In a telephone interview Editor of the Editorial Pages James Finefrock rejected the way the Grade the News’ analysis was conducted, its conclusion of a change of editorial stance toward Mayor Brown after the meeting between Brown and Examiner executives, and the notion that the pattern reported can be used as evidence of whether the Examiner bartered its editorial integrity for mayoral favor.
“I just think you’re engaged in the most unresponsible act here,” Finefrock said. “I just don’t buy your method.”
“It’s not even any evidence” of a lack of integrity on the Examiner’s editorial page. “I don’t think this is an honest study. You are leaping to conclusions.”
Finefrock said he was not convinced that the Examiner was any less critical of Mayor Brown after August 30. But if it were, he explained, “anything in the universe could have had an effect on me and the editorials.”
Asked if the mayor had perhaps begun to act in more praiseworthy ways in September and October and thus more favorable editorials were justified, Finnefrock replied: “Around Labor Day Willie Brown cleaned up his act. He was flying under the radar screen. He was trying to clean up Muni [the municipal transportation system]. He was preparing for the campaign.”
As the Nov. 2 mayoral election neared, he added, “it’s possible we were watching the candidates and evaluating them during the campaign with an eye towards reaching an endorsement later.”
Finefrock insisted that it was not fair to count the period after October 17 when the Examiner endorsed Brown for mayor. “After you endorse someone, you won’t find negative comments. No newspaper [does that].”
Finefrock also said he had not looked out for corporate interests by treating the mayor more gently on his own, independent of any guidance from the publisher.
Editor’s Note: I did not contact Mr. Finefrock for comment until the day after the story was published on the website. Instead, I quoted Mr. Finefrock’s definitive statement in the Sunday Examiner that there had been no corporate interference in the Brown case. I should have given Mr. Finefrock a chance to respond to the analysis itself before publication. I have apologized to Mr. Finefrock and I apologize to you. --John McManus