The end of an era, but not of a legacy

Pub date June 19, 2013
WriterStephen Buel

Tim Redmond has a big heart. He cares deeply about this city and he cared deeply about this newspaper. But last Thursday was Tim’s last day at the Bay Guardian, the place where he worked for the bulk of the past three decades. In typical fashion, he stuck to his principles to the end.

The Guardian is not as economically healthy as it once was, and 2013 has not been kind to the paper. Revenues are down and many issues lose money, a trend that threatens our mission if left unchecked. During the past month, Guardian management had been contemplating some painful but necessary changes that included layoffs. Tim participated in these discussions, but in the end he chose to resign rather than downsize a staff he loved like family.

I understand Tim’s decision, but believe it was shortsighted. During the past year and a half, the Guardian’s two sister papers — the San Francisco Examiner and SF Weekly — have undergone similar restructuring, which included layoffs. The goal was not to extract obscene profits — a mission I wouldn’t support even if it were still possible in 2013 — but rather to ensure both papers’ survival and recovery. It was an unpleasant process, and one that Tim could not abide.

But today, the Examiner and Weekly are both significantly healthier than they used to be. The Examiner is no longer the mouthpiece of right-wing buffoons, and in recent months has expanded its Peninsula coverage and enlarged its editorial staff. And the Weekly boasts significantly more new coverage, listings and advertising than it did just six months ago.

I want the Guardian’s future as a progressive voice to be similarly assured. So now, 32 years after selling my first freelance news article to the paper — a brief about BART’s effort to evict the Ashby Flea Market — I find myself replacing Tim as publisher. Longtime Managing Editor Marke Bieschke, aka Marke B., is filling his shoes as interim editor.

I know some Guardian readers assume that this means the end of progressive journalism in the paper. Please let me assure you that will not occur. I have spent the bulk of my career editing investigative newsweeklies and have no intention of going down in history as the guy who dumbed-down the Guardian.

The very night before Tim told me he was leaving, he presided over a packed forum on the topic of economic dislocation in San Francisco. At the height of a tech boom that has inflated rents and led to a wave of migration and evictions, it’s hard to imagine few other topics of greater importance. Tim and the Guardian have reported extensively on this issue in the year since the paper was acquired by the San Francisco Print Media Company. Of course, the Guardian was already writing about evictions long before Tim’s predecessor assigned me to write that 1981 article about the flea market.

Under Tim’s successor, that emphasis will not change.