Thursday, April 22, 2021
Uncategorized Is the SF Weekly dying?

Is the SF Weekly dying?


San Francisco Media Company paper bleeds employees and feeds accusations of chauvinism.

Controversial new Examiner sportswriter Jay Mariotti is featured on the cover of this week's SF Weekly, reinforcing an impression of increasing chauvinism at the weekly's parent company.
Controversial new Examiner sportswriter Jay Mariotti is featured on the cover of this week’s SF Weekly, reinforcing an impression of increasing chauvinism at the weekly’s parent company. Photo by Gabrielle Lurie.

By Marke B. 

MARCH 27, 2015 — The San Francisco Media Company is bleeding employees. 48 Hills  has received word that, with three more departures today, up to 17 writers, editors, and other workers have left the company that operates both the SF Examiner and the SF Weekly in the past two months.

The Weekly has been the hardest hit by the exodus. Two-thirds of its editorial staff — six people, including news reporters Joe Eskenazi and Rachel Swan, both music and culture editors, and a social media editor — have left the company, after the Weekly’s editor, Brandon Reynolds, was unceremoniously dumped earlier this year. This morning, we received word that one of the SF Weekly’s former vice presidents, now an advertising director at the company, has also left.

When I called to ask new SF Weekly editor Mark Kemp about the severe bloodletting, whether there were plans to hire replacement staff, and several other questions pertaining to this article, he told me that the media company was “not ready” to answer any questions.

Some who’ve spoken to us anonymously have told of a creeping  “chauvinist,” “retrograde” mentality at the company that had made the atmosphere untenable. Certain recent actions by SFMC — including launching “After Dark,” an advertorial magazine showcasing female exotic dancers and mainstream gentlemens’ clubs — have reinforced this view. “It feels like the Weekly is circling the drain,” a former employee said. “None of the people in charge seem to know what they’re doing. But there’s certainly been a lot of mansplaining.”

This week’s SF Weekly cover features controversial sportswriter Jay Mariotti, a widely disliked figure in the sports world who recently pleaded no contest to misdemeanor stalking and assault-related charges involving a former girlfriend. Mariotti was hired as the Examiner’s new sportswriter, a hire that elicited alarmed reactions from local media, and was specifically decried by new Chronicle editor Audrey Cooper on Twitter.

(The Examiner is suing the Chronicle for predatory ad pricing, so it was interesting to see this front open up in the long war between the two dailies.)

Penned by Mariotti himself (and for some reason appearing in the Weekly rather than the Examiner), the self-puff piece, titled “What the Hell Were You Thinking?: The Lightning Rod of Sports Journalism Explains What on Earth He’s Doing In San Francisco,” is long and relatively unremarkable, except for repeated exculpations from and protestations against the girlfriend-battering incident and myriad other sins Mariotti has been accused of.

SF Weekly’s latest direction has not been universally applauded.

It’s not that surprising that the SF Weekly would put yet another middle-aged white man on the cover, or allow him full, unquestioned voice about these incidents for several pages. But considering the view many are forming of SFMC since new publisher Glenn Zuehls and new content director Michael Howerton recently took over — that the company is out of step with contemporary San Francisco mores, including diversity (all of the officers at the company are now middle-aged white males, most from out of town) — it’s striking that the company would double down by hiring and promoting such a symbol of chauvinism.

What’s most extraordinary about this edition of the Weekly is the earnest defense thrown up for the Mariotti piece by new editor Kemp. In his first editorial for the magazine, Kemp invokes Journalism 101 touchstone Hunter S. Thompson and celebrates the gonzo journalism style as being exciting because it’s not “politically correct.” (Readers may have to look hard to recognize anything genuinely gonzo in Mariotti’s cover piece — or his brashly opinionated writing in general.)

As for the battery charges against Mariotti, Kemp’s editorial, titled “New Editor, Controversial Sports Writer — What More Could You Want (To Be Outraged By)?,” merely sidesteps: “Here’s the deal: Of course we know about Mariotti’s troubled legal history. We know he was accused of domestic violence and that he pleaded ‘no contest’ and got probation for it. But we didn’t bring Mariotti here to write about domestic violence. We brought him here to write about sports.”

Kemp continues to half-defend Mariotti for two more paragraphs, casting the decision to hire him as “bold” and brushing off the allegations against him. Kemp claims “SF Weekly‘s mission in this city is to uncover heinous crimes and corrupt leaders; to write about food, arts, music, and cultural issues in ways that hopefully give you different perspectives. No holds barred,” and that he’s going to “dust off the spirit of gonzo.”

Whether he can accomplish that with barely any staff, a lack of diverse corporate input, a conservative viewpoint that spins tired buzzwords like “politically correct” and “outrage,” and an increasing reliance on advertorial content remains to be seen.

In the meantime, we’ll have Mariotti, who includes this anecdote in his cover piece:

“Last time I had the potential for this much fun, Snoop Dogg was staring me down before an “Around The Horn” taping, saying, “Who do you think you is?”

Who do I think I is?

I’m the Diddy by the Bay.”

Marke B is the former executive editor of the Bay Guardian, a San Francisco Media Company holding that was shut down in October.  

Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at), follow @supermarke on Twitter.


  1. Excellent piece Marke.

    Speaking as one of those that walked out of SFMCO, I’d say your article was spot on.

  2. Hey there Dave1021 — Marke B here. It’s OK if you want to skip the comments. Reading the articles and sharing on social media (as well as talking about them in the real world!) is very helpful. You can also always contact us directly via the contact form on this site: Thank you.

  3. Dave, much of what is involved in developing political maturity is acknowledging that there is a diversity of valid thought about any issue, much of which you may disagree with.

  4. More likely being killed off. Why would they want two free papers when they can have one? This is not about money. This is about politics. First you buy up the “competition”, then you kill it off, one paper at a time. Hopefully someone will take up the old banner of the Guardian soon. But, now we have 48hills and Public Press, and a few others starting up so they can’t really kill us off yet.

  5. Yeah, god forbid you should actually read and possibly respond to thoughts and ideas that differs from your own/

  6. It’s so predictable. Nobody will read it anyway. The Weekly has been dying for a long time.

    I remember the original SF Weekly circa the early 90s, with Andrew O’Hehir as editor. Had brilliant arts/cultural coverage. What a great paper that was. Anyone else remember?

  7. Brings up a question I’ve been meaning to ask Mr. Redmond: what is the best way to show reader support (as opposed to explicit financial support} for this site? I have little, if any, interest in the troll-infested “comments” sections but read most every actual post. Is that going to be sufficient to show interest for the web numbers? Does posting and “replying” to comments allow this site to make more money? If so, can we somehow work around that? The reporting on this site is superb and well-needed. The troll infestation is abysmal. I want to (again) cast my vote for an explicitly-edited “letters to the editor” section and banishment of the obvious trolls. Let them whine about “freedom of speech” on their OWN sites.

  8. I don’t think we’ve yet come to grips with the fact that newspapers are in the middle of a cataclysmic death spiral. Below is a graph of inflation adjusted revenues of dailies over the last 60 years.

    While the above refers only to dailies, given the preponderance of weekly and alternative pages among those that have been the first to be shuttered they are doing even worse.

    Poor business decisions questionable editorial policies sometimes make hard to summon much sympathy for local papers. But it’s entirely possible that we will see the complete elimination of professional newspaper reporting in the next ten years. Certainly that will be the case unless the above trends reverse drastically. It that ends up being the case our communities will be much poorer for it.

  9. Because it’s male hetero sexuality, which apparently isn’t PC. Especially not “mainstream” gentlemen’s clubs. Presumably an “alternative” gentleman’s club would be Ok. And yes, I agree that people should have second chances, whether you’re a public official or a worthless sportswriter no one’s ever heard of. Overall, though, I won’t shed many tears to see the Weakly go.

  10. There are many differences between the Guardian and the EBE, which I am familiar with because of my frequent attendance at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. Yes, they print good content and with less of a prog grinding axe, like the way Tim edited the Guardian and drove readers away. Same we-know-how-things-work attitude pervaded their pages under Marke and Stephen E.G.O. Jones. Their content spoke only to a diminishing core audience and they couldn’t pull themselves outta the prog ditch.

    How outta touch were the Guardianistas about progs and their staying or organizing powers? When Occupy SF couldn’t get outta the plaza by the Ferry Building and instead camp out at Civic Center, or get themselves regularly to City Hall, here’s what Tim and Jones suggested ( ):

    >Imagine thousands of activists crossing the country in caravans, occupying public space in cities along the way, and winding up with a convention in Washington, D.C.

    >Imagine organizing a week of activities — not just political meetings but parties and cultural events — to make Occupy the center of the nation’s attention and an inspiring example for an international audience.

    >Imagine ending with a massive mobilization that brings hundreds of thousands of people to the nation’s capitol — and into the movement.<

    What nincompoops! While many Occupiers are struggling to hold on to housing and jobs and social service networks and health care, the Guardians wanted us schlepping in hippie buses across the nation. Oh, how many years of Jones taking drugs at Boring Man did it take to come up with _that_ dumb idea?

    Imagine, the Guardianistas just printing a decent alt weekly not totally beholden to the same old tired nonprofits and political hacks and surviving! Didn't happen.

    EBE runs lotta letters. Many moons ago, before the Guardian was put out of its misery and folded, it stopped running letters from readers.

    Were they not receiving letters for publication? One of the most-read sections of any print rag is the letters page, and now online it's the comments below a story or essay. For the Guardian, not printing letters was one big visible sign their bases was non-engaged and shrinking. Look at how the SF Weakly for years has snagged blurbs and rants and whatever off their web site and social media for a comments page in print. A sign that someone there understands the import of printed letters.

    The EBE also prints at least one full page of local merchants and advocates and such holding signs in pics, and info about their wares and services. The paper long ago delivered bundles to news boxes by bike and those boxes were painted by different artists and neighbors of where they're located.

    Tim's Guardian used auto vehicles for deliveries and did not a thing to gussy up their bleak black boxes.

    No matter how you slice progs in SF these days – from the demise of the Guardian to the disaster known as David Campos to the nonprofit manipulation of Plaza 16 – they're not advancing or winning on their agenda.

  11. Jonathan, is your point that Marke’s comments are totally objective? And not in any way biased on account of the fact that it was this very same employer who fired Marke for cause?

    Yeah, right.

  12. Though this sports guy is not my cup of tea, I wonder how long a domestic abuse charge has follow him around? Everyone makes mistakes. The SF Bay Guardian had adult pages for many years, I’m not sure why the After Dark is much different. Plus San Francisco voters almost legalized sex work. Why is it brought up as a bad development?

  13. I think they’re aiming to have the thinnest paper possible that people will still pick up so as to justify the advertising rates. Only one step up from Safeway coupon sheets.
    I wish someone had done with it what the East Bay Express did, when they rescued it from Village Voice Media: increase circulation by actually printing good content.

  14. The “that’s what they want you to think” conspiracy. Doesn’t need any sort of evidence, because “they” are so good at covering their tracks.

  15. The tactics: Destroy any alternative press, flood blogs, letters to the editor and other public forums with shills, donate enormous sums of money to city, state and federal politicians and policy makers, co-opt political organizations, etc.

    The objective: To fuck us over any way they can in order to make a buck.

    Score: They’re winning. Oh look at this shinny thing on FaceTwit. . .

  16. Yes, Marke, we get it. They fired you and so you feel the need to throw some snark their way

    But truthfully, we care no more about the Weekly than we did about the poor sad SFBG. Dinosaurs.

Comments are closed.

More by this author

Tyler Holmes navigates trauma through softer sounds on ‘Nightmare in Paradise’

The Oakland musician and performer's lush, emotive new album records the process of grappling with PTSD.

Sean Dorsey Dance premieres nine ‘gorgeous’ new films in AT-HOME season

"We can't wait to connect with our audience again," says transgender dance trailblazer—now a director, too.

How To Reopen Nightlife: Keeping it cute and safe for all on the dance floor

What should we expect from venues and each other when clubs come back? The first in a series exploring issues left to face.

Is art free speech under COVID? A local court case steams on

Ongoing San Francisco International Arts Festival lawsuit demands that arts reopen in parity with worship and dining.

A trailblazing lesbian hero’s story, finally coming to film

Sally Gearhart's incredible, multifaceted life—lesbian separatist, gay lib icon, sci-fi author—gets a doc.

Most read

I finally paid off my student loans at 40. No one should go through this

Not even winning on 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire' helped me outrun Navient and condescending bootstrapper-types

Reservoir Dogs: Coyotes find a home amid Sunset solar panels

A pair of animals settles in, offering lessons on our contemporary relationship to nature

Good Taste: Secrets to scoring crazy croissants, SF gets a Korean food court

Plus: Bitchin' Baklava, and Gay4U feeds trans POC for free

Mayor Schaaf needs to stop resisting the movement to defund the Oakland PD

A bloated police budget has not made the streets any safer; it's time for real alternatives.

You might also likeRELATED