Letters

Bronstein vs. Burks
John Burks has had a long and distinguished career as a journalist in the Bay Area. He is also a journalism teacher, an important profession for a craft that has so much potential influence and so much responsibility.

But he neither got the facts right nor told the truth in his SF Weekly column on Jonestown (Postscript, Nov. 18). "I asked [Bronstein] whether he thought hundreds of lives might have been saved if the Examiner had stepped up its reporting on the Peoples Temple in 1972," he writes. Very dramatic question.

But John never asked me that question. He asked me if I was aware of the controversy that surrounded work done at the paper back then by Lester Kinsolving. Even to that question, I didn't "shrug," but told him I knew nothing about it. In fact, John's (real) query was the first I'd heard of it.

Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle this ain't. But it's not honest or accurate.

I presume in an effort to make this 26-year-old controversy somehow relevant to today's Examiner, John also quotes Kinsolving as saying of Larry Hatfield's recent Peoples Temple series: "Now I know Larry Hatfield, an honorable man, a fine reporter, and I know he must have been forbidden to mention my name" in the series.

Larry is both honorable and a fine reporter. It would have been good if John Burks had treated Larry as such by himself being a good reporter and asking Larry if such a thing were true. He didn't. Larry tells me that it was not true, and that John never called to ask him. So John leaves an assertion hanging, again presumably to retain the drama of it, when a simple call would have resolved it.

I don't know if Kinsolving's criticisms are true. I've asked the few people who were at the paper then and still are. They do not remember. Certainly no one in a senior editorial position then has been here in more than a decade. So I can't say if the Examiner met its obligation to report the truth fully back then.

But I do know that John Burks slipped in his attempt to do that in his SF Weekly story.

Phil Bronstein
Executive Editor
San Francisco Examiner

'Fess Up, Phil
John Burks responds: Phil Bronstein's shrug is in my notes, but still I'm sorry if my mention of it failed to represent his sentiments. I respect Phil, admire his work (and am pleased the feeling is essentially mutual); and even if I didn't (and he didn't), I would still want to accurately convey his ideas. As for contacting Larry Hatfield for comment concerning Kinsolving's rant: Doing so would have implied I believed it to be something weightier than a rant. I didn't, and don't.

I wanted to thank John Burks and SF Weekly for having the fortitude to enlighten readers about the San Francisco Examiner and its early blunderings with the Peoples Temple (Postscript). The Examiner editors used a mighty flimsy excuse when they told Burks that Lester Kinsolving's stories "generally lacked hard sources." The truth to this lie is that Kinsolving substantiated anything he ever wrote for the Examiner.

After Burks' Jim Jones interview and a subsequent butchered non-bylined version appeared, Kinsolving pleaded with his editors to run the remaining four exposes. Instead, they insisted he go up to Ukiah and get affidavits and taped sworn statements from the Concerned Citizens, a group of defectors and residents fighting Jones.

By returning to Ukiah, a community terrorized by the Peoples Temple, Kinsolving ran a great risk to his life as well as the lives of the Concerned Citizens. Even after this reporter turned over additional substantiation to his editors, the remaining four stories still did not run. This action alone proves the Examiner's profound cowardice and extreme neglect, something they may never admit to, unless Executive Editor Phil Bronstein sees fit to rectify the past.

Interested readers wanting to learn more can look up the following Web site: www.jonescoverup.com (http://home.earthlink.net/~kkinsolv/), which contains an informative article I co-authored along with my brother Tom.

Kathleen Kinsolving
San Rafael

Earth to Boulware
Jack Boulware's story on Julia Butterfly was pathetically off-the-mark in assessing activists' reactions to the Headwaters "deal" ("Up a Tree. Still?" Nov. 11). To suggest that we are so addicted to Charles Hurwitz as a "perfect villain" that we won't let up after all but winning our "victory" is to betray utter ignorance not only about the particulars of the issue, but also about the great diversity of opinions among activists engaged in the struggle.

Moreover, while Julia Butterfly is indeed remarkable for her connectedness, one has to wonder what kind of article the author would have written if he didn't find her "attractive."

Substance, please. This is a primary social justice issue of our time.
Philip Batchelder
Oakland

A Living Bible
Congratulations to the protesting clergymen and -women in the Methodist Church for standing up for the rights of gay people to have the same rights as straight people ("The Holy War Over Gay Marriage," Nov. 4). Just like many of those who stood up against racial discrimination years ago, they realize that the few comments in the Bible which seem to condemn homosexuality were truly reflections of the society and understanding of the issues at that time. They realize that as homosexuality is better understood, it doesn't require the same condemnation as was once deemed necessary.

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