Horsing around

"It's time to buy two caskets for the mules called the Chronicle and Examiner"

By Letters to the Editor

Published June 6, 2000 7:24PM (EDT)

They trade horses, don't they? BY JOAN WALSH (06/02/00)

Congratulations to Joan Walsh -- her article is the best and most comprehensive treatment I've seen yet on the San Francisco newspaper mess and the sordid politics behind it. I also appreciate her acknowledgment that my hometown paper, the San Jose Mercury News, is a superior newspaper. I have grown so tired of the San Francisco types, among them Scott Ostler and Ken Garcia, who never pass up an opportunity to sneer at us supposed rubes down here. And San Jose even has a real mayor, not a carnie character.

-- Miriam Eldridge

As a San Franciscan (nee Angeleno), I have long wondered why the Chronicle and Examiner are such pathetic newspapers. Growing up, I derided the blatant conservatism of the Los Angeles Times; however, having been raised in a city with a world-class newspaper, I was unprepared for the provincial journalism I discovered after moving to attend university in San Francisco.

Every day as I ride the god-awful deathtrap known as Muni I notice that most people are reading either the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. A fitting testimony to the mediocre content of the city's newspapers.

Journalism in this city concentrated in the Chronicle and the Examiner is and has always been pathetic. While both the LA and NY Times have a broad world scope, our two dailies focus on the inane life of the Bay Area: cats stuck in trees in Marin, sky-high rents, SUV crazes, Pottery Barn this and Banana Republic that, cell phones, the latest dot-com craze in Silicon Valley. In LA you feel the weight of the world around you; in SF you feel as if the world has gone and left us behind. I love the Bay Area, but I think the region's myopic view of the world, thanks in part to its dailies, is a detriment.

This provincial journalism, however, is a boon to online dailies such as Salon, so much so that I doubt anyone except Willie Brown and Co. and a few diehard old- timers would miss the extinction of both newspapers. The San Francisco Guardian gives us real local news, and Salon, the Times and the Wall Street Journal provide the world outlook we need.

I think it's time to buy two caskets for the mules called the Chronicle and Examiner.

-- Timoteo Kilkes

I was truly amazed that the Hearst publisher considers the Houston Chronicle "close to" world-class. The Houston Chronicle has been improved by the Hearst Corporation, but only because it had such a pathetic history.

Founded by a local booster and perpetuated by a foundation before the sale to Hearst, the Chronicle is the world's best shopper. It never criticizes a local business person and leads shameless crusades for a new stadium or public improvements under the same publisher. The rare team exposes are careful to avoid the city and usually the entire United States.

Most basically, no one can write well. With the exception of Ken Hoffman, the paper's eight sports, media and lifestyle columnists are truly awful. The editorial writing is short, simplistic and evinces little original thought. The paper has never won any national award, nor, to my knowledge, has any regularly bylined writer ever left to join a national or higher-ranked publication. There is a large newshole, but about 65 to 75 percent of the national and metropolitan sections is advertising, leading to necessarily unsuccessful editing of truncated stories. There is no ombudsman. In sum, Hearst has taken a low C- paper and made it a solid C+ product.

Over the past 10 years I have read the Chronicle and Examiner 20 times a year on average. While I have been always surprised by the turgidity of the Chronicle in relation to the sophistication of the city, both papers are worlds apart from the Houston Chronicle.

-- Michael A. Kelly

Congratulations to Joan Walsh on a comprehensive article that totally captured SF's current journalistic situation and provided the history to explain the present. San Francisco has more of a small-town mentality that it likes to admit, and the antics of the cast of characters described sometimes makes you feel as if you're witnessing a showdown in the town square of Mayberry, RFD. That said, I am now going to enjoy a $16 lunch entree at a mediocre restaurant, and later I will take in the spectacular view from my hideously expensive $1,000 studio apartment. I love this city!

-- Robert Murray

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