LA Times Weighs in on North Bay ‘Newspaper War’

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Sonoma Media Investments owns most of the print media in Sonoma County, but it appears to be losing a 'newspaper war' with the San Francisco Chronicle. Photo by Markus Winkler/Unsplash

The ever-expanding black hole around former Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli is nipping at the heels of the North Coast’s largest newspaper, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat

In a May 30 article, the Los Angeles Times’ media critic James Rainey weighed in on the ongoing “newspaper war” between the San Francisco Chronicle and Sonoma County’s daily paper. The conflict began in early April after the Chronicle published the first of many articles laying out numerous womens’ sexual assault and abuse allegations against Foppoli.

Foppoli finally resigned from public office in late May, but his now-toxic brand has continued to tarnish the reputations of his former supporters and associates. That includes the Press Democrat, which got wind of the Foppoli story years ago but failed to act.

Ironically, Rainey wasn’t the first to cast the Press Democrat’s role in the Bay Area newspaper market in violent terms.

In a 2013 speech to the California News Publishers Association, Darius Anderson, a prominent Sacramento lobbyist and an investor in Sonoma Media Investments, the company which owns the PD and six other Sonoma County print publications, was full of bluster. 

“I plan to go to San Francisco and rape and pillage other publications and take their talent and bring it to Santa Rosa,” Anderson told the crowd of media types, according to a report from Sonoma West publisher Rollie Atkinson.

Eight years later, many of the Press Democrat’s staff are leaving, retiring or being placed on leave. In short, if this is a war, the PD is losing at least by attrition.

The upside? Readers are finally getting a peek into the messy world of Sonoma County’s political class as the Press Democrat scrambles to compete with its big-city rival. Let’s hope that the Foppoli scandal triggers better coverage of Sonoma County politics in the long term.