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This just in (Dog Bites has always wanted to write that): The Society of People Completely Inured to Questionable Mixtures of Business, Politics, and Journalism in San Francisco (of which Dog Bites is only an associate member) has rewritten its bylaws, authorizing one raised eyebrow in February. To understand why, you need to know about a television show that played at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday: Live With Willie & Phil. As in former Mayor Willie Brown and Chroniclecolumnist Phil Matier.
Hoping to hear an entertaining attempt to justify allowing the newspaper's most prominent political columnist to partner with a still-potent and oft-investigated political deal-maker, Dog Bites called ChronicleExecutive Vice President and Editor Phil Bronstein, but was, alas, disappointed. Bronstein said that Matier has had a long relationship as a political commentator at KRON-TV (Channel 4), but when the Chroniclediscovered, late last week, through a KRON promotion, that Matier would co-host a show with Brown, conversations were, ahem, held. Sunday's Live With Willie & Phil, Bronstein said, would be the last. (Yes, you heard Dog Bites correctly: Matier's bosses apparently found out he was co-hosting a television show with a former mayor from a promotion for the show.) "For us that was not a tenable situation, because it went from Phil having some kind of presence on air with Willie as a guest, to them having some kind of business enterprise together," Bronstein said. Even though Brown is no longer mayor, Bronstein noted, "Willie, everyone anticipates, will be involved in city politics." (Given that Willie Brown has had a headlock on Sacramento and San Francisco political life for decades and is a major backer of new Mayor Gavin Newsom, Dog Bites gives Bronstein a 99.7-out-of-100 score in SF Weekly's annual Understatement of the Year competition.)
Because the show had already been taped, produced, and promoted, Bronstein said, KRON declined to pull the Feb. 8 episode, which featured a lengthy interview of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, "but agreed that this particular format wouldn't go forward."
Matier essentially confirmed Bronstein's account of the situation, saying Willie & Philwas a one-time affair "as far as I know and as far as I'm concerned." He said he respects the Chronicle's concerns about the format, but those concerns "hadn't entered my mind going into it." He said he will now be sole host of a Sunday show on KRON.
"I think the communication between the news organizations could have been better, and I fault myself for that," Matier said, earning a 99.8 score in the understatement contest.
Stacy Owen, news director at KRON, had a different take. She said her station had planned a show hosted by Matier and Brown as a natural extension of political commentary shows in which both had appeared regularly. "And my feeling is nobody owns Phil Matier; he is a strong reporter and journalist in his own right," Owen said. When told of Bronstein's comments, Owen said, "Am I aware that the Chronicle has some concerns about that? Yes. Do I have those same concerns? No, I don't. I give Phil [Matier] more credit than that."
Still, she said, the Sunday show will be renamed 4 the Record, will have Matier as the sole host, and will be expanded "to have sort of a panel of people to talk about the week's events in news, the arts, public affairs, all sorts of things." That panel, she said, could include former Mayor Brown. Dog Bites lifted an eyebrow, then ran to set the TiVo for Sunday night. (John Mecklin)
Two weekends ago, we found ourselves strolling through the dim, cavernous halls of the Exploratorium, marveling at how our passion for scientific inquiry surges as the weather gets crappier. As usual, the kid-friendly, hands-on museum was a delight for all ages (especially, we assume, for the two darling teenagers in the walk-in kaleidoscope, who spent 10 minutes learning about each other's bodies while Dog Bites snickered outside).
We soon discovered, however, that all was not hugs and kisses here. On the second floor, Dog Bites watched a middle-aged guy approach a young museum volunteer to ask about that afternoon's scheduled science experiment; the volunteer -- standing behind a demonstration counter bereft of beakers, bowls, or body parts -- shook his blond curls sadly. "We're not dissecting a cow eye today," he said with a sigh. "It's the whole mad cow thing. And it sucks, because the cow eye dissection was, like, our most popular attraction."
Dog Bites found that hard to believe, having just come from the "Energy From Death" exhibit. (Really, what's a weekend without sniffing the skeletal remains of a maggot-ridden mouse?) Still, we counted ourselves among the devastated, decided that this mad cow thing had gone too far, and a few days later, called the museum and asked for a more detailed explanation.
"Well, we're not receiving any cow's eyes," said museum spokeswoman Linda Dackman, who told us the dissection has been a regular feature of the Exploratorium since the early 1970s. The Exploratorium, it turns out, had been receiving twice-weekly shipments, the frequent deliveries ensuring the organs would be fresh for slicing and dicing. "We get them from a meat supply company, and last week came -- no more supply. It's strictly a lack of availability."