Just months from the paper’s 40th anniversary, SF Weekly is being put “on hold,” and the continued existence of the city’s last alt-weekly is a questionable proposition at best.
It seemed curious in April 2020 when SF Weekly temporarily ceased printing its newspaper, going online-only, but its sister paper SF Examiner, owned by the same company, kept on printing. And it raised a few more eyebrows last December when real estate magnate Clint Reilly bought both newspapers, and told the Chronicle that the SF Weekly was “like a stocking stuffer” in the deal.
This is a major bummer.— (((BrokeAssStuart))) (@BrokeAssStuart) September 10, 2021
The paper will stop printing at the end of this month and it’s not clear at the moment what will happen with its website.https://t.co/y1ytajEiHE
Guess which paper just got stuffed. Broke-Ass Stuart reports that SF Weekly is being shut down for an “indefinite hiatus,” leaving the future of the paper, and its website, murky at best. “The paper will stop printing at the end of this month,” Broke-Ass Stuart writes.
(Broke-Ass Stuart is an actual human being named Stuart Schuffman, who had just started a semi-monthly column at the Weekly after the new ownership group switched his Examiner column to the Weekly two months ago. So he would be one of the pink slip recipients here.)
San Francisco no longer has an alt-weekly. https://t.co/CIMn92aIpr— SFGATE (@SFGate) September 10, 2021
“We are putting SF Weekly on hold while we invest all of our resources in revitalizing and growing the SF Examiner,” both papers’ newly hired editor-in-chief Carly Schwartz said in a statement. “SF Weekly has been a vital part of the city’s discourse for years and we are looking for ways to maintain the brand in the future.”
Devastated. During the 3 years I worked here the threat of closure constantly loomed over our fierce tiny team, but we poured our hearts into creating the best alt-weekly we could. So sad for the existing staff and brilliant freelancers. What a loss. https://t.co/Zs5eFpKuIN— Nuala Bishari (@TheBestNuala) September 10, 2021
That could mean a sale, or it could mean the paper and website will simply be etherized. The bread and butter of that paper’s advertising was cannabis dispensaries, nightclub listings, and strip clubs, and only one of those industries is a feasible source of ad dollars right now.
Welp. Someday I’ll get to tell my kid that there used to be two alt-weeklies in San Francisco, and they were so much fun, and they hated each other, and I somehow got to work at both of them. And then I’ll have to explain what an alt-weekly was— Emma Silvers (@emmaruthless) September 10, 2021
SF Weekly would have turned 40 this year, and arrived at its heyday when purchased by Village Voice Media in the mid-1990s. Back in that proverbial day, both the Weekly and its competitor SF Bay Guardian were as thick as medium metro-sized cities’ phone books each week. (Remember when SFist had an ongoing “We Read The Weeklies” feature, dedicated to just these two papers?) The two publications spent much of the 2000s in constant legal battles. Village Voice Media had far worse legal problems with its Backpage.com sex ad legal exposure, and the Weekly changed hands a few times over the last eight years.
Today's news regarding the shuttering of SF Weekly is a shock, but not a surprise. And it's deeply dispiriting.— Joe Eskenazi (@EskSF) September 10, 2021
The city has never needed an alt-weekly more.
I appeal to the ownership to, at the very least, preserve the archives of both the physical and online publications.
The roster of reporters who started at SF Weekly and went on to great careers is staggering. Deadspin legend Tommy Craggs, who broke the 2013 Manti Te'o hoax story, started at the paper in the mid-2000s. The New York Times’ esteemed technology reporter Kate Conger came up through the Weekly in the early 2010s. Mission Local managing editor Joe Eskenzi was a prominent investigative journalist there for seven years, and Nuala Bishari won a California News Publishers Association award for her 2018 SF Weekly cover story on the Paradise wildfires.
There are plenty of great reporters I’m likely forgetting here, so give them some shout-outs in the comments.
NEW: SF Weekly, San Francisco’s last alt weekly, will cease publication “for the foreseeable future” at the end of the month. The website and its archives will remain intact.https://t.co/w70E603vMj— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) September 10, 2021
According to the Chronicle, the SF Weekly website will be kept intact. But no one’s saying “permanently intact.” So if there are old favorite SF Weekly articles you want to get nostalgic on, you’d be advised to do that as soon as possible. Or pick up this week’s edition, whose cover ironically reads “The Big Quit.”
Note: The author of this post has been an SF Weekly freelance contributor since 2015.
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist