In a recent column, Chron columnist Ken Garcia condemned the Fangs' ethics and referred to the future Examiner ending up "in your driveway, littered among the yellowing Independents, just doing what a Fang newspaper does best." You and the Fangs' magazine Asian Week have slammed him for that "yellowing" line.
The guy is just a pure pencil dick. I'm not too big on PC taboos, but clearly you've got a paper (the Examiner) that made its first feeding frenzy on chasing the Chinese around over a hundred years ago, and you've got a very remarkable news story where a Chinese family has bought what was historically the most anti-Chinese paper in the United States, and everybody is paying attention to that and commenting on that in the news. For a guy to be saying the new Examiner is going to be yellowing on your doorstep is just Tora Tora Tora. It's hysterical and crazy. So I put out a column where I quoted a bunch of his defenders saying he hasn't got a racist bone in his body. I say that's like the old "some of my best friends are Jews" line they used to say about anti-Semites.
But every editor on that paper had to see that story. Every story that goes into the Chronicle or the Examiner about their own precious existence who's going to own them, what's happening with the merger, and all that sort of thing those stories are avidly handled and read by at least 30 people for Christ's sake. Come on, it's no accident that they put that yellowing line in there. And I called Garcia on that. You know, the guy's just a pencil dick.
Still, isn't that just one small example of a whole wanna-be- hard-nosed, Brill's Content dullard mentality? I mean, people consider journalists as being one step away from used car salesman, yet you're always seeing these elegiac columns about the great values and traditions: "When I was just starting out, my editor told me there are only three ways to run a paper: Report the news, report the news, and report the news!" That kind of thing.
Oh, these guys at the Chronicle and the Examiner are all just pipe smokers without the pipes. It's an insufferably middle-aged mentality. They're really boring people who put out a very boring product in a very exciting city. And, in fact, sales of the Chronicle are very low locally. They claim to have 400,000 circulation, but almost all of that is outside the city. And the Examiner I think is under 50,000 in the City. I mean, how boring can you get? You drop your newsstand price from 50 cents to a quarter, which they did a few years ago, and nothing happens? It's like dropping your pants and nobody looks.
The Chronicle was an interesting paper when Scott Newhall ran it in the '60s. He had wild columnists and crusades and stories. They cared about Western history and the environment, and there was a passion to the paper that people picked up on. So people would say, "What are they up to today?" At least it's interesting, rather than, "Oh God, do I have to look at that thing again?" That's the type of journalism I've always done. Newspapers don't yet reflect the freedom and range of opinion that you're seeing now on the Net, and we're going to start doing that.
Lead in the water seems to be a legitimate topic and a story people would want covered in the paper.
There's nothing wrong with a lead-in-the-water story. But all their stories are lead in the water. It's like, hey, don't you know there are real stories you can find? Or more interesting scandals? Or just make your own news if you can't find anything to report about.
Speaking of scandals, the biggest knock against the Fangs is their connection to Willie Brown and the local machine. The SF Weekly right now has a story by one John Mecklin criticizing the Fangs' deal.
Oh, there's another hooker all that gang of corporate alternative weekly owners who are among the new rich crowd in publishing and are all so yuppy-ized and love to say, "Oh boy, we're the real alternative press." Rather than a real bunch of madmen and experimenters that the alternative press should be. That Phoenix crowd has so corporatized and worn down alternative newspapers that they've become boring too. To attack the Independent for having front-page editorials and taking positions about local politics and getting into passionate fights that's like attacking newspapers of the days of Mark Twain and Bret Hart, and the Western newspapers that had some balls and were exciting to read and were an involved part of everyday life. It's almost hilarious to attack the Independent for being proWillie Brown when the Examiner has spent the last four years and a significant part of its news hole trying to put the guy in jail because he's a black politician. Talk about papers with the sanctimonious guise of objectivity going out and trying to defame and kill somebody in a fairly racist fashion. They're mad because they're on the outs. They didn't elect Willie Brown; the Independent did. At least the Independent has some presence in the community and is not afraid to have its views known.
Well, I guess people watch local newscasts because they feel like they have to watch something. But what makes a newspaper successful is to give enough stuff across the board it's like a good cocktail party where there's a whole bunch of wacko different people, and every conversation is different, and everybody's having a good time, and you learn a lot and have a bunch of fun. We'll provide local news and ethnic news, and people who want to read about that will read it. People who want sophisticated foreign coverage or Pacific Rim news will read that. You can make your own newspaper the way some Web sites allow you to pick your own content for your daily shot at the Web. Our paper will have enough across the board that if there are 29 things in the paper each day, at least three of them will be of interest to everybody. And what more do you want for a quarter?
Is there still a place for your kind of old-school, wild-and-woolly journalism? To get this interview, I had to track you through every bar in North Beach. Which was fun, but it was a fairly unusual change from my usual status as just another hack-schmuck anchored to my desk and computer.
But the problem with the guys who put out these papers is the mentality. Even if they don't live in the suburbs, they have a suburban mentality. After work they don't go down to the corner bar, they stand out on the street waiting for the shuttle bus to take them back to Marin county. They won't hang out with the printers and tell dirty jokes or wander across town to have drinks with a couple of hookers and a corrupt cop and hear what's going on. There's no sense of actually living in a city.