(The head of the detective agency and I later became friends, and he volunteered that I was "clean." He gave me a pillow with a large eye on it that said "You are being watched." I displayed it proudly in my office.)
Kihn and I were asked to testify before a Senate committee about the Chronicle-KRON's use of private detectives at hearings on the Newspaper Preservation Act in Washington in June 1969. I took the occasion to call the legislation "the bill for millionaire crybaby publishers."
I detailed the subsidies in their special interest legislation: "amnesty, immunity from prosecution, monopoly in perpetuity, the legal right to gun down what few competitors remain, and as the maraschino cherry atop this double-decker sundae, anointment as the preservers and saviors of the newspaper business." And I summed up, "If you plant a flower on University of California property or loose an expletive on Vietnam, the cops are out of the chutes like broncos. But if you are a big publisher and you violate antitrust laws for years and you emasculate your competition with predatory practices and you drive hundreds of newspapers out of business, then you are treated as one of nature's noble men. And senators will rise like doves on the floor of the US Senate to proffer billion-dollar subsidies."
After I finished, Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Illinois) rose as the first dove and characterized my testimony as "quite a dramatic recital" but said that I had not provided a "workable, feasible solution." Sen. Philip Hart (D-Michigan) recommended that the publishers ought to "read their own editorials and relate them to their business practices." Morton Mintz, who covered the hearing for the Washington Post, came up and congratulated me. His story, with my picture and much of my testimony, was on the front page of the Post the next day.
Back in San Francisco the Chronicle published a misleading short story in which publisher Charles de Young Thieriot avoided admitting or denying the detective charge and added he had no further comment. Less than a week later, Thieriot wrote the Senate subcommittee and admitted to the charge, saying the use of the detectives was "entirely reasonable and proper." This statement, which contradicted his statement in his own paper, was not reported in the Chronicle. The "competing" Examiner also reported nothing — neither the original private detective story nor the Washington testimony nor the Thieriot admission.
Nor did either paper report anything about the intensive JOA lobbying campaign headed by Hearst president Richard Berlin, who twice wrote letters to President Richard Nixon threatening the withdrawal of JOA endorsements in the l972 presidential election if he refused to sign the final bill. This episode illustrated in 96-point Tempo Bold the pattern of Ex and Chron suppression and obfuscation they used to advance their corporate agenda at the expense of the public interest and good journalism, all through the years and up to Hearst’s current monopoly maneuvers with Dean Singleton and the Clint Reilly antitrust suit to stop them.
Perhaps the most telling incident came when Nicholas von Hoffman, in his Washington Post column that was regularly run in the Chronicle, called the publishers "as scurvy as the special interests they love to denounce." He singled out the Examiner and Chronicle publishers, writing that they were "so bad that the best and most reliable periodical in the city is the Bay Guardian, a monthly put out by one man and a bunch of volunteer helpers." Neither paper would run the column, and neither paper would publish it as an ad, even when we offered cash up front. "The publisher has the right to refuse to run anything he wants, and he doesn't have to give a reason," the JOA ad rep told us.
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