Today the San Francisco Weekly could be changing hands to become part of a new local media three-way with the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. According to multiple sources close to the deal speaking with the SF Appeal, the official announcement could come sometime this morning. Additional sources at the Examiner also confirmed the sale to SFist.
[Note: see updates below for official confirmation.]
The Appeal first reported the potential sale of a major local print publication back on December 20th of last year when Todd Vogt, President, Co-Owner and Publisher of the Examiner and the Bay Guardian, claimed to be making the announcement that day. At the time, local media players speculated Vogt's San Francisco Newspaper Company would be buying either the Weekly, the East Bay Express or the Bay Area Reporter to round out its trio of local holdings. (The independently owned Express was quick to point out that they were "definitely not for sale.")
Vogt, who has a fascinating twitter feed, has been vocal about his love of disposable paper printing. (And of SFist, but that's neither here nor there.) As he explained in December, the buyout would "give us, by far, the greatest readership, reach and audience in the Bay Area, effectively covering every demographic in every corner of The City." Be afraid, Chronicle.
As for concerns that local media consolidation could be a bad thing, the other bigshot newspapermen in the Bay Area don't seem too worried. Earlier this week former Chronicle Editor-at-Large, current executive chairman of the Center for Investigative Reporting, and the guy who once had a crossbow hanging in his office at the S.F. Examiner — Phil Bronstein told the Appeal, "The Guardian was failing, and probably the Weekly was failing. Separately all three would fail, if together they don't fail have you gained anything or lost anything?"
The S.F. Weekly staff apparently had a mandatory 9 a.m. all-hands meeting this morning, and we're told there will be a similar meeting at the shared offices of the Ex and the SFBG later this afternoon. The last tweet from the Weekly's twitter account, which is usually pretty talkative on Wednesday mornings when the paper goes out, went out about 8 a.m. this morning.
We will, of course, be updating as we know more details.
Update 10:45 a.m.: Seattle Weekly, another former Village Voice paper, also confirms the deal by way of an announcement that their own publication has been sold to Washington State's Sound Publishing Company. Readers and media watchdogs will remember Village Voice Media sold off their nationwide chain of alt weeklies back in September. The 13 papers became part of the employee-owned Voice Media Group while Village Voice Media kept their sketchy Backpage.com classified ads site.
Update 11 a.m.: Voice Media Group confirmed the sale in a release sent out later this morning. Vogt's San Francisco Newspaper Group will assume operations of the Weekly as of today. "This is a strategic decision aligned with the long-term business goals of VMG," Voice Media Group CEO Scott Tobias said. "Todd Vogt is known for his expertise in the local paper space and he is a great choice to take ownership of SF Weekly."
Voice Media Group will continue to run the 11 remaining papers including the LA Weekly, OC Weekly and the Village Voice.
Update 12:15 p.m.: In the Examiner's own announcement of the sale, Vogt spoke highly of the Weekly, saying it "occupies a distinctive niche in San Francisco, and we’re determined to strengthen its position. They already put out a high-quality paper, and we’re going to make it even better.” The Weekly will eventually move in with their former Guardian rivals in the office they share with the Examiner at 225 Bush Street. Printing will move to the the Examiner's facility in the Bayview.
Meanwhile, improving the Weekly apparently involves cutting some employees. As SF Weekly's music editor Ian Port reports that there will be layoffs in every department at the paper. Our well wishes go out to colleagues currently spending their day interviewing with new bosses:
There will be layoffs here at SFW, in every department, we were told. We'll be interviewing w/ new bosses to see who stays.— Ian S. Port (@iPORT) January 9, 2013