Saturday, March 07, 2009

Redmond's advice to the Chronicle

Tim Redmond, Executive Editor of the Bay Guardian, has some Polonius-like advice for the SF Chronicle (below in italics). Among other things, Redmond advises the Chronicle to concentrate on local issues and forget about national/international issues, which is funny coming from a weekly that consistently fails in its coverage of important local issues. The uninformed progressive must be puzzled with Redmond's swipe at Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius: "Trade C.W. Nevius to the Examiner for a draft choice and a writer to be named later and hire seven young, progressive columnists who can talk about issues that people in one of America's most liberal cities actually relate to."

Redmond singles out Nevius because of his excellent columns on homelessness in San Francisco, an issue on which the Guardian continues to fail years after Gavin Newsom's Care Not Cash and the Chronicle's Kevin Fagan's great series on homelessness in the city, the "Shame of the City."

The Chronicle may be in financial trouble, but its brand of journalism is vastly superior to the prog party line twaddle purveyed by the Guardian. The Guardian still has done nothing significant on homelessness, even though that's the issue that got Newsom elected mayor over the Guardian's candidate, uber-prog Matt Gonzalez. Nevius has followed the Fagan tradition with columns on the subject that challenge city progressives on homelessness in our parks, the homeless and drugs, the homeless and mental illness, and the large number of homeless that flock to SF from around the country.

The progressive/Guardian doctrine on homelessness is that these folks are just poor people who can't afford housing. Nevius's columns show that in fact most of the homeless have either mental health issues or subtance abuse problems---or both.

When Tim Redmond writes about local issues, he often stakes out positions that defy common sense: He likes graffiti/tagging, even as the city and property owners spend millions trying to deal with this form of vandalism.

Redmond approves of the homeless drinking and drugging in the park.

And Redmond can go Deep with his Good Guys versus Bad Guys theory of history.

If the Chronicle does go out of business, it will be missed a whole lot more than the politically and intellectually peurile Guardian if it should go belly-up.

Editor's Notes
By Tim Redmond
When the news broke last week that Hearst Corporation was threatening to shut down the San Francisco Chronicle, the pundits across the country raised the obvious question: will San Francisco become the first American city without a major daily newspaper?

I think it's a little early to say that Chron is actually going to vanish; part of what's going on is clearly a shot across the bow of the paper's unions, a warning on the part of tough-guy publisher Frank Vega that he's deadly serious about cutting costs. That will mean widespread layoffs, outsourcing of union jobs, etc. Hearst is a big corporation run by bean counters, one that has major financial problems at many of its media properties. It's not going to keep sustaining $50 million a year losses in San Francisco.

But Hearst is also a major political player in the United States, California, and San Francisco, and a big-city newspaper carries with it a lot of influence. Shutting down the Chron would be a huge step, one that the Hearst board members, who include William Randolph Hearst 3rd, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, are going to do only as an absolute last resort.

What happens if we lose the Chron? Well, in the short term, we're stuck with the Examiner, which recently lauded Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s CEO as an icon of alternative energy. I need say no more.

In the longer term, something will arise to replace the Chron, probably several Web-only daily newspapers, but they'll never achieve the clout an old-fashioned morning paper had on the political, cultural, and civic dialogue. Those days are numbered anyway; the urban news media of the future will be smaller, less concentrated, and less individually influential.

I'm not a huge fan of Hearst's San Francisco flagship, but it's always a shame to see a newspaper die. And I'm convinced that the creaky old Chron could still survive. But it will need major surgery — not just on the finances, but on the content. Because these days, nobody I know under 30 bothers to read it.

So for Mr. Vega and his editor, Ward Bushee, allow me to offer some hints at reviving the moribund publication:

1. Become a San Francisco paper. Nobody reads the Chron for national news any more. You can get The New York Times delivered or read it on the Web and get far better coverage than anything the Chron offers. So give it up. Go local. And by local I don't mean Walnut Creek and Orinda; forget the suburban readers and try to convince people in your central circulation area that you have something worth reading every day.

2. Trade C.W. Nevius to the Examiner for a draft choice and a writer to be named later and hire seven young, progressive columnists who can talk about issues that people in one of America's most liberal cities actually relate to. Run a front-page opinion column every day, by a different one of them — make every powerful interest in the city nervous.

3. Redirect the energy and money from the national news to local investigative reporting. A team of five reporters can break a dozen major stories a year. We do it here on much less.

4. Since David Lazarus left for the L.A. Times, there's not much muckraking on the business desk. Forget the wire stories and the puff — kick some corporate asses.

5. Hire a liberal editorial page editor.

6. Ray Ratto. Go team.

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6 Comments:

At 11:06 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

The problem with Nevius is that he's a one trick pony. We get it - there's a homeless problem. None of his writing has "exposed" anything. And it doesn't change anything because he is such a goober in general that he has no clout. We can disagree about whether or not he's a goober, but he's not really getting tangible results of value. No, I don't count getting the SFPD to stick their finger in whatever dike he wrote about this week.

And Rob - pretty much everyone is with you - and Nevius - about the homeless, it's inexcusable for GG Park to be a campground, let alone a dumping ground for needles. But if every column Nevius writes is just a minor re-write of his last 100, there's no need to read it again. 6 months ago I looked forward to watching Olbermann every day. Now, after watching the same program a couple of hundred times, I can't stand the guy. Nevius is the same.

Of course he's not nearly as bad as Saunders...

 
At 9:58 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Nevius has written about a lot of issues in addition to homelessness, including recent columns on the crime in the Tenderloin and Bay to Breakers. But his columns on homelessness are his most important work so far. It's not just that he keeps reminding us that we have a homeless problem; he also explores the ins and outs of homeless policy: the needles in the park, the Laura's Law issue, and the steadfast resistance by the so-called homeless advocates to policies that actually get homeless people off our streets and out of our parks. You may think you "get it," Murph, but your negative reaction to Nevius is typical of city progs, who hate to be reminded about how badly they fucked up the homeless issue, which led to Newsom's election as mayor. Progs dithered and insisted that we would just have to learn to live with homeless people on our streets and in our parks, even as city voters seethed about the growing squalor on our streets. Newsom understood that city voters wanted something done about it, while city progs are still in denial about both defining the problem and Newsom's very real successes on homelessness.

Here's a prediction: the city's biannual homeless count took place in January, and the numbers will be released probably later this month. The Guardian and the prog blogs/websites will all check in with the usual quibbling and carping about the count's methodology and whatever else they can use to hammer Newsom on the issue.

In short, it simply isn't true that "pretty much everyone is with" me on the issue.

So Nevius is a "goober"? Thanks Murph for this conceptual breakthrough. That sounds like something a teenager would throw out in a serious discussion. How old are you?

Nor is it Nevius's role to get "tangible results of value" from his writing. Just the fact that he gets such a negative reaction from someone like Redmond---and editor at our most important progressive publication---is worthwhile and very revealing. Note too that Chris Daly won't even talk to Nevius any more. Ditto for the folks at the Coalition for Homelessness. That shows he's hitting an important nerve here in Progressive Land, and I look forward to his take on the homeless count.

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Note too that Chris Daly won't even talk to Nevius any more."

As much of an ass as Daly is, he's a city supervisor. Getting a Supervisor not to talk to you is not a badge of honor if you are a journalist.

Anyway, you missed my whole point. While you may hang on Nevius every word, the majority of people get through the first 5 lines and move on - because it's the SAME ARTICLE. Even "Crime in the Tenderloin" is the SAME ARTICLE... "There are some poor and mentally ill people in the city who do gnarly things".

 
At 11:31 AM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Sorry this one got split rob. Too tired...

"Murph, but your negative reaction to Nevius is typical of city progs, who hate to be reminded about how badly they fucked up the homeless issue, which led to Newsom's election as mayor."

Clearly you don't know how politics works. Gavin was elected because he's good looking, dresses well, has good hair. Not admitting to that is overestimating the public. Note that this means you need to bend over and get ready for "Mayor Mirkarimi".

If you have any doubts on this one - look, Sarah Palin was elected governor. Under the microscope, she ended up hurting the Republican ticket. Gavin is putting himself under a microscope now - and it will show in his lousy results in the Gubernatorial race.

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Nevius did nothing but write columns to get Daly to not talk to him. He isn't a writer who has an inflammatory style. Daly is just an infantile jerk who didn't like what he wrote about him.

According to the recent voter survey I wrote about recently, homelessness/panhandling was by far seen as the "major issue facing San Francisco today." As I pointed out, Nevius's columns are in fact about different subjects, and his columns on homelessness are about different aspects of the issue. Your fact-free response just re-asserts your invalid point.

I notice you don't even try to defend city progs on how they botched the homeless issue, including in particular the Bay Guardian.

 
At 9:26 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Clearly you don't know how politics works. Gavin was elected because he's good looking, dresses well, has good hair. Not admitting to that is overestimating the public. Note that this means you need to bend over and get ready for Mayor Mirkarimi."

Were you even here for the 2003 election? I was and you're contempt for city voters is unjustified but a typical reaction of a lot of city progs when they lose an election. Usually they claim to be outspent by powerful Dowtown forces, like on public power, even though city voters have rejected the idea eleven times now, which shows remarkably consistent good judgment on their part.

The homeless issue was the only issue that animated the 2003 campaign, and, unlike super-prog Matt Gonzalez, Newsom promised to do something about it. His promise was credible because he had already got Care Not Cash passed the year before.

"If you have any doubts on this one---look, Sarah Palin was elected governor. Under the microscope, she ended up hurting the Republican ticket. Gavin is putting himself under a microscope now---and it will show in his lousy results in the Gubernatorial race."

I agree that Newsom will probably not be elected governor, but he's a lot more intelligent than Palin, who is a moron. But Newsom deserves a lot of credit on the homeless issue, on which he's done a lot of good for the city, after years of the status quo under Mayor Brown and the city's left, which amounted to a lot of posturing by Food Not Bombs and the pie-throwers.

 

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