Well, this is it. You won’t be seeing any fresh editions of the SF Weekly on racks for at least the short term. There are no two ways about it for consumers of local news: It’s a bummer. And it isn’t the first.
Over the past decade or so we’ve lost countless publications, ranging from big newspapers to little community rags. SF Weekly had a way of feeling like both at the same time — as its talented journalists unspooled fascinating yarns about local antiheroes and blew the lid off of city scandals, all while continuing to ruffle feathers by writing about topics that the establishment papers wouldn’t touch.
When I first learned about the planned pause of the Weekly, I felt shock, but not surprise. I was shocked because I can’t imagine San Francisco without an alternative weekly. Hell, we used to have two of them. I’m unsurprised because I know how broken the business of local, independent journalism is.
And that’s really what I want to talk about. If you value independent voices and outlets, it’s up to you to keep them around.
Historically, publications such as this one have been funded entirely through advertising. In recent years, some papers have erected paywalls on their websites and launched membership campaigns and subscription programs. But with the rise of platforms like Craigslist and Facebook, the advertising dollars have dried up. You no longer need the local paper’s classified section to sell your bike and social media outlets have given clubs a way to send digital flyers directly to party goers while simultaneously pushing prestige national publications — and plenty of less worthy content — directly to our phones for “free.” As such, it’s often been a tough sell convincing readers to pony up for news they feel they can get through their native news app.
It has all culminated in the shuttering of far too many publications at a time when we need them the most.
It’s been over 20 years since Napster debuted, which means we’ve lived an entire generation absorbing the concept of free media delivered directly to us via the internet. The only problem is, it still costs money to produce the things we consume, even if they come to us in little packets of ones and zeroes.
That’s where you come in.
What made alternative weeklies like SF Weekly so important was that they spoke up for the little guy and had a good time doing it. They amplified voices that didn’t always get heard, and they gave newbie journalists a place to grow and become badasses. Most importantly though, these publications were unafraid to ask questions that big newspapers were too skittish to touch and they covered things the mainstream media was too prude to consider.
While printed alt weeklies are disappearing, digital publications have picked up their ethos and are marching forward. And for these publications to do this important work, they need your do re mi.
We are blessed in the Bay Area to have so many great independent publications that do the important work of keeping you informed and entertained. Here are just a few you can support with your dollars, loyal readership, or both.
The shameless plug comes first! Yes, you can support the awesome work we do at BrokeAssStuart.com by joining our patreon. Our goal is to uplift unheard voices and stick up for working people when no one else will. We prioritize publishing perspectives that reflect our diverse readership and we strive to bring vital information concerning housing, labor, and activism to the young, broke, and beautiful.
You can support 48Hills’ mission to give a microphone to marginalized Bay Area communities, champion local arts and culture, employ talented writers and editors, and deliver in-depth reporting, breaking news, and analysis of city issues from a non-corporate, hyperlocal angle.
Mission Local is focused on high-impact enterprise reporting on everything from police reform to corruption at City Hall, housing, education, and now the pandemic. They also chronicle the lives and changes in the Mission but often in other parts of San Francisco as well. And you can help them keep doing this.
Berkeleyside and Oaklandside are nonprofit newsrooms committed to serving readers with in-depth local reporting and resources to keep the community informed and better able to engage in civic life. If you live in the East Bay and care about your neighborhoods, check these guys out and consider giving them your financial support!
Here comes the second shameless plug: SF Weekly’s parent organization, the San Francisco Examiner Media Company is working hard to reinvigorate the San Francisco Examiner, which has quite a history. The paper is nearly 160 years old and was founded by Citizen Kane himself — William Randolph Hearst. In the past few months they’ve hired numerous talented journalists to full-time positions and seek to position themselves as an alternative to that other newspaper with the old English banner that you may have seen around town. Unlike the Chronicle’s yellow boxes, however, the Examiner’s red boxes can be opened without a handful of quarters.
Then there are other publications, like the Ingelside Light, where you get access to more content if you become a paying subscriber. And if you want to support other amazing digital publications like SF Funcheap and SF Station that don’t have a way for you to contribute, drop them an email and ask how you can.
S.F.’s many small and independent print publications need your help. too. For the ones you can’t pay to subscribe to, you can also reach out and ask how you can help. There are wonderful print publications serving a variety of communities in San Francisco that need your support, including the Bay Area Reporter, Richmond Review/Sunset Beacon, and The Wind.
As we mourn SF Weekly’s sabbatical, it’s important that we look forward and do what we can to make sure smart and spunky local journalism continues to exist in San Francisco. Please do your part and support the publications that you love.