Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Sad to hear about the shutdown Tuesday of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the legendary alternative weekly in my former home by the bay. You can read the last issue HERE.

I lived in the Bay Area for seven years, from 1990 to 1997, and spent the last four years there writing for the semi-weekly S.F. Independent.

During that time I came to appreciate the tough, loudmouth and no-excuses coverage of the Bay Guardian and its founding editor Bruce Brugmann. Brugmann was old school and tough.

The great weekly's motto, to "Print The News and Raise Hell," was perfect for San Francisco, a city that managed to combine culture, business, and sophistication with diversity, liberalism, counter-culture and outright upheaval.

And its news coverage deserved nothing less. When the daily San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner failed to dig deep into the lower classes and poverty issues, we at the Independent helped to go after them as well as the Guardian.

The Guardian, from its first day on the streets in 1966, was not shy about promoting its own issues, especially Brugmann's decades long fight to kill the PSE&G utility monopoly in town. The scrappy paper also was among the first to push for gay rights, transgender rights and free AIDS tests in the city by the bay.

I recall the 1999 mayor's race when veteran Board of Supervisors member Tom Ammiano conducted a write-in campaign. The Guardian published a special story guiding voters on how to "write-in" a candidate. Ammiano won enough support to force a run-off with incumbent Willie Brown.

But more than any other publication this side of Tales of the City, The Guardian celebrated San Francisco's bohemia, beyond just gay rights and liberal views. It had a place for any and all consenting adult debauchery, freedom of expression and rights.

It also was the go-to place for local news of the arts, music, food and the best seedy nightlife. The Guardian's Best of the Bay issue became must reading each year and has since been copied by most alternative papers and regional magazines. 

But the one I will always remember is Brugmann, who really created the modern day alternative newspaper with his publication. He would at times attack my paper, The Independent, but also support us at other moments. 

The end seemed inevitable when Brugmann sold the paper and stepped down in 2012 and the Guardian went into the hands of the San Francisco Media Company, which runs today's cut down version of the Examiner and the Guardian's longtime rivals, SF Weekly

SFMC announced the Guardian's shutdown with today's final issue.

Let's hope San Francisco can find something to keep fighting the counter-culture, loudmouth and necessary journalistic battles that this great paper used to.

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