You might not all be fans of the San Francisco Bay Guardian (in fact, I bet a few of you haven’t heard of it), but I think it’s fair to call the weekly paper a San Francisco institution.
It also meant a lot to me personally — not only was my first journalism internship in the Bay Guardian’s news department, but as a reader, the paper introduced me to both progressive urban politics and to a lot of the bars, concerts, theaters and more that San Francisco has to offer. (The massive, annual Best of the Bay issues were a particular favorite.)
So it was pretty heartbreaking when the paper’s new owner, the San Francisco Media Co., shut the Bay Guardian down last fall. (The paper had been independently owned for most of its 48-year history.) But at least the “Guardian-in-Exile” staff will get the last word, putting out a final, commemorative issue this week, both in print and digitally.
The issue includes reminiscences from founder Bruce Brugman and longtime editor Tim Redmond, but Marke Bieschke, the Bay Guardian’s former publisher and co-editor of this final issue, told me that there’s also new reporting and coverage of the latest SF restaurants and nightlife — it’s more than just a “musty” look at the past.
The digital version, which includes 20 extra pages, is being sold through Gumroad, a startup that helps creators sell digital goods. It’s a little funny to see the Bay Guardian teaming up with a startup, since it often wrote skeptically about how the city’s tech boom was driving up rent and spurring real estate development.
“We’re somewhat stereotyped as crotchety, anti-tech — but I think some of the stereotype was rooted in a little bit of truth,” Bieschke said.
He argued that the paper’s “critical thinking” provided a needed balance to the “yes man” attitude found in other publications. (Bieschke was kind enough not to insult TechCrunch, and I’d say we’ve published some great writing on housing issues, but I know there are plenty of readers who’d put us in the “yes man” group.) At the same time, he said the Bay Guardian had a “young, tech-savvy” staff that wanted to do more online experimentation, except it was stymied by a lack of resources.
As for whether this is truly the end, Bieschke said he’s still talking to his old employers about the possibility of acquiring the Bay Guardian brand and archives. So there’s a chance it could start up again, probably in some combination with Redmond’s new site, 48 Hills. On the other hand, Bieschke said he’s attracted to the idea of starting fresh, “without the legacy, a.k.a., the baggage.”
In the meantime, you can buy the final issue (for a price of your choosing) here. Print copies will go on sale from the San Francisco Public Press tomorrow.
Update: I should’ve also mentioned that the commemorative issue was largely funded through an Indiegogo campaign.