“[S]ince Willie Brown’s column was introduced into the Sunday Chronicle, it has been very well received by readers because it is amusing, topical, controversial and informed. Willie has special connections to the Bay Area,” Chronicle editor Ward Bushee (left) writes an e-mail to Guardian Editor Bruce Brugmann (right).
Brugmann, a longtime critic of PG&E, discovered that the utility paid the former California assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor $200,000 last year for “consulting services.”
Brugmann asked Bushee whether the payment violates Hearst’s ethics code for journalists.
According to Brugmann, Bushee said he did not see a conflict nor think that disclosure of Willie’s clients was necessary. Bushee said that Willie is widely known, is “a man about town,” has a popular column, is subject to “strenuous editing,” but is “a freelance columnist who is free to pursue his business interests as any other person who is not a part of the staff.” He said that, if Willie were on staff, he would be subject to Hearst’s “ethical standards.”
- ““Look, Bruce. If we ever found that Willie had knowingly used his column to benefit his clients, we would end the relationship. As with any agreement, trust is implicit.
“The Chronicle news staff always has aggressively—and fairly—covered Willie Brown as a newsmaker. And I have told our editors that I expect nothing less when Willie Brown makes news in the future.
“Besides that, Willie writes a great column. I’m delighted he is in the Sunday Chronicle.”