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The Feinstein Chronicles: Old media/new media catfight

By Michelle Malkin  •  April 2, 2007 03:48 PM


Still waiting for Dianne Feinstein’s hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, to cover her reported resignation from the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee. Basic questions to be asked and answered: Did she or didn’t she? And if she did, was it because of the reported ethical cloud over her head or not?

Last week, I shared a reader’s e-mail exchange with the paper’s reader representative promising independent investigative reporting from San Fran’s paper of record.

Another reader sent a separate e-mail exchange he had with the paper’s website news director. It reveals a fascinating blue-on-blue spat between the Bay Area old media and new media.

In one corner, you have the establishment, left-wing Chronicle–longtime cheerleader and endorser of Dianne Feinstein.

In the other corner, you have Peter Byrne–left-left-wing, anti-war, anti-establishment investigative journalist funded by The Nation Institute and longtime thorn in the Feinstein/Blum partnership’s side.

With that context in mind, here’s the e-mail exchange. Note the sneering, threatened tone of the SFgate.com editor:

—–Original Message—–
From: Joe
Sent: Friday, March 30, 2007 5:18 PM
To: vk@sfgate.com
Subject: Did Diane Feinstein Resign from her Committee?

Dear SF Chronicle,

I have been watching your paper. There have been rumors on the internet that Diane Feinstein has resigned from her Defense Committee over conflicts of interest.

Have you any idea if this is true or false? If it is true, should you report it? Are you interested in news like this?

It would be shocking if a little internet page had a story several days before you figure it out. Maybe it wouldn’t… maybe you are hoping no one will figure it out.

Sorry, the genie is out of the bottle. You have lost your ability to censor news. I will show my classes the internet story and then your story when it breaks. It is fun to show the kids about credibility.

Catch a clue!

Joe S.


From: “Vlae Kershner”
To: Joe S.
Subject: RE: Did Diane Feinstein Resign from her Committee?
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 17:24:36 -0700

Thanks for writing. Our Washington bureau says it is not true. You should show the report to your class as an example of how special interests can disseminate phony news on the Internet.

— Vlae Kershner, news director, SFGate.com


A little later, Kershner amended her his sneering:

From: “Vlae Kershner”
To: Joe S.
Subject: RE: Did Diane Feinstein Resign from her Committee?
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 18:26:29 -0700

just to clarify my prior message, I’m told that what happened was that when the Democrats won control in January, she got off the Military Construction subcommittee to take the chair of Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior instead.

—–End Messages—–

Yes, but why? Why would she give up her powerful position on MILCON–after years as ranking member in the minority and subordinate to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison–to take the less prestigious position? As she said herself while serving in the minority a few years ago: “With so many military and veterans’ facilities in my home state, I will be working to ensure that California has the resources to fund the projects it needs.”

Why would California need her less now in that position as chair than when she was in the minority?

CNS reports it tried to get a statement from Feinstein on Friday with no luck.

I also followed up and called Feinstein’s office today for a statement. The press office says it will get back to me.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see just what exactly the San Francisco Chronicle determines was “phony” about Byrne’s reporting and whether the paper’s editorial board will also turn up its nose at Feinstein’s reported conflicts of interest–which, as we all know, would be a non-stop, front-page crusade if Feinstein were a Republican…


Where’s the rest of the MSM? The liberal blogs?

Howie Kurtz, the NYTimes, the LA Times, anybody: How about a profile of Peter Byrne? Who is this guy? Shouldn’t he be an example of the kind of investigative citizen journalism the MSM prefers over opinion blogging? How much funding has The Nation provided him? What is driving him? Is his muck-raking more right than wrong, or what? What does he think of the Chronicle’s derision? Or the strange bedfellows he is making with conservative bloggers/websites publicizing his work?

There are good stories waiting to be covered here.



Jason Smith had an e-mail exchange with Kershner, too:

From: Jason Smith
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 1:00 PM
To: vk@sfgate.com
Subject: Dianne Feinstein coverage
Importance: High

Ms. Kershner,

I’m curious whether you see a potential story in the fact that Senator Dianne Feinstein, while sitting on the MILCON committee, approved billions of dollars in awards to contractors owned by her husband? Have you assigned this story to one of your investigative reporters? Have you received any comments from Feinstein’s camp? Do you find it ironic that Feinstein remains on the Senate Ethics Committee despite this apparent conflict of interest on her part?

Basically, I’m just curious whether your paper sees a story here at all. I’m sure if this had been a Republican involved, your paper would’ve done much more investigation on much less evidence. How do you defend the appearance of bias?

Jason Smith

Her His chastened response:

From: Vlae Kershner
To: Jason Smith
Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 3:04 PM
Subject: RE: Dianne Feinstein coverage

I’m just the editor of the website — we don’t have any online-only reporters. Maybe you should redirect that question to Dick Rogers, the Chronicle’s reader representative, at readerrep@sfchronicle.com

Jason writes: “Somehow, I just picture the hands flying in the air as if to say, ‘whoa, I’m not involved, I’m innocent I tell ya!'”


DiFi and the San Francisco Chronicle
A question for Dianne Feinstein
DiFi and the culture of corruption
Dianne Feinstein’s ethics

Posted in: Dianne Feinstein