Chronicle: Writer’s Opinions are Irrelevant

by Randy Shaw on July 29, 2004

A spokesperson for the San Francisco Chronicle told KPFA radio listeners last night that the ideology of their writers was irrelevant. The spokesperson also specifically denied charges made in yesterday’s Beyond Chron that Ruth Rosen’s departure had anything to do with her column linking the fitness chain Curves to anti-abortion activism. But if ideology has nothing to do with Chronicle employment decisions, it does not explain why the paper only employs local political columnists with conservative views.

Sarah Norr’s article and the accompanying editorial about Ruth Rosen’s departure from the Chronicle and the rise of a new McCarthyism at the paper struck a chord with Beyond Chron readers (both can still be found on today’s front page). While the Chronicle is sticking to its position that it does not care what views its columnists espouse, few are likely to find this explanation credible.

The Chronicle employs Ken Garcia as a local political columnist and editorial board member because management agrees with his views on issues. To claim otherwise insults readers intelligence.

In his entire Chronicle career, Garcia has to my knowledge never espoused an opinion in his column that differed from that expressed in the unsigned Chronicle editorials.

The Chronicle’s other local political columnist, Deborah Saunders, is a Republican. Her views reflect those the Hearst Corporation, a large donor to the National Republican Party.

A paper that found ideology “irrelevant” would not have had every columnist who weighed in on the subject (which even included Joan Ryan) endorse Gavin Newsom in the mayoral runoff last Dececmber. Not a single Chronicle columnist supported Matt Gonzalez, who got over 47% of the vote.

Readers have raised thoughtful questions about the issue of journalistic ethics regarding political or activist involvements. We will have a variety of contributers address some of these perspectives in our Monday issue.

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