By Robert Haugh
We noticed something interesting as we read the stories about Santa Clara’s recent legal victory over the 49ers. The two major local newspapers covered the “rent reset” story really differently.
Here’s the headline from first story that appeared in the Mercury News:
It was posted by Emily DeRuy on August 10. She reported the 49ers would pay about $300,000 more a year in rent. The timing is interesting. It was posted late Friday afternoon around 5 p.m. That’s when reporters get stories that someone wants to bury because it’s bad news. Since this was bad news for the 49ers, we can guess they gave the story to DeRuy. I’ve been offered a lot of late Friday stories during my years in print journalism. If the story is good, I use to hold it until Monday, so I wouldn’t feel used by a source.
The next story the Mercury News ran three days later was entitled:
That’s the story where 49ers VP Rahul Chandhok went “full Chris Jericho” and personally attacked Mayor Lisa Gillmor. It looked like Chandhok was mad because Gillmor said that 49ers wanted to reduce their rent $170 million and instead it was increased $10 million — a huge swing of $180 million in favor of the City. Those facts did not appear in DeRuy’s original story.
The next day, the Mercury News ran another story.
DeRuy got a scoop from a friendly source who gave her the details of the arbitration discussions. In this story, she reports that the 49ers will have to pay an extra $262,000 a year. But interestingly nowhere in the article is there a calculation of how much that adds up to over the 40-year lease.
The Chronicle had a different approach to the story. Here’s their first story from August 12:
They ran a brief Bay Area News Service story and quoted Gillmor from the city’s press release: “With the success of the City Council (acting as the Stadium Authority) and the new city administration, there is a new balance of power that puts the taxpayers and their representatives in charge.” Interestingly, the 49ers were not quoted.
A week later, Phil Matier and Andy Ross — the two long-time and highly respected Chronicle reporters weighed in with this story:
Matier and Ross write about the total amount at stake: “The ruling amounts to a roughly $180 million rent swing over the 40-year life of the lease. And they quote Gillmor: “It’s a huge win. We won’t be stuck paying stadium expenses like some other cities.” They also quote Chandhok who takes a personal swipe at Gillmor and City PR consultant Sam Singer.
Were not sure what to conclude from the difference in coverage between the two newspapers. Maybe it’s the experience of the reporters. Matier and Ross have been around for decades and are award-winning reporters. DeRuy is relatively new and doesn’t appear to know much about Santa Clara.
Or maybe it’s a newspaper bias. We’ve written before about how the Mercury News has a San Jose bias and doesn’t seem to get Santa Clara (or other cities). Here are just a few examples: LINK and LINK and LINK and LINK.
With the 49ers coverage, the Mercury News shows a real bias. It’s odd that the Chronicle, a newspaper based an hour north, is reporting the Santa Clara vs. 49ers stories with less bias and more accuracy.