JOURNALIST Q&A: P.J. Corkery

After a brief hiatus, P.J. Corkery returned to the San Francisco Examiner in June, bringing back to the city the proud tradition of "three-dot journalism" (famously made a way of life by the late Herb Caen, the San Francisco Chronicle's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist).

After a brief hiatus, P.J. Corkery returned to the San Francisco Examiner in June, bringing back to the city the proud tradition of "three-dot journalism" (famously made a way of life by the late Herb Caen, the San Francisco Chronicle's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist).

Corkery, who's written or edited for The New Yorker, Harper's, Rolling Stone, The New Republic, Vanity Fair, Spy, The Boston Herald, and the Los Angeles Times, discusses the importance of three-dot journalism and the state of San Francisco media. PRWeek: What is three-dot journalism? P.J. Corkery: It's shorthand for a column that consists of a lot of info about a lot of different subjects [broken up by an ellipsis between each item]. In the ideal three-dot column, you try to replicate the city's own conversation with itself, from Barry Bonds to skullduggery at city hall to who's in town. It's about visiting celebs, political figures, and foodies, and just the city's life and texture. It's a column of reporting, thought, talk, and speculation. PRWeek: Is it a dying art? Or are more papers hiring such columnists? Corkery: It has been a dying art, but it shouldn't be. It's a conversation with the reader. I talk to an awful lot of people. And there is also room for speculation. It can't be wild gossip, inane, or insane. But it's very important in helping people make sense of what's going on. I can have items that are only a line long, but it takes 20 calls to get there. And that's hard. One of the baleful things is newspapers see editorial matter as blocks of content and it's assembled as modules. It's a lot of pasting in blocks of text. Newspapers simply don't rock the boat, and readers get bored by it. So US papers are in a panic today, because they're not sure what people want. PRWeek: Describe the Bay Area as a media center. Corkery: Bay Area papers pay very little mind to readers' needs. The papers are dull by and large. The San Francisco Chronicle is almost irrelevant. The San Jose Mercury News almost covers the city better. Stories are being chosen by a demographic, instead of reader appeal. So you have this block of stories for that demographic and that block of stories for this demographic. And you can see that people are really hungry for well-done reporting. The Chronicle is the top paper in the Bay Area, but very close behind are The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal - both reporting-intensive titles. People are hungry for that and they're not getting it from the Chronicle. TV and the web are how a lot people get their news. Radio is also very important here. We need reporting that is conversational. Look at the popularity of NPR here, and talk radio in general. PRWeek: Since San Francisco is now a one-newspaper town, what role do other local papers [free dailies such as the Examiner, alternative weeklies] play? Corkery: Weeklies here have become "attitudinized." You can tell their opinion before you read it. Attitude has taken over for reporting at the weeklies, but that's fine because some people want reinforcement, not reporting. It's a truism that every big city should have two papers, because people crave news. There's a role here for a second metropolitan newspaper. Name: P.J. Corkery Publication: San Francisco Examiner Title: Columnist Preferred contact method: pjcorkery@examiner.com Website: www.examiner.com

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.