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Print edition
Issue No. 3 of the San Francisco Public Press, a broadsheet full-color local newspaper, will be available for just $1 at more than 50 retail outlets by Thursday, and now throughonline mail order ($4).
The special section this issue: a team project on the fall and possible rebirth of Bay Area news media. Jeremy Adam Smith reports on how half of Bay Area newspaper jobs evaporated on the last decade, while David Weir delves into some of the more than 5,000 San Francisco-based new media startups.

Spring 2011

Microfinance comes under intense scrutiny for high interest rates, profits

Ambika Kandasamy, SF Public Press — Jun 15 2011 - 10:46am

LENDING: Bay Area firms call for greater transparency and education in small-scale loan sector

A spate of suicides and scandals that rocked the microfinance community in South Asia has prompted Bay Area-based microfinance groups to join a growing movement calling for better transparency and education involving small loan distributions.  Kristin Houk, president of San Francisco microcredit group NamasteDirect, said her organization is well aware of the negative press and scrutiny surrounding the microcredit industry. “Unfortunately, there’s a lot of money to be made in microfinance because interest rates can be quite high,” she said, “so people often see it as an opportunity to get in the game.”

Mayor: Social services agencies must plan for years of cuts

Kevin Stark, SF Public Press — Jun 10 2011 - 1:46pm

City Budget: Lee recommends 5-year planning for nonprofits

In a clear departure from his predecessor, Ed Lee, the city’s caretaker mayor, stumped across San Francisco’s 11 districts this spring criticizing ingrained budget balancing techniques as “an incredible act of disrespect.” His big new idea: to encourage nonprofit service agencies to plan their budgets on five-year cycles rather than groping year by year for funds to keep their doors open. That would go hand in hand with the city’s first ever five-year plan, released May 3, which projected a whopping $828 million shortfall five years from now.

Harder to Chronicle: fewer reporters cover more territory as Hearst, Media News reduce coverage overlap

Angela Hart, SF Public Press — Jun 2 2011 - 12:02pm

BYGONE BUREAUS: 8 of 9 local offices of the San Francisco Chronicle shuttered in last decade

This story appeared in the spring print edition as part of the Public Press’ media package of stories.

The days of the major daily newspapers in the Bay Area battling on each others’ home turf for domination is over, as consolidation and staff reductions forced them to slash bureaus and zoned editions. The San Francisco Chronicle, which a decade ago had nine news bureaus scattered across the entire Bay Area,  now just has one, in Oakland. And in San Mateo County, where the pressroom used to be packed with reporters from radio, TV and newspapers, most days there is only a single reporter from a regional wire service.

I.F. Stone’s radical idea

Michael Levitin, SF Public Press — May 26 2011 - 1:00pm

ESSAY: He believed that solid reporting could overcome the financial turmoil that plagued newspapers

In January of 1953, writing in the first edition of I.F. Stone’s Weekly, the Washington investigative journalist Isadore Feinstein — universally known as I.F. Stone — declared: “This weekly represents an attempt to keep alive through a difficult period the kind of independent radical journalism represented in various ways by PM, the New York Star and the Daily Compass,” three esteemed publications that for financial reasons had recently shut down. “This new enterprise,” he wrote, “embodies the hope that by beginning on a rock-bottom basis it will prove possible to survive and expand. The bald economics of daily newspaper publishing is enough to make the stoutest heart quail.” And for 19 years, week after week, Stone delivered audiences across North America and around the world a four-page newspaper pumped with meticulously documented research and witty analyses on the thorniest political subjects of his time, from McCarthyism to Vietnam. Nobody has rivaled his effort since.

Union leader says jobs will not return, urges media workers to reinvent selves

Shawn Gaynor, SF Public Press — May 24 2011 - 2:35pm

LABOR: Organized labor needs to do more to help freelancers, says Guild officer

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

Former San Francisco Chronicle science writer and union activist Carl Hall took a buyout from the newspaper in 2009. He is now executive officer of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, which represents union newsroom workers at Bay Area newspapers. He talked about changes in the Bay Area’s print news landscape and the future of unionized journalism.

City steps in where state fails to regulate toxic manis and pedis

Kyung Jin Lee, SF Public Press — May 23 2011 - 3:56pm

WORKING CONDITIONS: San Francisco program pushes nail salons to use safer chemicals

Heidi Hoang was pregnant when she first started working at Nails by Linda in San Francisco’s Sunset District. “There’s a lot of people who say, ‘You have to be careful with this kind of job. Maybe, no more baby,’” Hoang, now the salon manager, said. “I was so nervous.” Nail salon workers, many of whom are Vietnamese immigrants and refugees with limited English skills, have long endured toxic chemicals that emanate from products they use to beautify their clientele. The chemicals not only produce noxious fumes, but workers often complain of itchy skin, rashes and headaches after prolonged exposure to the substances. In an effort to combat the problem, San Francisco is developing guidelines to encourage nail salons to go green. In the absence of federal or state regulations protecting salon workers from toxic exposure at work, the city is working to educate salon owners about healthier alternatives.

Half of Bay Area newspaper jobs gone in last decade

Jeremy Adam Smith and Michael Stoll, SF Public Press — May 23 2011 - 11:32am

MEDIA CENSUS: Newspapers hardest hit, losing nearly 4,000 workers

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

State and federal labor statistics show that employment among Bay Area media workers fell 43 percent since 2001, a result of massive restructuring at local news outlets whose financial losses measured in the billions of dollars. Newspapers were hit the hardest, shedding upwards of 4,000 employees. As dozens of papers merged in an effort to cut costs, reporters who used to compete for scoops found their jobs redundant. While employment appears to have risen in the television and radio sector over all, journalists among them did not fare so well, state employment data suggest.

10 years on, a daily Chronicle 60% lighter; Mercury News shed 66%

Erica Reder and Justin Morrison, SF Public Press — May 13 2011 - 8:19am

Shrinking newspapers: Both papers lost sections, pages and advertisers

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

 In early May, when the official industry rankings came out, the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News touted slight gains in Sunday circulation after years of declines, suggesting that the local newspaper industry just might be coming back. But the number of papers thrown on Bay Area doorsteps tells only part of the story. Even the most optimistic interpretation of readership statistics can’t hide the publications’ anemic page counts. Both papers have shrunk dramatically in the past 10 years. 

5,000 new media startups — can one save local news?

David Weir, SF Public Press — May 12 2011 - 8:10am

RISE OF THE NEWS MACHINES: The future has arrived and it’s called the Age of Data

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories.

San Francisco sits at the epicenter of a brand new tech boom revolving around several thousand variously funded startup companies. The organizer of the premier mixer for entrepreneurs in the city, Christian Perry of SF Beta, estimates that there are between 4,000 and 6,000 such outfits in the city. (His current mailing approaches 5,000.) Many other ventures can be found in the Valley or in tech-focused business strips all over the East Bay and Marin.At the same time that all this feverish activity is taking place — and some would say because of it — there have been massive dislocations among the people who traditionally dug up the news. So how might these new ventures impact the future of journalism?


One million missing stories

Jeremy Adam Smith, SF Public Press — May 11 2011 - 1:52pm

POST PINK SLIPS: Displaced journalists see opportunities to cover community on their own

This article appeared as part of the Public Press' Spring print edition media package of stories. 

Since 2000, metro newspapers across the country have laid off an estimated 14,000 (out of 56,400) editors and reporters — a number that does not include journalists working for wire services, weekly newspapers or other media, all of which have suffered their own losses — according to blogger Ken Doctor, who writes the influential Newsonomics blog for the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. There are simply fewer trained eyes on city halls, police departments, schools and corporate boardrooms. As Doctor writes on his blog, “That news-gathering ... is what’s key to community information and understanding, fairly prerequisite in our struggling little democracy.”

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