By: Joe Strupp

Burgin Doesn’t Shy From Innovation

One of the most telling stories about David Burgin concerns his
handling of the tragic 1978 assassinations of San Francisco Mayor
George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. Three weeks into his
job as editor of the Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto
– some 40 miles south of San Francisco – Burgin was
asked at the time by his city editor if the paper should send
anyone to cover the killings.

“Send anyone? Send everyone,” Burgin boomed. With that, the small
62,000-circulation daily dispatched all 30 editorial employees
north and filled the paper with tales of the shootings.

“We bumped up the press run to 80,000 the next day and it sold
out,” Burgin recently recalled. “I was criticized because it was
out of our jurisdiction, but it was the story everyone was going
to be talking about.”

Burgin, who last week became executive editor of the new San
Francisco Examiner, said the 1978 story is a good example of
his daily news philosophy. After a 40-year career that includes
running newsrooms at the Dallas Times-Herald, The Houston
Post, The Oakland Tribune, and – from 1985 to 1986
– the Examiner, Burgin says the keys to a good
newspaper are quality and fun.

“I think all newspapers are dull,” said Burgin, 61, who left his
last newspaper job five years ago and owns Woodford Publishing
outside San Francisco. “A good newspaper does not have to be
dull. You need to put out something that is fun and interesting
to read.”

Some examples of what Burgin considers fun and interesting
include the column on insects he launched while editor of the
Orlando Sentinel in the early 1980s and the series on gays
in sports that he directed as sports editor of The Washington
Star in the early 1970s. “Its impact was huge,” he said of
the gay series, which he said drew criticism, anger, and threats.

Burgin also said leadership is often more important than news
judgment for a good editor. He criticized many newsroom chiefs as
being too worried about their own images and not enough about

“I’m not threatened by talent,” he said. “If you’re not smarter
than I am, I don’t want you.”

Joe Strupp ( is an associate editor for E&P.

Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher.

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