Brown the columnist: How long can this go on?


Well, the Chronicle didn't have any problem when one of its columnists, Willie Brown, showed up at California Public Utilities Commission hearing representing PG&E. That was a stretch. Now Brown has hosted a fundraiser for the mayor -- getting directly involved in an electoral campaign while writing about politics in a column in the daily paper.

And when an Examiner reporter asked for details about his fundraiser, Brown used his Chron job as an excuse to duck:

“I don’t talk to reporters. I am a reporter,” said Brown, now a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. “I write my own column. All right? Nothing personal.”

The Chron has fired other people for far less relevant conflicts of interest. At the very, very least, Brown ought to be disclosing in his column what campaigns he's working on (and which private clients he's representing).
I don't know if the Chron has any rules at all for Brown (could he run for office again, as a columnist?) But if there are any rules that have any connection to the standards that the Chron forces all of its other employees to uphold, then this is over the line. Way over the line.
I emailed and called Chron editor Ward Bushee to ask him about this latest conflict, and if he gets back to me I'll let you know.
UPDATE: Bushee emailed me. Here's the verbatim transcript:

We’ve gone down this road before. Our position remains the same.  Willie Brown is not a member of the Chronicle news staff. Our reporters continue to cover the former mayor as a newsmaker and he has been the subject of scrutiny in our editorials. Willie’s World is highly popular with our readers who are well aware of his background and long history of involvement in local and state politics.

Actually, I'm not sure how many readers are aware of all of his background. The Chron's much happier with good ol' avuncular Willie. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

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