By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
But if we are to believe what has been reported about this transaction, the Fangs didn't buy the Examiner, in a normal sense -- they agreed to be paid a lot of money to take a portion of its assets that did not include real estate or printing presses. If this is the case, and if the Fangs' offer really were the best to be presented to Hearst, then there most likely would be no legal grounds requiring the deal to happen. Antitrust law might require Hearst to sell the Examiner to a legitimate bidder willing to pay a legitimate price, as a way of fostering continued competition in the San Francisco newspaper market; I can imagine no legal requirement that the Hearst Corp. subsidize -- to the tune of $75 million -- a newspaper with which its new Chronicle would compete.
So if this "sale" doesn't look like any kind of sale you've ever seen, and if it doesn't seem to be required by law, what kind of sleazy shadow-play is it that's being projected in front of us?
From the time Hearst announced it intended to buy the dominant morning Chronicle until very recently, the Fangs' Independent and its political allies have been engaged in a classic bullshit San Francisco mau-mau campaign. The Independent mau-maued Hearst in repeated "news" stories whose offenses against good journalism are so numerous and blatant as to be difficult to list, much less describe, in this short space. That is, the Independentdid what it has done in the past, usually during election cycles -- pretend to be a newspaper, and actually act as a political bludgeon, swung against the enemies of Fang, and the enemies of the friends of Fang.
Accompanying the Independent mau-mau came the political sector mau-mau, as the San Francisco Democratic machine, led by Willie Brown, jumped up and down and waved its collective hands and bemoaned the loss of editorial voice that would follow if the Examiner were to close.
There is no way I can know, for certain, what effect this loud mau-mau campaign had on the Justice Department attorneys in charge of reviewing Hearst's acquisition of the Chronicle. I just know that the political players doing the mau-mau have connections high in the Clinton administration, that the mau-mauing went on for a long time, and that the Justice Department just couldn't seem to get around to finishing its review of the Chronicledeal for months and months.
If I don't know all the details about the mau-mau campaign, I do know what the proposed Examiner conveyance apparently brought on by the mega-mau-mau looks like: a shameful political payoff that serves the needs of the mau-mauers and the mau-maued, lets the Justice Department pretend it did its job, and screws the public.
If the Examiner is "conveyed" in this way, the Fangs' new firm will receive multimillion-dollar subsidies that serve no purpose I can see except to give the family control of a medium that can be used to spew, on a daily basis, the type of lopsided venom the Independent is known for.
If the Examineris conveyed in this way, Willie Brown's Democratic machine, which is closely allied with the Independent, will have a house organ that will tend to print the machine's self-serving propaganda while masquerading as a metropolitan daily newspaper.
If the Examiner is allowed to be conveyed in this way, the Hearst Corp. will very likely end up with the daily monopoly it apparently is seeking -- once the subsidies it has agreed to cough up run out, and the Fang Examiner goes belly up.
And if the deal goes through, everyone else in San Francisco will be subjected, at least occasionally, to the type of slanted garbage Fang publications far too regularly publish.
But, one might argue, if Hearst is willing to throw millions of dollars out the window, and the Fang family is willing to catch them, what's the harm in that? If the Fangs want to try to revive a failing daily, isn't that a good thing? And even if what results is a bad paper that dies quickly, so what? Why is that worse, for the general public, than having the Examiner die immediately?
The answers to those questions are clear to me; let me try to make them clear to you.
First, as it now stands, the public has no way of knowing that the Fang bid for the Examinerwas the best option for encouraging the long-term existence of San Francisco's second daily. If they expect the public to swallow this weird deal as the best that could be struck, the Hearst Corp. and the Fangs need to provide all its salient details -- including the price to be paid, the amount of the Hearst subsidy, and the names of any financial partners the Fangs might have. And then Hearst needs to say who else bid on the Examiner, and give enough details of the other bids to explain why they were inferior to an offer from a family that seems, from the outside, to have nowhere near the financial wherewithal to run a major daily newspaper.