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Read It, Hug It 

The new Chron may not be better, but it is more emotionally available

Wednesday, May 9 2001
On April 29, the Chronicle launched its much-trumpeted new edition. Alas, the result that thudded on Bay Area doorsteps wasn't exactly the "world-class" paper Executive Editor Phil Bronstein had promised. Instead, we got a lot of goopy lists, recycled news, and feel-good features about people who ... feel good. But that's apparently what Chronicle readers want. In an interview with, Bronstein said the new edition was created to respond to market research showing that readers didn't feel an "emotional connection" with the Chron.

But how do you create an emotional connection with a newspaper? Easy -- more market research. Last week, in fact, we came across the super-secret official market research questionnaire the Chron used in its focus groups. We publish it here as a public service.

Thank you for agreeing to take part in our survey! Below are 10 questions about your newspaper reading habits. Please answer them as honestly as possible. When you have finished, please leave your completed form up front with Mr. Bronstein, the New, Better Sunday Chronicle survey proctor. Thanks so much!

1) I tend to buy the Sunday Chronicle for its:

a) In-depth and incisive coverage of local and national news

b) Thorough investigative features about important figures

c) Smart, careful writing that makes me think

d) Coupons, and the emotional connection that I, the reader, feel with my paper

2) Other newspapers have criticized the Chronicle for not being a very good paper. This criticism is:

a) Wrong

b) Dead wrong

c) Very hurtful

d) Something to think about

3) Many respected newspapers, like the New York Times, present important news on the front of their Sunday editions. The Chronicle comes wrapped in the comics. If the Chronicle put the comics somewhere besides the front of its Sunday edition, then you'd think that the Chronicle is more like the New York Times. Right?

a) I guess

b) Probably

c) Mais oui!

d) Uh, yeah

4) Ever see that movie about Watergate called All the President's Men?

a) If yes, please go to question 5

b) If no, please go to question 7

5) Remember that line where somebody pitches Jason Robards a crappy story idea and he says, "Send it to the Chronicle in San Francisco. They'll print anything"?

a) If yes, please go to question 6

b) If no, please go to question 7

6) How did that line make you feel? Please write your answer in essay form on the back of this page. Please see Mr. Bronstein if you need more paper.

7) OK, here's the thing. There's this movie about Watergate called All the President's Men where Jason Robards plays the editor of some fancy-pants East Coast paper. So one day somebody tries to sell him on this really crappy story idea, and the Jason Robards character goes, "Send it to the Chronicle. They'll print anything." Do you think this line could be the sole reason people have made fun of San Francisco newspapers for years and years? (Remember, this movie starred both Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.)

a) Probably

b) Yes

c) Hard to say -- maybe

d) Can't think of a better reason

8) Just between you and me, we're thinking that the Sunday Chronicle Magazine could use a little bit of work. Which of these potential magazine features would you most want to read (please choose only one)?

a)"A Whole Bunch of Reasons Why Living in the Bay Area Is Great, Great, Great!"

b) "Flowers!"

c) "Furniture!"

d) "Weddings!"

9) If there's one thing the Chronicle could use more of, it's:

a) Columnists like Ken Garcia, who really understands this city

b) Columnists like William German, who can tell me what the Chronicle was like years and years and years and years ago

c) Columnists like Rob Morse, who makes those jokes about the mayor

d) Columnists like what's-her-name on the back page of the Datebook section. You know, the one with the triplets.

10) For this next question, pretend you're a journalist -- like, a really good, respected journalist. You've gone to places like, say, the Philippines, where you've covered really important, dangerous stuff. Like, war-zone dangerous. Now, after years of hard work and honing your journalistic instincts, you're a big-time editor at a big-city newspaper that could really stand to improve. So imagine that instead of working hard to make the paper better, you're forced to use marketing-speak and talk about how great the paper really is, and that if the paper sucks that's because other people insist on seeing things that way. Would you want a job like that?

a) That's rough

b) Probably not

c) I might stick with it if I got paid enough

d) It's not something I see myself connecting with, emotionally speaking

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


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