The week ahead will be a different schedule for me. I'm in the office all day Monday, then gone Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to San Jose for a Knight Ridder Executive Editor's annual conference. This will be the first time I meet most of the 30-plus Knight Ridder executive editors. Knight Ridder brings its executive editors together once a year to discuss initiatives the corporate office has going and to hear from corporate executives, in particular KR CEO Tony Ridder, on the strategy of the company. This is my first KR executive editor's conference since becoming the Executive Editor and Vice President of News at Contra Costa. Each KR paper faces unique challenges, depending on the size of publication and the location in which the newspaper is based.
Some of what of we have coming in Sunday's newspaper includes a profile look at new Oakland Raiders wide receiver Randy Moss. Sports writer Neil Hayes traveled to Moss' hometown in West Virginia and delivers a compelling story on Moss, one of the NFL's most talented players but also an enigmatic character. Let us know what you think.
On Sunday, Ari Soglin, the Times' editor for online news and citizen media, will write a commentary in our Perspective section on the mission he's on for this newspaper in changing how we evolve in our relationship with our readers. To get your participation, we've set up this discussion board. Our interest is a back and forth conversation between our journalists and our readers. Join in and let us know your ideas and thoughts.
One of the stories we're developing for tomorrow's newspaper is whether BART should conduct random searches as a precautionary move to prevent events like what we're seeing in London. The city of New York announced today that police will begin conducting random searches of packages and backpacks carried by people entering New York City subways. The BART board is not, right now, considering a similar move. Other major cities, like Boston, are contemplating this type of move. We'll be asking readers to sound off on the issue through a discussion board at contracostatimes.com. Feel free to weigh in by posting on this blog or on our discussion board.
Told Lisa Vorderbrueggen, our political columnist, how much insight I gained from her column this morning. It's the type of inside, behind-the-scenes political context that she's great at delivering. If you got a thought on her material or any of our columnists, from Gary Bogue to Joan Morris to Gary Peterson, let us know.
I've mentioned Knight Ridder Baghdad bureau chief Hannah Allam in various posts. She will be leaving Iraq for another assignment in Cairo. A story on her new assignment appears here. Hannah has worked with various Contra Costa Times staff who have been sent to Iraq for reporting duty. We wish her well in her new assignment.
Here is Sen. Dianne Feinstein's statement on U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Feinstein comes into play as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Of the Roberts nomination, she said, “The President has named John G. Roberts to become Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement on the Supreme Court. Now the Judiciary Committee, of which I am a member, will go to work. Our staff will analyze his record and biography. The FBI investigation will be conducted. Writings and cases will be reviewed. Speeches will be read. All this information will be put together to give members of the Committee a clear background on the nominee. Then most likely, in September, hearings will begin, and we will have an opportunity to ask questions verbally. That opportunity will be followed up by questions in writing. This process is how Congress exercises its due diligence in carrying out its independent role of advise and consent. This is the process for nominations to the federal district courts as well as for the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court is particularly critical and important. It is the court of last resort and, as such, is the court that interprets and protects our constitutional rights and freedoms. In the case of the Rehnquist court, we have seen a line of decisions that has limited Congress’ ability to solve many of the social issues of our day by narrowly reading Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause, the Spending Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. The new justice will be critical in the balance with respect to rulings on Congressional authority, as well as a woman’s right to privacy, environmental protections, and many other aspects of Constitutional law in the United States. I generally have a policy of reserving judgment on a particular nominee prior to the Judiciary Committee conducting its review. I will keep my ‘powder dry’ until the due diligence is completed. The extraordinary importance of this position cannot be understated. Now the work begins.”
The press releases are flying on the Roberts nomination, even before to the President makes the official announcement. Here is bio information on Roberts that is coming from the Committee for Justice out of Washington. Judge John G. Roberts, Jr., was born in Buffalo, New York, on January 27, 1955. Raised in Indiana. He is one of four children (the only boy, and second oldest). Judge Roberts lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife Jane Sullivan Roberts and their two children. Prior to his service on the D.C Circuit (often referred to as “the second highest court in the land” and the bench from which three current Supreme Court Justices came to the Court), Judge Roberts argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court.Judge Roberts was graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard University in three years. After graduating from Harvard Law School with high honors and serving as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, Judge Roberts clerked for Judge Henry Friendly on the Second Circuit and later for Justice William Rehnquist at the Supreme Court. After his clerkships, Judge Roberts served in the Department of Justice and later as Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan before going into private practice. After three years in private practice, Judge Roberts returned to the Department of Justice as Principal Deputy Solicitor General, a position in which he briefed and argued a variety of cases before the Supreme Court.
We published this story in our Sunday newspaper that gave a closer look at John Roberts, who apparently will be the President's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. News is breaking prior the President's press conference that Roberts is the pick.
My day consists of a morning meeting with our editor for online news and citizen media on developing a timeline for improvements and additions to contracostatimes.com, then a meeting with the Pleasant Hill mayor and his staff on helping promote upcoming Pleasant Hill events. I have other community meetings during the week, including a conversation with Bill Lindsay, the city manager of Richmond. I continue to try to get as much time to get into the various communities we serve to hear about issues, stories and events we can cover. A meeting I'm particularly looking forward to next week is one with executives from John Muir Hospital to hear about their future plans. If you would like to have a conversation on what we're doing, the directions you think we should head in and how we can get involved, let me know.
Knight Ridder/Washington is sending out an advisory that a rumor is sweeping Washington that President Bush will announce his nominee to the Supreme Court today. Given that it's already 2 p.m. on the East Coast, it's not a given at all that this will materialize today, but we'll see. In any event, here's a link to a USA Today column on the role bloggers will play once a nominee is named.
One of the stories we're looking at for tomorrow's front page is about California High School in San Ramon and a new requirement that students who drive to school will have a new requirement when classes begin in the fall — carpooling. We're looking at whether other schools require this, or if this is a novel concept by California High. Another question: How will it be enforced? Interesting concept and worth a look.
Two stories, in particular, grab our interest and will be played on our front page for Friday. One, reported by Kate Folmar, looks at the the Schwarzenegger administration and the governor accepting millions from two muscle and fitness magazines to serve as executive editor. The magazines are funded heavily by advertising from the dietary supplement industry. Schwarzenegger previously vetoed a bill by Jackie Speier that would have regulated supplement use among high schoolers. The other story comes out of Iraq and Knight Ridder reporter Hannah Allam. She reports on how the Iraqi Defense Ministry has lost more than $300 million in what appears to be a massive web of corruption that flourished under American-appointed supervisors for a year or longer, according to U.S. and Iraqi military officials. These are two of five stories we're looking at for now. That could change as the afternoon and evening progress.
On Friday I'll spend the day with incoming Knight Ridder journalists, journalists who have recently graduated and are headed to internships and recent high school graduates who are now Knight Ridder scholars. I'll talk to them about the profession, my experience and how I got into a position to be the editor of the Times, a newspaper that is read by 450,000 East Bay residents. It's an event I look forward to. I enjoy discussing journalism, particularly as it relates to the 21st Century, and talking to journalists just beginning their careers. Journalism schools continue to see tremendous interest in the profession.
Each year readers of this newspaper contribute school supplies and money for school supplies as part of our Project Ready to Learn program. Last year, readers donated enough school supplies for 2,300 kids. To learn more about this program and how to contribute, follow this link for more information.
The news out of Iraq today is messy as a suicide car bomber exploded today among a group of children taking gifts and candy from American soldiers in Baghdad. Of about 39 people killed, at least 25 were children, according to Knight Ridder. I had other conversations with Knight Ridder on the landscape in Iraq to determine if it's any better than what I had been hearing recently. It's not, and that makes covering the story difficult and dangerous. Knight Ridder journalists are reporting that Iraqis currently have electricity for an average of nine hours a day. A year ago, they averaged 10 hours of electricity. Iraq's oil production is still below pre-war levels. The unemployment rate is between 30 and 40 percent. New cases of hepatitis have doubled over the rate of 2002, largely because of problems with getting clean drinking water and disposing of sewage. Knight Ridder's top journalist in Iraq, Hannah Allam, says that any contention that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are stable is pure fantasy. Hannah is a well-regarded journalist among American military in Iraq. She says every day Knight Ridder's British security consultant receives a province-by-province breakdown of the roadside bombs, ambushes, assassinations and other violence throughout the country. Really the only way for any of us to get first-hand information to satisfy our own questions about Iraq and how stable it is or isn't is to be in the country. No doubt American military are doing heroic work. It appears there is a lot of work ahead to stabilize the country.
Tough decision-making on what made our front page for Thursday, with so many local and national news stories developing today. We're looking at the final sign-off to a funding deal on the Bay Bridge and a devastating suicide bomb attack in Iraq as two of our top stories. We also like follows to the Karl Rove story, and we'll be putting two additional local stories on our front page. We didn't select the hospitalization of Chief Justice Rehnquist nor the decision to scrap Wednesday's launch of the space shuttle, figuring both had cycled throughout the day.
In tomorrow's Times we feature a story on the trend of using hookah pipes from Features Writer Peggy Spear. Her story is one our featured stories on tomorrow's front page. It's an interesting trend in the Bay Area. One question we had was how these hookah smoking lounges that are popping up get around California's smoking laws. That issue is addressed as part of the package. Let us know what you think.
One thought I had last night, in thinking about Iraq and all I read about it, is that it would be worthwhile to have a segment in the newspaper that speaks to the progress being made in rebuilding Iraq. The problem, as I look into it, is to find that type of content. The funny thing is that just as I began wondering if it was possible to run Iraq Progress Report updates, I find this criticism of the reporting coming out of Iraq from another Knight Ridder journalist. I'll be discussing with the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau the possibility of getting regular updates on progress in Iraq to balance the news stories on the challenges facing U.S. and Iraq military. The point of doing this is not to appease those critical of the mainstream press on its reporting out of Iraq, but to better reflect and balance out the steady news that reports on the challenges the U.S. is having. As a reader of the newspaper, I want better updates on the progress being made as well I want to know the problems we're facing. As one reporter who had recently returned from Iraq to me, it's difficult for journalists to navigate the country to get the progress reports because it remains very dangerous to drive the country. I understand that. I'd still like to find a way to deliver progress updates on a regular basis in our newspaper. I suspect the challenge is journalists feeling safe enough to venture out beyond the safe zones. It's easy for me to be second guessing what I'm getting, and as a journalist who has been in the reporting field on news stories many days, I can appreciate the fact that a reporter in the field is facing many hurdles that we cannot see sitting in the States. I'll have more conversations with Knight Ridder Washington to better comprehend the conditions under which reporters are working in Iraq.
Ari Soglin is the newspaper's first editor for online news and citizen media, and he began his job today. This is a new position for us, and one that is intended to create citizen media programs at the newspaper and to focus more efforts on creating interactive models for both our newspaper in print and our newspaper online at contracostatimes.com. If you have ideas, thoughts on the type of citizen media programs you'd like to see from us or ways we can be more interactive with our readers, please let us know. To contact Ari directly, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The latest advisories say that Chief Justice Rehnquist and President Bush could make an announcement of his retirement on Monday. News organizations have been buzzing throughout the day in anticipation of this news. There is no confirmed factual part of this, but guesses based on conversations and activity. A story only develops if Rehnquist makes an announcement. For now, we anticipate and plan on how to handle the news when and if it happens.
CNN beginning to report that Chief Justice Rehnquist may announce retirement today and is awaiting President Bush's arrival back in the U.S. later today to let him know. Unclear if this is a valid confirmation and if fact this is going to happen. If news breaks on this, it sounds like it'll be after 3 p.m. Pacific time. If so, contracostatimes.com will carry the story immediately. Again, this may be speculation without a foundation of fact. We'll be monitoring.
As professional baseball reaches its summer break and its annual All Star game, Times sports writer Neil Hayes takes the opportunity to explore Babe Ruth and what the Babe has meant to baseball and to America through all these years. Neil began his research at the beginning of baseball season and at a time when we began to think that Barry Bonds would soon pass the Babe on baseball's all-time home run list. With Bonds still on the shelf, Neil continued with his research and now provides us with a wonderful three-part series on Ruth. You'll find Neil's story on the front of Sunday's newspaper. The series continues on Monday and Tuesday. Hope you enjoy it.
The day's mindset focuses on the bombings in London and what needs to occur to tell that story to its fullest. Visually, graphics that show how and where the bombings occurred in relation to each other will help provide explanation and give context to the terrorism and the coordination of the attacks. The Knight Ridder Washington Bureau handles the bulk of the story for KR papers. Our responsibility will be to present the story in its fullest context and depth for a local readership to comprehend.
There will be much written and many opinions given about today's jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller. New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. issued this statement shortly after Miller was jailed. We'll be discussing in our Page 1 meeting today where to play the story. Some will argue for the front page, while others will argue that the story is fine on our nation/world pages.
We held out hope till 1 a.m. this morning that we could put on our front page a deal reached by BART and its labor unions but couldn't wait any longer. As it was the agreement was struck at 2:35 a.m., long past our ability to get the news into the Wednesday edition. Instead, our web site carries this descriptive account by reporter Mike Adamick on how the deal was reached and the terms of the agreement. Adamick obtained a copy of the agreement soon after the two sides reached the settlement and in his story offers the first look at the terms of the deal.
Our focus and emphasis for tomorrow's front page is the BART negotiations and possibility of a strike at midnight. There is a 9 p.m. update on the status of negotiations that is planned. That update, if it happens, should give us a clearer indication of whether there is going to be a deal or a strike. Our thinking heading into the evening is that a strike looks real, but that is pure speculation since nobody is in the room except those in the talks. Our challenge is hitting multiple deadlines for the four editions we publish each day.