A media icon of progressive Northern California, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, has shut down. The staff was called in today and told the Oct. 15 issue will be its last. Just before the meeting, editors found their email, Twitter and Facebook accounts deactivated. The Bay Guardian started in 1966, a year before the Summer of Love, and covered San Francisco and Berkeley through the free speech era, the anti-Vietnam War era, the emergence of gay rights and the Dan White murders, through the gentrification wars right up to the recent changes in San Francisco wrought by technology billions. The operating slogan was to "print the news and raise hell." The Bay Guardian survived a move by rival alt weekly owners from the Phoenix New Times chain to squeeze the older paper out of business, but in 2012 founders Bruce Brugmann and Jean Dibble stepped down and agreed to be bought out by the parent company of the SF Examiner, which later bought the SF Weekly as well.
The vast Bay Guardian website and archives have been taken down and replaced by a brief message from the owners.
The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a leading voice for progressive San Francisco since 1966, has stopped publishing. The San Francisco Media Company, which has published the Guardian since 2012, will publish the final issue on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014.
As a company, we are proud of the SF Bay Guardian's legacy as a community watchdog, a publication with stellar reporting and its passion to push for a better city. It gave a voice to many in the city who might have been otherwise shut out of the corridors of power, kept countless city leaders honest and inspired a new breed of journalism across the nation.
We say good-bye to a member of our media family and to an institution that has been a vital advocate for its vision for San Francisco for nearly half a century. The Guardian leaves San Francisco a better city for the role it has played in shaping it these last decades.
The SF Weekly runs a message from San Francisco Media Company publisher Glenn Zuehls.
"Unfortunately, the economic reality is such that the Bay Guardian is not a viable business and has not been for many years," wrote SFMC publisher Glenn Zuehls in the interoffice communique "When SFMC took over the publication, the company believed the publication’s finances could rise out of the red and benefit from joining forces with the Examiner and the Weekly. We have tried hard to make that happen over the past few years. ... Since then, I have come to realize that this isn’t possible and that the obstacles for a profitable Bay Guardian are too great to overcome. The amount of money that the Bay Guardian loses each week is causing damage to the heart of the company and cannot justify its continued publication. The success of this company, providing the highest quality journalism for our readers along with superior results for our advertisers, is my sole priority."
Zuehls characterized the decision as the most difficult of his career.
Guardian editor Steven T. Jones describes himself and the staff as "in shock. We're still trying to stay cool. We're still trying to absorb this."
The paper's curtailment is effective immediately. The edition hitting the streets tomorrow figures to be its last.
"We are in discussions of the possibility of buying the paper," Jones says. "We'll turn to our community and try to see if this is possible."
Zuehls tells SF Weekly that a sale is possible: "Anybody can come and ask." Exactly what one obtains in buying the Guardian is a matter to still be negotiated.
"I hope the passion of the Guardian lives on. Everyone in San Francisco can learn from that passion," Zuehls continues. But "it has lost revenue since day one and the trend is losing more."
The Bay Guardian staff recovered enough control of the Twitter account to post this item.
Dear community: The SF Media Co. has just pulled its funding from the 48 year old San Francisco Bay Guardian. More details to come.— SF Bay Guardian (@sfbg) October 14, 2014
Staffers and supporters are now posting messages and some of the highlights of past years. Plus: tomorrow's final Bay Guardian issue in PDF format — it's the annual Best of the Bay issue.