It’s never comfortable when a news organization becomes news. We aim to tell stories about others, but occasionally the tables get turned. The spotlight’s glare can be harsh, but, as is the case with most uncomfortable issues, the light tends to have an ameliorating effect.
That happened this week at the San Francisco Media Company, which publishes the San Francisco Examiner and the SF Weekly. A drama played out in our newsrooms and executive offices about how and whether we should tailor our editorial product to appease advertisers. The result of the turmoil was that we, as a media company, reaffirm and adamantly defend the importance of an independent editorial voice and a free press for San Francisco.
Such a policy is essential for our mission to deliver trusted news to our readers, to maintain credibility among those we report on and seek to hold accountable, and to go after important stories that impact the future of The City. Those powers are only afforded to an independent press, and that is a privilege and an honor we hold dear, and one we will not give up without a fight.
It is, as they say, the whole ball game.
Only as an independent voice can we truly serve our advertisers, as well, since without that trust and integrity, the news we publish would not attract serious interest and, thus, our ads would rightly go unseen.
I am happy to report we uphold those beliefs, both at the Examiner and the SF Weekly. Under current ownership, we have never violated that trust, and after a close call this week at the SF Weekly, we hereby vow to redouble our efforts to uphold that tradition.
We had many difficult talks this week in both newsrooms. The newsrooms sit next to each other, sharing a common wall, so even though both strive to offer a unique view on The City — and occasionally scoop each other on stories — the staff of each are colleagues, and ethical issues concerning one affect the other.
Tempers overheated at times in these discussions, but in the end sanity prevailed and the danger was averted. A proposed story that would have compromised those independent values was scrapped after objections from staff.
The best remedy, and revenge, for tough times at a news publication is to do great work. And on that score, both papers have distinguished themselves impeccably this week. In addition to overall great reporting on local issues, the SF Weekly hit the streets this week with an outstanding issue devoted to this weekend’s Outside Lands festival, and the Examiner has run hard-hitting stories all week about allegations of corruption out of City Hall that has locals buzzing.
The crisis we faced this week, which became a public brouhaha, will potentially make us a stronger company, and it was a stark reminder of why we are here and how we can continue to best serve our readers, our advertisers and The City. We hope you keep reading.
— Michael Howerton,
Editor in Chief, San Francisco Examiner
Vice President of Editorial,
San Francisco Media Company