Never on Sunday
Bill Mandel's fine story on the Chronicle-Examiner (“The Case for One Daily,” March 1) sheds a lot of intelligent light, although Mandel underestimates public perception of who writes for whom — on Sunday.

Were Mandel's Sunday columns as good as this particular piece, I would not have given up on him. In fact, the Sunday Mishmash became so infuriatingly fickle and subject to continual changes that I gave up on the entire pathetic opus. Certainly, with Herb Caen now gone — an unconscionable omission on the part of the Chronicle — to quote Mandel, “the paper seems hollow.” Even the so-called “Classic Caen” columns provided, generally, a literary constant. That's a lot more than I can say for much of what remains. The Sunday magazine put out by the Ex changes names — what, every two or three years? Each time, it starts out with revamped format, a fat issue, soon to be reduced in quality and size.

Funny: Los Angeles, that town chided for being so “superficial,” puts out one of the great papers of the world (which I look forward to reading each Sunday), while San Francisco, Cultured City, gives us what? Ho hum.

David Lewis

Indie input, please
Congratulations on the wonderful piece by Bill Mandel on San Francisco's newspapers. This is the kind of dishy, insider story New Yorkers get in the New York Observer every week, but which we've sorely lacked in our fair city.

Only one complaint, and maybe it's just sour grapes from a columnist for one of the alternative papers: In putting together his “dream team” for his superpaper-to-be, couldn't Mandel find even one writer from the two straight and four gay indie papers in town to promote to the big leagues?

Orland Outland
San Francisco Frontiers

Parlor game
What's this? Bill Mandel resigned from the Examiner? In October? Strange, I hadn't noticed … But seriously, his “Case for One Daily,” although it certainly taught me volumes (and then some) about the history of San Francisco newspapers, nonetheless raises a few questions.

While I'd like to believe Mandel's I-ain't-got-no-ax-to-grind disclaimer, I find it quite interesting that he managed to mention just about everybody at both papers except his Examiner arch-rival Rob Morse. Morse didn't make Mandel's One Great Newspaper, though he is arguably among the best feature columnists Mandel names. (I've sent dozens of Morse columns to friends around the country over the years; never once have I shared Bill Mandel with anyone.) Conversely, Mandel says he'd actually keep Mick LaSalle, widely regarded as one of the worst film critics in print anywhere. I mean, I realize the whole “All-Star” exercise is nothing more than a parlor game, but that's no reason to throw logic out the window.

And while we're talking disclaimers, shouldn't we mention that the death of either the Chron or the Ex would undoubtedly boost both SF Weekly and the Guardian? Oddly, the possibility of junking the JOA and having both papers go back to compete against each other in the morning is not presented as an option in Mandel's little scenario. If Mandel is such a lover of great (competitive) journalism, shouldn't a head-to-head Chron/Ex battle be his ideal? Of course, a real newspaper rivalry might not benefit the weeklies in quite the same way.

Mike Schaefer
San Francisco

Holt holdout
Thanks to Bill Mandel for submitting his fascinating and thought-provoking article, and thanks for printing it. To the “All Mandel team,” I would also suggest adding Pat Holt and her team of Chronicle book reviewers, Examiner media reporter David Armstrong, and my favorite Chronicle correspondent, Frank Viviano, whose unique and informative articles I look forward to reading whenever I see his byline.

P. Smith
San Francisco

Low road
In so brief a time, it is apparent that the “new” SF Weekly has decided to take the low road.

For your information, Bill Mandel was suspended twice during his last year as a writer at the Examiner for falsifying information to embellish a story. Mandel's account of the Michael Snyder/Paul Wilner encoun-ter at Johnny Love's last September is wholly apocryphal, as no doubt Snyder and Wilner have pointed out to you by now. You owe these gentlemen an apology, in print, for running the story without checking its verity.

That Mandel would advocate the hiring of a scab to work on a union paper — and that SF Weekly would endorse such an advocation by virtue of printing it — is unconscionable. Julian Guthrie deserves to be frozen out by unionized workers for her despicable actions during the strike. The strikebreaker in question is neither probing nor entertaining in her alleged investigative reporting, but rather vacuous and sheltered in her perspective of the world.

We can conclude that the new editorial direction at the Weekly lacks credibility. What a shame: We had such high hopes.

Rich van Renssalaer
Ellen Ortega
San Francisco

Bill Mandel responds:Oddly, I had zero complaints of inaccuracy lodged against me for the first 17 of my 18 years at the Examiner, and I often wrote on controversial topics that could easily have generated such complaints. During my last year at the paper, as relations between me and the editors deteriorated, I was, indeed, suspended once (not twice, as the letter writers allege) for “fabricating” a quotation that was, in fact, given to me by the same editor who later charged me with fabricating it. In other words, I was sandbagged. The Newspaper Guild offered legal representation should I file a grievance against management for this dirty trick, but I declined to fight dirty with dirty. As to whether the Examiner's Paul Wilner did or did not flick the beret off Chronicle critic Michael Snyder's head at Johnny Love's last year, two things: 1) I was ringside, right next to the action; and 2) Despite Snyder's frantic week of telephoning around town to find a corroborating eyewitness, he's the only person who seems to remember events his way.

Queer recovery
The assertion that the “ex-gay” ministry of Love in Action is a cult is ludicrous (“Ex-ex-gay,” March 1). Yes, they have a highly structured program. But so do hundreds of other recovery-type programs (for drugs, alcohol, etc.) around the nation. Members of Love in Action's residential program know exactly what they are getting into before they sign up. They are sent full details, including a copy of the program's rules and regulation, before they apply.

Further, LIA members work an outside job while in the program. They are not cloistered or otherwise cut off from society in any way.

Why didn't your reporter talk to men like myself who have graduated from LIA's program and are happy to have been involved? Some grads, like myself, are now happily married and enjoying a fulfilling heterosexual life. Unfortunately, your article contained a very one-sided view of this ministry.

Bob Davies, Executive Director
Exodus International
San Rafael

Free on film only
As a gay Cuban, watching Strawberry and Chocolate (“Sentimental journey,” Feb. 8) was both deeply moving and disturbing. The film tenderly explores the human drama of a gay man struggling to survive in a hostile environment with his spirit intact, and offers a poignant glimpse of both the hatred that has divided Cubans and the cruelty of institutionalized fanaticism.

But Strawberry and Chocolate is fundamentally a carefully crafted effort on the part of the regime to soften its image in the eyes of the world — to deflect lingering criticism of forced labor camps for gay people and quarantines for people with AIDS.

With Cuba's Soviet-based economy shattered, Fidel Castro has been forced to abandon much of his ideology (selling everything in sight to foreign capitalists) and many luxuries from his Stalinist past that are now politically counterproductive.

While viewers are enjoying Strawberry and Chocolate, thousands of political prisoners are languishing in putrid cells, and state security has tightened its grip on the vast, underground democracy movement.

Liberalization exists on the movie screen only, not on the streets of Havana. As in the movie's final scene, Cubans from both sides of the bloody political divide must forget past nightmares, embrace each other, re-establish civil rights, institute self-government, and work together in freedom and tolerance to save Cuba from its downward spiral into poverty and anarchy. That is something that Castro, in his maniacal obsession with absolute power, will never allow.

Miguel Casuso Rivera
San Francisco

Look, Ma, no beau!
Confirmation — finally — of what I and hundreds of other smart, sexy and funny women have had to endure from “straight” men in this town! (Nina's Adventures, Feb. 22)

Thank you Ms. Paley, for giving me proof that I am not completely crazy! I've already mailed off a copy to my mother in Illinois, which should prevent her, forever, from speculating as to why I'm still single.

Keep those adventures coming!
Lynda Gripper
San Francisco

Last gasp for Linda
The basic principle that low temperatures retard spoilage has been known for millennia. That's just a sample of the fascinating things we learn from the all-new Weekly's hard-hitting exposŽ by Tom McNichol (“Bland on the run,” Feb. 15). Even though SF Weekly is no longer locally owned, the new owners somehow instinctively know that we San Franciscans depend on our alternative press for bloated and vacuous features about baby-boomer celebrities.

Barry Spencer
San Francisco

Corrections: In “The Case for One Daily” (March 1), SF Weekly incorrectly reported the circulation of the Examiner in a photo caption. The figure should have been 100,000.

The same article also misidentified the Examiner's endorsement for the 1991 mayoral race; the paper supported Art Agnos.

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