The Lighter Side of Mercury News Emails

Turning the page on 2012, it’s also time to close out the final chapter on emails between politicos and Barbara Marshman, the opinionated opinion editor of the Mercury News. Marshman apparently got in hot water with her bosses this winter after Fly published excerpts of some emails she sent. Those messages included Marshman extending an offer to bestow “lavish praise” in print to Water District candidate Barbara Keegan if Keegan removed herself from the race, as well as some righteous indignation that former San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer and others would be such “jerks” about a library ballot initiative that the paper opposed. But after an extensive review of emails between city staff and the entire editorial board, thanks to a Public Records Act request from a Washington D.C.-based firm called Public Records Strategies, it’s obvious that Marshman and some city staff members have a sense of humor. For example, when Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio mentions that his cat was happy about his re-election in June, Marshman speculated that opponent “Steve [Klein]‘s cat must be inconsolable.” She shared the political wisdom of consultant Vic Ajlouny in analyzing Chuck Reed’s 2006 victory: “In the Reed mayoral election, Michael Mulcahy signs were all over Willow Glen—but Chuck won the district handily,” Marshman writes. “Vic says, “If lawn signs could vote, Michael Mulcahy would be mayor.” City staff also shared thoughts they probably thought would stay private. David Vossbrink, the city’s communications manager, fretted about a TV station’s report on Mayor Reed’s use of $650 million as a worst-case estimate of the city’s unfunded pensionsand benefits liability: “True to form, here’s NBC Bay Area’s narrow version of reality,” he wrote. And in one of her final kerfuffles as a councilmember, Nancy Pyle declared in August that she would no longer speak to Merc reporter Tracy Seipel because of “bullying behavior.” Pyle’s office says the matter was eventually smoothed over. Now uncharacteristically quiet, Marshman limited her comments on the matter to an email, which reads in full: “In developing ideas and researching issues for editorials, my staff and I conduct many conversations on background with people engaged in or knowledgeable about the topics. This is typical of how journalists generally gather information. In our case, because we write opinion, the discussions may include expressing opinions, exchanging ideas and letting people know what we are thinking of writing. What matters is what is published as an editorial in the Mercury News or on” Oh.

The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. One of my earliest New Year’s Resolutions was to finally cancel my subscription to the Mercury. The editorial board and Marshman trying to force out candidates was the final straw. That goes way beyond and “editorial”. She and the rest of the editorial board should have been fired. Kudos to San Jose Inside.

  2. Whoopdedoo. Now Marshman will just gather her information by talking to people, rather than e-mails.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

  3. The Mercury News??  Really , it shouldnt even have the word “NEWS” in it , it is more like the Enquirer . it is not news just fabrications to sell subscriptions. also Just another clog in the Reed Machine.

  4. Vossbrink? Funny.
    He was promoted after flailing miserably at the debt ridden unprofitable Airport. It is obviously where he was trained in civil diversions and disinformation.
    Fortunately for him, he’s venerable enough to be beyond retirement age when his handler Reed is termed out.
    Looking forward to see him try to ingratiate himself into the Liccardo Camp of he needs to keep working. Shameless is as shameless does. How’s that for some “Lavish Praise” huh Davey? Or is that just your narrow view of reality?

  5. i find it hard to believe that the Keegan and Vossbrink email chains were the only ones that were indicative of the Merc Staff working behind the scenes.  I guess we will have to wait for that pending FOIA to bear more fruit.

  6. Keep on digging for dirt sure to find emails regarding all candidates and elected officials.  Dig, dig and expose that mean editorial board who has too much influence. Maybe you get marshaman fired and her dogs on lish.

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