Additional info on Paul Iorio's c.v. (pt.2)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Here is additional information about Paul Iorio's career at the San Francisco Chronicle (this is part 2; part 1 is at; the resume itself is at

It was rare when an editor at the Chronicle added any more than a line or two to my work. The most any editor or writer added to any of my Chronicle stories was when Chron writer John Carman, one of the paper's better writers, added one paragraph to one breaking news story I wrote from Pasadena in July 2000 -- and sent it to press before he could be credited with that one graf. Other editors added a line or two to several other stories, almost always counterproductively. To reiterate the Chronicle senior editor's letter about me: "Paul has an original way of approaching a story. His writing rarely needs much editing."]

[And there were some instances in which editors seemed to want to make it look as if they were addding something substantial to one of my stories, when they were not.

For example, in late 2000 I wrote a profile of the actor Woody Harrelson that had a terrific lead graf that I wrote; but my editor, Ruthe Stein, unilaterally changed the lede and then handed it over to one of her long-time colleagues on staff, copy-editor Tom Graham (a very nice fellow, by the way), who then loudly said (in a way that guaranteed there would be newsroom witnesses) that we should change the lede to what I had originally written in the first place (and what was eventually published). So anybody overhearing our conversation would have falsely gotten the impression that Tom Graham came up with the lede, when in fact he did not. I did.

One of the only other times anybody contributed a substantial line to one of my stories was when I was working on a sort of trivial Harry Potter piece (Aug. 2000), and editor Ruthe Stein had a sudden inspiration for a revised lede that happened to work perfectly for the article, so I used it. And I remember she made sure the newsroom was crowded when she loudly gave me the one line for that one piece (a la the Tom Graham encounter above), probably so anybody overhearing her would get the false impression that she made contributions to my work that she did not make. Truth is, she never contributed substantial text to any of my pieces, except that one time when she added the lede.

In the words of Ruthe Stein herself: "Paul has an original way of approaching a story. His writing rarely needs much editing."

She did, however, once unilaterally (without telling me) shove a bunch of AP copy into a first-hand story I wrote and reported about one of the main Oscar parties in 1999 (the story ran on March 23, 1999); to be sure, she did put a crawl at the end saying that "Chronicle wires contributed to this report," but I found that credit insufficient and would have preferred -- and still prefer -- direct attribution of source material within the text. And editor Mark Lundgren did a similar edit to an August 2000 news brief of mine, removing all the citations from my story and putting a weak attribution at the bottom. There was also an "all-hands" feature -- on devil imagery in pop culture (2000) -- in which there was a production/composing department error that made it look like my byline (for the main feature, which I did write) also covered an adjacent sidebar (which I only partially wrote.)]

And then there's the sad story of the overambitious copyeditor who once took it upon himself to re-write, with a machete, a very carefully written news story of mine; he is no longer with the company. (His pals on staff spent a week with a magnifying glass trying to show how his edit was somehow defensible; it wasn't, but he had at least a flirtatious relationship with my editor, so you fill in the blanks. At issue: I had painstakingly noted in the story that an arts group had left its tenancy in a building and had not been formally evicted; the copyeditor bluntly re-wrote the copy to say the group had been evicted. And also: I was reporting the story from a building illegally occupied by protesters at around midnight the night before, at some personal risk; was in the office at work at 8am the next morning (fully rested after a night's sleep) to finish the story; was attending a press conference about the building occupation at 10am; filed the story at 12:23pm the same day (hours before the 4pm deadline on August 18, 2000), and there wasn't a flaw in the piece -- until the copy editor unilaterally decided to change things around without asking me. At the very least, given my commitment to the story, don't you think he should've run any suggestion of changes by me?)

Back to Wiegand's retaliatory actions and dirty tricks for a moment. Other examples of dirty tricks include: in a story in 2000 about Cirque du Soleil, he sent me a note mysteriously insisting -- I mean really insisting -- that I not write about the show in my story, which was mostly about the making of a certain Cirque show (and he also told me that in a phone conversation); he seemed to be making the request because he didn't want overlap in coverage, though it turned out my story was the sole piece on Cirque. (I'm sure the AME saw my piece and wondered, I thought we sent this guy to Irvine to cover Cirque.)

And get this one: David Wiegand also warned me very sternly at a 2000 meeting that he wanted "no surprises" in my reporting. Can you imagine Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post telling Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that he wanted no surprises in their reporting in 1972? Imagine if Bradlee had told Woodstein that he just wanted what everybody else was reporting, the White House line?

Well, I had to remind Wiegand at that meeting that great reporting is all about surprises. In fact, my very first story for the San Francisco Chronicle was wildly successful ONLY because I included a big reportorial surprise. That assignment (in April 1997) was merely to write and report a profile on the actress Ann Heche and her new movie "Volcano." But then I came upon a surprise when I uncovered a relationship between Heche and Ellen Degeneres, which nobody had yet reported. I wrote up the surprise revelation, and my story was the first to link the two in print. It was the biggest story of the year, in terms of celebrity journalism.

Wiegand also explicitly insisted that I give preferential treatment to a publicist (named Michael Coates) because the publicist was a personal friend of Chronicle editor Mark Lundgren (the publicist wanted to control coverage of one of his clients). I explicitly refused, so this was also a source of friction (this happened in August 2000, but keep in mind that Wiegand still has his job). "The guy's a good pal of Mark's," Wiegand wrote in his employee evaluation of August 30, 2000, so I shouldn't have "defied" the publicist. (Think about that one: Wiegand was taking me to task for "defying a publicist." For the record: in a meeting, he was harsh, essentially telling me, How dare you defy a publicist. However, in his written evaluation version, he softened his tone a bit, but still went so far as to say -- in writing -- that I was a "tad" too defiant to a publicist, given that the flack was a "good pal" of a Chronicle editor.

At issue (in the above situation) was the fact that the publicist's client, a radio personality on a morning comedy/music show, was insisting that I reveal only his showbiz pseudonym and not his real name in print -- and he had no good reason for making the request (plus, the guy's real name was already widely available on several websites and in several papers anyway). It would be sort of like Dean Martin's publicist asking me not to reveal that Martin's real name was Dino Crocetti. In other words, the publicist, with editor Wiegand's blessing, was trying to control what I could and could not report, and I simply wouldn't allow that.

And there were ambiguous minor incidents, most of them clustered in my last month of employment at the Chronicle (Dec. 2000), that may or may not have been dirty tricks. Examples include: I was physically knocked into -- in front of my own desk! -- at a high rate of speed by one of the male editorial assistants, who didn't even stop to apologize; the human resources department had listed the wrong social security number for me even though I had given them the correct one in writing; my office phone answering machine would malfunction and simply not work at critical junctures in stories I was writing -- and nobody would fix it quickly, despite repeated requests; copy editors would sometimes change only a single word in my stories, but to embarrassing effect; editors would remove citations and other qualifiers (like "he said in an email" in one instance) and Lundgren in particular would openly defend such practices; etc.

And there was also a bizarre incident in October 2000, this one involving a former managing editor of the Chronicle, now news director of CBS affiliate KPIX,
Dan Rosenheim, who wrote a detailed letter to my editor about his "discussion" with me about a minor story I'd written. Only problem is, we had never spoken to each
other in our lives -- ever -- and he knew that. We had never spoken one-on-one or in a group or on the telephone or at a meeting or via email or via snail mail or in any other context, and yet he wrote a detailed letter to my editor about my "conversation" with him. And I'm not leaving anything out of this anecdote,

And I must say that I have never had that happen to me at any other time, where
someone has written a letter fabricating from whole-cloth a "conversation" he has had with me. Makes you wonder what other stories coming from that news organization might be fabricated. (By the way, the letter he wrote was about trivial things;
he objected to the fact that I had written in a news story that "various anchors" were going to anchor a tv show, instead of naming the anchors. The way it looks to me, he examined (under a microscope) a highly detailed (and completely accurate) story I had done, trying to find an error in it, but couldn't find an error in it, so he wrote a complaining letter anyway about the "various anchors" phrase, probably because he was playing tag team with Chronicle e-i-c Matt Wilson (you see, Rosenheim
was the former editor of the Chronicle before he was at KPIX, so he knew Wilson, who at the time was probably trying to find a way to dump employees in anticipation of the Chronicle merger that was coming in a few weeks).

All this now explains why Chronicle management insisted that I conduct a rush-rush interview with Rosenheim several days AFTER Rosenheim had already written and mailed his letter about his "conversation" with me; it seemed to be a sort of a panicky
response by Matt Wilson to his realization that Rosenheim had just committed a journalistic felony by fabricating a "conversation" with me; by having me conduct an interview with Rosenheim AFTER he had already written and mailed his letter,
Wilson/Rosenheim could later muddy the issue and make it so I couldn't claim I had never spoken to him in my life. (And the letter had definitely already been sent and receieved before my interview because, as I prepared for the interview, Chron
editor David Wiegand held up a copy of the Rosenheim letter, saying "we'll talk about it after you talk with Rosenheim.")

Incidentally, the story was about how radio and TV networks planned to cover the 2000 presidential election, and I'm the only one who wrote it.

In any event, I'm sure Rosenheim's not fooling anyone smart or disinterested, though I'm also sure his media pals will reflexively stick up for him. (Lemme guess: they'll probably try to make it look like I've had a memory lapse of some sort. Don't buy it. I audiotape all of my interviews, so I know who I've talked to and when. Rosenheim is either hallucinating or lying. Period.

Over the decades, I have dealt with journalists at CBS News and at CBS affiliates (including PIXer Jerry Eaton), and every one of them (except Rosenheim) has been first class. So here's a test to see whether they will tolerate a fabricator in their ranks or not.

Anyway, I complained about all this (and other issues) to top management contemporaneously and repeatedly. In fact, I brought it up every year that I was there (and afterwards), most notably in a memo to the AME on October 31, 1998, in a meeting with the AME in August 2000, and in letters to Hearst Newspapers on May 11, 2001. (Wiegand's response at the time: "The editing at the Chronicle used to be a lot worse"; the response of the second-in-comand under the AME, Mark Lundgren, was even worse: "If we don't delete the citations, it'll look like we didn't get the story ourselves," Lundgren told me in August 2000.)

After I had exposed him as a plagiarist, Wiegand didn't want me to be hired as a staff writer, and when I was hired over his apparent objections, he undermined my work, apparently so that I wouldn't last very long in the position. (Adding insult to injury, Wiegand is now probably saying, "See, I told you he wouldn't last long in the position" -- when he was the one who consistently undermined my work and made sure the job wouldn't be extended!)

Wiegand's factually fraudulent evaluation is all the more suspicious given that around six months earlier, another senior editor (my main editor at the Chronicle) Ruthe Stein, wrote a glowing letter of recommendation about me (for an academic fellowship) after having worked with me for around three years.

The complete text of that letter of recommendation is posted at the top of this section.

By the way, my formal job title at the Chronicle was determined (in writing) by the AME (Features), not by Wiegand, who has slightly distorted the record on this issue on occasion. Incidentally, if you were to confront the Chronicle about this, they would probably respond with a predictable combination of spin, denial and counter-accusation.

But keep in mind: the features department at the Chronicle has had one scandal after another, it seems, since my departure, with charges ranging from Athan Bezaitis's fabrication of a story to Edward Guthmann's plagiarism. I'm sure if the newspaper's managers were not preoccupied with the paper's staggering circulation losses, they'd take time to clean house.

And don't expect the people who work for Wiegand to contradict their boss and side with me. He controls their paychecks, which they need. That one's easy to figure out.

If Chronicle management were to go through the trouble of hiring an independent IT expert to recover old email related to all these incidents, they'd see that my account is accurate and would have to fire at least three current editors for malfeasance and for lying about their malfeasance.

And everyone would also see that editors up and down the food chain at the Chronicle simply do not admit it when they make mistakes.