Category Archives: Martinez CA

News of the death of Martinez News-Gazette was premature…

Martinez not entirely a “news desert”

By Roger Straw, February 2, 2020
[See update: Martinez News-Gazette publishing one print edition weekly]

There’s no reporting on this out there, but I stumbled on a fresh reference to the Martinez News-Gazette while googling for something, can’t remember exactly what.

Hmmmm… wasn’t it the 161-year old Martinez News-Gazette that announced its last issue and published a final edition in December of 2019?  Yep – see my Dec 28 repost of the San Francisco Chronicle article, “The latest “news desert” – Martinez News-Gazette closes“.

But it lives!  At least the online edition, which seems vigorous and healthy at  Check it out.

I can’t find anything that confirms yes or no as to a print edition.  Guess I’ll have to venture over the Benicia-Martinez bridge to find out.

This is good news for those of us in Benicia, where our ancient local news outlet, the Benicia Herald, is owned by the same guy who owns the Martinez News-Gazette.  I hope our fears of becoming more of a “news desert” are somewhat diminished, if not banished.  (The Herald publishes a print edition only 3 times per week and occasionally online.)

Here’s weekly opinion writer Bill Sharkey’s delightfully rambling account of the surprise resuscitation of his old friend, the Martinez News-Gazette:

Column One: What Happened?

By Bill Sharkey III, Martinez News-Gazette, January 12, 2020 

WHAT HAPPENED? You tell me! Whatever it was, it was mighty fast. And, here we are again. No longer an unemployed volunteer columnist. Hardly a day off to consider my future. Perhaps, just as well! Reflecting on my past keeps me well occupied; it’s been such a long past. Maybe good for a cheap autobiography?

It seems there was an ‘obituary’ notice in the old Morning News-Gazette on Page One announcing in advance the pending demise of the 161-year-old newspaper which had its founding in September 1858, and continued under a variety of names until the planned death on December 29, 2019. Strange, stating a specific date of a death of something in advance? Oh, well!

So, after the Page One shocker announcement hit the streets (newspaper talk), people were definitely shocked. What would we do for local news? How would we keep apprised of upcoming events? How would Martinez P.D. tell us if there were bad guys lurking in our neighborhoods? What music groups would be playing at Armando’s next week? Where are the beavers? Who is planning to run for political office? What is the legal profession doing if we don’t have Barbara Cetko’s legal advertising to keep us current? When is the next crab feed fund-raiser which we certainly can’t afford to miss?

No wonder there was distress, concern, mourning in the community. It would be like losing a dear friend, or favorite aunt, or worse. Wow!!

Then, talk began to filter through the gloom. There might be something cooking to continue the Gazette or, as Harriette Burt has always fondly called it, “The Gazoo”. However, the publisher, known for a lack of communication technique, any conversation regarding speculations of things to come was not coming forth. So, plans moved ahead for the final day’s publication. Many news writers, civic leaders, readers, business folks gathered their forces and provided an historic final edition of the Morning News-Gazette, the 161-year-old purveyor of news and advertising (never fake news!!), maybe a rumor or tad of gossip along the way. As a famous newspaper has stated, “All the news fit to print”.

THEN, as the old story line which has been used in plays, etc., a strange thing happened on the way to the funeral for the beloved publication.

The grave diggers had completed their grave digging chores, and were standing by for the procession. Their grave site was prepared according to specifications. A large crowd of mourners had gathered to be part of the services. Anything reaching the venerable age of 161 years deserved proper mourning and respect. They were ready with hankies, tissues and dark glasses. It was a beautiful day in Martinez, a place be happy and safe. But, now a place without a newspaper. How could it be true?

As the gathering of friends, mourners and longtime subscribers waited for the procession to arrive, some began to be restless, began to fiigit. Has something happened, they wondered? What could possibly delay a funeral for such an important member of the community?

Than, ‘the word’ came down from out there some place…there would be no funeral today. What?? Why not?? Answer: The reported demise of The Gazette (for Harriett, the Gazoo) had been apparently premature (not fake news) but, certainly official sounding on Page One the day it appeared. Was it a ‘played closed to the vest’ move, or was it a case of saved by the bell? Hopefully, we will hear the story one day soon. All of us are most anxious to know what is ahead. Meanwhile, how about a cup of coffee and a print newspaper to read? I will buy!

WE ALL KNEW 2020 was going to be an exciting (?) year, right?!? What we did not know was that our unfit Oval Office Person was going to get us into another potential war in the Middle East. As of my deadline, we are still just (just!?!) in the back and forth threatening stage. “If you do this, we’ll do worse”. How did we get here? We got here by ‘hiring’ a know-it-all real estate tycoon from NYC who has no integrity, and no idea of how a president of the United States behaves, or how to lead a nation of good people with ethics and rules of law and order. He also does not know how a leader of this “best nation of all time” should behave when out on the international scene.

When we hear explanations of why we had to assassinate a very popular Iranian general from the Oval Officed Occupant, knowing that has lied or made mistaken facts over 15,000 times since January 20, 2017, how confident can we be that what he and Mike Pompeo are now saying is the truth? Scary? You bet, Mr. and Ms America!!

As we citizens at home are waiting for the BIG BOOM, or whatever the Iranians and their supporters around the world might do, we have our thoughts on the upcoming 2020 national election next November.

OH, YES, THAT!! How do you feel about candidates chasing around the landscape trying to be presidential wannabees? Anyone stand out for whom you would like to plunk down $$ to help? Anyone know the details of the proposals for health care? Have you heard that drug costs are going to increase about five-plus percent in 2020? Make a difference? Or, are you more concerned about the international situation? How about the immigration problems? How about crime in your neighborhood? Then, of course, there are the homeless.

So much of which to be concerned. Or, are you concerned?

CHEERS to those who stepped up to save our local newspaper. As of this columnist’s deadline, we are, fortunately, not in a new Middle East war, the SF 49ers made it to the NFL playoffs, and it looks like we are not headed for another California drought. And, so long to the former Oakland Raiders. If the Warriors can just get it all together!

Shell Refinery in Martinez sold to Delaware company

Refinery transaction complete, ‘Martinez Refinery Company’ born

Martinez News-Gazette, February 1, 2020

PBF Energy Inc. announced today that it completed the acquisition of the Martinez refinery, and related logistics assets, from Shell Oil Products US. The purchase price for the assets was $960.0 million plus the value of hydrocarbon inventory. The company will operate as ‘Martinez Refining Company’.

“We welcome Martinez’s professional workforce to the PBF family,” said PBF’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Nimbley. “We are committed to maintaining the high operational standards of the refinery and, through continued safe, reliable and environmentally responsible operations, earning the privilege of being a respected member of the Martinez and Contra Costa County communities.” Mr. Nimbley continued, “The acquisition of Martinez is a significant strategic step for PBF as we expand our West Coast operations. Martinez is a top-tier asset, is a perfect complement to our existing assets and provides increased opportunities for PBF’s West Coast operations to deliver value.”

The 157,000 barrel-per-day, dual-coking Martinez refinery is located on an 860-acre site in the City of Martinez, 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, California. The refinery is a high-conversion facility with a Nelson Complexity Index of 16.1, making it one of the most complex refineries in the United States. The facility includes a number of high-quality onsite logistics assets including a deep-water marine facility, product distribution terminals and refinery crude and product storage facilities with approximately 8.8 million barrels of shell capacity.

Dear Friends,
We are pleased to announce the next chapter in our refinery’s storied, 105-year history. Effective February 1, we usher in a new era as “Martinez Refining Company,” featuring the new logo, below.

Martinez Refining Company LLC (Martinez Refinery) is a subsidiary of PBF Energy Inc. (PBF), a publicly-traded (NYSE-PBF) Fortune 250 company that concentrates on refining and logistics. Martinez is the sixth refinery in PBF’s portfolio; the others are in New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, Louisiana, and Southern California.

We are also introducing and welcoming our new Refinery Manager, Jerry Forstell. This is a homecoming for Jerry, who worked at Martinez from 1992-2003, then returned frequently as General Manager of Turnarounds and Projects. In total, Jerry has 35 years in the refining and chemicals industries, 31 of those with Shell.

After retiring from Shell in 2015, Jerry joined PBF Energy as Chalmette Refinery Manager in St. Bernard Parish, LA near New Orleans. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. Jerry and his wife, Corinne, have three grown children spread throughout the country.

“I am truly thrilled to be back at Martinez with so many of my former colleagues, while looking forward to getting to know the rest of the workforce and our neighbors,” Jerry says. “I deeply respect our rich history and value our commitment to our community. I especially look forward to leading the refinery through the coming transition while maintaining the outstanding legacy and traditions that Shell established over the past 105 years.

PBF offered jobs to all eligible refinery employees, and encourages continuing development of our professional well-trained and qualified workforce. We remain dedicated to being a valued member of our community through open, honest, and timely communication, while supporting the local economy with jobs and purchases of services and supplies.

Our Martinez Refinery Family has seen a lot of change, but there are certain constants: our priorities remain “People, Planet, Performance,” and our safety mission, which we call “Goal Zero”, continues as our guiding force. Together, these programs keep us focused on working safely and operating reliably and in an environmentally responsible manner, which in turn helps us earn the right to operate in the communities that host us. This commitment to our community is another constant. We want to share with you some highlights from the past year…as we look forward to 2020.

We had a very successful “Run for Education” in 2019, which PBF also supported. Our team of volunteers are already preparing for our refinery’s signature event the, “MRC/MEF Run for Education” to be held September 27. Since 2003 our run has raised $916,000 for the Martinez Education Foundation, so we are excited to “Run to a Million” in this year’s event. We hope you’ll join us for our Family Fun Night on September 26. The Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs always host an enjoyable evening at the Clubhouse.

We congratulate 2019 Alhambra High School graduate, Jessica McCauley, who earned the Shell Martinez Refinery STEM Scholarship in May. We are also honored to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martinez in establishing a “Teen Center.” Our Martinez youth prove the future is brighter with their talents.

You may have seen our Refinery Fire Department personnel at various community events this year, including the “4th of July Hometown Parade,” “National Night Out,” and the “Holiday Frolic and Tree Lighting.” We also hope you saw the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s Holiday Food Drive donation barrels. In a span of three days, more than 30 refinery employees wrapped all the food barrels that were distributed throughout Contra Costa and Solano Counties.

And finally, “Save Mount Diablo” has published its list of free, public, guided hikes sponsored by the refinery, and all the information is on their website.

Our new owner has pledged to continue our strong commitment to you, our refinery, and our community. We invite you to contact us anytime you have a question or concern. Our weekday phone number is still (925) 313-3777. Our after-hours number remains (925) 313-3601.

Our employees live, work, and play in Martinez, and we treasure our relationship with our community neighbors. We are grateful for your support of the Martinez Refinery and as always, look forward to hearing from you.

Ann Notarangelo
External Relations Manager – Martinez Refinery

BenIndy Editor: see also SGGate, February 1, 2020

The latest “news desert” – Martinez News-Gazette closes

Martinez News-Gazette to roll out final edition after 161 years of print

Alejandro Serrano, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 26, 2019
Barbara Cetko, 93, legal section editor at the long-running Martinez News-Gazette, works on her copy.
Barbara Cetko, 93, legal section editor at the long-running Martinez News-Gazette, works on her copy. Photo: Photos by Jessica Christian / The Chronicle [ONE OF SEVEN PHOTOS – FOR MORE, SEE]
Rick Jones anticipated the end, but it still shocked him when it arrived.

After 161 years of publishing, the Martinez News-Gazette — among the longest-running papers in California, if not the longest — plans to print its final edition on Sunday, a painful end for one of the only news agencies committed to covering the city of nearly 40,000, which serves as the seat of Contra Costa County.

“We were told we were losing money, and I don’t doubt that,” said Jones, who has served as the paper’s editor for about five years as one of two full-time employees. “We knew it was coming.”

It’s uncertain whether the news outlet will continue publishing online, Jones said. Owners of the paper, he said, haven’t responded to his requests for more information on what comes next. What is certain, however, is that the journalism industry remains under threat in the Bay Area and across the country.

study published last month by PEN America, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting free expression through the written word, found that total newsroom employment across the country — newspapers, TV, radio and digital — fell roughly 25% from 2008 to 2018, while almost half of all newspaper newsroom jobs, 47%, were eliminated.

Production editor Scott Baba lays out his pages.
Production editor Scott Baba lays out his pages. Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle
Edward Wasserman, dean of UC Berkeley’s journalism school, said people can turn to the internet to share and exchange opinions with others who have the same enthusiasm for something, but it’s not the same as looking at the same paper every morning and reading about hyper-local stories on politics and crime, as well as announcements and features specific to life in Martinez.

“There’s not really a replacement institution emerging,” Wasserman said. “It’s not the same thing as having a paper that chronicles a shared reality for a given community.”

The News-Gazette began publishing in September 1858 and is said to have endorsed Abraham Lincoln’s presidential bid. Former state Sen. William Sharkey bought the paper in 1906 and combined it with another local paper, calling it the Contra Costa Gazette, according to the former owner’s 89-year-old grandson, Bill Sharkey III.

In the middle of the 20th century, the paper had about 50 employees and covered the county and city of Martinez, while also offering national and international news through the Associated Press and United Press International wires.

“We were a local newspaper with all the services,” Sharkey III said.

Advertising revenue began to dwindle in the 1960s, so the family sold the newspaper to former state Sen. Luther Gibson in 1963, said Sharkey III, who was managing editor at the time. Since then, the newspaper has continued to reduce its staff.

The News-Gazette, which dates to 1858 and is said to have endorsed Abraham Lincoln, keeps its archives in binders in the newsroom attic.
The News-Gazette, which dates to 1858 and is said to have endorsed Abraham Lincoln, keeps its archives in binders in the newsroom attic. Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Sharkey III, who has written a column in recent years and will have penned more than 350 by the end of 2019, saw the decline from a five-day-a-week publication to the more recent twice-a-week schedule.

“I hate to see it,” said Mayor Rob Schroder, who also writes a column for the paper. “We had at least one dedicated reporter all the time, and they’ve gone away in the last five years.”

Journalism serves a watchdog role in any community, Schroder said, but in a city like Martinez the paper also acted as a conduit between residents and their local representatives. The News-Gazette was among the first outlets to report on a man who allegedly attempted a citizen’s arrest on Schroder this month, leading to a kerfuffle with the mayor and another man on Main Street.

“I think we are going to lose some connection to our community,” Schroder said. “Journalism ties us all together a little bit.”

The paper also reported last month on officials green-lighting a recreational marijuana shop near a school, infuriating two school officials.

“Who is going to get those things out to the public?” Jones asked.

Weeks after news of the paper’s demise was announced — in a corner of the front page of a November edition, a small box declared in all caps: “MARTINEZ NEWS-GAZETTE TO CLOSE” — concern has spread among loyal readers.

Production editor Scott Baba leaves for the day.
Production editor Scott Baba leaves for the day. Photo: Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Gibson Publishing, which owns the paper, has not given any details on the future to staff, Jones said.

A relative of David Payne, the chief executive of Gibson Publishing and Westamerica Bancorporation, said the family would not comment on the News-Gazette.

Ramona Lappier, who’s been a reader for about 25 years, recalled yelling in her living room when she read the brief note about the shuttering. She remembered unfurling the paper over the years. Despite a typo or two that would make her and her mother laugh, the paper was still informative.

A newspaper, just like a school, is part of the fabric of a community, Lappier said.

“When those pieces are pulled out, it’s like a house of cards — what do you have left?” she wondered.

One reader, Jennifer Chan, pleaded in a letter to the editor: “Please, what can be done to save this paper?”

Jones said a few people expressed interest in purchasing the paper, but none have been successful in reaching the current owner. Jones said he has not been able to contact the owner, either.

“For the most part, there is no one covering the news in Martinez,” he said. “There is going to be a void there.”

The paper’s staff shrank in recent years, and essential staffers who left, such as an ads salesperson, were never replaced, Jones said.

“We do nothing to gain new subscribers, and we are not selling ads,” he said.

But life in Martinez will continue, even if the paper does not.

“It’s like a member of the family is going to be gone,” Sharkey III said. “After all these years, it’s suddenly not going to be there.”