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Archives: August 2005

Village Voice and New Times: Their love is real, dammit

vilvoice.gifAfter literally months of rumor and speculation – the kind that top Village Voice brass won’t comment on, certainly – it’s the kind of lede that must feel pretty good, even if the outcome sucks:

The Nation’s two largest alternative newspaper publishers have been in intense negotiations over a merger that would create an 18-paper chain controlled to a significant extent by venture capitalists.

Tim Redmond, the terrier who has been sinking his teeth into this at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, had unearthed the proof: Village Voice Media indeed be merging with the New Times – and they’ve got the draft May 27, 2005 merger agreement to prove it.

The salient points:

  • An 18-paper alternative press chain will be created

  • Control will lie with the New Times: it will have 62 percent of the merged entity and Village Voice Media will have 38 percent
  • This will be reflected in the Board as well: the New Times will have a 5-4 majority, including Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, the executive editor and CEO of New Times respectively, and New Times chief financial officer Jed Brunst and two other New Times picks, including one New Times venture capitalist representative
  • Village Voice Media CEO David Schneiderman will also sit on the board, along with seats representing his three investors
  • Schneiderman will receive a $500,000 bonus for “his work on the merger”
  • This will surely not make Robert Christgau and co. very happy
  • The Village Voice union contracts (recently the subject of much squabble and dissention) – will be honored (presumably however cheaply “honored” may be defined). But according to SFBG, “other employees may not fare so well”: they have a source that says “I believe the rest of the VVM corporate staff (essentially finance people) will be let go.”
  • The resulting company will represent 14.2% of the membership of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies “and would give one chain operation control of some of the biggest media markets in the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Denver, Seattle, Phoenix, and Houston”
  • Closing is set for November 30, 2005

The only thing that’s surprising about this, of course, is the magnitude of the leak from the notoriously secretive parties – Redmond’s got a whole whack of documents along with the draft Merger Agreement, including a memo from Schneiderman worrying about the New Times dead weight and draft bylaws for the merged corporation. Still, it’s sad to think of what might be lost. Ah, well. Anyone who is not notoriously secretive and would like to drop us a tip, please do so at

Exclusive: Internal Village Voice documents detail plans to create 18-paper alt-press chain [SFBG]

Variety to syndicate

Tribune Media Services will begin offering syndicated content from Variety, according to the LA Business Journal. Speaking of Tribune Media Services syndication, it’s two weeks and counting until the Huffington Post syndication second-try launch begins. Oh, and speaking of Variety, reporter Claude Brodesser is leaving the paper for parts as-of-yet-unknown, though he will still be heard on KCRW’s ‘The Business.’

Wasn’t it clever how I just jammed three more-or-less unrelated factoids into one post? I’ll try for four next time.

Katrina: Kicking butt and taking names at CNN

Andy Coop, wet and weathered.jpgOver at TVNewser, our assiduous Katrina-blogging brother has posted this unbelievable screengrab of Anderson Cooper, looking wetter than even we’d want. Poor Anderson! You’re so intrepid! Anderson is hanging tough at the Mississippi Bridge in Baton Rouge; on the road in the eye of the storm, CNN wondertruck “Hurricane One” has apparently been totalled. Quail before the awesome power of nature, Jon Klein! Seriously, I reiterate: I hope everyone remains okay. These roving reporters are half brave, half dedicated, and half stupid. The other half are better at math than me. Grammar, too.


SDO 002.jpgToday on GMA, Charlie Gibson had an “exclusive” interview with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor – still technically a sitting judge, mind you, at least until a certain hunky Presidential nominee is confirmed – about her soon-to-be-released children’s book “Chico,” the tale of a girl and her horse. Aw. Great get for GMA – although an unfortunate day for it,Katrina-wise.SDO 003.jpg It would have been a big score for GMA (today’s “Today” sked was nothing to crow about) but for the obvious Katrina coverage (see TVNewser for a comment on how NBC brought out their big guns to location for the coverage). According to Charlie Gibson later in the program, SDO was very concerned about the hurricane and the fate of New Orleans. We were, too, which is why we DVR’d the interview and are only writing this now. Upshot: Katrina aside, nice exclusive for GMA. Yet another indication that they’re hungry and that Today shouldn’t relax anytime soon.

Monday, Monday Media Minutiae (non-Katrina non-NYT-related edition)

Dream a little dream of these nuggets, gang:

  • Binn a long time, Binn a long time, Binn a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time: Over the past few months Jason Binn has been collecting talent and girding for his new glossy, Capitol File. He is not, however, being welcomed with open arms. Zeppelin and Journey? Only on Fishbowl, folks! [NYDN]
  • Newsweek and Technorati: 2-getha 4-eva Technorati hotshot Dave Sifry describes the blog-vation of the new Newsweek/Technorati feature on the Newsweek site, including not only the Most Blogged About articles but specific blog archives for Newsweek hotshots Michael Isikoff, Anna Quindlen, Stephen Levy and Mark Hosenball. We like this song for you guys. Spice up your life! [Technorati]
  • I’m looking for pound notes loose change bad checks, anything… Time Inc. is feeling the pinch and crunching the cash – they’ve instituted a hiring freeze and are telling staffers to cut way back on travel and expenses. This song’s for you, Time Inc. bottom line. [Crain's]
  • This freelance writer’s done his time as a hack, he’s leaving the life and he ain’t lookin’ back, he’s Ben Yagoda, Y-A-G-O-D-A Yagoda. A freelancer’s gotta have patience and pluck/When your copy is butchered and you can’t make a buck to buy a soda S-O-D-A so he’s hittin’ the road-ah. You think you know what song this is, but you’re wrong. [Slate]
  • A modest celebrity proposal

    Michael Hiltzik takes a sharp look at the recent legislation proposed by state assemblywoman Cindy Montanez to allow anyone (celebrity or civilian) to file suit against a paparazzo who “creates… a reasonable apprehension of offensive or harmful contact” in trying to get a candid celeb shot. Since (obviously) assault is already a crime, this law would allow celebrities to sue photographers even if their actions don’t meet the standards for criminal charges. Of course, this law would lead to an increased burden on our already over-taxed court system. So why not ask celebrities to fund it? Ultimately it is they who reap the benefits of the cultural production system which makes their photographs a commodity. Hiltzik thus proposes license fees for celebrityhood:

    The California Celebrity Protection Act would state that any individual who has been the subject of three or more items in People, Us Weekly, the New York Post’s Page Six, or OK! Magazine over any six-week span must apply for and receive a state celebrity license before appearing in public. The fee would be $5,000, unless any of the articles was a cover story, in which case it would be $15,000. Two cover stories – $25,000, and so on.

    We can be flexible: Those whose renown derives solely from TV reality shows would be eligible for junior six-month licenses, in recognition of their shorter fame arcs; for ex-TV sitcom stars attempting comebacks by hosting syndicated talk shows there might be provisional permits covering, say, the three-week period between their shows’ premieres and their return to the obscurity of infomercials.

    Any venue hoping to establish itself as a celebrity hangout would also need a permit. Clubs might pay $50,000 for permission to have up to 10 licensed celebrities simultaneously on the premises between 10 p.m. and closing, although higher fees might be levied on venues where authorities deem the bathroom stalls sufficiently private to allow surreptitious drug use, especially by the underage siblings of actors and actresses appearing on teen dramas on Fox or the WB.

    Sounds good to me!

    The Bert Fields letters

    tc830.jpgDefamer reports receiving a second letter from lawyer Bertram Fields on behalf of Tom Cruise. Which makes a slightly distracted semi-professional media watcher wonder: Have other Cruise-covering media outlets gotten back-off letters from Fields, or is Defamer his one-and-only epistolary muse? Anonymous Tips box to the right.

    In our neverending quest to make Justice Roberts proud…


    …we bring you possibly the most niggling correction ever,* yet one that speaks deeply to the hipness of the Times: the correct spelling of “Ying Yang Twins.” Kelefa Sanneh, you can man-crush on the lead singer of Death Cab For Cutie all you want,*** but that errant “T” just cost you in my book.

    Oh yes, the other way we’re making Justice Roberts proud: we never, ever giggle. Just kidding, tee hee.

    *We’ll fight you for it, Mnookin
    **Fishtern Maureen Miller brought this to our attention after other Fishtern Annie Karni mentioned Jay-Z’s predilection for the man-hug.
    ***Clearly angling for a coveted Fishtern position, our new best friend Phil Bump actually brought this item to our attention and provided the screengrab. Aw, Phil Bump, you make a girl giggle.

    Good news from New Orleans, relatively speaking

    Jeffrey Kofman just reported on GMA from New Orleans – it looks like the worst of it is over there and apparently Katrina’s been downgraded to a Category Three (yeah, a breezy balmy Category Three. Sheesh). Even so, there’s been quite a bit of damage – part of the roof ripped off the Superdome (but Brian Williams and his cellphone are on it), half the city covered in 5-6 feet of water, “total structural failure” reported on CNN, which can’t be good. This is just an update; for in-depth coverage of the coverage, I once again direct you to TVNewser, who has details on the Carol Costello/Chad Myers on-air dust-up and Steve Harrigan’s sturdy footing over at Fox. We do, however, have this link to a CNN video of Rob Marciano being blown around in Biloxi. Can I just say that all the reporters out in the field are quite brave, if a little nuts. Be safe, everyone!

    MySpace and FoxMoney

    The NYT takes a look at MySpace, visiting with the two scruffy Angeleno co-founders and noting the company’s gleaming new Santa Monica office building, moved into after News Corp.’s $520 million purchase of the site’s parent company. Weirdly, no mention is made in the article of the effect this influx of cash has had on the lifestyle of the founders in question, which you’d think would be a natural line of inquiry, no? Guess they’re trying to keep it real.