Dog Bites

Renfrew report; Mercury News; Dot-com junkies; Propositions K and L

Stet!

Rumor has reached Dog Bites that the Renfrew report is complete -- but that nobody in San Francisco has seen it.

What, you don't remember the Renfrew report? Perhaps you share the sentiments of reader Doug Lloyd, who writes, "Your constant and rather exhausting coverage of the Chronicle/ Examiner fiasco is really quite boring. Admittedly, it's an important facet of San Francisco life, and as a journalist, you clearly have a compelling interest in it. [But] if you're going to cover things like that, why not write about how Al Gore has swung so far to the right, or how the impending Chevron-Texaco merger is going to truly screw the consumer and lead to even higher gas prices, or something like that?"

So, OK, back to the Renfrew report. You may recall that, during Clint Reilly's antitrust suit against the Hearst purchase of the Chronicle, ExPublisher Tim White testified he'd offered editorial support for Willie Brown's re-election in exchange for Brown's support of the purchase. Hearst promptly suspended White and hired retired federal judge Charles Renfrew to investigate whether White's statement was true, and whether other Ex and Hearst employees were aware of the so-called "horse trade."

Still with us, bored readers? A usually reliable source informed us Renfrew's much-anticipated report -- finished after months of investigation -- is in the hands of Hearst officials in New York. Unfortunately, those officials haven't returned Dog Bites' phone calls. And Judge Renfrew told us, "I'm just not in a position to be able to say anything about it at all. I'm so sorry."

We did, however, speak -- as usual -- with Ex Executive Editor Phil Bronstein, who was present when the alleged horse trading took place, and has said he didn't hear White offer Brown a deal. Bronstein was unequivocal: "The conclusions of the report definitely ought to be made public."

Of course, the three people who are actually reading to the end of this item will be wondering, "If Renfrew has finished his investigation, does this mean Hearst will finally name a publisher for the Chronicle?" Popular wisdom has had it that a publisher couldn't be named until the report was complete. And popular wisdom has also had it that the publisher-elect is John Oppedahl. Oppedahl quit his job at the Arizona Republic on Friday; in his resignation memo he wrote, "I have some other opportunities in the newspaper industry that I'm interested in pursuing." Asked about persistent rumors he's headed to San Francisco, Oppedahl told Republic reporters Jerry Kammer and David Fritze, "I've heard that speculation too."

Naturally, we're dying to talk to Oppedahl, who grew up in Oakland and graduated from UC Berkeley, but he has yet to return any of our calls. The same must be said of Julia Wallace, managing editor and vice president of the Republic. Newsroom gossip -- and if there's a better place for gossip than a newsroom, we'd like to know about it -- in Phoenix has her accompanying Oppedahl to San Francisco. If this is true, nobody knows what her role here might be.

Mercury, Mercury, Rah Rah Rah!

After this most recent excitement over the Chron/Ex staff merger, Dog Bites has suddenly noticed we've been neglecting our friends at the far end of the 280. So it was nice to see they haven't been neglecting themselves. Au contraire! Merc Managing Editor Susan Goldberg's peppy memos critiquing each day's paper are so upbeat we feel positively empowered by them, and we don't even work there. "We had a super-newsy business front. ... What a super job. ... Wonderful!"

We especially liked Goldberg's discussion of coverage of the sunken Russian sub story. "No one had a better lede than we did," she wrote to staffers Friday. Actually, compared with the Merc's lede, everyone else sucked. "L.A. Times: ... This could be the lede on, oh, about 3 million stories. ... NY Times: ... The second-best lede, but too long and weighted down by unnecessary detail. ... Chron: "... Russian naval officials said yesterday'??? Could they do more to kill the drama of the story? Geez."

Geez.

How About Underworld? Would You Listen to Underworld?

Meanwhile we are truly sorry to learn, via e-mail, that we have caused emotional pain to what is doubtless a large segment of the local population.

"The sarcastic treatment that you gave to "Anonymous,' the dot-com junky from the Guardian, really hurt my feelings," writes one Marcus. "I too am a dot-com junky and think that we should be afforded the same respect given to dot-com alcoholics, dot-com speed freaks, and crack-smoking dot-commers. Why should the heroin addicts get singled out? We're not any worse than anyone else, except that if you read the letters in the Guardian this week, you'd see that "Anonymous' is actually dead.

"Actually, I'm bending the truth a bit; after I was actually nearly fired from my job for shooting up in the bathroom, which they said was "inappropriate behavior,' I had to, like, go to rehab, so technically I'm not on heroin anymore. Does this make my point less valid?

"Finally, your inane point about the Spiritualized CDs really hurt. Any real junky wouldn't be caught dead listening to anything but Nick Cave, preferably while lying on the floor and re-reading Geek Love.

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