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I don't want my news mediated by a bunch of smug, country-club Bing Crosbys. Chronicle managers are far too comfortable with CEOs, elected officials, chambers of commerce and other organs of the status quo.
I want garlic, rotgut red wine, sausage, sweat, snot, suspicion and anchovies falling out when I open my morning newspaper. Readers do not live by buttered white toast alone.
(Speaking of excellence in buttered white toast, here's something Chronicle Editor Bill German told me in explaining the paper's continued publication of the late Stanton Delaplane into, and beyond, the columnist's dotage: "People read the Chronicle while they're eating breakfast," said German. "We're competing with the back of the cereal box. If Delaplane is even this much more interesting than the back of the cereal box, we're doing fine.")
Now here's the good news: San Francisco already has a great newspaper, but it is neither the Chronicle nor the Examiner. The Joint Operating Agreement traps its lovely outline inside the ungainly bodies of both.
The DNA of this brilliant, evanescent journalistic sprite is drawn from both institutions, but can come alive at neither.
We, as readers, can wait another 10 years for the JOA to die from old age. We can watch as our two local newspapers struggle through a frustrating twilight decade in which, because of the JOA, the Examiner will never be big enough nor the Chronicle rich enough to explode into a new level of quality.
Or we can hope that serious, powerful people with their minds set on the common good will recognize the futility of publishing two weak, shadowy newspapers in America's most exciting city when one great newspaper is there right now, straining to break free.
The resulting publication, bristling with talent, money and the heel-kicking exuberance of newfound freedom, itching to take on the Los Angeles Times or even the New York Times if need be, may look like the All-Mandel Team, or it may look completely different. As a reader, I'm open to alternate versions of excellence, as long as there is excellence.
As an old Examiner guy, though, I'm demanding just one thing:
Somewhere deep in the soul of this one great San Francisco newspaper must burn the Examiner spirit that itches to say "Fuck you!" to a Chronicle poser in a beret.