SF CHRONICLE MOVES HIGH-PROFILE COLUMNIST

By: Joel Davis

Other Changes To Come


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Keeping a promise to make changes with
the new year, the Hearst Corp.-owned San Francisco
Chronicle has moved perhaps its highest-profile columnist
from the news to the sports section.

Page A2 columnist Scott Ostler, who started in sports, wrote his
last news-section piece Jan. 12. He moved back to sports last
week.

Asked why the move was made, Chronicle Executive Editor
Phil Bronstein said Ostler is a “brilliant sports columnist.” He
did not criticize Ostler’s news-section work – saying only
that general-interest column writing is a “very difficult beast.”

“It’s a tough role, and we appreciate that Scott took it on,”
noted Bronstein, who said Ostler’s void in the “A” section will
be filled by former Examiner/new Chronicle
columnist Rob Morse, though not necessarily in the same place.

Ostler told E&P he is “not sure” why the change was made,
and that he has received approximately 600 e-mail messages
complimenting his work and/or wishing he’d stay put.

“I’m going to miss it, I liked it a lot,” Ostler said. “But
there’s no sense in whining about it. People get moved around,
life goes on.”

Both Bronstein and Ostler played down rumors that unflattering
blurbs Ostler wrote on occasion about Bronstein’s wife, actress
Sharon Stone, triggered the transfer. The rumors, Bronstein said,
“are like all bad gossip – wrong and boring.” He added that
the transfer was a joint decision reached with input from other
news executives.

Ostler said that on one accasion Stone raised her voice at him in
public over an item he had written that mentioned a high-class
San Francisco prostitute who bore a physical resemblance to
Stone, but he added that it was no big deal.

“She made it known she was angry,” Ostler recalled. “I got yelled
at by a lot of athletes when I covered sports. I told Phil in an
e-mail, ‘She’s very good, but she’s no Tommy Lasorda.'”

Bronstein indicated several other changes are in the offing at
the Chronicle, which Hearst took over in November. Among
them are new positions or format changes for other columnists,
including popular “Personals” columnist Leah Garchik, who writes
a tongue-in-cheek feature that often pokes fun of celebrities.

The reborn Chronicle’s first major move – adding an
afternoon edition to fill the void left by the Fang family’s
conversion of the San Francisco Examiner into a morning
paper – has been a success, Bronstein said. He said the
afternoon edition, offered only on newsstands, met its initial
circulation goal of 11,000 to 12,000 the first week, and that 55%
of its readers also buy the morning Chronicle.



Joel Davis (jdavis@editorandpublisher.com) is West Coast editor for E&P.



Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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