Mercury News Caught with Stolen Racks

San Jose Police were called to the headquarters of the San Jose Mercury News on Wednesday afternoon after an independent distribution firm discovered its news racks — along with those of other local publications — in a metal recycling dumpster behind the daily’s plant.

The container, about the dimensions of a mid-sized moving van’s cargo area, was mostly full, and more news boxes were stacked around the dumpster. The apparent operation to round up and destroy racks targeted the distribution channels of competitors to San Ramon-based Bay Area News Group (BANG), which owns daily newspapers from Marin to Monterey, and community newspapers in Silicon Valley.

“We’d been losing at least three a week,” said Tom Lilledahl, of Mountain View-based Circulation Management Inc. After racks disappeared on Willow Glen’s Lincoln Avenue and the Alameda in San Jose, CMI personnel went to the Mercury News’ Ridder Park Drive plant and found its missing property, along with news boxes of Metro, the Palo Alto Daily Post, the Mountain View Voice, Good Times, La Oferta, the San Francisco Chronicle and other publications.

Representatives of Metro and the Daily Post arrived at Ridder Park Drive shortly after the discovery and were ordered off the property by Mercury News personnel. Daily Post co-publisher Jim Pavelich was threatened with arrest by security guards if he didn’t put down a rack of his that he found in the Merc’s back lot, according to an article in today’s Post.

“This is every publisher’s worst nightmare,” said Palo Alto Weekly publisher Bill Johnson when he learned Thursday morning that his boxes were sitting in a San Jose scrap pile.

“What!” exclaimed an incredulous Kevin Babeaux, owner of the Belmont-based Pink Spots LGBT publication, when informed on Thursday of the confiscations. “That’s disgusting. That’s our property.”

The weekly newspaper Metro’s circulation department has also been suffering a plague of thefts of its newly-redesigned red stands. Metro’s Dan Pulcrano told the Post it was “the worst example of anti-competitive activities that I have seen in three decades of publishing.”

“They’ve been merging nameplates, reducing circulation, shuttering offices, selling off furniture, melting down newsracks and firing so many people that they may have gotten confused and forgot that there were a few publications left in the Bay Area that they didn’t buy up,” Pulcrano said. “They obviously wanted to shrink the independents too.”

Metro, an owner of San Jose Inside, sued the monopoly daily federal antitrust law violations in 1991 and settled the case in 1994 when the Mercury News agreed, among other requirements, not to interfere with Metro’s distribution. Circulation Management says it also sued the Merc for taking its property and received a written promise in 2004 not to touch its racks.

A number of publishers whose racks were taken expressed the opinion that the thefts were a criminal act. San Jose Police are investigating the Mercury News’ possession of their competitors’ racks as a civil matter.

Bay Area News Group circulation executive Jim Wilkenson said he didn’t know how the racks wound up in his company’s back lot. After police officers on the scene mediated the dispute, Wilkenson approached publishers and offered to remove the racks from the dumpster and allow publishers to come and pick them up.

The Mercury News released the following statement Wednesday to media critic Jim Romenesko:

Earlier this afternoon, representatives from a local newspaper came onto our property unannounced claiming that we had stolen their newsracks. To be clear, we have not stolen anyone’s newsracks. We were, however, recently contacted by local authorities and instructed to remove several newsracks that were not in compliance with a local rack ordinance. We complied with the request and notified the individual publishers whose racks we removed. The racks have been stored on our property since that time.

This is a normal practice in the industry that is recognized by the various municipalities as well as the publishers who place racks on the streets. This afternoon was the first time any of the publishers notified us that they were interested in retrieving the racks.

Given that we had not been provided with prior notice of their desire to retrieve the racks, after discussions with the publisher’s representatives and the San Jose police, we agreed earlier this afternoon to meet again tomorrow. At that time, we would make all the racks available for pickup by the publisher’s representatives, which had been our desire all along. Everyone was satisfied with this arrangement.

Given this prior understanding, we are unclear what led to the incident earlier this evening.

Mercury News

None of the publishers San Jose Inside reached for comment said they were contacted by the Mercury News about the news racks.


  1. Well, Mayor Chuck-O has the Merc in his back pocket, given his relationship by marriage to one of the Merc’s big-shots.  But Chuck does not control the content of the independents… or does he now?

    • What a bombshell! I’ve heard a lot of people here on SJI trashing the Merc, and for the first time I’m starting to wonder if everyone’s complaints against the Merc have some truth to them.

    • Lets get off of Pierluigi Oliverio case on stealing signs. According to Pete Constant, he told me that he took what the Councilmen did to the city attorney to see if there were any law violations. And according to Mr. Constant the City Attorney cleared him.

        • I hope that ET Smokey Bear is dead serious!  If he is then I want to know why City Attorney Rick Doyle (the City’s Attorney) is dispensing legal opinions for “civilian volunteers.” 

          PLO claimed (at the time he was caught) that Doyle told him how to legally remove signs by claiming to be an unpaid “City volunteer.”

          Was Doyle acting in his employer’s interest by giving legal advice to an unpaid volunteer? Was Doyle acting as a legal aid volunteer or was he on the taxpayers dime when he gave PLO this advice? IF Doyle was not acting on his primary employer’s behalf (the City of San Jose) THEN does he have the required permission and work permits on file with the City to work as an attorney for pay or for free AS IS REQUIRED FOR ALL CITY EMPLOYEES? 

          Doyle of all people should know this requirement as he helped craft the Secondary Employment Police for the Police Department – a police which is based in part on the City Police for all City employees!

          No Fear though The Meyer already demanded answers to these quesitons from the Mayor, OER and his councilman and gotten NO RESPONSE – I think we all know the answers to the questions but the involved parties all have each others back on this one.

        • Thanks for response everyone about PLO stealing the signs. I have it from a credible source and saw the email exchange between Pete and a one or two police officers from San Jose.  Pete says he took it to Doyle who said no crime. Which there is a crime since you have to go to the city clerks office and file that you are going to go around taking campaign signs down.  With the backing of Mayor Reed all this was swept under the rug.  Plus the Lt involved that handled the case was later promoted.  Despite being in violation of the law that says the police cannot refuse a citizen arrest. On you tube you hear someone demanding he be arrested.  And instead PLO was sent home. That should have started an state attorney investigation since there was cover up going all the way up to the Chief and Mayor.

  2. No surprise here,  Merc is in Chucks pocket,  Metro, I’m surprised since Josh, Rich, PO posts seem to be in his pocket as well. 

    Merc is soon to be out of business because no one will soon subscribe to news papers when we can get it online.  Conspiracy theory here.

    Do you suspect the president was involved, since the Merc is his biggest fan?

    Does this have to do with the libarary scandal? 

    Since Chuck and his other cronies on the transparent rules commitee, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, voted down to put the issue on the November ballot stating they have plenty of time to gather voter approval after a suspicious city blunder.  Do I smell a Measure B, “we have tried to come to terms with unions”.

    Ah, you got to love city policiy under Chuck + 5!

  3. Theft of competitors’ news racks is not different from the Merc’s theft of reputations or its carefully managed tilt to spending more and more of its readers’ taxes.  Just imagine all the school, city, and county tax proposals the Merc has lent its not-so-good name to, and then forgotten about.  It’s a remarkably dishonest publication in many ways.

    Consider the Merc’s editorial from June 22, just five weeks ago with the headline, “San Jose City Hall Is A Done Deal; Get Over It.”  The editorial was a slap in the face to the county grand jury which had proposed a look at the new city hall to see if it complied with all the promises made to us by politicians and by the Merc a mere 13 years ago.  Of course, the new city hall is a caricature of the promises made at that time to voters, but the Merc doesn’t care about honesty or decency in its policies.

    So what are a few metal news racks when the Merc violates our trust almost every day through its promotion of values and policies none of us would like to see implemented in our own homes. 

    Incidentally if you want to make sure that CEO John Paton of the company that owns the Merc hears about this, use this link to find the message blank.  Make sure to ask that your message about the scofflaw Merc is delivered to CEO John Paton…maybe even ask for a house-cleaning at the Merc while you are at it.

  4. The Mercury was a pretty good paper during the 1980s & 90s, but its scarcely been worth bothering with since that time.  I’m frankly not surprised by this immoral act of desperation (and I’m certainly not buying their BS “explanation”).  You pay 75 cents for a nearly empty newspaper half the days.  Its a freakin’ joke.

    • Merc has always had a suspect reputation … Gary Webb in the 90’s… plus Rodney Foo, Webby and Rodriguez… sports page was always second rate with killian and purdy ,  Bert Robinson and his anti police agenda adn lets not forget Robert Ingle (Chuck Reed’s brother-in-law) who used to be the publisher and was thought to be complicit in all attack pieces on anyone who opposed Reed in his school board, planning commission and council campaiigns.  the Merc is Dirty from top to bottom but if it weren’t there would be so little to talk about in SJ!

  5. “We were, however, recently contacted by local authorities and instructed to remove several newsracks that were not in compliance with a local rack ordinance. We complied with the request and notified the individual publishers whose racks we removed.”

    Hey Merc, why wouldn’t it be normal procedure for you to tell the local authority that those racks were not your property and they should contact the actual publishers whose racks those were?  If the cops come to my house and say “this car on the street is parked illegally can you move it?”  I would, if it were mine.  If it were my neighbor’s I’d say “you have to talk to the owner”

  6. I usually can’t post during the day time because I’m busy working as a helmet polisher,raising my family,  and taking care of my beard. But I love the Mercury News. They helped win the passage of measure B, and I just know that they were just helping keep the city clean by removing illegal newspaper dispensers. I know this because I took an online class offered by Pierre Luigi Oliverio titled ” “Don’t be stupid like me, a memoir study”

    I love Pete constant. He’s short, but he’s wide!
    Just sayin

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