In a town known for its strong neighborhood ties, unusual political issues, and hunger for local coverage, the owners of the monthly Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon ? which cover two of the city's biggest residential neighborhoods ? have combined forces for the new, citywide newspaper named the City Voice.
Editors released the first issue of the 100,000-circulation paper on April 14 during a special kickoff party at their new downtown headquarters. With a staff of 10 people, including two reporters, the veteran monthly publishers vowed to cover both neighborhood and City Hall issues.
"We hope to better serve the neighborhoods and the community with news that is important and not covered at the present time," said publisher Paul Kozakiewicz, who has published the Richmond Review for the past seven years. "There are a lot of gaps to be filled, and we are going to do it and cover the outlying areas."
The 16-page first issue included several columns about the new publication, an editorial page, and a spate of articles about various city issues and neighborhood stories.
Kozakiewicz said each Friday's City Voice will be available through 20,000 home deliveries, 200 news racks, and 1,200 other locations, such as bars, restaurants and coffeehouses.
Chris Rivers, who will serve as City Voice advertising sales manager, also is publisher of the Sunset Beacon. He said both publications will continue to print and will work together to cover stories that the daily papers fail to notice.
"We found that when we were concentrating on issues in the avenues and the neighborhoods, we were covering stories that the dailies ignored or covered late," said Rivers. "If we can add another voice to the city, we believe we will help everyone."
The City Voice's most direct competition likely will be the San Francisco Independent, a thrice-weekly free newspaper, which distributes on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday, and has a circulation that tops 250,000. The Independent also mixes neighborhood news with government issues.
John Gollin, a consultant to the Independent, said he welcomes competition, but noted the San Francisco market may not be able to support another citywide neighborhood publication.
"With the [San Francisco Bay] Guardian, the Independent, and numerous small, neighborhood monthlies, I'm unclear as to what void the City Voice is trying to fill," Gollin said. "The Independent has always welcomed and thrived on competition, and we welcome the City Voice."
Publishers of the Guardian and the S.F. Weekly, the only other citywide, weekly papers in existence, said they also welcome another news voice, but don't believe it will impact their circulation.
"The more, the merrier," said Bruce Brugmann, Bay Guardian publisher. "It's a major job publishing here in San Francisco and it is survival of the fittest, but I wish them well."
Jim Rizzi, who recently became publisher of the S.F. Weekly, said he does not expect much competition from a neighborhood-based newspaper.
"I don't think they are trying to get the same audience; we have a different slant and a different advertiser," said Rizzi, who joined S.F. Weekly when it was purchased earlier this year by New Times Inc., a nationwide alternative paper chain. "We are really concentrating on competition with the Guardian."
Kozakiewicz would not disclose how much of an investment has been made in the City Voice, but did say, "My life savings is in the pot, plus a large loan."
He also said no outside investors had put funding into the new publication's expenses.
The timing of the new City Voice seems unusual as newspapers across the country cope with skyrocketing newsprint costs, which are expected to jump nearly 50% by the end of the summer.
At the same time, the city's daily newspapers ? the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle ? are struggling with lost advertising and increased competition from other media outlets.
Still reeling from a bitter strike last fall, both the Chronicle and Examiner continue to cut costs amid rumors of a possible merger or folding of one of the two newspapers.
But Rivers contends that such troubles at the daily news level are actually a positive for other papers. He said more readers want a free publication that will give them local and city news, but not charge a fee.
"This is a free newspaper and the trend for free newspapers is increasing," said Rivers. "We believe there is a spot for us."
Rivers admitted that advertising is tough to find in today's budget-tightening times, but said the City Voice is luring advertisers with low rates.
?(The City Voice) [Photo]
By: Joe Strupp AT A TIME when San Francisco's two daily newspapers are struggling, local alternative publishers are battling for advertisers, and newsprint costs continue to soar, two neighborhood newspaper publishers are doing the unthinkable ? launching a new, free, citywide newspaper.