Willie Brown’s new column in the Chronicle has sickened newsroom staffers who say former editor Phil Bronstein would have never allowed it, the SF Weekly’s Matt Smith reports. The fear is that Brown, the former mayor and former assembly speaker, is still very much a political power broker in San Francisco who has his fingers in every controversy that comes up.

“Real journalists in the room were appalled by it,” Smith quotes one insider as saying. “And the people who weren’t are people who don’t put journalism first or who have a very shallow understanding of San Francisco politics, or of who Willie Brown is, or of the reporting done in Hearst papers on Willie Brown.”

Smith quotes another as saying: “People have major concerns about violations of every journalistic principle that’s out there … It’s government too close to the press and vice versa.”

The only person Smith quotes by name is former mayor Art Agnos, who said the arrangement creates a double standard for newspapers, which are wont to complain when politicians include lobbyists on their staff. “Does this mean it’s open season now?” Agnos said. (Photo credit: AP file)

SF Press Club News,


  1. It's dumb for the Chronicle to water down its credibility by running this column, but if they're going to do it, it should run in the Opinion section on the op-ed page. By placing it on the front of the Bay Area section where M&R often appears, they're making it seem as if Brown is another element of the Chronicle's news-gathering operation. You get the impression that he's a reporter now. For instance, last Sunday, the only coverage of Newsom's wedding was Brown's column — no attempt was made by a reporter to cover it, just a column who was Newsom's political ally … hardly an objective observer.

    You've got to wonder how Brown was able to get such a coveted position in the Chronicle. Wonder if he did any "horse trading" with the publisher?

  2. One fact is that Phil Bronstein is the former editor, and evidently the current editor has no problem with it.

    I found Willie Brown’s column very entertaining.

  3. Willie Brown may have been a fine Assembly speaker and mayor, but when I read his first column, my immediate reaction was, “This poor guy doesn’t know how to write.” A weak imitation of his late friend, Herb Caen, and a name dropper of the first order. So far, his contribution to the Chronicle looks like something for the Sunday Swells page. It looks like the same kind of thinking that dispatched Sean Penn to Iraq. At least in Penn’s contribution, we learned that the actor stopped to take a whizz along the road.

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