Chron's Bronstein Lashes Out at New York Times For 'Borrowing' Anecdote -- That His Paper 'Borrowed' Too

Categories: Media
Hey Phil Bronstein -- how do you like them apples?
San Francisco Chronicle editor-at-large Phil Bronstein yesterday reminded the Bay Area of a use for newspapers any puppy owner is well aware of when he inaugurated a journalistic pissing contest. It was a move he may soon regret.

In what was decidedly not a "Welcome to San Francisco" gift basket aimed at the interloping New York Times, Bronstein accused Times bureau chief Jesse McKinley -- whom he snidely did not name -- of "borrowing" a juicy anecdote about Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts. In both McKinley's Friday story and a Chron story from Aug. 18, Batts is extensively quoted as saying that he initially spurned recruiters' offers to come to Oakland, but changed his mind after the tragic slayings of four Oakland officers.

"Here we are, always bitching about how Google or MSN or Yahoo is stealing our original content and making money from it," wrote Bronstein. "It doesn't really help our case if we're raiding closets and borrowing outfits from members of our own fraternity without at least asking."

By the way, Bronstein's accusation of "borrowing" is just a passive-aggressive way of calling out the Times for sloppiness at best and plagiarism at worst. It's a big deal. And, in the end, it turns out to be hilarious -- because on Aug. 12, a week before the Chron story Bronstein referenced, Batts told the same anecdote to the Long Beach Press Telegram (though they did not lead with it, like the Times and Chron). If the Press Telegram's "editor at large" wrote a bombastic column about the Chron "borrowing" his paper's material -- well, we missed it. Meanwhile, it seems Batts is a man who likes to repeat his anecdotes to anyone with a notepad or microphone. Let's all make a note of this. 

Our calls to McKinley to gauge his feelings on being called out by Bronstein were passed to Felicity Barringer, the editor of the Times' Bay Area pages. "Unfortunately, neither Jesse nor I read the Chron piece he cites. So the good news is, it's hard to borrow something you haven't even read," she notes. "The bad news is, as an editor, I should have been a little more thorough in my research."

Boy, I'll bet Phil Bronstein could tell you a little bit about that.

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