I described yesterday how the Chronicle had concocted a false narrative of voter fraud against Ed Lee based entirely on a combination of anonymous and unreliable sources. Now reporters John Cote and Heather Knight have further shown they have no business covering a major city mayor’s race by a front-page story attacking — with virtually no identified corroboration — Dennis Herrera’s record on gay marriage. I’ve read a lot of ridiculous and far-fetched claims in the newspaper about the Mayor’s race, but this may top them all. Dennis Herrera served San Francisco admirably during the gay marriage struggle – and neither he, nor Ed Lee, Leland Yee, Bevan Dufty or anyone else, deserves a front-page smear based on anonymous sources.

Now that the Chronicle’s shoddy journalism has attacked a candidate other than Ed Lee, we may start hearing additional voices’ denouncing the way the newspaper has allowed innuendo and unverified reports to shape its coverage of the 2011 mayor’s race.

An Outrageous Attack

The attack on Dennis Herrera, which will be the subject of a press conference by community leaders to defend him today, is an outrage. And for Herrera to have to spend any time responding to such lies is unfair.

It’s time for John Diaz or another top Chronicle editor to publicly justify the paper's ongoing reliance on anonymous sourcing to defame public officials and others seeking public office. And perhaps to take questions on their reporting practices so they can be subject to the same public accountability they demand of candidates.

If the Chronicle continues operating like Rupert Murdoch’s recently closed News of the World, perhaps our elected officials should think a few times before even considering the Hearst Corporation’s development plans (with Forest City) for 5th and Mission.

At the very least, the Chronicle should now be delivered with a warning label reading “Warning: our stories on the San Francisco mayor’s race have not been independently verified by our reporters and may not be true.”

Or voters should more easily skip the paper’s mayoral coverage altogether, as each day it proves less connected to reality.