Now the bad news

Working some Magic: One Democrat hoping to oust Arnie from the governor’s horseshoe is turning to professional sports for help.

State Treasurer Phil Angelides was sobered last week by Field Poll results showing that only about one in three Californians even know who he is—and one in three of those don’t like him. If you can follow Bites on the math here, that means 12 percent of Californians don’t like Angelides, and 65 percent don’t know him. What’s more, the numbers of recognition are even worse among undecided and undeclared voters, the group he will need to rally.

To top it off, he will need to shed a developing policy-wonk, nerd image as he makes a statewide name for himself (a name he, apparently, has not made while holding a statewide elected office).

So, this week Angelides’ campaign announced an endorsement from basketball NBA Hall-of-Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the famed Los Angeles Laker, AIDS-prevention activist and movie-theater owner. Because if seven years’ work as state treasurer haven’t convinced you that Angelides is a good candidate for office, maybe the word of a cultural icon will.

In recent years, Johnson also has endorsed newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a dress code for the NBA and an “immune boosting” dietary supplement made from tree-stump extract.

Resign of the Times: Today is a sad day in the newspaper industry. As were yesterday and the day before it, really. But, more specifically, it is a sad day for those who crave astute criticism and analysis about state politics that can only come from those with institutional knowledge—the journalists who have covered Sacramento through several administrations and who, because of term limits, have been around longer than most politicians.

Among them is Bill Stall, whose time in Sacramento dates back to 1966, when he was Sacramento bureau chief and political writer for the Associated Press. Stall became a casualty of staff reductions at the Los Angeles Times last week—in a round of layoffs that is just part of the nationwide hemorrhaging of the newspaper industry. Stall, who has worked inside the Capitol as a gubernatorial press secretary, has for the past eight years written editorials for the Times. And last year, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his work.

Stall officially resigned but has said it was involuntary, and he’ll be gone by the end of the year. Rumor has it the paper’s new editorial-page editor, Andrés Martinez gave Stall the gentle boot. That’s the same Andrés Martinez who was a finalist for the editorial-writing Pulitzer that Stall took home.

Merry merger: Prior to carving the Thanksgiving Tofurky last week, Bites was delivered this bit of unwelcome media mega-merger monopoly news: The Federal Trade Commission and the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice rolled over and allowed Village Voice Media and the New Times company to merge, creating a 17-paper chain of urban newsweeklies. In the great Bear Flag state, that means the company that already owns the alterna-clones SF Weekly and East Bay Express will now control LA Weekly and OC Weekly also.

These are the two companies that in 2003 got into federal hot water for an agreement to shut down competing papers in Los Angeles and Cleveland. So, naturally, such a merger deal deserves scrutiny.

Well, normally, companies looking to marry this way have to apply and then wait for a period of time while the government reviews the deal. But the feds aborted the waiting period last week.

New Times will control the new company, which, for the Village Voice-run papers, probably will mean fewer writers, less involvement in local and state politics, and the imposition of the Phoenix company’s testosterone-fueled, poke-fun-at-everyone formula. Although that recipe works well enough for Bites, there’s a reason this column is confined to this little box every week.

SN&R, which in the past has refused purchase offers by New Times, is still owned and run by the couple who founded it 17 years ago. They live in Land Park.