In the latest significant announcement reflecting rapid shifts in the San Francisco media landscape, The Bold Italic announced today that it would cease its operations effective immediately. The web — and briefly, print — publication was introduced in October 2009, the child of the Bay Area's IDEO and Virginia-based Gannett Co., Inc, which owns media outlets such as USA Today. The sudden news, which came in the form of a post to the site, is a loss to Bay Area readers, though the site's archive will stay active for a few coming months.
Since our launch, The Bold Italic has strived to faithfully serve San Franciscans near and far, whether born and bred here or having just arrived in the city. We have a great passion for the Bay Area and all that it has to offer — and have had a lot of fun sharing our enthusiasm with you. Together we have built a strong community of followers, contributors, and partners. However, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations. It’s been a great run and we supremely thank everyone who has supported us along the way.
This is the third notable loss of the last six months in SF media. Last October, The San Francisco Bay Guardian ceased publication after 48 years. And in February of this year, 7x7 announced that it was shutting down its print edition and would become all-digital. Within the past few weeks there's also been word of rapidly contracting staff at SF Weekly.
Bold Italic Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Maerz confirmed the closure via email, writing that “Today we made the very difficult decision to cease operations at The Bold Italic . We’re proud of the stories we’ve told about this amazing place where we live and work. While we will stop publishing new stories today, the site will stay live for several months to allow time for [writers] to capture and archive content for portfolios or clips."
I, for one, will be in that position. As a former freelancer and intern for The Bold Italic, I can speak to a thoughtful and encouraging team that cultivated strong work from writers and designers. Visual stories, from illustrated personal essays to photo-driven histories to the occasional polemic, were tenants of the site. So, too, were mainstream hits like the "Kid Food Review" series in which children were photographed enjoying or not enjoying expensive meals at local restaurants.
The Bold Italic was a highly experimental enterprise. It regularly produced events, partnering with local businesses and appealing to recent transplants. It ran an online shop, shuttered of late, that sold posters based on stories alongside other San Francisco ephemera. In past months it expanded operations to include stories about Los Angeles and, before that, began running news-focused, shorter blog posts which were sometimes out of keeping with its longer form work.
It was also, by many accounts, an expensive testing ground— albeit one that paid fairly and strove to treat its employees well. Its sunny Hayes Valley office was the subject of one post from 2012, and it was a lovely but elaborate space that, in the past year, was at times partially rented to a start-up.
Marke Bieschke, formerly the publisher of the Bay Guardian, writes in a post to 48 Hills that he received an email last year indicating some of the struggles of The Bold Italic. This came shortly after news that Gannet was spinning off its print business, essentially splitting its digital and print publications. "Originating from the head of the sales department, it informed me that Gannett was offering Bold Italic for sale, to the tune of 5+ million [dollars]. Also at the same time, Bold Italic expanded its coverage to LA. The mixed messages were confusing to say the least."
Though individual staffers are directing questions to a Gannett executive, Jeremy Lybarger, the publication's managing editor, captured the mood in the office with this tweet. Eater reports that Maerz, Lybarger, and others have been laid off.
TBI office right now: Drinking beers and blaring Green Day's "Time of Your Life."— Jeremy Lybarger (@jeremylybarger) April 7, 2015