By: Rob Gloster, Associated Press Writer
(AP) The once-mighty San Francisco Examiner hit the streets Monday with a front-page headline proclaiming its latest incarnation: “FREE!”
The paper, at one time the flagship of William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper empire, fired most of its staff Friday and transformed itself into a smaller paper that calls itself “California’s first free urban newspaper.”
The new Examiner, which was 40 pages Monday, will be available five days a week. On Friday, when the Examiner cost a quarter, it included 70 pages.
“This follows an innovative publishing model that has proven successful in Philadelphia and Boston, following in the European tradition of free newspapers in urban centers,” the paper said in a front-page story about itself.
James Fang, son of publisher Florence Fang, handed about 40 people their pink slips at a staff meeting Friday. Executive Editor Zoran Basich said the paper will continue with about 15 reporters, editors, and photographers and use more material from other free papers owned by the Fang family.
The Fangs took control of the paper from the Hearst Corp. in November 2000, in a deal that helped Hearst gain antitrust approval of its $660 million purchase of the much-larger San Francisco Chronicle.
The deal provided the Fang family with a $66.7 million subsidy from New York-based Hearst, spread over three years. The agreement was broken into three payments of $16.7 million the first year, and up to $25 million in the each of the next two years. Basich said he didn’t know whether this year’s $25 million subsidy had already been exhausted.
“Clearly, we knew we were going to have to do something sooner or later,” Basich said.