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Leading By Example. Again.

Jan
23
2004

Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein is pissed. Really pissed. He’s bringing up my colorful past, too!
Bronstein says talk of his having a romantic relationship with San Francisco D.A. Kamala Harris is false. Okay. But lots of people, including The Ex – which hasn’t heard from Harris or Bronstein since it ran the “romantic item around town,” reference earlier this week, think differently. For two such high-profile folks, this sort of stuff — and the appearance it has clearly generated — matters. As Bronstein correctly notes below, it can affect how they do their jobs because their jobs are in the public eye.
Phil, like everyone and anyone, is entitled to his say. Here’s the first message he sent today after seeing the “Leading by Example” post below. “Your web log piece about Kamala Harris and me is completely false…You did not perform the most fundamental and basic journalistic practice of checking accuracy with anyone you name. You should remove this from your site.”
An offer to run and edited version of Bronstein’s letter – along with a reminder that this web log, like any other, is opinion and speculation – solicited this, much longer response.
“It does not read as a ‘speculative piece’. It says ‘Let me get this straight…..Do I have this right?’ And then the next sentence starts ‘Oh boy do I’
“It also says ‘Bronstein has undoubtedly told his staff that his involvement with Harris won’t affect their coverage. But that’s if anyone had the nerve to talk to him about this pending mess.’
“You also state categorically that the ‘Harris-Bronstein affair is a mess, a real conflict of interest that should present far more concern……’ That’s not speculative by anyone’s definition.
“As to malice, your malice is established by your failure to speak to me or to Kamala Harris before the story and your refusal to modify the story after being told it is not true. The fact that several people at city hall believe something that is false does not make it true.
“Your response ignores the basic issue of not bothering to check with either Ms. Harris or me. And the reporting is indeed false… Being a public figure does not mean anything written about you is true, nor does it mean you cannot be defamed.
“The report is damaging to me because it – and you – essentially states that I’m engaging in a relationship that would in fact be a huge conflict of interest professionally. It also assumes and states that editorials were slanted to accommodate the non-existent relationship, another defamation of me professionally. Ms. Harris, I’m sure, would have her own view about the damage such a piece of unchecked gossip, reprinted, expanded and commented upon as though it were fact, does to her as a public official.
“Matier and Ross wrote about a lunch where Arnold Schwarzenegger issued the invitations separately to several people, including Willie Brown and Richard Riordan, as they also reported. Their piece – and the lunch itself – in no way supported completely false rumors about some kind of romantic relationship.
“I’ll leave it to someone else to point out the irony in your raging about alleged conflicts of interest, given your own history. But I suspect if the Examiner or Chronicle or anyone else had written about your activities at the Merc in this way – assuming rumor, gossip and accusation to be true – you would have reacted strongly.”
Well, two observations are in order.
The earlier post says nothing about The Chron slanting its editorials or coverage in Harris’ favor. If anything, the Chron didn’t cover her race closely enough. And Bronstein still hasn’t said whether he’s asked The Ex for a correction. Lastly, after my “activities at the Merc,” I had lunch with Bronstein in the fall of 1999. He asked me this question: “What would it take for you to come to work for San Francisco’s only newspaper?”

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