There are two kinds of thieves: ones who own up to their actions when caught and those who make up facts to justify their thievery. The Mercury News executive team has chosen to go the route of lying thieves. Luckily, no one is really fooled, and the ethical character of the group running the Bay Area’s daily newspapers is now on display for all to see. The emperor has no clothes.
Bay Area News Group has neither apologized nor reached out to the victims of its wide-ranging, multi-county initiative to deprive competitors of circulation spots. More than a simple property crime, BANG’s activities need to be seen in the context of its long history of monopolistic activities to buy up and consolidate publications, force competitors out and reduce consumer choices.
Let’s take a look at the false statements the media group provided to the widely respected Jim Romenesko blog yesterday (in bold):
“We were, however, recently contacted by local authorities and instructed to remove several newsracks that were not in compliance with a local rack ordinance.”
If the Mercury News was asked by a city official to perform illegal removals, they should immediately release the names and dates of those communications, and the content of those alleged instructions.
Further, the newsrack removals were a wide-ranging sweep of competitors’ property that took place from Palo Alto to Santa Cruz and would have had to involve multiple jurisdictions, different drivers and knowledge of company management.
The City of San Jose on Friday released this statement: “We do not have any records pertaining to this issue. We would not ask the Mercury News to confiscate a competitor’s property. If there were a violation, we would contact the owner directly to correct the issue or we would confiscate the news rack.”
“We … notified the individual publishers whose racks we removed. ”
Not one publisher has indicated that they were notified. The owner of Pink Spot incredulously screamed “What!” into the phone. La Oferta’s Frank Andrade said “I was wondering, ‘What the hell is happening to my racks.’” Palo Alto Weekly publisher Bill Johnson was equally shocked. “No, nobody notified us,” said Philippines Today.
“The racks have been stored on our property since that time.”
The racks were not stored. Most were disposed of in a metal recycling dumpster. The Mercury News needs to disclose what “that time” is, how long the newsrack roundups have been going and whose newsracks have been removed and destroyed, as well as provide documentation on the newspaper’s alleged notices to affected owners of the property removed.
“This is a normal practice in the industry”
Is theft the new normal?
“that is recognized by the various municipalities“
Pure BS. No responsible public official would instruct a newspaper to selectively remove the racks of its competitors. Why did the Mercury News remove the nicest, newest rack in the lineup in front of the Starbucks on the Alameda while leaving old and abandoned racks in place? So they could put two of their own big racks next to one another and crowd out competiton?
“as well as the publishers who place racks on the streets.“
The industry practice is to not move your competitors’ property. No publisher recognizes the right of another one to secretly drive off with their racks and toss them in a dumpster.
“This afternoon was the first time any of the publishers notified us that they were interested in retrieving the racks.”
What publisher would ever leave their property sitting at the Mercury News? When I found out from an independent distributor, I dropped everything and was there within 15 minutes. The Palo Alto Daily Post’s circulation manager was on family time when the call came, and he packed his 9-month-old and stroller into a car to get right down to Ridder Park Drive.
“after discussions with the publisher’s representatives and the San Jose police, we agreed earlier this afternoon to meet again tomorrow.”
No discussions took place. Mercury News turned its back to the publishers, ordered them off the property, sent out security guards and huddled privately with police officers. After an extended wait, a Mercury News representative gave a phone number of a manager in San Ramon who would arrange for the return of the racks. When a writer from Metro called for a comment, that manager slammed down the phone and could be heard screaming “motherf****” in the background. (The handset wasn’t properly returned to the base.) No meeting took place on Thursday. Metro received no call inviting us to pick up the racks, and no racks were returned.
“At that time, we would make all the racks available for pickup by the publisher’s representatives, which had been our desire all along.”
Then why were they in a dumpster?
“Everyone was satisfied with this arrangement.”
Someone’s smoking crack.
Hopefully, the San Jose Police Department will thoroughly investigate and determine the actual facts behind this media monopoly’s assault on smaller publications and forward the matter to the District Attorney for proper handling.
Postscript: The story has begun to change since the original statement to Romanesko. On Thursday, Bay Area News Group’s Vice President/Circulation David Rounds modified the claim that they had notified publishers of the removals: “We have now had the opportunity to further investigate this matter. We have confirmed that we are in possession of three newsracks owned by the Palo Alto Post, along with seventeen others owned by fourteen active publishers.
“The Palo Alto Post racks were removed from two different sites in response to calls from the Palo Alto police dispatch. We have learned, however, that we failed to contact the Palo Alto Post after removing the racks, and may not have contacted the other publishers as well, contrary to our normal practice.”
Dan Pulcrano is the executive editor and CEO of Metro.