Marriages made in the White House

In the corporate world, it’s called synergy—in our world, it’s called a decline in quality: Earlier this week, Fox News signed a contract to become the Clear Channel radio empire’s primary source of news in the new Republican world. Previously, Clear Channel gathered its news from a host of different sources, including ABC and CBS radio news outfits. But the new deal, giving Fox the franchise in up to 500 Clear Channel stations nationwide, makes much more sense. At least for Bush supporter and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and Clear Channel executives who donated heavily to the Republicans. Clear Channel owns four stations in Sacramento, including AM stations KSTE 650 and KFBK 1530. Bites figures the deal is a marriage made in heaven. If you think about it, only the fair and balanced reporting Fox News provides can truly complement the insightful and nuanced commentary of Clear Channel hosts like KFBK’s Mark Williams. Bites readers will recall that Williams, upon hearing of the death of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Yasser Arafat last month, proposed a “working urinal” as Arafat’s headstone (see “Grave new world,” SN&R Bites, November 25).

Look out, lazy Bee reporters and boring columnists! In other conglomeration news, The Sacramento Bee’s parent company, the ever-expanding McClatchy Co., may be considering plunking down $1.5 billion to buy another midsized newspaper chain, Pulitzer Inc. McClatchy already owns 12 daily papers and could add the Pulitzer 14, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Arizona Daily Star and four middling papers in California. The news that Pulitzer was up for sale was reported locally last week in the Sacramento Business Journal and was prominent in the business press in other parts of the country (what, no Bee story?). But none of the reports Bites read mentioned how great the consolidation would be for readers. So, Bites asked Peter Hart, an analyst with the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, to explain what benefit regular Bee readers might get from the merger, and it’s not much. “Usually, the idea is to pare down the news staff as much as possible, typically at the expense of local reporting.” Yes, Hart said sadly, such mergers can make a lot of money for shareholders, but they don’t generally make for great journalism. “It would be a gradual shift; the casual reader might not notice anything at first,” Hart explained. But, over time, the larger companies tend to cut staff as they buy up papers, and rely less on local reporters and more on synergistic pre-packaged stories. “The idea is to figure out how to do as little as possible and still maintain some semblance of a daily newspaper.”

Dueling lobbyists fire first shots: Bites is ready for a loud public fight over marriage now that the Traditional Values Coalition (motto: “Empowering people of faith through knowledge”) has come forward with proposals for a state constitutional amendment to add California “to those 11 other states that passed marriage amendments on November 2nd preserving marriage for one man and one woman.” The values people held a press conference last Monday with local pastors, and their spokesperson declared that “the notion of homosexual marriage will be pushed back in the closet where it belongs.” So, who’s in the blue-state corner pushing back? State Assemblyman Mark Leno is presenting Assembly Bill 19, which will change the language of the law to recognize marriage as a non-gender-specific union between two people. His press conference was held the next day, and the title of the bill is: the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. Bites is always on the side of allowing anyone—male, female, whatever—to get married, and at least that way they can fight over values in private and then take it public in a courtroom.