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.
San Francisco Bay Guardian | San Francisco Media Co.
There have been a lot of print publication closures in the last 10 years or so, but this one hits me a little harder than most. Though I haven’t read it in a long time, The Guardian always seemed like the model of the politically progressive weekly (the Voice, alas, was not really an entity by the time I showed up here, and I never really picked up the Reader in Chicago, though they are still doing good work. I just fell out of the habit).
Reading this made me remember how important the weeklies were to me when I lived in San Francisco. Every Wednesday for those few years, I’d pick up copies of the San Francisco Weekly and The Guardian and take them to my favorite lunch spot, a middle eastern place called Krivaar. I was working in a law office downtown. I’d sit in Krivaar and eat my lunch, either a gyro plate or a falafel plate (I still ate meat in those days) and read as much of both papers as I could. It was one of the highlights of my week.
In the SF Weekly, there was a weekly comic by Dave Eggers, later of McSweeney’s fame, called Smarter Feller. It was a half-page comic on page two, featured prominently. At that point, my friends and I knew Eggers as the guy who used to publish Might magazine. We kind of looked up to him a little bit because Might seemed very cool, and he was our age, and he was doing interesting things in the world. And Smarter Feller was a very funny comic. It was kind of all over the place with different kinds of jokes, I can’t really describe it now.
Eggers used to do this bit where he would give away the original panels to his comics, but in a unique way. He kept them in the trunk of his car, and he kept the trunk unlocked. And he drew a picture of his car and his license plate and said, hey, if you want to pop the trunk and take an original panel, be my guest, just sign the sheet on the clipboard inside so I knew who has what.
And then there was word that he was leaving San Francisco. We didn’t know it then but he was moving to New York for an editor’s job and to start McSweeney’s. And so he did a comic where he invited the city to a going away sale. He asked people to bring watermelons to exchange for his possessions. I went with a friend and there he was on the porch with his little brother, a bunch of empty boxes, and quite a few watermelons. The only thing he had left to exchange were a bunch of old telephone bills.
One story in a weekly had a profound affect on me personally. An item in the Guardian advertised a listening party for a new Flaming Lips album called Zaireeka at the Bottom of the Hill. I went with my friend Josh, and loved it, and it gave me ideas, and later I wrote a 33 1/3 book about it. It was a watershed moment for how I thought about music. Would I have done so if I hadn’t been to that amazing listening party and heard it properly? I doubt it. And I also don’t think there was any way I would have known about that event without seeing it in the paper.
None of which is to say that alt weeklies are some perennial part of culture—they only started in the middle of last century. People use the internet for it now, which is cool. There are a billion other questions about news, how we get it, how it’s useful as a check to keep people in power, a lot of much more important stuff that I didn’t touch on here. But it was an odd and special thing while it lasted, the idea that all this useful information was in those metal bins on the street.
Walking down Valencia late last night I passed an empty Guardian box with its door swung open. Inside were real estate listings and a couple pieces of trash. That box will never be filled again; soon someone will remove it entirely, or maybe not, who knows. One more piece of the San Francisco I love, a piece that like Richardson I considered part of the city’s soul, disappears.
Earlier yesterday I unintentionally walked straight through the belly of Dreamforce on my way to catch the 12. The intersection of 4th & Howard was unrecognizable: an enormous balloon structure obscured the carousel outside the Zeum; flatbed trucks carting ads for companies of unclear purpose circled endlessly; hundreds of blank-staring business types milled around, most wearing blue or white button-ups that perfectly set off their cyan conference lanyards.
This is San Francisco now. The Guardian and Ted Gullicksen die the same day, during a massive celebration of the voracious industry necessitated both their crucial, urgent work against it. This year’s One City One Book is Tales of the City, and I wonder if in forty years San Francisco will read nostalgically about a time when it ate itself alive.
There is nothing left for me here. I’m more glad than ever to be leaving.