Thursday, November 15, 2007

updated November 15, 2007


This website includes additional information about points in my resume (posted at

There are three sidenotes below, each expanding on a particular part of the resume.

The first note is about my career at the San Francisco Chronicle.

The second note is about the influence of my Los Angeles Times story on the movie "Chinatown."

The third is about an investigative story I reported in 1989 (but was never published).




My career at the San Francisco Chronicle is best summed up in a letter of recommendation written by my main editor at the paper, senior editor Ruthe Stein, after she had worked with me for three years.

Here is the complete text of that letter of recommendation for an academic fellowship(minus the intro and outro, and without the handwritten note she sent with the letter), dated January 14, 2000:

"Paul first came to our attention with some freelance pieces he had written for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. I assigned him a story to try him out, and was delighted with the results, as I have been with the dozens of stories he has written for us subsequently. Paul has an original way of approaching a story. His writing rarely needs much editing. And best of all, he is completely reliable. If we ask him to do a deadline story, we are confident it will arrive on time and on target. I never have to worry about his work.

I use him primarily for film stories. My colleague David Wiegand has assigned him theater stories. David has been impressed with Paul's depth of knowledge and with his initiative in going beyond the obvious in the stories he writes.

Paul also goes beyond what is expected in terms of researching his subject. He sends me dates and stories he has used as background, and I'm always impressed by how much work he has gone to. If he interviews a movie actor, he will rent the films that person has been in. It shows in the well-researched stories that Paul turns in."

That letter above is a very accurate description of my

time at the Chronicle. If anyone at the Chronicle has

since said anything negative about my work, they've not

said it to me (even though everyone there has had my

email address for ten years).

But be forewarned: some editors there might be angry about the fact that I went to Hearst newspapers on May 11, 2001, after I'd left the paper, to make them aware of the same chronic editorial lapses at the Chronicle that I had brought up to management in previous years. So my guess is that certain Chronicle editors are now probably not saying such nice things anymore, simply because they're miffed that I talked to Hearst (which is the new parent company of the paper).

I took my info to Hearst because I believed -- and still believe -- that editors there should be held accountable for having consistently edited my stories with an eye toward making them slightly less excellent.


First, some background. My current freelance writing career has its roots in the year 2000. After three years of writing and reporting features as a freelancer (based in Los Angeles) for The San Francisco Chronicle, the paper hired me as a staff writer in June 2000. To take the job, I left L.A. for good and moved to San Francisco within 9 days -- and I did it gladly, because I figured it would be a long-term job (even though it was formally designated a 6-month position).

I arrived in SF and got to work immediately, writing sometimes 6,000 words a week on a variety of subjects, mostly on television and film. But within six months, there was a corporate merger at the Chronicle; Hearst Corporation had bought the newspaper and was merging it with another local paper they owned.

Because of the merger, there was an influx of employees streaming into the Chronicle from the Hearst paper, which meant the Chronicle now had three television writers, when they only needed one. Since I was the last one hired, I was the first out.

Still, I left the Chronicle on good terms, with a record that included a zero percent correction rate (the paper never had to run an erratum in my 4 years there), no missed deadlines (not even a deadline extension), good relations with staffers, and what I'd like to think are some excellent and groundbreaking stories. (Just take a look at my story on Lawrence Ferlinghetti and "Howl" that ran in the Chronicle on October 28, 2000, and compare it to any feature that ran in the Chronicle in the year 2000. If the paper ran a better feature story that year, please send me a copy at, because I haven't seen it.)

Interesting that the stories of mine that were completely untouched by any editor are some of the best I did for the paper: the Ferlinghetti story, my Carroll O'Connor profile, my feature on Siegfried and Roy, etc. (And this would be easy to confirm, if the paper wanted to; management could get an IT pro to retrieve past emails -- I sent all my manuscripts by email in those days.)

But the Chronicle stint was also undermined by the fact that I was assigned (in my last six months) to report to an editor whose editorial lapses I had exposed as a freelancer years earlier, and hence he took some unfair retaliatory actions.
(David Wiegand is the editor's name; and I think it's fair to expose journalistic malpractitioners, much as media reporters regularly expose them in the press. Journalism, after all, is about revealing not about concealing, and if we are to have any credibility with the public, we have to be completely transparent about sources and methods -- unless we're dealing with confidential sources, of course. Further, if I were to incompletely refer to the person as a "senior editor," that description would taint all the senior editors there, and that wouldn't be fair.)

So now I was back to freelancing, this time from San Francisco, for a newspaper industry that was declining (because of the rise of the Internet). And it didn't help that I had a former editor who seemed to have an ax to grind.


Even though I was selling stories to The Washington Post and Reuters and others, and though I was generating new story ideas independently on a weekly basis by mid-decade, I frankly think more of my stories should have been published during this period by various publications.

For example, the piece I wrote for The Toronto Star about the immediate television coverage of the 9/11 attacks (see my homepage) is now a widely applauded piece, but incredibly it was rejected by dozens of papers in the U.S. Hard to believe, but I had to go to Canada to publish that one. Why? I don't know.

And there are other stories I wrote during this period that are quite obviously excellent and yet couldn't find a buyer. For example, my story in 2003 about the rock band Phish that presented the first-ever audiotaped interview (from 1989) with bandleader Trey Anastasio was ultimately published by New Times and has since become a very popular story on the Internet as well as a significant pop cultural artifact. No buyers in '03 but one.

See my website at for other unpublished pieces that are undeniably notable, even extraordinary, and yet have still not found a publisher (e.g., article revealing new information about the life of J.D. Salinger; funny satiric piece on little-known popes in papal history; fresh reporting about the 9/11 attacks that later formed the basis of an FBI investigation; and numerous others).

Was there some sort of blacklist going on? Was my former editor at the Chronicle interfering with my career in some way? Possibly.

It may be rooted in the fact that I exposed the plagiarism of San Francisco Chronicle senior editor David Wiegand on February 9, 1999, and at other times (he's still a top features editor at the paper, by the way).

In apparent retaliation, Wiegand wrote a factually fraudulent employee evaluation review about me on August 30, 2000, while otherwise undermining my work (worse, he tried to insert the plagiarized line under my byline, though I was able to stop him from doing so).

After I left the paper, there is the strong appearance that some at the Chronicle were bad-mouthing me to the Washington Post and to other papers that I subsequently wrote for, undermining my later editorial relationships.


"Fraud" is a strong word to use, but it's the word that most

accurately fits David Wiegand. And it's simple to prove in his case.

First, he signed time sheets of mine while I was staff writer

at the Chronicle that stated, accurately, that I never missed a

day and never came in late. (In fact, I worked seven and eight

day weeks regularly and came in to work hours early on most days.)

Plus, I never missed a deadline. Never even requested a deadline

extension. Never missed a meeting.

But, in August 2000, he also wrote a factually fraudulent

evaluation of my work performance saying, essentially, that I

was late and absent. And he signed the evaluation.

That's fraud. That's willful misrepresentation. And it's simple

to prove -- I'd need only present the time sheets and the


I'm trying to think how Wiegand would even begin to defend

himself on such a charge. (Lemme guess: in 2000, when he would send

me to cover, say, a trade convention in Pasadena for the week,

he would insist that I represent that week on the time sheet

by writing "in lieu." Might that have been a dirty trick?

Is it possible that he's now telling his boss that "in lieu"

meant I was actually absent when he knew full well I was

busting my ass reporting in the field at his behest?)

This is not a minor point. I was in the first six

months of my stint as a staff writer, and his phony

evaluation probably meant the difference between

an extension of my position and the end of it.

And let me add that thin-skinned I am not. I'm

always open to hearing any criticism of my work --

but this is different: this was an editor brazenly

lying about the factual record of my employment in

an apparent retaliation to my whistleblowing.

So Wiegand was engaged in willful misrepresentation. And he also misrepresented a conversation I had with a copy editor who was trying to screw up the lede of one of my stories; Wiegand made it seem like the disagreement had to do with a pronoun mix-up, when it was actually about her attempt to awkwardly re-word a sentence.)

Further, the instance of Wiegand's own plagiarism is clear cut. The line he wanted to put in my story on the rock musical "Rent" was:

"Its reception has been made poignant by the fact that its creator, Jonathan Larson, died just before the opening, at the age of 35."

The line he lifted from The New York Times (March 17, 1996, Arts & Leisure) was:

"Its reception has been made poignant by the fact that its creator, Jonathan Larson, died just before the opening, at the age of 35."

Thankfully, I immediately recognized the line as one from The New York Times and was able to stop him from putting the stolen line in my story (he later added a different version of the passage and pretended he didn't know what I was talking about).

A minor case of plagiarism, to be sure, but that's not the point. The big question is: why did he want to add that line in the first place? After all, it was the only line Wiegand wanted to add in a 1,500 word story. It's not as if he had added, say, 500 words, and among those words was the stolen line. No, he had the spitball all lined up. At the very least, why didn't he want to add an attribution after I told him the line was from The Times?

The appearance of what he intended to do is clear: Wiegand wanted to put a plagiarized line in my story so that he could later point to it as proof that I had plagiarized. But I stopped him from doing so, though that didn't stop him from trying other dirty tricks.


Below is a two-page memo I sent to the highest ranking features editor at the San Francisco Chronicle on October 31, 1998. It documented a chronic and persistent pattern by editors of making avoidable errors in the course of publishing my work.

I emailed this to AME Liz Lufkin on October 31, 1998, and she received and answered the memo some days later. (I printed out this copy of the letter on November 17, 1998.) I would go on to write for the Chronicle for over two more years and was promoted in 2000. But absolutely nothing was done to stop the ongoing editorial errors that I had brought to light in this memo and elsewhere.

The memo was unilaterally labeled "confidential" by me, so I am hereby unilaterally "de-classifying" the document for publication here!

This memo shows exactly what the problem at the Chronicle was

in the four years I was there: they were making mistakes, and I

was trying to stop them from making mistakes. Period. There

was no lack of communication. There was no lack of understanding.

There was no [fill in the corporate spin]. Editors there were

simply making avoidable, persistent errors, and I was simply

trying to stop them.


Hmm. Let's see. I just posted a memo (above) that I

wrote to my former boss in 1998, so I suppose I can

expect her to say not nice things about me in

retaliation. What might she say? Hard to know. If I

were to guess, she might try to tell a distorted version

of the following incident:

We were having lunch together in San Francisco in

August 2000, and the talk turned to the rock band

the Rolling Stones, who she said she had once met.

So we discussed what we thought were the band's best

songs, and the song "Start Me Up" came up, and we both

commented on the cleverness of the lyric. And she asked

me, What is the final punch line of the song (which she

knew but said she couldn't recall), and I quoted it to

her (the bawdy, "You make a dead man come").

Our conversation continued, she was not the least bit offended

by the lyric that she had asked me to repeat, and she never

mentioned our talk again.

But I'm now thinking that she could easily re-tell and

distort that story by leaving out a crucial element

(e.g., that she asked me to tell her what that sexually

suggestive line was). And by such a sin of omission, she

could make it look like I was -- how to put this? -- using

questionable language to her in the workplace. Be



Here is a side-by-side comparison of an

article I wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle,

contrasting my original with the published version.

The top two pages of copy is the manuscript I

sent via email to my editor before anybody

had seen it; the last three scanned pages are the

published version. (The article presented here

is my profile of film director Pedro Almodovar that

was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on

December 18, 1999.)

As I mentioned, nobody had yet seen the manuscript

before I sent it (and no editor at the Chron

was ever privy to the interviews on which my stories

were based until I sent them my story, which included

quotes from said interviews).

As you can see, the editor made counter-productive

changes throughout the piece, and did so without

telling me (from the second line -- changing

"arrived late at the party" to "arrived late to

the party" -- to the botched edit of the five

final grafs).

Here are the primary documents.


The above manuscript is exactly the copy I emailed

to Ruthe Stein. My suggestion to Chronicle/Hearst

management is: instead of going into a defensive

crouch or a smear-the-victim mode about this,

why don't you simply get one of your IT guys to

retrieve the email from Chronicle computers so you

can confirm what I'm saying? (Email never disappears,

even after many years.) Wouldn't it be worth it to you,

if only to find out whether one of your editors

is a liar or not? Remember, I've posted this

manuscript knowing full well that the paper could

easily dig up the original email independently, so

it's obvious I'm being truthful.



Before you decide to write for the San Francisco

Chronicle, ask yourself whether you'd like to see

your own copy treated this way. (Some of the same

editors responsible for the edits here are

still employed at the paper.)


Here is another side-by-side comparison of a typical

article I wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle,

contrasting my original with the published version.

The top copy is the first page of the manuscript I

filed before any editor had seen it; the bottom copy

is the published version. (The article presented here

is my profile of actress Anne Heche that was published

in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 20, 1997.)

As I mentioned, nobody had yet seen the manuscript

before I sent it. Hence, every single element of the

published version that isn't in this original manuscript was

added or subtracted by someone at the Chronicle.

(Frankly, the only change by an editor that I can

see is that my editor changed "Ellen...smiles wide"

to the more awkward "Ellen...smiles widely" -- which

sounds as unnatural as having your dentist say,

"Open widely." It's typical of the sort of small

but counter-productive changes that Chronicle editors

made in my work throughout my tenure at the paper).

As you can see, at the top of my manuscript, I

wrote "1:40AM," which is the time when I

started being charged for computer time

at the public copy center where I was sending

this. (I'm presenting only the first

pages of both versions here.)


Here is another original manuscrpt contrasted

with the published version.

The top two pages of copy is the manuscript I

sent via email to my editor before anybody

had seen it; the last two scanned pages are the

published version. (The article presented here

is my profile of entertainer Merv Griffin that

was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on

June 29, 1998.)

As I mentioned, nobody had yet seen the manuscript

before I sent it (and no editor at the Chron

was ever privy to the interviews on which my stories

were based until I sent them my story, which included

quotes from said interviews).

As you can see, I wrote a catchy and natural lede for

the piece, but Chron editor David Wiegand undermined it

by insisting that I write a new lead sentence for the

article -- and do so within a few minutes (that's how

the lede was changed to the one in the article). But here's

the way I wrote it before anyone at the Chronicle saw it:



Here is one more manuscript comparison with

the published piece.

The top four pages of copy is the manuscript I

sent via email to my editor before anybody

had seen it; the last two scanned pages are the

published version. (The article presented here

is my profile of entertainers Siegfried and Roy that

was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on

October 17, 1999.)

Again, nobody had yet seen the manuscript

before I sent it (and, again, no editor at the Chron

was ever privy to the interviews on which my stories

were based until I sent them my story, which included

quotes from said interviews). Hence, every single element of the

published version that isn't in this original manuscript was

added or subtracted by someone at the Chronicle (I don't

think much -- or anything -- was changed by any editor

in this one).


My feature stories for the Chronicle were all based on

interviews that I exclusively conducted

with the subjects of my stories, and those features

would be about whatever I uncovered in those

interviews. For example, if I had been assigned to

write a story on, say, actor Mel Gibson, I would have

first interviewed Gibson before writing a story based on my

interview with him (or based mostly on my interview).

So if Gibson, during the Q&A, had jumped atop a table

and ranted, then my story, or most of it, would

have been about his rant.

To use a real life example: I was once assigned to write

and report a profile on actress Anne Heche, and the shape

and direction of the piece was completely determined by

what I found out when I went to talk with her (I caught

her hugging Ellen DeGeneres outside a hotel, and that

became the lead and the focus of the article).

My editors were never privy to any of the info in my

interviews -- until I sent them my

finished article, which would always include quotes and

info from the interview. Hence, the shape, structure,

angle and direction of my feature stories were always

determined by me (breaking news stories at the paper,

however, were always more collaborative).

Also, I've conducted thousands of interviews and asked

countless questions as a journalist since 1984 and

have always come up with and asked my own questions,

which have always been based on my own research and

reporting and natural curiosity and spontaneous thinking.

(There have been only three minor exceptions to this:

in 1996, my editor suggested I ask O.J. Simpson a

particular question; in 2000, my editor suggested

one -- only one -- of the many questions that I

asked Woody Allen; and in 1999, my editor again

suggested I ask actor Will Smith a particular question.)

Incidentally, I never signed a contract as a freelance writer

for the San Francisco Chronicle in the 1990s -- not once --

and always did every single bit of the research that

appeared in my freelance stories and interviews. No exceptions.

For additional information about my career at the Chronicle, go to




My 1999 "Chinatown" story for The L.A. Times was influential enough that it was plagiarized in a 2000 book by John Wiley & Sons, "The Film Director: Updated for Today's Filmmaker, the Classic Practical Reference to Motion Picture and Television Techniques, Second Edition," by Richard L. Bare, with a foreword by James Garner (ISBN: 0-02-863819-0, published May 2000).

The book has a section on the movie "Chinatown" that includes
at least eight instances in which Bare uses material from my Los
Angeles Times story, "Sleuthing 'Chinatown'" (July 8, 1999), without
specifically citing it.

At the end of his book, Bare mentions my story in a generalized
bibliography (not in specific endnotes). He doesn't cite my piece within
the text and doesn't mention the places in his book where he used my

As I mentioned, there are at least eight instances in which Bare
quotes, paraphrases or otherwise uses information from my story without
properly crediting me. (I've included eight juxtaposed examples below.)

The reader clearly gets the impression that Bare himself unearthed
the material in the "Chinatown" section of the book, when in
fact I came up with the hard-to-find information (info that was available
to me only because I scored a rare interview with Polanski).

And you can also see how Bare cynically and slightly modifies several of
my passages (probably as a defense against possible charges of plagiarism),
though his alterations make it no less a case of theft, since his text closely tracks and parallels my own while stealing my core reportage.

It's worth noting that people are fired in journalism every year for far lesser cases of plagiarism. So I can't help but think this case was kept under the radar because John Wiley & Co. has lots of friends in the biz.

Here are the eight main examples of the book’s plagiarism of my story:

MY STORY: Today, Towne says "Polanski was right about the end"....Towne now says that
Polanski is "virtually...the only director I would willingly work for as a writer."
THE BARE BOOK: Today, Towne admits he was wrong about the ending and adds that he
would gladly work with Roman Polanski again."
MY STORY: "A pivotal eight-week writing session [followed] in which Polanski and
Towne dismantled Towne's script and then painstakingly rebuilt it piece by piece."
THE BARE BOOK: "During an eight-week-long session held before shooting began, the
writer and director tore apart Towne's original script and reshaped it into the final draft that
Polanski shot..."


MY STORY: The most substantial disagreement was about the ending of the film, in which
Towne wanted Cross to be killed by Evelyn. Polanski insisted on a more disturbing
finale....With the backing of Evans, Polanski eventually won the battle over the ending.
THE BARE BOOK: The biggest fight that the writer and the director had seemed to be over
the ending. Towne wanted a happier one, while Polanski insisted on a tragic conclusion.
Polanski won out, with Evans in his corner.


MY STORY: Their writing workday would begin around 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning and
would last until around 7 or 8 in the evening -- and was usually followed by a night of hard
THE BARE BOOK: Polanski and Towne would spend eight to ten hours a day writing,
rewriting and haggling. At night, they would go out and party...


MY STORY: "'We took the script and broke it down into one-sentence summations of each
scene,'" Towne says. "Then we took a scissors and cut those little scenes...and pasted them
on the door of his house where we were working. And the game was to shift those things
around until we got them in an order that worked."
THE BARE BOOK: Polanski would roll up his sleeves and encapsulate each scene onto a
card, tacking them in a row on the wall. Then he would begin to shift the cards, rearranging
the sequence of events until he felt he had a shootable story line.


MY STORY: Polanski says he never once thought during the making of the movie that it
would become a classic.
THE BARE BOOK: Neither [Polanski nor Towne] had the slightest inkling their creation
would become a classic of film noir.


MY STORY: ...Most Paramount executives openly predicted the film would fail.
THE BARE BOOK: No one at Paramount was betting that the picture would earn its cost


MY STORY: Four years earlier, his wife, Sharon Tate...was sadistically murdered by
members of Charles Manson's gang. [Please note that the relation in time of the film to the Manson murders had not been brought up in print before my article, as far as I know.]
BARE'S BOOK: Roman Polanski, four years after his wife was murdered by the infamous
Manson family, was summoned by producer Robert Evans to direct "Chinatown."





Some of my best investigative reporting was in a story I wrote in 1989 and 1990 that was never published (because key sources wouldn't go on the record), but it bears mentioning here. The story began in 1989, when I read a brief item in Billboard magazine that reported that a young Cash Box magazine staffer in the sales chart department of the Nashville branch office, Kevin Hughes, had been murdered in what some observers were calling a crime linked to industry corruption in the Nashville area.

As a freelance writer/reporter in New York at the time, it was exactly the sort of story I wanted to cover: an investigative piece that might also do some public good. And it was also a heartbreaking tragedy. So, I pitched the story to the Village Voice, and a senior editor there expressed interest and agreed to take a look at my findings, though he didn't formally assign it.

Within months, I had essentially solved the crime, both by talking to sources and by using an innovative method of sales chart analysis. To summarize: the murdered staffer was honest and apparently refused to give a high chart number to a promoter in exchange for money. When I analyzed the chart numbers of a record promoted by the murder suspect, I noticed something suspicious: the chart numbers before Hughes took over the charts were shockingly high compared to the chart numbers after he took over the charts. What I discovered is that Hughes was giving the record the chart number it probably deserved (a low one, and one that was similar to the clean number Billboard had given it), not the high number that had been given by his predecessor -- a high number that might have been the product of a bribe. I took my information to CBS's "Sixty Minutes" in October 1990 and they were interested -- until a key source refused to go public. The story was never published or aired. And for many years, my theory about the crime was widely disparaged (one police investigator called it "a Hollywood theory"; some former Cash Boxers seemed to express support for the corrupt elements of the industry linked to the crime; and during the week I was in talks with "60 Minutes," I was even physically assaulted and injured on a New York street in an incident that might have been related to my reporting). Finally, in 2003, at the trial of the person who was eventually arrested for the crime, my 1989 theory about the suspect, the motive and the murder's link to industry corruption was ultimately proved completely correct.



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