Rosey People

The Chron has Phil people and Rosey people. Correction--it only has Phil people now.

It's the end of a rather short-lived era at the San Francisco Chronicle, as Robert ("Rosey" to all) Rosenthal heads back into retirement for the second time in five years.

There was some excitement at the paper when he joined the staff in 2002 after having left the helm of the Philadelphia Inquirer amid the impending loss of dozens of news jobs there. Rosey became managing editor at the Chron — a slight step down, but an opportunity to work for the privately held Hearst Corp., which was not so obsessed about its bottom line as publicly traded Knight Ridder.

But this year, again, the bean counters came calling. Last month, the Chron announced it would cut 100 newsroom jobs — a quarter of its staff — to battle financial losses that in recent years amounted to millions of dollars per week. (There were also indications last week that the San Jose Mercury News was preparing to make equally deep cuts.) Until now, Hearst has been "really patient" with the Chron, Rosey said. All the same, he didn't want blood on his hands.

"I'm tired of dismantling places," he told SF Weekly. "I really want to be involved in building something. My departure had nothing to do with internal personality clashes." Rosey took pains in a staff memo to stress that he left "without rancor or acrimony." Still, some media writers doubted that two "alpha males" — Rosey and Chron Editor Phil Bronstein — could work together as long as they did. They had frequent disagreements about news values.

"That's something we say a lot — there are Phil people and Rosey people," said a Phil person who didn't want to be identified for fear of being axed. "Rosey's sensibility was very East Coast. Phil focuses on what do people want to read, what's going to cause a little bit of a stir."

An avowed Rosey person — Jim Naughton, who hired him at the Inquirer — called Rosey a man of principle in an industry increasingly dominated by bottom-line limitations. In Philly, Naughton said, "Rosey stood as much of it as he could and then got essentially fired for not going along with more draconian cuts." The same play, different city.

What's next for Rosey? He hasn't a clue. But the old-media defender has gotten a quick education in "new journalism," and now has a few weeks' lead time on his downsized erstwhile subordinates in Silicon Valley job hunting.

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