Dog Bites

A Little Crazy

Reached in the Chronnewsroom, where she still has a desk -- for now! -- Asimov claimed to be nonplussed by Guthrie's attempted power-grab. "I really have no idea what goes on in her mind," said Asimov. "I think we at the Chronicle take a very different approach. I'm actually looking forward to working with all the reporters when the staffs merge in November."

Chron news columnist Ken Garcia, whom Dog Bites admits to having mocked on more than one occasion -- though we were only trying to get attention, and we never called him "worthless" -- was far less conciliatory. "While I don't really feel worthy to reply, I must say that Ms. Guthrie has a rather unique way of embracing her new colleagues, since she got her job at the Examiner by crossing the picket line while the rest of us undeserving editorial slobs at the Chronicle and the Ex were on strike in 1994," he e-mailed us. "Still, assuming that we can find an appropriate place for her to sit at the new Chronicle, I'm sure we will welcome her with open arms and will look forward to having her share some of the tips that have helped make her such a (self-)acknowledged journalistic prize."

Guthrie's superiors at the Ex didn't seem too happy with her either. Sources at the Chron were quick to e-mail Dog Bites with the news that a note to Guthrie signed by ExaminerMetro Editor Dick Rogers had been posted on the Newspaper Guild bulletin board. "Your memo had the subtlety of a sledgehammer," wrote Rogers. "If you can't share bylines and can't sit next to anyone but your chosen seatmates, then you will probably not find the new Chronicle an ideal environment. My gut feeling is that you owe an apology to Nanette Asimov and Ken Garcia."

Guthrie did in fact later apologize to Asimov and to Garcia; her note to Asimov was soon in circulation as well, and, according to two Chronreporters who'd seen it, read in part, "I went a little crazy."

While it was unclear exactly how Guthrie's original memo came to be made public, several insiders speculated it had been retrieved from the newsroom computer system, which allows anyone access to virtually any file. "Somebody [at the Ex] went into her basket and took it," one source at the Chron theorized.

Bronstein said he was displeased that someone might have been "trawling" through the system. "That's not good and that's not smart and that's not respectful of one's colleagues," he said. "It obviously was not meant to be a public thing."

He said he hadn't yet read the final version of Guthrie's memo, and believed the draft she sent to him could be somewhat different from the one that was circulating. "There're 200 people on staff here. Obviously not all of them responded [to the request for feedback], but I haven't had a chance to read all the responses yet. I certainly wasn't interested in getting the recommendations of anyone on what their colleagues at the Chron should be doing. While Julian has First Amendment rights like everyone else, that certainly wasn't what I was looking for."

Insiders at the Chron and Ex think that when the staffs are combined, it's likely Bronstein will move upward into a management position at the Hearst Corp., leaving the leadership of the paper to Jerry Roberts, currently the Chron's managing editor.

Of course, this is only speculation -- and that's the problem. Staffers at both papers say the protracted uncertainty over who will manage the Hearst-owned Chronicle is becoming increasingly stressful, especially as the date on which the Fangs will assume control of the Ex draws ever nearer. But the Fang/Examiner fiasco -- particularly, the allegations that suspended ExaminerEditor and Publisher Tim White offered to "horse trade" editorial favors to Mayor Willie Brown, if Brown would stop opposing Hearst's effort to buy the Chronicle -- has so far made it impossible to finalize anything. "They need to wrap up the Tim White investigation and appoint a publisher," said a source at the Chron. "Until they do that, nothing can start to be resolved, and there's going to be this kind of persistent anxiety."

At least the Guthrie memo has occasioned merriment on both sides of the building at Fifth and Mission. Chronicle science writer Carl Hall's parody was distributed through both newsrooms. "First off, I'd like to say that I want to be the chief science writer at the Chronicle. I'm not interested in joint bylines," wrote Hall. "Any story I come up with is mine. ... I want to be given several months to travel the world to write dispatches about science. I am especially intrigued about science stuff breaking every day in Paris, Greece, and the American Virgin Islands. Also Maui. ... I don't want to sit next to another science reporter. I don't want to be anywhere near Lynn Ludlow or John Carman. I want to sit by Julian Guthrie."

"I felt a little humor might defuse things," Hall, who's also president of the local Guild chapter, explained later. "It's a competitive situation that's now expected to become collegial. You can't expect the transition to be easy."

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