SF’s waning foot traffic amid the COVID-19 crisis recently forced the San Francisco Media Company to stop producing print for SF Weekly and SF Evergreen, in lieu of adequate advertisement revenue.
Long before the current pandemic, physical papers were struggling en masse. The Mountain Messenger, California's oldest weekly newspaper — the same print publication that Mark Twain himself once contributed to with some regularity — announced their folding in December, due to struggles with cash flow; they couldn’t secure enough income from advertisers to balance their expenses. Now, both SF Weekly and the SF Evergreen find themselves in similar situations after it was announced yesterday their parent company, San Francisco Media Co., would stop producing each paper's print issues, as well as furlough staffers and cut the working hours of employed journalists in order to offset profit losses spurred by the ballooning coronavirus calamity.
Well, here it is.— Fitz-the-Furloughed (@FitzTheReporter) March 31, 2020
SF Examiner and SF Weekly staffers are all taking partial furloughs, me included.
This isn't the time for self pity, as there are San Franciscans far worse off than ourselves.
But, I also want you to know why my (our) article output will drop soon.
“Due to the deep declines in advertising and because fewer people are in The City every day to pick up the print version of our publications, we have temporarily stopped producing SF Weekly and SF Evergreen in print,” writes Deborah Petersen, editor-in-chief of the SF-based media business, in yesterday’s announcement. Prior, in the published call for help, Petersen lamented that she had to do “the horrible task” of slashing the hours of working journalists who lend voices to those publications, leaving some staffers furloughed and others with drastic reductions in pay.
“Our mission at the San Francisco Media Co. has always been to provide local news online and in print that is unencumbered by paywalls and subscription fees,” she adds before foreshadowing the company’s current financial struggles. “Doing that requires the support of our advertisers, and [the readership].”
Our mission at the San Francisco Media Co. has always been to provide local news online and in print that is unencumbered by paywalls and subscription fees. Doing that requires the support of our advertisers, and you. https://t.co/s7PdVwoAeF pic.twitter.com/AcGsPO1ebE— SF Weekly (@SFWeekly) April 1, 2020
Absent of a bustling, outwardly vivacious San Francisco filled with eager readers gamboling down city sidewalks, SF Media Company’s well of local advertisers to glean from has all but dried up. However, supporters of the media company-owned publications can rally together and individually join the SF Examiner’s membership program, which will help offer some monetary comfort.
(Currently, the SF Weekly doesn't have such a program in place.)
“The membership program at the Examiner is a way for community members to show that they support free journalism that is unlike any other coverage in The City,” Petersen notes. “In return, we provide members with benefits for joining[, we] know that this crisis is impacting many people. And, if you are one of the people who is hurting financially, and cannot join our program now, make a note to yourself to do so someday.”
The SF Examiner’s membership program has four available tiers— “Working Headliner,” “Above The Fold,” “Page Turner,” and “Stop The Presses!” — ranging in cost from as little as $40 per year to all the way up to $1K for yearly "ownership." Every tier has specific goodies and, as you ascend the faction ladder, they get progressively better. Nevertheless, you’ll get a sublime sticker designed by the company’s art director and “members only” updates from the Examiner’s newsroom no matter which option you purchase.
But back to The Mountain Messenger: Carl Butz, a 71-year-old retiree and avid reader of the once soon-to-be-defunct paper, swooped in at the last minute in early January... and saved the publication from going the way of the dodo. Let that serve as an iota of hope that, with community support, we can help bolster our beloved SF papers through this pandemic.
You can sign up for the SF Examiner's membership program, here.
*An earlier version of this post suggested that the Examiner was stopping print publication as well, but it is only SF Weekly and SF Evergreen.