The Mercury News(Redirected from San Jose Mercury News)
The Mercury News (formerly San Jose Mercury News), often locally known as The Merc, is an American daily newspaper published in San Jose, California. It is published by the Bay Area News Group, a subsidiary of Digital First Media. Because of its location in Silicon Valley, The Mercury News has covered many of the key events in the history of computing. It was the first American newspaper to publish in three languages (English, Spanish, and Vietnamese).
|The Newspaper of Silicon Valley|
The December 22, 2011, front page of the San Jose Mercury News
|Owner(s)||Digital First Media|
|Founded||June 20, 1851(as San Jose Weekly Visitor)|
|Headquarters||4 North Second Street
San Jose, California 95190
The paper's name derives from the San Jose Mercury and San Jose News, two daily newspapers that merged to form the Mercury News.
The word "Mercury" in the paper's name is a double entendre. It refers to the importance of the mercury industry during the California Gold Rush. At the time, the nearby New Almaden mine (now Almaden Quicksilver County Park) was North America's largest producer of mercury, which was needed for hydraulic gold mining. In addition, Mercury is the Roman messenger of the gods as well as the god of commerce and thieves, known for his swiftness, so the name Mercury is commonly used for newspapers without the quicksilver association.
The paper's local coverage and circulation is concentrated in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County. With the Mercury News, East Bay Times, and Marin Independent Journal, the Bay Area News Group covers much of the San Francisco Bay Area with the notable exception of San Francisco itself.
The newspaper now known as the Mercury News began in 1851 or 1852.[note 1] California legislators had just moved the state capital from San Jose to Vallejo, leading to the failure of San Jose's first two newspapers, the Argus and State Journal. A group of three businessmen led by John C. Emerson bought the papers' presses to found the San Jose Weekly Visitor. The Weekly Visitor began as a Whig paper but quickly switched its affiliation to the Democratic Party. It was renamed the Santa Clara Register in 1852. The following year, F. B. Murdoch took over the paper, merging it into the San Jose Telegraph. W. A. Slocum assumed control of the Telegraph in 1860 and merged it with the San Jose Mercury or Weekly Mercury to become the Telegraph and Mercury. William N. Slocum soon dropped Telegraph from the name. By this point, the Mercury was one of two newspapers publishing in San Jose.
James Jerome Owen, a forty-niner and former Republican New York assemblyman, became the Mercury's publisher in the spring of 1861, later acquiring a controlling interest in the paper along with a partner, Benjamin H. Cottle. The paper published daily as the San Jose Daily Mercury for three months in the fall of 1861, then from August 1869 to April 1870 with the addition of J. J. Conmy as partner, and again from March 11, 1872, after the purchase of the Daily Guide. In 1878, Owen formed the Mercury Printing and Publishing Company.
In 1881, Owen proposed to light San Jose with a moonlight tower. The San Jose electric light tower was dedicated that year. The Mercury boasted that San Jose was the first town west of the Rocky Mountains lighted by electricity.
The Mercury merged with the Times Publishing Company in 1884. The Daily Morning Times and Daily Mercury briefly became the Times-Mercury, while the Weekly Times and Weekly Mercury briefly become the Times-Weekly Mercury. In 1885, both publications adopted the San Jose Mercury name. That year, Owen sold his interest in the paper and moved to San Francisco.
In 1899, the Mercury merged with the San Jose Daily Herald, an evening paper. The Mercury continued to publish mornings, while the Herald published evenings. The Sunday edition was known as the San Jose Sunday Mercury and Herald. In 1901, Everis A. Hayes and his brother Jay took over the Mercury Herald Company. In 1913, the two papers were consolidated into a single morning paper, the San Jose Mercury Herald.
In 1942, the Mercury Herald Company purchased the San Jose News (which was founded in 1851) but continued to publish both papers, the Mercury Herald in the morning and the News in the evening, with a combined Sunday edition called the Mercury Herald News. The Herald name was dropped in 1950.
Knight Ridder ownershipEdit
Herman Ridder's Northwest Publications (later Ridder Publications) purchased the Mercury and News in 1952. Publisher Joe Ridder was a vocal proponent of San Jose City Manager A. P. Hamann's pro-growth agenda, which emphasized urban sprawl within an ever-expanding city limits. Ridder counted on increasing population to lead to increased newspaper subscriptions and advertising sales. The paper supported a series of general obligation bonds worth $134 million (equivalent to $690 million in 2016), most of it spent on capital improvements that benefited real estate developers. By 1967, the Mercury had risen to rank among the top six largest morning newspapers in the country by circulation, while the News ran the most advertising of any evening newspaper in the country.
In February 1967, the Mercury and News moved from a cramped former grocery store in downtown San Jose to a 36-acre (15 ha) campus in suburban North San Jose. A 185,000-square-foot (17,200 m2) main building could contain more presses to serve a booming population. The newly-built complex cost $1 million (equivalent to $5.63 million in 2016) and was called the largest one-story newspaper plant in the world. Civic leaders criticized the move as emblematic of the urban decay that downtown San Jose was experiencing.
In 1974, Ridder merged with Knight Newspapers to form Knight Ridder. Joe Ridder was forced to retire in 1977. His nephew, P. Anthony "Tony" Ridder, succeeded him as publisher. Tony Ridder placed an emphasis on improving the papers' reportage, to better reflect Knight's reputation for investigative journalism. In the 1980s, he supported Mayor Tom McEnery's efforts to redevelop the downtown area, including the construction of San Jose Arena and The Tech Museum of Innovation. The papers' editorial board supported responsible growth and the desegregation of San Jose Unified School District. It argued against Proposition 13 in 1978.
In 1983, the Mercury and News became morning and afternoon editions of the San Jose Mercury News, respectively. Jay T. Harris became publisher in 1994. The afternoon edition was discontinued the following year, leaving only the morning edition.
Relations with ethnic communitiesEdit
In the 1990s, the Mercury News expanded its coverage of the area's ethnic communities, to national acclaim, hiring Vietnamese-speaking reporters for the first time. It became the first American daily with a presence in Vietnam after the Vietnam War, opening a foreign bureau in Hanoi in 1994. A foreign correspondent stationed at the bureau held an annual town hall meeting with the Vietnamese-American community in San Jose. Initially, community members staged protests accusing the paper of siding with the Communist government in Vietnam by opening the bureau.
The Mercury News launched the free, Spanish-language weekly Nuevo Mundo (New World) in 1996 and the free, Vietnamese-language weekly Viet Mercury in 1999. Việt Mercury was the first Vietnamese-language newspaper published by an English-language daily. On October 21, 2005, the Mercury News announced the closure of Nuevo Mundo and sale of Việt Mercury to a group of Vietnamese-American businessmen. However, the deal fell through, and the paper published its final issue on November 11, 2005. Nuevo Mundo was effectively replaced by Fronteras de la Noticia, which consisted of content syndicated from Knight Ridder–owned Contra Costa Times and translated into Spanish by an outsourcing firm in Mexico.
Growth alongside the technology industryEdit
The Mercury News benefited from its status as the major daily newspaper in Silicon Valley during the dot-com bubble. It led the news industry in business coverage of the valley's high tech industry, attracting readers from around the world. Time called the Mercury News the most technologically-savvy newspaper in the country. The tech industry's growth fueled growth in the paper's classified advertising, particularly for employment listings. The Mercury News was one of the country's top newspapers in the amount of advertising it ran for 20 years.
The Mercury News was one of the first daily newspapers in the United States to have an online presence and was the first to deliver full content and breaking news online. In 1990, Robert Ingle proposed a Mercury Center online service that would use the newspaper's content to bring together communities of interest. It launched on May 10, 1993, as part of America Online (AOL). The paper sent floppy disks to subscribers for accessing the service. The service featured a large amount of content for free: the print paper's full content, supplementary material such as documents and audio clips, and about 200 stories that did not make the print edition. However, the service's most popular content lie behind a paywall: back issues from 1985 onward and a "NewsHound" clipping service were popular with business users. By early 1994, Mercury Center had about 5,000 subscribers, representing less than 20% of AOL subscribers in the San Francisco Bay Area or less than two percent of Mercury News subscribers.
In December 1994, the Mercury News began beta-testing a companion website, Mercury Center Web, which on January 20, 1995, became the country's first news website. Subscribers no longer needed AOL to access the Mercury News's online content, and the paper no longer had to share advertising revenue with AOL. Access to the site cost $4.95 per month, with a discount for print subscribers. In October 1995, CareerBuilder.com launched as a partnership between the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Mercury News, New York Times, and Washington Post. Mercury Center shut down its AOL service in July 1996, leaving only the website, and the Web staff moved to downtown San Jose that December.
In August 1996, the Mercury News published "Dark Alliance", a series of investigative articles by reporter Gary Webb that claimed CIA involvement in Contra cocaine trafficking (see § Controversies). The Mercury News promoted the upcoming series on Usenet newsgroups weeks in advance. Mercury Center published reporting and supporting material online simultaneously with the print edition. The robust online production drew significant national attention to the series, which led to three federal investigations. Within days, more than 2,500 websites linked to Mercury Center's "Dark Alliance" section, and the site received 100,000 daily page views over the usual traffic for weeks. Executive editor Jerry Ceppos eventually distanced the paper from the series, but it continued to receive attention, especially from online conspiracy theorists.
At its peak in the late 1990s, the Mercury News had 400 employees in its newsroom, 15 bureaus, $288 million in annual revenue, and profit margins above 30%. In 1998, Knight Ridder moved its headquarters from Miami to the Knight-Ridder Building in San Jose, which was seen as an acknowledgement of the central role that online news would play in the company's future. Mercury Center ended its paywall in May 1998, after posting 1.2 million monthly unique visitors the previous year. By 2000, the paper had a Sunday circulation of 327,000 and $341 million in annual revenue, $118 million of it from job listings. In 2001, circulation rose to 289,413 daily and 332,669 Sundays.
The collapse of the dot-com bubble impacted the classified advertising that sustained the newspaper's business operations. Additionally, newspapers across the industry faced serious competitors to their job listings, such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and Craigslist. Knight Ridder instituted several rounds of layoffs at its papers, prompting Harris to resign as publisher in 2001. By March 2006, the Mercury News's profit margins had fallen to nine percent, with $235 million in annual revenue, $18 million of it from job listings, and $22 million in profits.
Digital First ownershipEdit
On March 13, 2006, The McClatchy Company purchased Knight Ridder for $4.5 billion. In a surprise move, McClatchy immediately put the Mercury News and 11 other newspapers back up for sale. The resale of the Mercury News was rumored to be due to strong union representation at the paper. On April 26, Denver-based MediaNews Group (now Digital First Media) announced a planned $1 billion purchase of the Mercury News, two other California newspapers, and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, with the three California papers to be added to the California Newspapers Partnership (CNP). However, on June 12, 2006, federal regulators from the U.S. Department of Justice asked for more time to review the purchase, citing possible antitrust concerns over MediaNews' ownership of other newspapers in the region.
Although approval by regulators and completion of MediaNews' acquisition was announced on August 2, 2006, a lawsuit claiming antitrust violations by MediaNews and the Hearst Corporation had also been filed in July 2006. The suit, which sought to undo the purchase of both the Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times, was scheduled to go to trial on April 30, 2007. While extending until that date a preliminary injunction which prevented collaboration of local distribution and national advertising sales by the two media conglomerates, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston on December 19, 2006 expressed doubt over the legality of the purchase. On April 25, 2007, days before the trial was scheduled to begin, the parties reached a settlement in which MediaNews preserved its acquisitions. The Mercury News and Contra Costa Times were placed under CNP's local subsidiary, the Bay Area News Group. Meanwhile, layoffs continued at the Mercury News. Around December 2016, 101 employees were laid off, including 40 in the newsroom.
In 2013, MediaNews Group and 21st Century Media merged to form Digital First Media. In June 2014, printing and production of the Mercury News and other daily newspapers moved to Bay Area News Group's Concord and Hayward facilities. In September, the Mercury News returned downtown, leaving the purpose-built headquarters in North San Jose. According to the publishers, the facility had become unnecessarily large for the paper, following the departure of printing operations and other staff reductions that had occurred over the years.
The Mercury News offices are currently located in the Towers @ 2nd high-rise complex in downtown San Jose. Business functions occupy the seventh floor of 4 North Second Street, while news staff and executives occupy the eighth floor, for a total of 33,186 square feet (3,083.1 m2).
Originally, the Mercury and News published from various locations in downtown San Jose. From February 1967 to September 2014, the papers were headquartered in a newly-built, 36-acre (15 ha) campus in suburban North San Jose, abutting the Nimitz Freeway (then State Route 17, now Interstate 880). The 185,000-square-foot (17,200 m2) main building was designed by Warren B. Heid in the modernist style, which was common for commercial buildings in the 1960s, and built by the Carl N. Swenson Company. A bronze sculpture, Chandelier by John Jagger, hung from the ceiling of an elliptical loggia at the entrance. The loggia is distinguished by a series of metal columns and the moat that surrounds it. Over time, the main building was expanded to 312,000 square feet (29,000 m2).
The Web staff was originally colocated with the newsroom staff but moved to downtown San Jose in December 1996. Following the Mercury News's return to the downtown area, Digital First Media sold the suburban campus to Super Micro Computer, Inc., which renamed it "Supermicro Green Computing Park".
The newspaper has earned several awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, one in 1986 for reporting regarding political corruption in the Ferdinand Marcos administration in the Philippines, and one in 1990 for their comprehensive coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Assistant managing editor David Yarnold was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2004 for a local corruption investigation. The Mercury News was also named one of the five best-designed newspapers in the world by the Society for News Design for work done in 2001.
In August 1996, the Mercury News published "Dark Alliance", a series of investigative articles by reporter Gary Webb. The series claimed that members of the Nicaraguan Contras, an anti-government group organized with the help of the Central Intelligence Agency, had been involved in smuggling cocaine into America to support their struggle, and as a result had played a major role in creating the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. The series sparked three federal investigations, but other newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times later published articles suggesting that the series' claims were overstated. Executive editor Jerry Ceppos, who had approved the series, eventually published a column that acknowledged shortcomings in the series' reporting, editing, and production, while maintaining the story was correct "on many important points". The series was turned into a 1998 a book by the same name, also by Webb, and an account of the controversy surrounding the series was published as Kill the Messenger in 2006. Both were the basis for the 2004 film Kill the Messenger.
- Lamberto Alvarez – artist
- Scott Apel – Mercury News movie columnist; science fiction writer
- Dwight Bentel – Mercury Herald reporter
- Ryan Blitstein – Mercury News business reporter; nonprofit executive
- Howard Bryant – technology and sports reporter
- Ric Bucher – Mercury News beat writer; radio basketball analyst
- Stephen Butler – financial columnist
- Lou Cannon – political reporter
- John Canzano – sports columnist
- Pete Carey – Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter
- Denis Collins – reporter
- Tim Cowlishaw – sportswriter
- Penny De Los Santos – photographer
- Diana Diamond – editorial writer
- Hannah Dreier – reporter
- Sandra Eisert – Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer and West art director
- Katherine Ellison – Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter
- Steve Fainaru – investigative reporter
- Dan Gillmor – technology columnist and blogger
- Susan Goldberg – Mercury News managing editor; magazine editor
- Pedro Gomez – baseball writer
- Minal Hajratwala – Mercury News journalist; writer and queer rights activist
- Jay T. Harris – Mercury News chairman and publisher
- Everis A. Hayes – Mercury Herald publisher and proprietor; Republican congressman from California
- David E. Hoffman – political reporter
- David Cay Johnston – political reporter
- Tim Kawakami – sports columnist
- Jeffrey Bruce Klein – West editor-in-chief; investigative reporter
- Robert Lindsey – Mercury News reporter; crime author
- Steve Lopez – staff writer
- Michael S. Malone – technology reporter
- Gerald Nachman – Mercury television reviewer
- Hoang Xuan Nguyen – Viet Mercury managing editor; South Vietnamese author
- James Jerome Owen – Mercury publisher; Republican New York assemblyman and California assemblyman
- John Paczkowski – technology blogger
- Michael Rezendes – political reporter
- Lewis M. Simons – Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter
- Susan Slusser – baseball writer
- Rebecca Smith – reporter
- Timothy Taylor – opinion columnist
- Gary Webb – investigative reporter
- Troy Wolverton – technology columnist
- David Yarnold – Mercury News senior vice president; environmentalist
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