By: Dave Astor
The campaign to get Stephanie Salter’s San Francisco Chronicle column reinstated is continuing on several fronts.
A coalition of media, women, union, and other groups is planning a second rally on Sept. 24 (the first was Aug. 28). Also, a support-Salter ad is scheduled to run in next week’s issue of the Bay Guardian and possibly in an issue of the Chronicle itself, said Jeff Perlstein, executive director of the Media Alliance, a media resource and advocacy center in San Francisco. The coalition is still trying to meet with the Chronicle, according to Perlstein.
Salter, 52, whose 16-year-old Op-Ed column was syndicated by the Hearst and Scripps Howard news services, is grateful for the support. “It’s another affirmation of what I’ve said all along: this affects so many more people than me,” said Salter, who was reassigned to a job writing for the Chronicle‘s Sunday “Insight” section.
Perlstein said Salter’s column was a rarity in the mainstream press in that it sympathetically covered issues relating to workers, women, the poor, the environment, antiwar organizing, and more. “Is there no place for a liberal column in the country’s most liberal city?” added coalition member Lani Silver, a Holocaust oral historian and women’s-studies teacher, who called Salter “a great writer.”
Chronicle Director of Public Relations Joe Brown said the paper is willing to meet with the coalition, but only “to discuss coverage, not personnel changes.” He added that newspaper ads and another rally won’t bring back Salter’s column.
Perlstein said the Chronicle reinstated “Zippy the Pinhead” several months ago after less outcry than greeted the end of Salter’s column. An estimated 1,500 e-mails have been sent in support of Salter.
“The decision to reinstate ‘Zippy’ involved more than reader protests,” said Brown. “There were some business decisions involved.” He declined to say what they were, but Bill Griffith’s comic is distributed by King Features Syndicate, which, like the Chronicle, is owned by the Hearst Corp.
As for Salter, there have been reports that Chronicle Publisher John Oppedahl wanted her column ended because it was too liberal and feminist for his tastes. Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz has said ideology was not a factor, that there are still liberal views in the paper’s opinion mix, and that the paper wants its editorial pages to be “less predictable.”
Salter isn’t the first person to lose or stop a Chronicle column this year. During the winter, the paper ended Adair Lara’s 12-year-old feature column and reassigned her as a reporter. And Chris Matthews, in what was reportedly a voluntary decision so he could devote more time to TV work, wrote his farewell column Sept. 1 after 15 years.