Sine 1966, the San Francisco Bay Guardian has been the voice of the city's left—but no more. As of this morning, the venerable institution of rebellion will close. Its last issue will hit stands tomorrow.
The paper's demise had been rumored for awhile, especially after 2011, when the SFBG was bought by a media conglomerate that includes the S.F. Weekly and the Examiner. Previous to that, the Weekly and the Guardian had been locked in a bitter feud over advertising that resulted in a 2008 lawsuit. The new business group's head, Todd Vogt, vowed to turn around the paper's fortunes, letting go its longtime Editor in Chief, Tim Redmond, in June of 2013 (Redmond later started his own website, 48 Hills). But Vogt too was forced out of his position in May of this year.
In an email this morning to staff, publisher Glenn Zuehls wrote: "Unfortunately, the economic reality is such that the Bay Guardian is not a viable business and has not been for many years. 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. I joined SFMC in June and was hopeful that I could make good on that potential. I was excited to see if the Guardian could be a part of the long-term stability and growth of this unique media partnership.
"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.
"I am a huge fan of the Bay Guardian and of the talented journalists that work here. This is the hardest decision that I have had to make in my 20 year newspaper career."
Business troubles aside, the demise of the Guardian leaves a hole in San Francisco's media at a time when we can least afford one. Its impact was felt via strongly reported stories on gentrification, the impact of the technology sector on the city, and social justice. At its best, it had no peer.