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Cori Brosnahan's blog

In Stock: A Thanks to Our Retailers

With your support for our Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter campaign, we plan to double our San Francisco distribution network within six months, sending our newsies-on-wheels far and wide with local, in-depth journalism. In the meantime, we wanted to thank the retailers who are already making a place for our paper on their shelves. These wonderful Bay Area retailers include: 


Thank you again to our retailers! Look for our Summer 2014 print edition in stores soon, and if you haven’t already, please support our Pedal-Powered News campaign

Pedal-Powered News Campaign Kicks into High Gear

Our Pedal-Powered News campaign is kicking into high gear! While we’ve reached our $10,000 goal, we still need 1,000 backers to receive a $10,000 matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. With your support, we’ll have a team of newsies on bikes ready to deliver our summer print edition to destinations throughout San Francisco. Help us get them on the road — every dollar counts!

A Former San Francisco Newsie Remembers Life at the Corner of Van Ness and Vallejo

At the beginning of the week, we promised you an interview with a former newsie who worked right here in San Francisco. Today, we’re happy to introduce Santo Alioto, who sold papers on the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Vallejo Street in the 1950s. Below you’ll find our interview with him, as well as a video of Alioto talking to us at his old stomping grounds. You can help us hire our own newsies — who will take to the streets on energy efficient, environmentally friendly bicycles — by supporting our Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter campaign.

A born-and-bred San Franciscan, Santo Alioto was just 10 years old when he started selling newspapers on the corner of Hyde and Union streets in the early 1950s. He made $1.42 his first night on the job, which he calls “pretty good money back then.” Eventually, Alioto was promoted to the corner of Van Ness and Vallejo, where we recently interviewed him.

“It was mainly traffic from the cars,” explained Alioto. “The cars would come by and you’d be holding up the headlines.” Newspapers were 7 cents, and “if they gave you a dime, you were really lucky that night.” All told, Alioto made about $1.65 each evening. Working five nights a week, that came to roughly $32 a month. Some of that money went to help his family pay the rent, which was — get ready for it, San Francisco apartment hunters — $36 a month for a two-bedroom flat in North Beach.

Times were certainly different, in more ways than one.

“In those days, there wasn’t as much television or radio,” Alioto said. “So people would take the paper in the afternoon and they’d go home and read the paper in the early evening or after dinner. People were devoted to the newspaper.”

And they had options. Alioto told us that at the time, there were four newspapers in San Francisco: the morning papers were the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner, and the afternoon papers were the San Francisco Call-Bulletin and the San Francisco News. On top of that, each newspaper had different editions. The Call-Bulletin, for example, had the Home Edition, the Seven Star Sport (“for all the horse-racing junkies”) and the last paper of the day, the Nine Star Final.

The most popular paper was the Call-Bulletin. “People were devoted to the Call Bulletin,” Alioto said. “If you ran out of Call-Bulletins, many times they would say well I’ll come back later, or I’ll buy it at another corner, or they reluctantly, reluctantly would buy the News.”

With the rise of television, the afternoon newspapers began to fade and the Call-Bulletin merged with the News. By that time, Alioto was a student at San Francisco State University, and instead of working the corner at Van Ness and Vallejo, he answered calls downtown at the News Call-Bulletin’s Subscriber and Complaints Department.

Alioto worked his way through college and became a high school teacher. Now 74, he lives with his wife in Contra Costa County. A life-long newspaper reader, he maintains a subscription, but is dismayed to see how few daily newspapers there are still standing. “The one thing about the newspapers fading away,” said Alioto, “is where do you get your news from and how reliable is it?”

Still, he says it makes him feel good to reminisce about his afternoons on the corner of Van Ness and Vallejo. “It was fun selling newspapers,” Alioto said. “And the best part about it was that you got to go home and count out your change.”

Meet the Team: Noah Arroyo and Tearsa Hammock

If you’ve been reading the San Francisco Public Press for a while, you may be familiar with the work of Noah Arroyo and Tearsa Hammock – two members of our all-star team.  Today, we’ve asked them to introduce themselves and talk a bit about their work. Here’s what they had to say:

To get Noah and Tearsa’s work out to an even bigger audience, please donate to our Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter campaign! While we’ve reached our $10,000 goal, we still need 1,000 backers to receive a $10,000 matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. One dollar is all it takes to be a backer and support investigative journalism in the Bay Area!

Famous Newsies of Yore

Legend has it that the first newspaper boy was 10-year-old Barney Flaherty, hired in 1833 by the New York Sun in response to an advertisement that read: "To the Unemployed a number of steady men can find employment by vending this paper."

A boy on his bicycle delivering the Toronto Star in 1940. Photo by Marjorie Georgina Ruddy via Wikimedia Commons

Ambitious, enterprising youngsters were soon selling and delivering newspapers throughout the country. The first job for many a successful person, the list of famous folks who got their start as newspaper delivery boys includes:

  • Walt Disney
  • H. Ross Perot
  • Bob Hope
  • Ed Sullivan
  • Danny Thomas
  • John Wayne
  • Bing Crosby
  • Jimmy Durante
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Herbert Hoover
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Harry S. Truman
  • Ed Sullivan
  • Isaac Asimov
  • Carl Sandburg
  • Tom Brokaw
  • Wayne Gretzky
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

Source: Newspaper Association of America via Library Spot

Want to know more about what it was like to be a newspaper delivery boy? Coming up later this week, we’ve got an interview with a former newsie who worked right here in San Francisco. In the meantime, support our Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter campaign and help us get our own bicycle-riding newsies on the road!  

Roundup: The Best of the San Francisco Public Press

In the mood for a good Friday afternoon read?

Since it launched in March 2009, the San Francisco Public Press has published in-depth investigative stories on public-interest topics ranging from human trafficking to smart growth. With our Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter campaign, we’re hoping to double our San Francisco distribution, giving more readers access to these important, under-reported stories.

Here’s a roundup of some of our best articles and special reports:

David Cohn on Artisanal News

“What I love about what the San Francisco Public Press is doing is the idea of treating news almost artisanal… Lots of time, and love, and energy, and sweat and blood goes into each paper…”

David Cohn is a San Francisco Public Press board member and longtime advisor in the realm of all things digital. After founding, which was acquired by American Public Media, David joined the founding team at Circa – a mobile news app that covers world events by constantly recombining brief updates – where he is now Chief Content Officer. Here’s what he had to say about the San Francisco Public Press and our Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter campaign:

It Takes More Than a Catchy Headline

“Newsies,” which came out in 1992, is a cult classic film loosely based on the New York City Newsboys Strike of 1899. We’re taking this piece of immortal wisdom to heart with our Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter campaign, which will help us hire our own team of newsies to deliver the San Francisco Public Press print editions by bicycle straight to your door. We’ve got the headlines covered – we need your support to get our newsies-on-wheels out there!

Gif courtesy of the-birdie

A Subway-Style Map for Cyclists

With your support for our Pedal-Powered News campaign on Kickstarter, we’ll have a team of newsies on bikes ready to deliver our summer print edition to destinations throughout San Francisco. What routes will they take as they zoom around the city? Very likely one of these:

This subway-style map comes courtesy of San Francisco cyclist Mat Kladney, who submitted it to the See-Through Maps exhibition at U.C. Berkeley last year, where it was a finalist.

“As a long time cyclist, I recently realized that the mental map that exists in my mind of San Francisco is different from most (and importantly does not exist in print form),” Kladney wrote in an essay accompanying the map.

Kladney’s map answers the simple, practical question “how do I get from here to there?” But as any cyclist will tell you, the ride is often its own reward.

Kladney emailed the Public Press details about three routes he’s been enjoying lately:

1. O'Shaughnessy hill along Glen Canyon and connecting it to Laguna Honda.  It is a long, slightly steep hill, but very bikable and beautiful along the whole length of the trail.

2. Polk Street, it is a little crazy and a little dangerous, but really fun and MUCH faster than street traffic.  And with the northbound contra-flow bikeway, is now directly connected to Market Street.

3. Riding to Golden Gate Bridge from Arguello.  You only have to ride up one hill and are awarded with the best views of the bay.

If you want one of your own, Kladney’s awesome map is available for purchase on his

And if you haven’t already, please support our Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter campaign! Every dollar counts!

Bikes Haul It All in 'Less Car More Go'

The Public Press will soon be getting into the cargo bike business with our Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter campaign. We thought it would be a good idea to learn more about the field, so we talked to Liz Canning, a filmmaker and animator based in Fairfax, California, about “Less Car More Go,” her crowd-sourced documentary about the birth and boom of the cargo bike, for which she’s currently raising funds.

The following interview has been edited and condensed. Photo courtesy of Liz Canning.

Liz Canning with her children on her cargo bike.Can you tell us a bit about the history of cargo bikes?

The first cargo bikes were made over a hundred years ago in Northern Europe, where they were a big deal. They caught on here for a little while around the turn of the century, and even in the 1950s there were a lot of delivery bikes, but they disappeared once we started using cars. The Xtracycle was invented around 1995, and they tried really hard to get it to catch on here, but it just didn’t. It wasn’t until around 2006, 2007 that cargo bikes started to come back.

Why now?

I think it was partly rising gas prices, awareness of climate change issues and even the economy tanking.

Where in the country are we seeing the cargo bike movement taking off?

It’s happening mostly in the bike-friendly cities: the Bay Area, Portland, where they’ve been doing it for a long time, and even places like New York and Chicago.

Are there ways that cities can make it easier for people to use cargo bikes?

Yes, and I think that the major cities are all working on bike infrastructure right now. There’ve been some laws passed that have made a lot more money available for bike infrastructure, and I think it’s going to get better and better.

Another really exciting thing that’s about to happen in the Bay Area is that City CarShare is going to add electric cargo bikes to their program. Cargo bikes are expensive, but once people try it — especially with electric assist — they see that it’s easy, and anyone can do it. So I think having a bike share program where it’s available for people to just try is going to be great.

How does electric assist work?

With electric assist, you have a motor that goes in the hub of your wheel, and then a battery someplace else on the bike. There are different kinds of systems, but mine, for example, is straddle-activated. I use it whenever I need a little boost to get up a hill, or if I’m carrying four kids. It makes riding a cargo bike much more fun and doable, so that you never really have an excuse. You might be tired, you might not want to get sweaty, you might be picking up a lot of stuff along the way, but with electric assist, there’s no reason not to take the bike, really.

How did you get into cargo bikes?

I’ve always loved my bike, I was never into driving and I loved riding everywhere around the Bay Area. It was hard when I had my kids and realized that I couldn’t get them up our hill anymore. So I started looking around on the Internet and I found this cargo bike. We bought it pretty quickly and immediately realized that it was a huge benefit to us. Then, once we got the electric assist, I realized that this was not just for hardcore cyclists. Anybody could really benefit from this.

How did the idea for “Less Car More Go” come about?

We got the bike four years ago and the electric assist nine months after that. I’d had the motor for a few months, and was realizing through spending time online how many blogs there were. People were writing about how their cargo bikes had enhanced their lives and I kept on talking about the idea until my husband said, “you just have to do this, you can’t drop it.”

What about cargo bikes makes people so excited?

There’s so much of our daily life when I think we’re aware that we’re compromising ourselves. To me, it’s like when you get on a bike, everything about it feels right — it’s good for your body, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for your kids if they’re with you. Riding with kids is totally magical.

It’s a really contagious feeling, and I think that’s why the connections between cargo cyclists are so intense. There are a lot of groups, and they are really supportive of each other. It’s something that we all want to see more people doing. The support for the project and for the Kickstarter has been amazing.

What are some of your favorite stories?

Well, of course, there’s Emily Finch, the mom who carries six kids on her bike in Portland. It’s unbelievable. Her bike with all the kids on it probably weighs over 600 pounds. She actually used to drive a nine-passenger suburban in Pennsylvania, but became concerned about peak oil and started thinking about a new way of transporting her kids. At the time, in Pennsylvania, people thought she was insane. She moved to Portland partly because she realized that she just didn’t want to drive anymore.

Another family, Stacy Bisker and Brent Patterson, had four kids and a lot of student debt, and decided purely for financial reasons to get a cargo bike. They were not bike people and now they are so all over it. They don’t have any cars. They had to move to Buffalo, New York and they got through the whole winter without using a car.

The bike people will come, they’ll be interested, but this isn’t going to take off unless we expand our notion of what bike people are. Mikael Colville-Andersen talks a lot about how the main obstacle with many of the Anglo-Saxon countries is that bikes have been a toy or a recreational vehicle for so long. People really think of it as something that you do for sport. They don’t take it seriously as a practical solution to many problems.

Are you seeing a lot of businesses switching over?

It’s slow-going in this country. George Bliss, who’s kind of a big deal in the history of cargo bikes in New York — he owned a pedicab business and now he owns a cargo bike shop — he talks about how there’s sort of a romanticism involved with being a bike messenger, there’s sort of the cool factor, but once you put a lot of weight on a bike, it’s sort of a grubby job. So it’s going to take somebody like Whole Foods, some big chain getting a fleet of electric-assist cargo bikes or trikes and doing a lot of their business that way, and then it will catch on.

In Europe, for example, the European Cyclists Federation has this group called Cycle Logistics. It’s a collaboration between representatives from about nine different European cities, all of which are really congested and built obviously before the automobile. What they’re trying to do is get the last part of a delivery run — the intra-city delivery — all done on cargo bikes, so there’s a lot of businesses there starting to use bikes. It’s happening there for sure.

Would you like a newspaper delivered by cargo bike?

Out here [in Fairfax], that person would have a real workout, but in San Francisco, absolutely. I think that’d be so cool.

Check out Liz’s Less Car More Go Kickstarter Campaign

Check out the Public Press' Pedal-Powered News Kickstarter Campaign

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