The New York Times’ Bay Area section is off to a rocky start. Chron editor at large Phil Bronstein says the Times “borrowed” material from his paper for a story about the new Oakland police chief. The following is from Bronstein’s blog:
- A story about the new Oakland police chief, the lead and longest of four pieces in the two-page Bay Area NYTimes insert, began with a compelling anecdote:
- Anthony W. Batts was enjoying a successful run as the head of the Long Beach police when a headhunter called last winter and asked if the chief’s job in Oakland had any appeal. Mr. Batts said no.
- Then, he said, came March 21, when a recently released parolee, Lovelle Mixon, shot and killed four Oakland police officers and cemented the city’s reputation as the violent crime capital of the Bay Area.
- Sitting at the officers’ funeral, Mr. Batts said, he changed his mind. “I decided that I’d like to help,” he said.
Nice, right? Some serious and newsworthy insight into Chief Batt’s character, just as we’d expect from a journalism enterprise that’s taken its public service role very seriously for well over 100 years. But there was just a gnawing deja vu sensation about it. Oh, right. Here was the beginning of a San Francisco Chronicle story written two months before, on August 17th:
- When a headhunter called Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts in March and asked him whether he was interested in becoming Oakland’s next chief, Batts knew the answer: No. “I was happy in Long Beach,” Batts said during his first public appearance Monday since accepting the chief’s job in Oakland.
- But everything changed three days later, on March 21: four Oakland police officers were gunned down in the deadliest day for law enforcement in the city.
- Batts viewed the television coverage. “I watched the pain and the suffering in the Police Department,” he said. “I watched the pain and the suffering in the community as it too hurt at the same time.”
- After attending the officers’ funeral at the Oracle Arena, Batts said he text-messaged the headhunter: “I want to help.”
Eerie. Maybe the Times was just being economical. So I checked the names. Chronicle reporter Matthai Kuruvila wrote our story. There was another completely different name on the Times piece.
The Times’ reponse?
“Unfortunately, neither Jesse (McKinley, the Times’ SF chief) nor I saw the Chronicle’s piece on Mr. Batts until today. It is clear that Mr. Batts, like many people, is given to repeating anecdotes that have resonance for him,” Times editor Felicity Barringer told San Francisco media blogger Michael Petrelis.