Newspaper wars, again
Everywhere I've gone in the community the last few weeks, people have asked about the new Daily Post and what that's about.
It's about journalism getting more interesting and competitive once again in Palo Alto because Dave Price is back in town.
Price and partners Jim Pavelich and Dave Danforth started the Palo Alto Daily News in December 1995 and eventually started sister papers in Redwood City, San Mateo, Burlingame and Los Gatos. They later had a bitter split and Danforth pulled out.
The old Palo Alto Daily News, under Price's direction, was noted for its feistiness, which often infuriated public officials.
Former Palo Alto City Councilwoman LaDoris Cordell famously refused to speak to Daily News reporters because she said they twisted her meaning.
"They had a tabloid sensibility," Stanford journalism Professor Ted Glasser said. "Some of their stories were ill-founded, sensational and over-the-top."
But the paper became "an incredible success," Glasser said.
It was such a success in February 2005 that the Daily News group was purchased by Knight-Ridder Corp., publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, for $25 million.
Price said he had earlier offers from other newspaper companies.
He also had high hopes for the future of the Daily News group under Knight-Ridder, but that corporation, one of the most respected journalism companies in the country, imploded in a shareholder revolt and no longer exists.
Knight-Ridder's Bay Area newspapers, including the Daily News group, were bought by the Denver-based MediaNews.
The Mercury News has been savaged by layoffs and buyouts to its editorial staff and its parent company faces the same economic woes facing all newspapers with the loss of classified advertising (once a revenue engine for newspapers), leaving for online sites.
Just last week, the Los Angeles Times laid off 150 editorial employees and announced it would print fewer pages, while the San Francisco Chronicle is reportedly losing $1 million a week.
Price and Pavelich had a three-year "non-compete" clause in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties in their sale to what was then Knight-Ridder.
When that clause expired, Price jumped back in and started the Daily Post.
He's been doing journalism since before then, too, starting a paper in Berkeley in 2005 that closed last year and starting a paper in San Francisco in 2006 which he is also running from the Daily Post's office on High Street in Palo Alto.
Price was convinced to come back to Palo Alto and start the Daily Post because he felt there was an opening for a third locally-focused newspaper to compete with the Daily News and the Weekly.
The Daily News laid off six editorial staff, none of them reporters, a week ago and stopped having a Monday edition as MediaNews bowed to financial pressures.
"The Merc and Daily News have never been weaker journalistically," Stanford's Glasser said. "There's been a sad diminution of quality at the Merc."
Can Palo Alto sustain three local newspapers?
Price thinks so.
His style of journalism can be offensive to people at times, with huge headlines and sometimes over-hyped stories, but he believes in what he does.
And he has made it work.
He's a journalist at heart, driven to report the news, which is something non-journalists may not understand.
It's like a gene. People either have it or they don't.
The old Daily News did ferret out stories that the Weekly or the Merc missed, and the same might be true again.
"We've always gotten stories others missed," Price said.
One oddity is that the Daily Post is not published online, which has been a major effort of almost all newspaper companies.
"We don't want to cannibalize our print edition for online," Price said.
But if he sees a model where newspapers can make money online, he said he'd be interested.
With three local papers competing for news, things are bound to be interesting.
Senior Staff Writer Don Kazak can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.