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Bronstein vs. Burks
John Burks has had a long and distinguished career as a journalist in the Bay Area. He is also a journalism teacher, an important profession for a craft that has so much potential influence and so much responsibility.

But he neither got the facts right nor told the truth in his SF Weekly column on Jonestown (Postscript, Nov. 18). "I asked [Bronstein] whether he thought hundreds of lives might have been saved if the Examiner had stepped up its reporting on the Peoples Temple in 1972," he writes. Very dramatic question.

But John never asked me that question. He asked me if I was aware of the controversy that surrounded work done at the paper back then by Lester Kinsolving. Even to that question, I didn't "shrug," but told him I knew nothing about it. In fact, John's (real) query was the first I'd heard of it.

Patricia Smith and Mike Barnicle this ain't. But it's not honest or accurate.

I presume in an effort to make this 26-year-old controversy somehow relevant to today's Examiner, John also quotes Kinsolving as saying of Larry Hatfield's recent Peoples Temple series: "Now I know Larry Hatfield, an honorable man, a fine reporter, and I know he must have been forbidden to mention my name" in the series.

Larry is both honorable and a fine reporter. It would have been good if John Burks had treated Larry as such by himself being a good reporter and asking Larry if such a thing were true. He didn't. Larry tells me that it was not true, and that John never called to ask him. So John leaves an assertion hanging, again presumably to retain the drama of it, when a simple call would have resolved it.

I don't know if Kinsolving's criticisms are true. I've asked the few people who were at the paper then and still are. They do not remember. Certainly no one in a senior editorial position then has been here in more than a decade. So I can't say if the Examiner met its obligation to report the truth fully back then.

But I do know that John Burks slipped in his attempt to do that in his SF Weekly story.

Phil Bronstein
Executive Editor
San Francisco Examiner

'Fess Up, Phil
John Burks responds: Phil Bronstein's shrug is in my notes, but still I'm sorry if my mention of it failed to represent his sentiments. I respect Phil, admire his work (and am pleased the feeling is essentially mutual); and even if I didn't (and he didn't), I would still want to accurately convey his ideas. As for contacting Larry Hatfield for comment concerning Kinsolving's rant: Doing so would have implied I believed it to be something weightier than a rant. I didn't, and don't.

I wanted to thank John Burks and SF Weekly for having the fortitude to enlighten readers about the San Francisco Examiner and its early blunderings with the Peoples Temple (Postscript). The Examiner editors used a mighty flimsy excuse when they told Burks that Lester Kinsolving's stories "generally lacked hard sources." The truth to this lie is that Kinsolving substantiated anything he ever wrote for the Examiner.

After Burks' Jim Jones interview and a subsequent butchered non-bylined version appeared, Kinsolving pleaded with his editors to run the remaining four exposes. Instead, they insisted he go up to Ukiah and get affidavits and taped sworn statements from the Concerned Citizens, a group of defectors and residents fighting Jones.

By returning to Ukiah, a community terrorized by the Peoples Temple, Kinsolving ran a great risk to his life as well as the lives of the Concerned Citizens. Even after this reporter turned over additional substantiation to his editors, the remaining four stories still did not run. This action alone proves the Examiner's profound cowardice and extreme neglect, something they may never admit to, unless Executive Editor Phil Bronstein sees fit to rectify the past.

Interested readers wanting to learn more can look up the following Web site: (, which contains an informative article I co-authored along with my brother Tom.

Kathleen Kinsolving
San Rafael

Earth to Boulware
Jack Boulware's story on Julia Butterfly was pathetically off-the-mark in assessing activists' reactions to the Headwaters "deal" ("Up a Tree. Still?" Nov. 11). To suggest that we are so addicted to Charles Hurwitz as a "perfect villain" that we won't let up after all but winning our "victory" is to betray utter ignorance not only about the particulars of the issue, but also about the great diversity of opinions among activists engaged in the struggle.

Moreover, while Julia Butterfly is indeed remarkable for her connectedness, one has to wonder what kind of article the author would have written if he didn't find her "attractive."

Substance, please. This is a primary social justice issue of our time.
Philip Batchelder

A Living Bible
Congratulations to the protesting clergymen and -women in the Methodist Church for standing up for the rights of gay people to have the same rights as straight people ("The Holy War Over Gay Marriage," Nov. 4). Just like many of those who stood up against racial discrimination years ago, they realize that the few comments in the Bible which seem to condemn homosexuality were truly reflections of the society and understanding of the issues at that time. They realize that as homosexuality is better understood, it doesn't require the same condemnation as was once deemed necessary.

Inclusion is the right way to treat all of God's creatures.
Walt Young
Via Internet

We Suspect Harry Paid for This Letter
I have no idea who this Harry Coverte is, but I can tell you his column sets my world on fire (Side Dish). If I ever spy him sittin' around one of the city's fine establishments I'll be sure to send him one of his favorite Hennessy Manhattans, up with a twist.

Thanks to Harry C. for giving some overdue credit to some of those folks you see every day but fail to appreciate their efforts, energy, and personality. This guy needs to be big.

Bravo Harry.
Christian Mattioli
Via Internet

And This One, Too
Love the new column, Side Dish, by Harry Coverte. So much better than the watered-down restaurant gossip we get from Inside Scoop and the other mainstream papers. I'll look forward to seeing it as a regular column.

Via Internet

Bringing Safeway to Its Knees
I have been annoyed by Safeway ever since they started reading my name from my ATM receipt and saying: "Thank you, Mr. Benson." It sounded phony from the start. Reading Tom McNichol's article gave me the idea to fight back at Safeway's smiles-from-hell theory of customer service ("My Supermarket, My Friend," Nov. 11).

If everyone who was asked an inane question by a Safeway employee were to take them up on their offer of assistance for as long as possible maybe they would stop trying so hard. For example, if you asked where the baking soda was and they offered to show you where it is, let them. Then ask where the next item is, and let them guide you to the product in question. If enough people do this for their entire shopping list, Safeway may find itself short on help and give up on trying to be the happiest supermarket on Earth.

I only shop there now for things I can't find at smaller markets, and only then because there isn't another supermarket close enough to make it worth while.

Cris Benson
Via Internet

Have You Hugged Your Bagger Today?
In this day of unfriendly, unhelpful service from local companies, especially in California, I can't believe Tom McNichol takes readers' valuable time to write such a negative article, "My Supermarket, My Friend."

I believe Safeway deserves credit for trying to attract customers with friendly, helpful service. I appreciate the smile. And, I don't feel it comes across as excessive or forced. It is working. I am sick of the attitude of rudeness and outright unhelpfulness and contempt from a lot of service employees such as the USPO, to name one.

I have gone back to using Safeway a lot more now and I think it is good business for service companies to enforce a friendly, respectful, and helpful attitude from their employees. Is it really too much? It's too bad the company has to take this line of action. But, it's about time. The companies that give the best service will get the business/profit. The companies know that; when are the employees going to get that message?

I want to go on record as supporting Safeway and any other service organization that expects and demands friendly and helpful attitudes from its employees. The comment "Even customers don't like this" from the UFCW Local 373 president is absurd. I can tell you most customers love it. I for one do.

Linda Copren
Via Internet

Uh-Oh. Jeremy's Off His Meds.
I have followed the "Nestor Makhno" chronicles in your rag from their inception many amusing weeks ago, and hope we can make them a permanent feature. Now that Dog Bites has weighed (barked?) in, hey, can Savage Love resist the trend? Actually, Mr. Savage usually knows when he knows nothing so he wouldn't be so quick to proclaim his or her ignorance.

Your staff and almost all the letter writers don't know the difference between Marxists and those inspired by anarchy. As one coherent letter partially explained, Makhno was an anarchist who fought the (evil murderous oppressive exploitive classist CAPITALIST) Soviet state ruled by (Marxists) Lenin and Trotsky. The latest screed from a putative Rockefeller/Gates-oid called Nestor a "neo-Marxist twit."

I know Nestor, sort of, and his amusing leaflets, and although his twithood is up for debate, he ain't no stinking Marxist, neo or otherwise. And as to speculations about his socioeconomic class, he ain't as poor as he used to be -- i.e., he can now usually pay for the prodigious amount of beer he is wont to suck down in the last Mission yup-free dive bar -- but it is unlikely that he will ever be able to make the Manhattan rents that the cigar suckers charge and pay. Those Free (to pillage) Marketeers who invoke Adam Smith's -- whose Edinburgh Club of speculators profited on market-driven starvation -- invisible hand and tell Nestor to move on should be less righteous when he suggests that we bite the hand that is choking us.

To paraphrase my favorite piece of anarchist (an = without, archos = ruler) venom, the world will not be safe until the last Bronco driver (landlord) is hung with the guts of the last Marxist-as-an-ignorant-epithet-throwing Silicon millionaire (priest).

Jeremy Ginzberg


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