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.


It's inappropriate, and probably a violation of professional ethics, for Willie Brown to continue as a columnist for The Chron while he also functions as a lobbyist and political schemer.

Also, his columns are boring. They add very little in terms of either entertainment or profundity to The Chron. He should be let go.

On the other side of the spectrum, The Guardian would do well to upgrade the quality of writing by its editors. Political editorials are often brittle and one-sided. Commentaries by cultural critics are often shallow.

SF deserves a better press - both from the established end and from the alternative end.

Think either improvement will happen soon?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

What would truly improve the San Francisco press more than any other action imaginable, is for you to shut the hell up Arthur.

Posted by vigilante on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

Thanks for doing more to draw attention to my posts than anybody else, Vigilante.

However, there's one that you missed.

Should I give you a clue?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 7:00 pm

or support a candidate or be a lobbyist.

And Brown is concealing nothing, else how does SFBG know all this?

I see no problem here, except that the SFBG doesn't want anyone who disagrees with them to have any power at all.

Posted by Bob on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 6:05 pm

scold or milquetoast it's a yawn

back to the real comments...

Posted by Thank You on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

"Any occupation can stand for office or support a candidate or be a lobbyist."

- Bob

True. However, when a person becomes politically active, and holds a position that requires political non-involvement, then he or she should take a leave of absence from that position during the political involvement.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

Editorial columns are all about stating a political opinion. Editorial columns regularly back specific candidates. Honestly, I don't really get what the big deal is. If he was a reporter it would be different, but editorial writers are PAID to have opinions.

Posted by plumpy on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 7:57 pm

Isn't a cheerleader for Avalos?

Pass the bong.

Posted by meatlock on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

"The Bay Guardian" = more 'meatlock' TROLLing juvenilia

Posted by vigilante on Sep. 08, 2011 @ 8:23 pm