Nancy Pelosi's Really Bad Media Idea

Last Updated Mar 19, 2009 12:32 AM EDT

Open Letter to Rep. Nancy Pelosi
Dear Speaker Pelosi:

I am one of your constituents. We share mutual friends. While I don't always see eye-to-eye with you on the issues, it does give me and a lot of my neighbors back here in your 8th Congressional District a certain pride that we are represented by the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history.

Enough of the niceties.

Why did you issue a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Justice Department to consider easing antitrust provisions to allow the terminally-ill San Francisco Chronicle to potentialy merge operations with unnamed other media partners?
We know you released your letter after meeting in your Capitol office last week with Chronicle Editor-at-Large Phil Bronstein and Hearst general counsel Eve Burton. We also know that the Hearst Corp. claims it is losing some $50-70 million a year on the Chronicle, and that it has extracted major concessions from the Northern California Media Workers Guild allowing the impending layoffs of another 150 reporters, editors, and others regardless of seniority, after already shedding hundreds of jobs in recent years.
But the Hearst Corp. is not a public company, it is private. So, unlike most of the other media giants we keep an eye on, we mainly just have to take the Hearsts at their word -- never a good idea. It's not that I doubt they are hemorrhaging money; I'm quite sure they are, and have been for years. It's just that I'm not sure why that should matter to the rest of us.

It is expressly not clear, to me and lots of others in the Bay Area, that it would be in our collective best interest to help the Hearst Corp. and whichever other media mogul (Dean Singleton, perhaps?) conspire to establish a new monopoly over journalism around here.

After all, been there, done that.

No, no, a thousand times no! Please back out of an arena you obviously know little about, Madam Speaker. Just as a combination of historical forces and a wave of innovation and creativity is about to create a whole new media world, a much more democratic, open, and accessible one than the old, corrupt model ever was, you want to bail out the bad guys?

Why not ask us, your constituents, what we think before jumping into this fray? Why not come to town, hold an open meeting, and find out.

Otherwise, I'll have to ask fellow voters to please take note: Speaker Pelosi appears to interpret her mandate (from us) as permission to help out the fatcats, as opposed to the people who elected her to office. Stay tuned.

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital,, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.