington Revitalization Plan

    5 Year Report on SNI – March 6, 2006"strong neighborhoods report"

  20. While Ms. Goldberg’s gentle defense of her paper’s local coverage is to her credit, she adroitly skipped lightly over far more important complaints that were discussed in the Sept. 8th blog to which she makes reference.

    There is no point in recounting some fairly serious allegations and examples, but it is important that we not lose sight of the fact that Ms. Goldberg is just another politician on the ground in San Jose, skilled at redefining, deflecting, calming, and ignoring pointed questions. Her conduct in this regard is not qualitatively different from that of the mayor or city council members.

    The idea that the Mercury News is even-handed and not ideologically driven is one that doesn’t stand up to examination.

    Don’t go all wobbly because she deigned to come down to our level to explain how we are wrong on one issue, local coverage.

  21. Susan,
    I’m guessing you read some of the other posts as well from Thursday’s blog. 

    What’s your take on Yarnold’s quote?
    Is it easier to find Waldo in the Merc newsroom than to find a pro-lifer?

    What is the Mercury News doing to address this lack of diversity?  You do believe in diversity, no?

    “…but I also hear from people, who, upon reading our coverage of the Iraq war, believe we are a tool of the Bush Administration”.

    This one’s practically become a journalism cliche.

    Is this the litmus test the Merc uses to gauge whether or not it’s playing the news down the middle?

    Considering that we live in an area where anyone to the right of Tom Hayden is considered a fascist – it may be time for the Merc to get a new fair and balanced metric.

  22. #27 Novice & others:

    It seems that some of the criticism in this thread seems to be aimed at the Merc for not following one particular ideological line. Is that what you really want from a newspaper?

    So here is a challenge:

    What “fair and balanced metric”, to use Novice’s term, would you have the Merc use to determine accurate and unbiased coverage?

    If the Merc hired you as its Consultant For Local News what would you change? 

    The only rule: as an above-board ethical journalist you cannot use your position to push a personal political agenda.

  23. I was in a meeting with Ron Gonzales about two years ago.  Though the meeting was not about him, all he could do was blame the Mercury News for all of his problems.  That says a lot about Ron and even more about the Merc.  Keep up the good work (no, not you Ron)

  24. 27 – Wow, Tom Hayden. No wonder you are so out of touch. When is the last time anybody heard of Tom Hayden?? Last I heard he was archiving DVDs of my old movies.

  25. Dear San Jose:

    Novice (#27) makes an excellent point.  For the Mercury News, “diversity” relates more to “who” is writing, rather than “what” they’re writing.  I would be willing to bet that the paper does not have one columnist or editorial board member with views right of center.  (Why not take an anonymous in-house poll to determine if they are any Republicans or Libertarians on staff?)

    Also, take a look sometime at the Mercury News’ mission statement. (usually at the bottom of the second page).  To me, it’s odd.

    But, as much as I blame the paper for not standing up to Gonzales sooner, I do understand that in the end, the MERC is simply giving their customers what they want.  The people of San Jose are mostly apolitical.  Most are more interested in heigthened consumption rather than civic responsibilities and aspirations.

    Pete Campbell

  26. Mal #27,

    I would first examine the geographic distribution of local coverage by the MediaNews group papers. 

    Ms. Goldberg says the Merc’s weekly Guide was discontinued because of the purchase of the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers and the Palo Alto Daily Newspapers.  Unfortunately, large areas of San Jose covered by the Guide are not covered by either purchase.

    I would like Ms. Goldberg to respond to tell us if there are any plans to expand either the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers or the Palo Alto Daily Newspapers into other San Jose neighborhoods.

  27. One of my main concerns is what is happening to the daily new group.  It seems to have lost it’s independent voice after the Mercury News bought it.

    Certainly the editorial pages have been gutted.  And the local coverage is now shared with MN, so we have one voice instead of two.

    That’s not an increase in local coverage.  It’s reducing it by half.

  28. Ms. Goldberg,
      In 1954-56, I was a Merc. delivery boy. down town, Deanza Hotel etc, later a 275 paper route in Palm Haven Park. Rain ,cold,wind, no matter I never missed a delivery day. Porched all my papers. 4am before school. Saturday and Sundays. Evening for collections.
      Collections were the pitts. I learned about dead beats. That lots of them read the Mercury News, at my expence,er,mom’s expense. Most were great and generous Americans. I learned so much about good folks. For that I’m forever thankful to your paper. I use so much today in my business that I learned on the job as a kid. In 24 years I have but one guy that stiffed me, and he’s leaving soon.
      I recall a meeting with Larry Jinks, in which I told Larry that I read about my community in the hispanic publication. Sports and world events were the Merc’s rule.
      When Nuevo Mundo emerged and with an hispanic board, issued exclucivity clauses, excluding the hispanic publications, that for years had carried those same nonprofits. I was on the board of the Mexican Heritage Corp.
      The way I saw it, The Mercury would send a letter of exclucivity to the non profit. Once signed they would be published and supported financially. The sad part was that the boardmembers were the very leaders of those nonprofits. I was at the MHC meeting where the clause was signed.
      What saddened me was that these Hispanic Board members effectively shut out the local neighborhood publishers.  This 800 lb Gorilla was using mucle to increase their profile.
        I felt the members of our MHC board that sat on the board of Nuevo Mundo, were mean sprited. Because even years prior, they would only use El Observadore. Turns out the publisher was GI Forum. The MHC Board was heavy with GI Forum members. Abel Cota was made the director of theMHC Mariachi Festival. Go Figure?
      Following the dots, The MHC board, members on the Nuevo Mundo board would send them selves an exclucivity clause which they would sign and then send it back to themselves. Sweet deal, right? Wrong! There after Nuevo Mundo was call,
        “La Voc de Los Vendidos” That handle seemed to satisfy with much laughter the awful mess they had created in our hispanic community. I encouraged the three local publications to dig in and be the best they could be and not waste valuable energy trying to stop the insensitive folks that really did not belive in our community as a whole living unit.
        This left a bad feeling in my sprit. It has resurfaced, since Many Diaz is seeking to enter local politics once again.
        I had written Concilman Diaz a letter asking for a meeting with all of the Hispanic publications, Nuevo Mundo, Mexican consul, and the Non Profits that signed the Exclucivity clauses.
        OOPS! I was asked to resign from the MHC Board. Was I surprised? Of course not.  By the votes they managed to get, I had effectively exposed that awful episode in insensitive journalism.  The MHC Board members that cared, came to me with sincere apologies, stating that they had nothing to do with my ouster. I reassured them that I had everything to do with my ouster. King Me!
        I have a bronze plaque in my den that proudly reads” The Village Black Smith,Ousted From the MHC for Crimes Against Unethical Shenanigans.
        A million stories in a city that never sleeps.
            The Village Black Smith

  29. Susan:
    While change is difficult for many, items detailed provide an acceptable base as to what the newspapers goals are.
    An ownership change is no walk-in-the-park.
    Loss of a weekly column detailing a portion of Valley history irked me, which vanished close to a decade ago.
    Having been involved in one of the Community College athletic programs for ten years, just having a report of results was spotty, at best.  Space required wasn’t significant but- obtaining them possibly was.
    Regardless, the athletes felt slighted… as if they (the Merc)  didn’t care.  Thus, the area newspaper was placed in a negative light.
    Your time and involvement in this space is a nice step forward.

  30. San Joseans are seeing a shrinkage in city services.  On my block, in the Shasta-Hanchett district, for example, that equates to fewer code enforcement and animal services personnel to respond to what, in some instances,  have become desperate situations for residents.

    The equivalent at the Mercury News is that there are now too few staff in all departments to accomplish what bloggers want the paper to provide.  I understand this because of my 15-year tenure at the paper before retirement.
    Susan has a herculean job and deserves credit for inviting the community to come aboard for weekday afternoon news meetings.

    Ellie Molloy

  31. #31 Pete
    I remember the Mercury News giving plenty of coverage on a story about the planning commission standing up to Gonzales. Later that year in a story that placed him as the most powerful person in Silicon Valley they were quite insightful about his character flaws. This was back in 2000!  If it weren’t for the Merc we would still have a City Manager and Council kissing up to him.  I get tired of people trying to blame the Merc for our present administration.  Before we put all the blame on the Merc, I would like Pete, Novice, Fin Fan, and all the rest to state what they did to stand up to Gonzo.  Let’s face it, too few cared and too few had the backbone to stand up.

  32. 36 hits a homerun on this one. Some of us did as much as we could to bring attention to the wrongdoings of the Gonzo brigade—a lot more than just whining about it on this site. 36 asks a good question—what were the rest of you doing? What are you doing now besides sniping at each other here? Getting rid of Gonzales is only the beginning of a long process to fix all that is broken at City Hall.
    Are you working to get Sam Liccardo elected in D3 to avoid a repeat of the past 7 years? Are you demanding accountability from your councilperson? If all you are doing is contributing to this blog, then you are not doing enough.
    Tell us all what else you are doing to make SJ a better place.

  33. Dear Patric Henry:

    Clearly, those of us who have stood up to Gonzales have not done enough, because he remains in office.   

    Information is power.  The Mercury News fails to provide the people of San Jose with the information required to make sound decisions.  Let me give you just a few examples:  The City of San Jose currently has a backlog list of 300 miles of streets that need resurfacing or repaving.  It costs $300,000/mile to do the job.  (That’s $90 million to take care of what is required TODAY).  Another example:  The Mercury News did a story a few months ago about plans to move the art museum to the old library.  Nowhere in the article was it mentioned that the old library building houses many city employees because there’s no room for them in the new city hall.  Where will these employees be moved to?  how much will it cost. and who will pay for it?

    One last example:  Several weeks ago, the Mercury News printed a public notice on a city EIR that used the words, “Baseball Stadium.”
    (the property that the city is assembling by the arena).  My clear understanding is that there is an ordinance that requires voter approval before any money is spent on a stadium in excess of 15,000 seats.  (Why doesn’t the Mercury News call them on this?) 

    Great papers are vanguards for Democracy.  In terms of local coverage, it’s not the quantity, but the quality that matters.

    Pete Campbell

  34. #19 has hit it right on the head.  There’s so much San Jose news that is going unreported.  Important news that would affect how I cast my vote in November in a local election, the most important local election in 8 years.

    Look closer.  What’s your definition of “local”?  You cite coverage of the new Stanford Stadium.  While it’s marvelous that they’ve been able to completely rebuild the stadium in 10 months, what about what’s happening at Spartan Stadium?  There’s a reason many SJSU boosters call you “The Stanford Mercury News”.

    Bring it home and perhaps I’ll consider subscribing again.  But for now, adios.

  35. #38 – Thanks, Pete. I was unaware of the city’s consideration to move the art museum to the old library.  In such an event, what happens to the areas of the present museum that were funded by some pretty hefty donations from art patrons?!  I would think they would be outraged if not recognized. Have we outgrown the museum or does the city want it for something else?

  36. Two questions I have for Ms. Goldberg (and Mr. Wright for that matter):

    * Why has the Mercury News historicallly supported every sales tax hike or bond measure proposal – even when there are legitimate questions on how the money will be spent and who will be accountable?  (Example: the last two sales tax measures which VTA gets $$$ despite a history of fiscal mismanagement and a civil grand jury report calling for the Board’s disbanding)

    * Under your new ownership, what would have to happen for more local (South Bay) coverage to appear in the Mercury News?  The fact that many local stories are picked up by smaller papers but missed by the Mercury News shortchanges your readership. Example: VTA’s Board of Directors approving spending over half a million ($500,000) of your tax dollars on Yet Another Internal Audit…

    I personally spoke out against the expenditure.  With information coming in less than a week before the Board vote, I figured this was one of these deals where VTA tells the auditor “Tell Us What We Want To Hear.”

    How is it that a smaller paper from Gilroy can pick up something the Merc should have had as a Page One lead story?  I was left scratching my head on it all, to say the least…

  37. # 21, I wasn’t asking for a generic report. I think it’s important for the public to see how the funds are actually spent; how are they consumed? I have seen the top ten list and have read (in the Merc) about the millions approved for the Washington area. However, the information that I have come in contact with in not itemized to see if the public is getting the most out of the funds available to them.

  38. “Above all, we are committed to local news that serves a diverse region with an economic engine driven by technology. We will favor exclusive local content in all areas….over commodity news.

    “Our role as a watchdog in the community is paramount. We will retain a strong projects team and stress investigative reporting, here and in Sacramento.”

    Ms. Goldberg, from the comments I’m seeing here combined with my own opinion:
    a)  “serving a diverse region” is spreading the news too thin.  By taking a regional view you dilute the content of San Jose news.
    b)  “our role as a watchdog in the community” is not being fulfilled.  Your potential readership here in this forum is begging for more watchdog news (see #19).
    c)  stressing investigative reporting “here and in Sacramento” is fine, but make sure the Sacramento reporting has a direct impact on San Jose.

    San Jose is your first name, Mercury News.  Fulfill that promise.

  39. # 27, 28, 31 and others   – great “fair and balanced metric”, standard – which Mercury does not follow consistently – as an above-board ethical journalist you cannot use your position to push a personal political agenda. – too much opinion as news reporting and both sides are not fairly reported – so many examples it would take dozens of pages to list

    # 19 , 35, 38, 41 and others   – list many missed or partially covered local stories or Mercury frequently prints politician spin and falseness as fact with no challenge   Uncovered complete stories
    – 1) lack of code enforcement
    – 2)  probably $500 million to $ 1 billion – not $100 millions of deferred city street maintenance ( Pete your $300,000 per mile is way way too low since after decades of deferred maintenance we now will have to spend spend $1 million or more a mile to fix or more ) see recent street repairs costs where some streets repairs are $1 million per block
    – 3) lack of new parks / adequate maintenance – $200 million or more
    – hundreds of millions lost to wasted redevelopment downtown projects and money spend on non profits and community organizations an deconomic development events and projects with almost no real oversight – Rep Meriican Hertiage , GI Forum, Grand Priix and dozens of others or how much we got for our tax dollars
    – real total cost of City Hall to taxpayers = $ 900 mil – 1 billion –  all costs plus interest on bonds $25 – 30 million per year for 30 years = $750- 900 mil not politicians understated costs of $400 mil

  40. Susan, 

    Will Mercury follow up on local story ideas and when from #19, 20/21, 35, 38,  41 and other local story ideas?

    Will you answer many comments and commit to some specific local stories or like many guest Blog authors ( Dando, Guardino etc ) not answer hard questions which make SJI less effective ?

  41. # 22 Question – Is this real of another fustrated finfan Reed attack under another name or Chavez supporter question with no / thin facts or proof?

    “Will the Mercury News run any stories about how Reed rejects public record requests but claims to be the “Sunshine Mayor?”

  42. Today, Sunday 24, Mercury News has a FULL front page and another two FULL pages inside section A about a dark, sensational crime 21 years ago (“Laurie Survived”.)  Not only that, it’s from an interview this past summer!!! 

    What gives?  Surely there are more timely issues occuring here in Northern California!  Why dreg up something sensational from two decades ago, when contemporary issues and events need to be conveyed?  This is the kind of problem that needs to be addressed by the Mercury.

  43. Here is but one small example of how the Murky News’s bias slithers into reporting:  today’s edition, page 4B—Mr. McPherson is identified as a Republican; no party affiliation noted for Ms. Bowen

  44. Then there was Joe Rodriguez’s recent article about how local residents are trying (unsuccessfully and with little or no help from the city/police) to take back St. James Park from its current drug dealing denizens.

    He wrote about the folks with “borrowed” shopping carts.  “Borrow” implies at least two things—consent from the borwee, and an intent by the borrower to return the item.  neither is true in this instance.  The carts were stolen.

  45. It’s nice to hear straight from the horse’s mouth the mainstream news media admitting that their newsrooms are overwhelmingly comprised of leftists and that their biased worldviews – gasp! – affect their reporting.

    [Alter is Jonathan Alter of Newsweek]

    Hewitt: What [the Washington Post’s Thomas] Edsall admitted, which was so damning, is that the people who drive the news are the reporters, and the reporters are, by 15-25 to 1 leftists.

    Alter: OK. All right. Now I’m not sure that ratio is wrong. I mean, I don’t think anybody has a good study of it, but—

    Hewitt: But it feels right.

    Alter:—it’s overwhelmingly, the question, though, the threshold question that you have to look at is how much does that affect their coverage? Now I think some. I think liberals who say well, that doesn’t affect their coverage at all are wrong. Obviously, people’s worldviews will affect their coverage to a certain extent.

  46. Dear Ms. Goldberg,

    I live in the Berryessa/North Valley area.  Scant are the Mercury News articles about our community.  We hardly even get mentioned in Road Show. 

    While the Mercury News fawns obsequiously over Palo Alto, neighborhood’s in the Merc’s own back yard get the short shrift.  On my street, more and more people are finding the Merc irrelevant and some have dropped their subscriptions while others talk about doing so.

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