Sucka Free Chronicle Watch -- Working for better Bay Area media
San Francisco Chronicle: In the early 1950s, the Chronicle's circulation was lagging well behind its local competitors. So the paper's owners named Scott Newhall executive editor, hoping he could boost circulation. He did — by increasing the stodgy paper's fluff factor. Among the more famous crusades during the Newhall era were a comedy writer's desire to combat animal nudity (accompanied by an illustration suggesting underwear styles for cows) and a campaign to improve coffee in the city ("A Great City's People Forced to Drink Swill").
Fast-forward to the 21st century. While the modern-day Chron is better from a journalistic standpoint than Newhall's version, San Francisco's venerable daily appears to have chosen to compete in the age of the Internet by borrowing from the Newhall model: There are stunts (sending Sean Penn to Iran), front-page fluff (above-the-fold stories about pets), and civic crusades ("A Great City's People Forced to Endure Smelly Hobos"!). Instead of giving its readers comprehensive national and international news, the Chron treats us every day to a sample of parochial quality-of-life complaints in its "Chronicle Watch," which castigates lazy bureaucrats for not fixing a drinking fountain in a park quickly enough. — M. Spinelli
ON THE WATCH LIST
Of BALCO coverage. Okay, we get it — athletes are using steroids. Let's move on and get those investigative reporters onto something more serious like Mayor Gavin Newsom's dating habits.
Selling out the front page to advertisers. This week's highest bidder: Wachovia. We will say that the front-page PG&E ads do have the benefit of giving Bruce Brugmann a conniption.