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
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: email@example.com
For business reporters' beat list, e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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