Friday, August 26, 2016


I was sad to hear of the death of Warren Hinckle, the outspoken, hard-writing, hard-drinking San Francisco journalism legend.

He was both a testament to muckraking journalism and a character of excess and outlandish behavior. Some praised his willingness to take on tough issues like Vietnam, the Catholic church and San Francisco politicians, while others decried his scattered writing, drinking and ruffled image.

I was glad to see that today's S.F. Chronicle gave him a prominent spot above the fold on Page One.

I got to know him in the 1990s during my four years at the S.F. Independent, a now-defunct citywide free paper that covered both city issues and local neighborhoods. Hinckle, with his ever-present eye-patch (the result of a childhood accident), had burned bridges at the S.F. Chronicle and S.F. Examiner and was now writing for our gritty small paper.

While I covered City Hall, I got to see him tweak local politicians and push his favorite issues. After helping to get Mayor Frank Jordan elected in 1991, he turned the tables on him, making the first outward request that former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown run against Jordan.

Brown won in 1995 and again in 1999.

In between, we shared drinks at S.F. watering holes on a few occasions, and once in New York when I met up with him years later. At both the screwdrivers flowed.

Then there was Bentley, his companion basset hound that followed him to meetings, bars, City Hall hearings and more. With Bentley near death and needing to be "put down," Hinckle organized a "last supper" at Stars restaurant, among the top eateries in the city at the time. The menu: sparkling water and a premium hamburger.

I never had to edit Hinckle, which I learned quickly from others could be a nightmare for those who suffered his late deadlines, outlandish prose and bad spelling. But I did learn from him the need for newsmen to demand answers, anger the powers that be and challenge authority.

Bill Fazio
Once when I was under attack by a candidate for San Francisco District Attorney for writing a series of stories that exposed his corruption and questionable approach, Hinckle advised me to take it as an honor. When the candidate, Bill Fazio, lost, his brother, Joe Fazio, called and left a threatening message on my phone.

Joe Fazio also happened to be an investigator in the D.A.'s office, a job he soon lost for such criminal behavior.

One of my favorite possessions from those years is a copy of Hinckle's book, If You Have a Lemon, Make Lemonade. He signed it to me after an SF Weekly article on the Independent that wrongly re-hashed the Fazio incident referred to both of us as the paper's "political hitmen.
I lived in San Francisco from 1990 to 1997, a final era of much of the city's great news times. Along with Hinckle there was the Chronicle's legend Herb Caen, the famed three-dot columnist who personally led efforts on many issues; Examiner editor Phil Bronstein, who was a great mix of flamboyant character and smart newsman; and The Bay Guardian's Bruce Brugmann, who used to say the job of a newspaper is to "report the news and raise hell!" 

The city had a handful of great news sources that could compete and dig into all areas of politics, issues, culture, bohemia, and style. Much of that is gone with the Chronicle cut down in size and staff and most of the others either gone or reduced.

Journalism will likely not see the likes of Hinckle again for a while if at all. But I am glad that I at least got to see him in action. And never had to pick up the bar tab.

Monday, April 11, 2016


My favorite story of the week could be that of young Hilde Lysiak, the junior publisher of a hometown website in Selinsgrove, Pa.

The website, Orange Street News, and related print version, is the 9-year-old's own local news outlet.

She first got attention last fall when Columbia Journalism Review gave her some ink, saying she "provides a public service in a town without a dedicated local news outlet." 

Her stories have ranged from a missing cat to local vandalism.

You might have seen some more recent notice after she covered a local murder earlier this month.

When some criticized Hilde, and her mother for allowing her to work the crime beat rather than "play with dolls," she shot back:

Good for you Hilde, keep up the good work!

Saturday, December 5, 2015


The New York Times today ran a rare Page One editorial urging tighter restrictions on what it deemed "weapons of war."

The editorial stated, in part:

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.

The Times reported it was the first such front-page editorial in 95 years, with the last a criticism of the nomination of Warren Harding to be president in 1920.

Read today's editorial HERE and see it below:

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Too much to say about the San Bernardino shooting, but the coverage so far has been heavy.

Two front pages caught my eye today.

This from The Sun of San Bernardino, the local daily in the heart of the crime scene:


And this from the New York Daily News, which takes a direct stand on violence and guns and public officials lack of action:


I cannot let this go with out noting how close this tragedy was to my former workplace at the Riverside Press-Enterprise's San Bernardino County bureau on Hospitality Lane, now closed. 

I spent nearly two years there and worked with a great team who reconnected a bit online after this terrible shooting.

See the P-E Page One below:



Wednesday, October 14, 2015


As the Chicago Cubs celebrate their victory in the National League division series and look forward to their next round of the playoffs, it is also being noted that today is the 12th Anniversary of the infamous Steve Bartman game.

Bartman, you may recall, was the Cubs fan who interfered with a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship series. A game that the Cubs were leading, 3-0, but later lost, 8-3. 

Angry, despicable fans took their frustrations out on Bartman right after the play, forcing him to leave the ballpark. And after the loss, there was a hatred that lasted for years in same cases.

But almost as despicable was the work of the Chicago Sun-Times, which published Bartman's name, address and place of employment. At the time, I was at Editor & Publisher magazine and wrote about this disgraceful misuse of journalism.

The Sun-Times told me it was considered proper journalism.

Not quite. Revealing his name and other information made him an easier target for fans who wanted to blame him for the team loss, which he had no part in.

The Society of Professional Journalists later noted the actions, calling them, "the media's foul ball."

A great ESPN 30 for 30 documentary recounted the entire episode and the detestable reaction from some fans.

It has been reported that fans are urging Bartman's return to Wrigley Field during the playoffs to accept their apologies. That would be the least they could do.

As for the Sun-Times, they are lucky they were not sued for endangering this fan's life. It has also been noted many times that Bartman made no money off of his infamy, not one dime.

But the Sun-Times did hurt their own reputation, at least in my eyes. 

Whenever talk turns to Steve Bartman, I think of how unfair he was treated, but also how this major newspaper abused its power of the press.