Bronstein was born in Atlanta, Georgia on October 4, 1950. He is the father of Roan Joseph Bronstein.
As a child, Bronstein’s family moved frequently. Much of his youth was spent in Montreal, Canada. Eventually, he settled in California. Bronstein attended but did not graduate from the University of California, Davis. While at Davis, he got his first taste of journalism. He wrote movie reviews for the school paper.
Bronstein’s first professional job was as a reporter for KQED-TV in San Francisco. In 1980, The San Francisco Examiner hired him as a beat reporter. He went on to report from conflict areas around the world as a foreign correspondent for eight years, such as Peru, the Middle East, El Salvador and the Philippines.
In 1991, Bronstein was promoted to the executive editor position at the Examiner. He held that position until 2000. When an alligator escaped into a city lake in 1996, Bronstein arrived in scuba gear to assist with the capture, but police turned him away.
Hearst Corporation, the parent company of the Examiner, bought the San Francisco Chronicle in 2000. The Chronicle was the other major daily paper for the San Francisco Bay Area. Hearst already owned the Examiner and chose to merge the two newsrooms. Bronstein became senior vice president and executive editor of the Chronicle in November 2000.
As editor, Bronstein had the difficult task of building trust and consensus between two previously rival news teams. The merger happened at the same time as a general decline in the newspaper industry, making the job even more difficult. Bronstein made staffing changes, created new features, and attempted to bring the Chronicle into the Internet age, all while preserving the Bay Area cultural viewpoint. In the first two years of the merger, staff was reduced from 520 to 485 and there was less content within the daily paper.
In January 2008, Hearst Corporation announced Bronstein as editor-at-large for both the Chronicle and Hearst Newspapers. In his new role, Bronstein wrote a weekly column for the Chronicle. He also wrote blog entries for SFGate.com. At the Chronicle, he was replaced as editor by Arizona Republic editor Ward Bushee.
Bronstein left Hearst Newspapers and the Chronicle in March 2012. He had been named chairman of the board for the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2011. Upon leaving the Chronicle, his role at the Center expanded.
The tabloid press has closely followed Bronstein’s personal life. He has been married four times. He married actress Sharon Stone on February 14, 1998. The couple separated in 2003. They completed their divorce on January 29, 2004. At first, Stone and Bronstein shared joint custody of their adopted son, Roan. In 2008, a judge gave Bronstein full custody of their son.
In 2001, Bronstein was attacked by a Komodo dragon at the Los Angeles Zoo. He was on a private tour, and a keeper had invited him into the enclosure. Bronstein was bitten on his bare foot, as the keeper had told him to take off his white shoes and socks, which the keeper stated could potentially excite the Komodo dragon as they were the same color as the white rats the zoo fed the dragon. Although he escaped, Bronstein needed to have several tendons in his foot reattached surgically.
Bronstein is married to his fourth wife, Christine (Borders) Bronstein. This is the second marriage for Christine (Borders) Bronstein, who founded a social network for women called “A Band of Wives.” The couple have two children.
In 1986, Bronstein was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos, long-standing dictator of the Philippines. Bronstein’s work in the Philippines also earned him awards from the Associated Press, the Overseas Press Club, the World Affairs Council, and the Media Alliance.