Slanted Coverage? Some San Francisco Chronicle Staffers Perceive Effort by Management to Tilt Coverage in Favor of Keeping the Giants Baseball Team in the City

By Stein, M. L. | Editor & Publisher, October 10, 1992 | Go to article overview

Slanted Coverage? Some San Francisco Chronicle Staffers Perceive Effort by Management to Tilt Coverage in Favor of Keeping the Giants Baseball Team in the City


Stein, M. L., Editor & Publisher


SOME STAFFERS AT the San Francisco Chronicle are bitter at what they perceive as a management effort to tilt coverage in favor of keeping the Giants baseball team in the city.

The possible move of the Giants to St. Petersburg, Fla., has been a major media story for months and one that has split the town apart. San Francisco voters, in a heated election, turned down a ballot measure to build a new stadium to replace the Giants' present home, Candlestick Park, a cold, windy, unloved structure that is one of the reasons Giants owner Bob Lurie wants to get out. However, a group of local and outside investors are bidding to buy the team and keep it in San Francisco.

Both the Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner, its JOA partner, have come out editorially for retaining the National League club in the face of a $115 million offer for it by Florida investors. A "Save the Giants" flag flies from the Examiner building.

However, the staff allegations, which are strongly denied by executive editor William German, concern news stories and columns.

Business writer Carl Hall recently charged in Chronicle Insider, a local Newspaper Guild publication, that when Lurie announced in August that he was selling the Giants, "Chronicle management sprang into action -- changing or killing copy deemed not to contribute toward the paper's effort to keep the team in San Francisco."

Hail said that columns by sportswriters Bruce Jenkins and Glenn Dickey, political editor Jerry Roberts, and even San Francisco icon Herb Caen had been killed or altered to fit the paper's pro-Giants policy.

In the case of Roberts, according to Hail, he "dared to say something less-than-upbeat about Mayor Jordan's political fortunes in connection with the Giants' departure.

"After-corner-office review,"' Hail continued, "the dark Robertsian tone of the column was changed to a more pastel Germanian hue .... "

The same issue of Insider reprinted a letter from political writer-Susan Yoachum to city editor Dan RoSenheim in which she protested "in the strongest possible terms" the "recasting" of Roberts' column, the spiking of Jenkins' column, and the "rewriting" of Dickey's piece.

Her memo reportedly was widely circulated in the Chronicle newsroom.

Hail and Yoachum also slammed German for going to City Hail to meet what Hail termed a meeting of"community bigwigs fueling up the save-the Giants campaign."

Noting that the Examiner was represented at the session by publisher Will Hearst, Hail said there were newsroom complaints that the Chronicle "might have sent someone a step or two removed from day-to-day news management."

Both the Chronicle and Examiner were criticized for playing to the Giants in their news and commentary at a forum last month by the Northern California chapter of the Society of-Professional Journalists.

One panelist, Chronicle reporter Marc Sandalow, who has written the bulk of the Giants stories in the news section, was quoted in the San Francisco Bay Guardian as declaring, "Have we covered this fairly? The answer is no."

According to the Guardian, Sandalow defended the accuracy of his reporting but said editors "watered down" his stories.

In an interview with E&P, Sandalow said, "Yes, there definitely has been a subtle push here for pro-Giants stories to help keep them in San Francisco, but it hasn't been that bad for me."

Also at the SPJ meeting, Examiner reporter Harry Jupiter reportedly said that both papers have been soft in their reporting of the Giants with the goal of preventing their switch to Florida.

"If the Giants left, the most impacted industry would be the newspapers," the Guardian quoted him as saying. "At least 40 percent of the front-page mini boxes are sports banner headlines."

Examiner executive editor Phil Bronstein defended the paper's coverage of the Giants, asserting there have been several stories critical of Lurie and George Shinn, a North Carolina entrepreneur and a leading bidder to buy the Giants and keep them in San Francisco. …

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