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Columnists start showing off their pecks

In the beginning, in the early days of newspaper columns, readers saw the columnist’s name in larger type than a typical byline. In the case of Herb Caen, a logo depicting the skyline of San Francisco appeared below his name.

At some point, maybe in the 1970s, mug shots of columnists began to pop up. Soon every column had a smiley face of a columnist. It was the decade of smiley faces.

Now things have changed. We’re starting to see the heads and upper torsos of columnists. Thank goodness they’re fully clothed.

We’re not sure which San Francisco paper started it, but the Examiner is now displaying a cut-out of Ken Garcia that is about two inches wide and five inches deep. His column is wrapped against his right arm.

The Chronicle is not taking this sitting down. Somebody at Fifth and Mission has a old picture of Matier and Ross standing up, and they’re using it.

Chuck Nevius’s column is also being adorned with an above-the-waist shot of the author. And Willie Brown’s column mug is almost in costume, showing him in a dark trench coat and one of his famous fedora hats. Who wears a hat in their column mug?

The only problem with all of this is that a reader new to the Chronicle might think those guys looming large over a news page are the subjects of the column rather than the authors.

At least Bruce Brugmann has the dignity not to do one of these from-the-waist-up column mugs.

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