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Guest Commentary

San Francisco desperately needs newspaper competition

San Francisco has pretty much been a one-newspaper town in recent years. Despite The Examiner’s existence as a free tabloid, The Chronicle’s been the paper most serious readers turn to. That’s too bad because genuine competition is needed to keep local journalism sharp, insightful and useful.

William Wong

The old Examiner provided that competition for The Chronicle. The new Examiner since 2000 never did. It just faded away. The old Examiner had aggressive reporters and editors and a dogged personality. They kept The Chronicle on its toes. The new Examiner never mattered.

It’s hard to know whether The Examiner’s new owner will invest sufficiently to provide the kind of genuine competition that once existed. The Anschutz Co. sure has a lot of other economic interests, and newspapering doesn’t appear to be one of its highest priorities.

Recent trends in the media biz bode ill for the survivability of independent, top-quality newspaper journalism. As newspapers get gobbled up by conglomerates, newspaper journalism loses prominence. The quality of journalism is no longer consequential. Corporate profits are all that matters.

Any news junkie wishes a return to the days of two (or more) major metro dailies slugging it out. Through the pitched word-and-photo battles, one hopes local readers come away enlightened and better informed. Let’s wait to see whether Anschutz revives competitive journalism in San Francisco, but I’m not holding my breath.


William Wong is author of Yellow Journalist: Dispatches from Asian America (Temple University Press, 2001), http://www.yellowjournalist.com, and was a reporter, columnist, ombudsman, and editor for more than 30 years with, among others, The Wall Street Journal, The Oakland Tribune, The San Francisco Examiner and Asian Week.

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Monitoring the Bay Area's most popular news media:

Contra Costa Times

Knight Ridder

San Francisco Chronicle


San Jose Mercury News

Knight Ridder

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KRON, San Francisco

KRON, San Francisco

KPIX, San Francisco (CBS)

KPIX, San Francisco (CBS)

KGO, San Francisco (ABC)

KGO, San Francisco (ABC)

KNTV, San Jose (NBC)

KNTV, San Jose (NBC)


Bay Area media advocates:

Media Alliance
Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism at SFSU
Maynard Institute
Youth Media Council
Project Censored
New California Media
Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California chapter
National Writers Union Bay Area chapter

Site highlights


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• Part 2: Free daily papers: more local but often superficial
• Part 3: Free papers' growth threatens traditional news
• See also: SF Examiner and Independent agree to end payola restaurant reviews
• And: The free tabloid that wasn't: East Bay's aborted Daily Flash


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