Stateside With Rosalea Barker
Well, shave me legs and call me Nermal! Never did I think I'd see the day when a political operative uttered the word
"Pshaw" on television. But such is the whacky world of KRON4's Sunday morning show "4 The Record" that the utterance
looked entirely in place, even coming from the lips of a young blonde Republican in response to a comment by an old
Now into its fourth week at this new time slot, the former Friday-night, studio-based show has really fallen on its feet
coming live from a cafe, despite all the nightmare scenarios that setting might entail. Admittedly, not a whole big
bunch of people are cafe-bound at 9.30 on a Sunday morning, but there's still a bit of foot traffic and coffee-grinding
in the background.
In the foreground, at a small table replete with red-and-white checkered tablecloth, sit the show's host Phil Matier and
his sidekick, former San Francisco Mayor and California State Assembly Speaker, Willie Brown. Seated between them, a
local or national political operative or journalist tries to get a word in edgewise each week.
Matier is a San Francisco Chronicle journalist who has been doing bits and pieces of stuff for KRON4 ever since that
station lost its affiliation with NBC and managed to reinvent itself as the liveliest news source in the Bay Area. He's
always done most of his morning news interviews outside on the street or in coffee bars, linking to the studio, and it's
a style that works well for him.
The pairing of Matier and Willie Brown was a stroke of genius. Matier has the look and demeanour of those old-time
cynical journalists you'd find propping up the bar in the St George back in the days it was a hotel and there were two
daily papers plus a Saturday evening Sports Post in Wellington. Da Mayor, by contrast, is notoriously urbane,
silver-tongued, and loquacious when he's on a roll. Think Winston Peters not as king-maker but as king.
But pity the poor meat in this wry sandwich. A couple of Matier's Chron colleagues have appeared, as has a Newsweek
reporter, and this morning's guest was a GOP (Republican) operative based in Sacramento. The one thing all these guests
have in common is that they're women, which leads to one of the criticisms I have of the show.
They're getting better at not doing it, but both Matier and Brown have a tendency to pat the shoulders or arms of their
guests, which looks sleazy at worst and patronizing at best. Especially as the one person whose shoulder they didn't pat
was a more senior journalist at the Chron than Matier is. This morning's guest had obviously picked up on this trait,
and she took the initiative by patting them instead.
Interspersed with the commentary and banter, pre-recorded segments touch on the topical political issues at national,
state, and local levels. This morning, topics included the Rove appearances before the Grand Jury, the upcoming special
election/referendum on Governor Schwarzenegger's initiatives, and the re-opening of the De Young Art Museum in San
The rebuilding is an example of how foundations fill in the gap left by the US aversion to public money being used for
things like the arts. The De Young is a public gallery in Golden Gate Park but it was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta
earthquake and had to be demolished. Two attempts were made to have the San Francisco voters approve bond measures to
finance its rebuilding.
Both measures failed and into the breach stepped public philanthropy. I'll put a link to the full story at the bottom of
this post, and reserve my comments for the look of the building from the outside--it looks like a copper-covered
aircraft carrier bearing the control tower from SFO. You either hate it or you love it, but the view of San Francisco
from within the tower is positively panoramic.
The De Young's been open 24 hours a day all this opening weekend, and the lines of folks waiting to get in for free to
see the collection of art and artifacts from around the world has been four hours long at times. It happens that the
24-hour opening has coincided with BART running trains 24-hours a day this weekend while the Bay Bridge has been
partially closed--also for a project necessitated by the '89 quake.