Employees and union leaders at the Mercury News yesterday (March 16) launched a web site, savethemerc.com, to rally public support for the 155-year-old newspaper, which is for sale along with other Knight Ridder publications in the Bay Area.
The two most talked about possible buyers are MediaNews, headed by Dean Singleton (right) who has a reputation of cost-cutting, and a company set up by the Guild union called ValuePlus Media, whose bid would be financed by supermarket magnate Ron Burkle (left), who has made headlines for supporting legislation to close certain court records. While the site doesn’t come out and openly oppose Singleton, it has two links critical stories about him and one link to a favorable story about Burkle with the headline, “Newspapers may have an angel.” No links are provided to stories about Burkle’s attempts to seal divorce court records across California or about the opposition to that legislation from CNPA or the open government group CalAware.
The site includes an online petition saying they “do not want the sale of the Mercury News to lead to a smaller, less ambitious newspaper.” Merc columnist Mike Cassidy (pictured) told LA Times reporter Claire Hoffman: “We wanted to make sure everyone understands what the stakes are … It is important to let prospective owners know how concerned employees and readers are about what will happen with this paper.”
The San Jose Newspaper Guild web site identifies Cassidy as one of the employees involved in the savethemerc.com effort. Others are Becky Bartindale, the local Guild president, and Jack Fischer, vice president. The URL savethemerc.com was registered Feb. 22 by Russ Cain of Carmel, a retiree from the Knight Ridder-owned Monterey Herald and a longtime Guild official.
Savethemerc.com lists as its supporters politicians in the area — people who the Merc normally covers — including U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; former Republican Congressman Tom Campbell; former San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer, a Democrat; Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto; Carl Guardino, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. One politician who isn’t on the list is San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, who has been accused by the Merc of making secret deals with the city’s trash hauling company. A criminal grand jury is now investigating Gonzales.