In what’s being criticized as a “deeply irresponsible and contemptible” publishing decision, the SF Examiner Wednesday front page depicted Supervisor Dean Preston with a bullseye target over his face, and the paper is now apologizing.

There’a school of thought in politics that the next election starts the day that the previous election ended, and that’s fine. By that thought, the SF supervisors in odd-numbered districts will be up for election on November 5, 2024, so their re-election campaigns are sort of already underway, as are campaigns to defeat them. As such, the SF Examiner on Wednesday ran a piece on a new political action committee determined to defeat District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston.

But that story has taken on a separate life of its own, not because of the reporting, but because of the image the Examiner used on its front-page coverage. As seen below, Preston is shown with a red bullseye superimposed over his face.

“It's still shocking to me that the Examiner would publish this," Preston told KTVU. "It's completely out of line.  Especially in this time with rising political violence and hatred."

The story itself is about a YIMBY-affiliated political action committee called Grow SF, who’ve started a new campaign called “Dump Dean” for that 2024 election. Grow SF did not place the bullseye on Preston, and probably had nothing to do with that editorial decision. But now the Examiner’s illustration has become a larger story than the PAC the article reported upon.

Screenshot: SF Examiner

The Examiner is sorry, but not sorry enough to remove the image. You can still see it on the Examiner's online e-edition, though it now accompanied by the statement:  “Editor's note: The Examiner was contacted Wednesday by several readers about a bull's-eye image used for that day's front-page story about the efforts of GrowSF, a political action committee, to oust Supervisor Dean Preston, a Democratic Socialist who represents District 5. We apologize for that image. The Examiner in no way intended to connote or invoke violence against Preston or any other political leader.”

Image: Joe Kukura, SFist 

Today's Examiner print edition has the exact same apology at the bottom of Page Two.

KTVU also reached Examiner editor and publisher (and owner) Clint Reilly. "One of our artists did it without thinking. I think it was thoughtless and I apologize for it," Reilly said.  "The Examiner certainly doesn't advocate violence against any political figure, never has."

But it is not lost on people that the image was published in the wake of the Paul Pelosi attack, and Preston being Jewish, it also comes at a time when there’s more anti-semitism in the discourse of the MAGA era. And you don’t exactly need a PhD in history to know that there is a track record of supervisors being shot and killed in this town.

We are about two years into the Clint Reilly Era at the Examiner, and sometimes it shows that he’s historically more of a real estate guy than a media guy. He got rid of most of the Examiner’s legacy writers and editors to bring in his own team. And just as Elon Musk is learning at Twitter, when a new owner guts a company's staff, with the loss of experienced talent, the company might occasionally shoot itself in the foot.  

Related: D4 Supervisor Candidate Leanna Louie Calls Jewish Jounalist a ‘NAZI,’ As Her Candidacy Gets Fringier [SFist]

Image: @DeanPreston via Twitter