Will Marc Benioff respond to Broke-Ass Stuart’s plea to help fund local journalism? (Kevin N. Hume/SF Examiner)

An open letter to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff

As you know, the media business model is utterly broken.

Hey Marc!

Broke-Ass Stuart here. I’ve been trying to connect with you for a little while by emailing your team and tweeting at you, but I’ve had no luck so far. I don’t take it personally though. After all, I am the guy who wrote a viral article naming your new building “The Butt Plug.” You seem like someone with a good sense of humor though, so I’ll just chalk up the radio silence to you being really busy. I mean you do run Salesforce, a gazillion dollar company, after all.

Anyway, now that I’ve got your attention, I’d like to use this as an opportunity to invite you out for a drink. Hell, I’ll even buy as long as we go to a dive bar where I can afford it. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Is this the most shameless and public attempt anyone has ever made to get a Sugar Daddy?” and the answer is “Yes, yes it is.” But not in a sex-related way. I’d like to talk to you about becoming the Sugar Daddy for Bay Area independent journalism. I guess you could call it being a benefactor.

As you know, the media business model is utterly broken. Journalism is one of those very rare things whose intrinsic worth grows while its monetary value plummets. I could get into the specifics of it, but you’re a smart man and I’m sure you understand the harrowing economic realities of this current moment. If not, I’ll be happy to discuss it in more detail when we get a drink at Specs’.

Over the past few years we’ve seen countless publications shutter, and witnessed surviving newsrooms shed talent at frightening speeds. And I’m not just talking about the big publications, many of which whose parent companies felt that profit was superior to doing what’s important. Local independent journalism has been hit even harder.

Since you’re a San Francisco dude, I’m sure you remember the glory of picking up a San Francisco Bay Guardian and it being nearly as thick as a novel. Inside you’d find an investigative piece about whatever Willie Brown was up to, an interview with a modern luminary like Cornel West, a review of the latest Dave Eggers book, and a list of every amazing cultural event happening that week. It was incredible. Independent media used to be so strong here that SF even had two competing alt-weeklies up until only a few years ago. Now in 2020, there is one, SF Weekly, and we’re lucky to have any publications around at all. The ones left are hanging on by their fingernails.

That’s why when we get a drink at Benders, I’m going to pitch you the idea of starting an organization that funds local independent journalism.

What I’m proposing is a fund that distributes $1 million every year to local publications like Mission Local, 48 Hills, the San Francisco Public Press, BerkeleySide, and, of course, BrokeAssStuart.com. Hell, you could even throw in an important legacy newspaper like the Examiner for good measure.

I’m not sure you understand how far $1 million a year could go in the world of local media. That money can fund up to 20 full time journalists, which is a huge amount. To put things in perspective, most independent outlets only have one or two full-time people who juggle writing, editing, social media, biz dev, sales and 80 other things. Adding 20 full-time journalists to the Bay Area could revolutionize the amount of vitally important stories being told. Local journalism is as impactful to our lives as our local politics and since the Bay Area is on the forefront of nearly every social crisis affecting our nation, the stories we tell here could help shine light on how to make change everywhere.

Plus, you wouldn’t even need to fund it all yourself. I’m sure you could get a couple other billionaire buddies to kick in. I know that you understand the importance of journalism, you did buy Time Magazine for $190 million. At that rate you could fund Bay Area journalism for the next 190 years!

In your recent New York Times op-ed titled “We Need a New Capitalism,” I appreciate the fact that you called out your fellow billionaires. I call them out all the time but for some reason they don’t listen to a guy named “Broke-Ass Stuart.” While I think the existence of billionaires is a flaw in the system, not the ultimate reward, I dig the fact that you believe people like yourself should be paying more taxes.

In the article, you go on to say that “profits are important, but so is society.” My question to you is, “What better reflection of society is there than a healthy, thriving culture of journalism?”

I guess we can discuss it when we grab a drink at The Stud.

Looking forward to hearing back from you!

Smooches!

Broke-Ass Stuart

Stuart Schuffman is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list at http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. His column appears every other Thursday. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examiner.

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