Dog Bites

Panic at Fifth and Mission
The panic began on Sept. 20, when financial-hype artist Dan Dorfman filed his unsourced report on CNBC that "the Examiner may fold."

"Rumors that the San Francisco Examiner may close are not new," Dorfman informed his cable TV audience. "But what I'm being told is that the paper, which is more than 100 years old, will close possibly before year end and no later than the first quarter of '96. Its circulation is down to 115,000. The paper is owned by the Hearst Corporation, which, by the way, declined to respond to phone calls."

Examiner Publisher Lee Guittar responded with an interoffice memo that, because it neither confirmed nor denied the report, further scattered the skittish.

"Despite the size of Dorfman's audience, I put his report in the same category as earlier rumors," Guittar informed the staff. "Incidentally, Dorfman called me a few days ago, seeking comment. I told him that I couldn't comment for the Hearst Corporation, but reminded him that rumors had been swirling around here for years. He said he knew that, but this report had come from a 'responsible banker.' That seemed to be all he had."

By Sunday, the San Jose Mercury News had expanded the rumor by several degrees, reporting that there was a deal in the works in which the Hearst Corp. would shutter the Examiner and "work out joint ownership of the remaining morning Chronicle" in a revised JOA.

"Hearst is not after money," an anonymous source told the Mercury News. "They want control."

The fiscal sense of folding the Examiner would be eliminating $20 million to $30 million in expenses (to pick a number out of a hat), which would make the Chronicle profitable and please its owners, the de Young family cousins. They've been hankering for dough for ages, but deny there's a deal brewing. The Hearst Corp., which began as a newspaper chain and has been returning to those roots with deals in San Antonio and Houston that have made it the local king of the monopoly, would likely insist on running the business side of the new paper. The Hearst Corp. knows something about running a newspaper and couldn't do any worse than the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, which operates the business side of both papers for the JOA.

Meanwhile, the de Youngs might be granted the face-saving consolation prize of editorial control. And what of the talented staff at the Examiner? In San Antonio, Hearst settled the newspaper war by buying the competition and folding its own paper -- tossing its loyal employees out on the street.

Manners of Speaking
When Willie Brown was Assembly speaker, people came to him, fit themselves into his schedule, deferred to his needs, and begged to touch the hem of his garment. Now that's he's come down to earth, and the grass roots of San Francisco, he has to be more mindful of his manners -- a fact reinforced by the Rev. Ralph E. Howard, pastor of Mount Gilead Baptist Church in Hunters Point. Last Sunday, Brown dropped by Mount Gilead to make a little speech. But first, Howard gave him a minor dressing down. "A few weeks ago, we got a call from your campaign saying you couldn't be here," he said in front of the congregation. "This time you did make it, and we are thankful. But you didn't call. All we got was this." Howard then held up a press release issued by the Brown campaign announcing his visit to the church. "I'm sure next time we will get something more than this," Howard concluded. Ouch.

nBy Jack Shafer, George Cothran

 
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