Tag Archives: Phil Bronstein

The Chronicle Still Doesn’t Get It

I am not joking, this is above the fold on today’s San Francisco Chronicle. You would think a bill could only be a “stealth” bill if the local paper was too busy laying people off to report on the legislature. But as always, the butt of the joke didn’t seem to get why the smart people who saw today’s front page were laughing.

Of course, they didn’t call it a stealth bill because of their lousy coverage, they called it that because there wasn’t much debate as everything was moving last week. Probably, for a reason (if you bothered to read through to the 10th paragraph):

Southern California Assemblyman Michael DuVall — the lone Republican to voice his opposition on the Assembly floor last week — said that, given many of his GOP colleagues’ vocal opposition last year to Prop. 87, he thinks many didn’t see a need to voice that opinion again.

I like Phil Bronstein going to SFist, it is a smart move. But when Matthew Yi manufactures a B.S. story reprinted from the fringe on the right who are out of line with reality, most Californians, and almost everyone in SF — and it is put above the fold, is it any surprise why people won’t subscribe?

San Francisco Chronicle Jumps the Shark

Two front page, above-the-fold, hit pieces on blogs in one week? Talk about belying fear.

Listen, we all know that February was the worst month ever for newspaper advertising and this month may be even worse. We also all know that at the same time blogs are only gaining in popularity. But just because craigslist had a direct effect on classified advertising doesn’t mean the blogs are responsible for the decline in print ad revenue. There is little to no correlation. There is however a correlation between good content and readers, so if the Phil Bronstein wants to use the front-page to go on the warpath against the culprit maybe he should be targeting his editors.

Bad Behavior in the Newsroom
Crappy assignment editors makes some wonder if they are bankrupting the news

I’d end this with how I’m canceling my subscription, but like most people I don’t subscribe. I’d like to, I love a nice crisp paper, the smell of the ink with my coffee in the morning. Give me a reason to subscribe. But right now the closest I come to a printed San Francisco Chronicle is seeing what is in the newstands. More often than not the front page makes me laugh.

I simply don’t get why the Chronicle doesn’t focus on what they do best. If they think trying to start flame wars with bloggers is what they do best then somebody should pre-write the Chron’s obituary now.

Chronicle? Chronicle? San Francisco Chronicle?

Today’s Washington Post has a 2,700 word, above the fold, front-page story examining what is one of the most important debates concerning the future of the Democratic Party. Ground zero is the Bay Area, but you wouldn’t know that from reading the San Francisco Chronicle. In contrast, on the front page of today’s Chron was a story on how daylight savings time is coming in a few weeks.

Despite it being more than two months since the Washington DC press noticed this primary (1, 2, 3), Phil Bronstein’s political team has not printed a single word on the race. There was one blog post, but it was mocked for not following the most basic rules for online publishing by refusing to link to the primary source material that was quoted verbatim.

Sure, today’s story has problems, but at least the Post is paying close enough attention to fly reporters into the Bay Area to cover what the Chronicle is missing.

In 2008, the Bay Area is going to have multiple, exciting primaries that deserve thorough coverage. These are exciting times. With 17 writers able to post on the SFGate Politics Blog and also able to write things for the paper, the Chronicle is well positioned to provide top-notch coverage. Let’s hope they decide to.

California Newspapers and the Internet

With circulation dropping, California papers are pursing contrasting tactics. While the LA Times is in limbo between either being bought or sucking, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Sacramento Bee are telegraphing the approaches they will be taking to survive.

The AP reported on the Bee:

The Sacramento Bee is closing its bureaus in Los Angeles and San Francisco and offering buyout packages to a handful of editorial employees as it struggles with declining revenue and circulation. […]

The paper is increasing the staff of its Capitol bureau and next month will begin offering a subscription-based politics and government Web site, [Executive Editor Rick] Rodriguez said.

The Bee’s parent, The McClatchy Co. of Sacramento, grew to the nation’s second-largest newspaper publishing company this year when it purchased Knight Ridder Inc., a transaction that was final in June.

Even though I am a political junky, I don’t see myself getting a subscription to a political site run by the Bee. As the paper in a political city, I think that McClatchy should look at the trend in Washington to see why this makes no sense. In DC, the premier subscription site has always been The Hotline, which has spent the last two years providing more and more and more content outside of the subscription wall. There is no point in getting a subscription to Roll Call, if they break news the AP will cover it and it will end up on the blogs if it is interesting. Meanwhile, The Hill has far more penetration with a free website.

I think it makes sense for the Bee to increase political coverage, but putting it behind a subscription wall prevents the Bee from fully participating in the conversation.

Over at SFGate:

So Bronstein, who at the turn of the millennium was arguably the most influential media figure in San Francisco, now has pretenders to that throne: Craig Newmark of Craigslist, Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos political blog, and the social networking geniuses at Web sites like Digg, Flickr, Upcoming, and Yelp, not to mention South Bay Web behemoths Google and Yahoo, or Dean Singleton and his suburban newspaper archipelago. At the old Examiner, Bronstein reveled in the role of underdog – David to the Chronicle’s Goliath. Now Bronstein controls the lumbering old-media giant, and a thousand Davids lie in wait with slingshots.

The soul-searching at the Chronicle caused by this competitive landscape has led to a journalistic transformation of the paper. It is no longer where editors think first to put breaking news – that role is consigned to SFGate.com. But if computers, 24-hour cable TV channels, and Web-enabled phones render most news old by the time the paper is printed, who will need the Chronicle and its reporters? Bronstein is working on a new formula that could be copied by others seeking survival, and print journalism may have to take a back seat. […]

In 36 years, Bronstein has risen to the very pinnacle of the region’s news hierarchy with a combination of talent, charm, pluck, and luck. The college dropout who drifted West with dreams of freelancing articles about toilets as the creative centers of homes now finds himself running the biggest newspaper in Northern California, one that is trying to show the way onto the Web for others to follow. He could also go down in history as the captain who sank the Chronicle ship.

New high-tech habits augur poorly for any newspaper. Several editors at the Chronicle lamented that their grown children never read the newspaper. Tom Leonard, the librarian of UC Berkeley and an accomplished journalism historian, sheepishly admitted that he couldn’t reliably critique the Chronicle’s redesigned front page because he now reads its content mostly on SFGate, where he can get it free.

This seems to make far more sense, but the Chronicle still has a long way to go. There seems to be lack of basic standards (see this which doesn’t include a single link to any of the material quoted). Not to pick on the Chron’s political blog, but there are 17 authors listed as contributing and there wasn’t a single post December 2-3, 7-10, 16-17, 22-27 and there hasn’t been a post since the 28th. With the Bee hiding behind a subscription wall and the Chron on vacation, is there a vacuum waiting to be filled?