By: Lucia Moses and Joe Strupp

Two-Newspaper Competition Survives In SF

In the latest bizarre twist in a newspaper saga that continues to defy

conventional wisdom, the Hearst Corp. agreed to sell its 112-year-old

flagship San Francisco Examiner to the publishers of the San Francisco

Independent, a free, thrice-weekly paper and longtime critic of the


Under an unusual arrangement, Hearst will continue to operate the paper

and give the buyers an unspecified subsidy, said Ted Fang, the maverick

publisher of the Independent. The buyers wouldn?t get the presses or

building from Hearst. All Examiner staff would remain Hearst employees

for the time being; Fang would not be obligated to hire them. Neither

side would release a sales price.

The new owners plan to convert the Examiner to the morning cycle after

four months, and go head-to-head with the San Francisco Chronicle, which

Hearst agreed last summer to buy for $660 million. That sale is expected

to be finalized at the end of this month.

The Independent, distribution 212,000, is owned by the Fangs, a

politically prominent San Francisco family. The Independent will be

operated separately from the Examiner, Fang said.

Questions remain about the Examiner?s viability without its 35-year-old

joint operating agreement with the Chronicle: The JOA would be dissolved

as part of the sale. When Hearst announced last summer it was buying the

Chronicle and shopping the Examiner, it was widely assumed that San

Francisco would join a growing number of one-newspaper cities because no

one would want to buy a declining p.m. paper without the benefits of the

JOA. But the Fangs emerged after Hearst allowed more time to look for a

buyer under pressure from federal regulators and city officials who

protested the paper?s potential demise.

Doug Cuthbertson, executive officer of the Northern California Media

Workers Guild, said he would vigorously pursue a Guild agreement with

the Examiner after the takeover by Fang, who said he was willing to

discuss unionization.


Lucia Moses and Joe Strupp are associate editors
for Editor & Publisher magazine.

(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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