David Perlman and more media news from the north

david-perlman-kqed.jpgPerlman at his Chronicle desk in 2014. Craig Miller/KQED.

Colleagues of David Perlman are tweeting that the respected longtime San Francisco Chronicle science editor is retiring. Did I say longtime? Perlman first began working for the Chronicle in 1940 — he had actually started at newspapers two years earlier. After a break for World War II and a stint with the New York Herald Tribune in Europe, he rejoined the Chronicle as a city reporter in 1951 and covered news like the obscenity trial over Allen Ginsberg's "Howl." Perlman became the paper's science writer and editor in 1959, not by any great plan or interest.

david-perlman-sfchronicle.jpgHe is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers and the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Perlman is a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and awards are given in his name.

One of Perlman's most noteworthy stories ran inside the paper on June 6, 1981:

"A mysterious outbreak of a sometimes fatal pneumonia among gay men has occurred in San Francisco and several other major cities, it was revealed yesterday." AIDS had yet to be named, or be traced to the human immunodeficiency virus.

No official word yet from the Chronicle. In 2013, when Perlman was just 94, the Los Angeles Times did a front-page feature on the San Francisco science writer.

KQED under ransomware attack

For the past month, a cyberattack on the newsroom at KQED TV and radio in San Francisco has slowed — but not defeated — the reporters and producers covering the news. "All Internet-connected devices, tools and machinery have been cut off in an attempt to isolate and contain a ransomware attack that infected the station’s computers June 15," the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "More than a month later, many remain offline."

Though the stations’ broadcasts have been largely uninterrupted — minus a half-day loss of the online stream on the first day of the attack — KQED journalists said every day has brought new challenges and revealed the immeasurable ways the station, like many businesses today, has become dependent on Internet-connected devices.

“It’s like we’ve been bombed back to 20 years ago, technology-wise,” said Queena Kim, a senior editor at KQED. “You rely on technology for so many things, so when it doesn’t work, everything takes three to five times longer just to do the same job.”


In the hours immediately following the malware infection, KQED’s email server stopped working. All network-connected devices were taken offline. The radio station’s online broadcast went silent for more than 12 hours overnight. Radio journalists lost hours of work. Everyone with computers running Microsoft Windows was told not to touch them.

The wireless Internet in the building didn’t work for several days. Email didn’t return for two weeks.

“We’ve basically been putting everything together with duct tape for a month,” said Marisa Lagos, a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter who covers state politics for KQED.

Yes, Queena Kim's name is familiar. She was a producer and reporter for KPCC and elsewhere in public radio before moving north. Former LA radio voice Brian Watt is in the photo with the story. KQED reported the attack to the FBI and says it has not paid the ransom.

CalBuzz gives it a rest

I'm late to this news. CalBuzz, the California politics website started in 2009 by NorCal news veterans Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine, has gone on indefinite hiatus. The blog announced its new status on July 4. They blame Trump, mostly.

Given Trump’s relentless domination of the political world and deadline-every-second news cycle, we’ve curtailed our own analysis and commentary about all this, however, because a) we’ve run out of adjectives for “repulsive” and “loathsome”; b) grandkids and golf; c) giving free rein to uninhibited outrage is physically dangerous to the well-being of a couple of geezers with two cancers, one spleen, an open-heart and a batch of other surgeries between us.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but over the past few years, we were far ahead of the curve on stuff like the Death of Truth, Trump’s crippling narcissistic personality disorder, the salience of a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, the Death of Compromise, California’s post-Trump political exceptionalism and other important concepts, and so find ourselves exasperated when these ideas suddenly occur to Beltway bloviators as if they were original thoughts.

In his essay, [Ezra] Klein notes that, “to consistently engage with Trump is to be diminished by him.”

Exactly correct. So we’ve decided to put Calbuzz on cruise control for a time uncertain.

We’ll still post a few pieces from elsewhere that we find compelling; and odds are we won’t be able to keep ourselves from leaping back into the mix even before the 2018 campaigns get cranked up. We’ve already done our civic duty in publishing extended interviews with all the major candidates for governor, save one coward who’s too much of a weenie to handle us (see below).

In the meantime, we’ll drop by with our usual blinding insights, as time, medical appointments and the appearance of inspiration allow.

The dig is at Gavin Newsom, whose key advisers appear not to like CalBuzz very much. Seems to be mutual. The site calls Newsom "a candy-ass" and "too much of a scaredy-cat wimp and cowardly wuss to answer a few basic questions about the state and what he would do as governor, as every other serious contender has..."

After a career at the San Francisco Chronicle, Roberts was the editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press who was 86'd by owner Wendy McCaw. He later won a bunch of restitution from McCaw and pledged $150,000 to a Santa Barbara start-up, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In the sign-off post, CalBuzz says political journalism in California looks a lot better today than it did when they started the site 1,273 posts ago.

The political media environment, we’re pleased to say, has changed, on a number of fronts: the return of Cathy Decker, the steadiness of Mark Barabak and George Skelton and the emergence of stars like Seema Mehta, John Myers and Phil Willon, plus future MVP Javier Panzar at the By God L.A. Times; the hatching of the high-energy collaboration of Carla Marinucci and David Siders at Politico’s California report; the birth of CalMatters under the enlightened leadership of Dave Lesher, not to mention the arrival of the SacBee’s Chris Cadelago and some excellent new political reporters who came and went, like the indefatigable Shane Goldmacher, Chase Davis and Torey Van Oot, who were snatched up by media back East. We’d also be remiss not to note that the plucky efforts of Joe Garafoli and John Wildermuth to overcome Chron management’s foolish hostility towards political reporting also helps beef up California’s press corps, and made covering and following state campaigns fun again.

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent California stories on LA Observed:
David Perlman and more media news from the north
Dan Walters leaving the Sacramento Bee, but not retiring
Mass evacuation below Oroville Dam
Kevin Starr, 76, the historian of California
Kamala Harris elected, pot legalized, death penalty retained
Baseball strikes out in Bakersfield after 75 years
The state of our overheated minds on the environment
New York Times unveils a California newsletter