Mercury News whacks rivals’ news racks

As journalists, we like to keep our heads low and report on the news — not make it.

But since this is a business, every now and then shit hits the fan. And right now, the San Jose Mercury News is being accused by its local competitors of playing dirty.

Like, Tonya Harding-dirty.

Yesterday afternoon, an independent distribution firm discovered its missing news racks in a recycling dumpster behind the Mercury News headquarters on San Jose’s Ridder Park Drive.

And according to the Palo Alto Daily Post, it wasn’t just a couple racks.

About 30 news boxes from local publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, SF Weekly and Metro, were found inside and around the recycling container.

Palo Alto Weekly’s publisher Bill Johnson to San Jose Inside:

“This is every publisher’s worst nightmare.”

Upon the finding, reps from Metro and Daily Post went to reclaim their news boxes, but were ordered off the property by security guards. To add insult to stolen news racks, Daily Posts’ Jim Pavelich said he was threatened with arrest if he retrieved any of his racks.

Metro’s Dan Pulcrano told the Post it was:

“…the worst example of anti-competitive activities that I have seen in three decades of publishing.”

But in a confusing statement from Mercury News to media critic Jim Romenesko, the company says it hasn’t been playing dirty at all:

“To be clear, we have not stolen anyone’s newsracks. We were, however, recently contacted by local authorities and instructed to remove several newsracks that were not in compliance with a local rack ordinance.

We complied with the request and notified the individual publishers whose racks we removed. The racks have been stored on our property since that time.”

Hold up, Merc News. Two things:

1) It’s been broadly disputed by the publishers who said they were never contacted by the Mercury News about their racks.

2) From our experience, publishers take responsibility of their own racks — not others’.

Mercury News has since worked with local police to return each publisher’s racks, but I have a feeling we’ll be hearing about this for a long time.

Currently, San Jose police continue to investigate the situation.