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Guest Commentary

Zombie newspaper rises again


If the death of any newspaper diminishes all of us, what can be said about a newspaper that goes from resuscitator to resuscitator and remains a daily of the living dead?

As a San Francisco Examiner columnist of the latter Hearst period, when the paper was kept alive by a joint operating agreement with the San Francisco Chronicle, I say, “The Examiner has had another cash transplant? Long live the Examiner.”

Rob Morse

It’s hard not to cheer Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz for taking a risk on the Examiner after all the paper’s near-death experiences.

Four years ago, the Hearst Corp. said of William Randolph Hearst’s first newspaper, “Failing firms are always allowed -- even encouraged -- to die.” That was in a brief at the end of the infamous trial in which the Examiner’s then-publisher Timothy White admitted that he had talked of “horse trading” editorial favors with then-mayor Willie Brown. By that time, the staff of the Examiner was dying of shame.

Not only was Hearst trying to kill off our paper in order to take over the dominant Chronicle, the chosen method of death was to give the proud name and $66 million -- starvation rations for what would basically be a big city daily start-up -- to the Examiner’s nemesis, the politically influential Fang family.

At the trial, a newspaper economist described the $66 million that Hearst was giving the Fangs as a “garbage disposal” fee, paying someone to take away stuff you don’t want. As I wrote in a column, “Once we were proud to line parakeet cages. Now we’re being taken to the landfill.”

One thing I’ll say for Hearst and the old Examiner management: At least they let me get away with ripping them in a column printed from barrels of their own ink. The old Examiner did have style.

Now that the Fangxaminer is the Anschutzaminer, at least one tradition is safe. The Examiner Bay to Breakers, thoughtlessly given away with the $66 million to the Fangs, is now in the hands of a man who has run the footrace 15 times.

Maybe he can also find the Examiner’s priceless library, which disappeared into the bowels of the Fang Building. There’s a lot of history there and, like the Examiner, it’s worth preserving.

Rob Morse was a columnist at Hearst Examiner for 15 years, and Hearst Chronicle for three.

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Monitoring the Bay Area's most popular news media:

Contra Costa Times

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San Francisco Chronicle


San Jose Mercury News

Knight Ridder

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KTVU, Oakland (FOX)

KRON, San Francisco

KRON, San Francisco

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KPIX, San Francisco (CBS)

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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
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National Writers Union Bay Area chapter

Site highlights


The three-part series follows the rise of three Bay Area handouts:
• Part 1: At free dailies, advertisers sometimes call the shots
• 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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