All photos by Joseph Smooke.
With the iconic Powell Street cable car turnaround as the backdrop, former staff of the Guardian, the alternative weekly that served as a leading voice for progressives in San Francisco, announced their plan to give the paper a proper send off after it was unceremoniously shut down last week.
“Just this morning we started an Indiegogo campaign ‘Save the Bay Guardian.’ I hope you’ll all go there and do what you can to support it,” said former Editor-in-Chief Steven Jones to the reporters, community leaders and former staff who held a rally at noon on October 22, 2014.
Jones told the crowd that the San Francisco Bay Guardian set “a standard and [was] a model for newspapers all over the country to follow– to be a voice for the powerless.” The Guardian staff hopes to honor the paper’s legacy by raising their crowdfunding goal of $25,000 by December 6, 2014 towards a final commemorative edition, preservation of archives and exploring new ownership.
The San Francisco Newspaper Company (SFNC) shut down the weekly on October 14, 2014, two years after taking it over. SFNC also owns the Guardian’s direct competitor, the SF Weekly. Founder Bruce Brugmann and long time former Executive Editor Tim Redmond were there among the over 100 people gathered, including Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, former Supervisor Chris Daly, labor and community leaders, and journalists.
The Guardian got its start in 1966 and played a unique role in San Francisco’s cultural and political life. Through annual features such as “The Goldies” and “Best of the Bay,” it recognized people and organizations working and struggling to develop the arts, community services and activism. They sought out people making a difference, bringing them out of the shadows of the mainstream media that ignored them. This year’s “Best of the Bay” was the Guardian’s last issue.
“We busted our collective asses to keep that newspaper alive. We did that because we care what happens in San Francisco,” said former News Editor Rebecca Bowe. “We wanted to hold the powerful accountable. We’re going to continue to tell the stories that matter to the people of San Francisco. We’re going to continue highlighting the musicians, the activists, the city leaders, the artists, the people who make this city great and we’re not going to be silenced!” she told the crowd.
Prior to the Guardian being sold, it was one of the America’s few remaining independent weekly newspapers. Until two years ago, it was unlike most weeklies that are owned by a major corporations like Voice Media Group that owns 11 alternative papers.
California State Assemblymember and former San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano said, “The Guardian never apologized for being an advocacy paper - never apologized for its point of view - never tried to soft soap it like the Chronicle,” referring to the daily San Francisco newspaper that publishes more moderate viewpoints.
He joked that his moderate friends told him that they didn’t agree with the Guardian, but recognized that it was “a voice that was needed.” The Guardian carried the torch for progressive messaging in the City. Ammiano spoke about the important role the paper played after Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were killed in 1978 and mainstream media declared the death of progressive politics and the LGBT rights movement in the city.
Print media throughout the US has been struggling as advertising sales have sharply declined with readers shifting to online news. Declining revenues have pushed major staff layoffs and several large newspapers throughout the country have shut down.
“We are here today because we love San Francisco,” said Journalist Christopher Cook who organized the rally and set the tone by opening with a moment of silence for tenant advocate Ted Gullicksen, who died the same day the Guardian was shut down.
“We believe in a city and a society built on social and economic justice, diversity, creativity, deep democracy and a voice for communities and struggles, a voice for alternative news and culture and views. And the Bay Guardian has been a vital voice for all of this for nearly fifty years,” Cook continued.
The community’s response this noon hour was passionate, just as it had been in June 2013 when the San Francisco Newspaper Company released then Editor-in-Chief Tim Redmond after working there for 30 years. “The Guardian was and is a civic treasure that needs to be treated like that!” he yelled, as the crowd erupted in cheers.
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