MEDIA PROFILE: The San Francisco Chronicle is set to join the bigboys - The San Francisco Chronicle is looking to reach the loftyeditorial status of its industry's elite while staying true to the Bayarea audience...

San Francisco Chronicle executive editor Phil Bronstein is already

a semi-celebrity in the City by the Bay. That is partly because of his

status as Sharon Stone's husband and partly because of his background as

a foreign correspondent and colorful editor of the Examiner, the

Chronicle's longtime afternoon rival prior to its sale last fall.

However, Bronstein, who was named top-dog at the 530,000-circulation

Chronicle last fall, now has an even more high-profile task in front of

him: to raise the level of the paper's editorial coverage to that of

Pulitzer-prize winning peers such as The Washington Post and The New

York Times, while increasing interest among Bay Area readers.

Bronstein does not see these as contradictory goals: "There is no paper

that can afford to ignore its emotional connection with readers, that

can afford to just live inside its head. You want people to really

engage emotionally, not just intellectually. You need to appeal to them

on a visceral level."

Bronstein's vision - in its earliest incarnation - was recently unveiled

with the debut of an overhauled Sunday edition on April 29. From a

cosmetic standpoint, the new Sunday paper is no longer wrapped in the

comic pages.

But more substantial changes have included the addition of a new

"Insight" section with viewpoint and commentary articles; a new

"Lifestyle" section with features on relationships and health and the

San Francisco-area social scene. A stand-alone "Real Estate" tabloid

features stories on architecture and home ownership.

In addition, the beefier Chronicle Sunday magazine has a new regular

"neighborhood" feature highlighting specific Bay area regions. Across

all sections, even business, the number of profiles on local

personalities has risen.

Bronstein's influence can be seen in more than just the revamped Sunday

edition, however. His Examiner was well known for controversial and

hard-hitting investigative coverage of local figures and regional

issues. He wants to bring that style to the new Chronicle.

The Hearst-owned paper recently ran a series of stories unearthing

allegations of cronyism within Mayor Willie Brown's regime. In addition,

the Chronicle's business section has made a marked shift to more

"scoop-driven," less feature-oriented coverage over the past year.

According to business editor Ken Howe, who recently landed his present

position after nearly a year with the acting editor title, the drive has

been to establish ownership of coverage in several beats key to the

area's economy, including energy, biotech, telecom and new media.

At the same time, the business pages will also continue the paper's

renewed interest in individual newsmakers and influential personalities.

For example, a recent Sunday edition featured an exhaustive profile on

local financier and philanthropist Warren Hellman, the co-founder and

chairman of Hellman & Friedman, a private investment firm which

purchased a 10% stake in the Nasdaq.

"Up until now, the Chronicle hasn't always been as interesting a

newspaper as the Bay Area should reflect. But the Warren Hellman profile

is a perfect example of what you can expect to see more of in the

future," says Howe.

Neither Bronstein nor Howe have many specific tips on how PR execs might

approach pitching the new Chronicle, except to keep looking for stories

and angles that fit the paper's goals. "The most important thing you can

do is make sure what you are pitching is a dynamic and compelling story.

Thinking of Bay Area context and culture is also key," says


"The biggest misunderstanding PR people have is in trying to sell their

company or client's product, rather than trying to find a way to sell us

on a good story involving the company," Howe points out. "Also, PR

people who can establish themselves as a source of good story ideas and

(access to) key people are more successful."

As for mechanics, Howe notes that the Sunday issue is typically put

together by Wednesday, and that 4pm is the copy deadline for daily news.

Also, with 20 beat reporters, Howe says that pitching editors is not an

effective method of contact. Instead, he advises, approaching specific

writers according to beat.


San Francisco Chronicle

Address: 901 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103

Tel: (415) 777-1111 Business Desk: (415) 777-8440

Fax: (415) 543-2482 E-mail:

For business reporters' beat list, e-mail to:


Executive editor: Phil Bronstein

Business editor: Ken Howe

Asst. business editor, Technology: Marcus Chan

Business news editor: Tim Innes

Asst. business editor, Money Talks column: Alan Sarcevic

Asst. business editor, personal finance and workplace: David Tong

Deputy business editor, Sunday section: Steve Zuckerman

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