At least 31 newspaper distribution racks were discovered behind the San Jose Mercury News headquarters recently, and many, if not all of them, did not belong to the Merc, according to various reports in local media sources and the head of a Mountain View-based company that owns several of the racks discovered on the San Jose newspaper's property.
The discovery resulted in the newspaper issuing a statement explaining that the property was not stolen, as some publishers charged, but simply had been picked up at the request of private property owners or local city governments.
A San Jose-based blog reported that a Mountain View Voice rack and a Palo Alto Weekly rack were found behind the Merc.
Tom Lilledahl owns Circulation Management Inc., which runs its distribution business out of a warehouse off of North Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View. He discovered all the racks when he went looking for some of his behind the Mercury News headquarters.
Lilledahl explained that the Mercury News sometimes takes down other newspapers' racks along with their own when they are asked by local municipalities to remove racks that don't comply with local regulations. Lilledahl said he is supposed to get a call when this happens but that he doesn't always receive a notification and he is usually able to go behind the Mercury headquarters and take his racks back without any problems. However, this time around, when he went to look for his racks, he found them not on the ground, ready to be collected, but in and around a large Dumpster, roughly the size of a moving truck.
"I was pretty disgusted," Lilledahl said. "There were 10 racks in that Dumpster that had no business being there."
He explained that he has repeatedly told the Mercury News staff not to touch his racks and has even taken them to small claims court to drive his point home.
While Lilledahl was there, the police were called, although no official police report was taken, he said. He called the San Jose Metro, an alternative weekly, and the Daily Post of Palo Alto, as he had seen both publications' racks in and around the Dumpster.
Both of those publications followed up with news stories on the discovery. According to the story that appeared on the blog SanJoseInside, which is published by Metro owner Dan Pulcrano, racks for the Mountain View Voice and the Palo Alto Weekly were among those behind the Mercury News headquarters.
A statement from the Mercury News was published Thursday, Aug. 2, along with the story appearing on the SanJoseInside blog. It reads as follows:
Earlier this afternoon, representatives from a local newspaper came onto our property unannounced claiming that we had stolen their newsracks. To be clear, we have not stolen anyone's newsracks. We were, however, recently contacted by local authorities and instructed to remove several newsracks that were not in compliance with a local rack ordinance. We complied with the request and notified the individual publishers whose racks we removed. The racks have been stored on our property since that time.
This is a normal practice in the industry that is recognized by the various municipalities as well as the publishers who place racks on the streets. This afternoon was the first time any of the publishers notified us that they were interested in retrieving the racks.
Given that we had not been provided with prior notice of their desire to retrieve the racks, after discussions with the publishers' representatives and the San Jose police, we agreed earlier this afternoon to meet again tomorrow. At that time, we would make all the racks available for pickup by the publishers' representatives, which had been our desire all along. Everyone was satisfied with this arrangement.
Given this prior understanding, we are unclear what led to the incident earlier this evening.
But Bill Johnson, CEO of Embarcadero Media, which publishes both the Mountain View Voice and the Palo Alto Weekly, denied that he had been notified about the removed newsracks.
"While I'm willing to accept the Mercury News explanation as to why they removed some newsracks, contrary to their statement no one at our company was informed that they had done so, and we had no idea they were in possession of racks owned by us," he said.