Guardian forum sparks lively discussion

Guardian staffers spoke a little and listened a lot at last night's forum.
Luke Thomas

We had a packed house last night for our community forum on the future of the Bay Guardian and the progressive movement in the Bay Area, with lots of great input, advice, gratitude, and just a bit of acrimony. It was even more informative and inspiring than we had hoped for and we appreciate everyone coming out and speaking so frankly.

As Sup. David Campos (who just announced his candidacy for the California Assembly) said last night, “The Bay Guardian has been the conscience of the [progressive] movement and I think it’s important for the Guardian to continue to play that role,” and that’s a role that the new generation of Guardian leaders will continue playing while also reaching out to a new generation of Guardian readers.  

We’ll have a full rundown in next week’s paper, along with an extended letters to the editor section to make up for shutting down online comments this week, so for now let me just offer a brief overview. In addition to Campos, the crowd of around 100 people included Sup. John Avalos, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, and City College of San Francisco Trustees Rafael Mandelman and Chris Jackson.

The crowd also included Todd Vogt, CEO of the San Francisco Print Media Company, who got an earfull from progressive activists Gabriel Haaland, Chris Cook, and others over the abrupt departure of longtime Guardian Editor Tim Redmond in June, with concerns expressed over the Guardian’s credibility and editorial autonomy.

Both Vogt and those on the Guardian’s panel — which included (from right in the photo above) Publisher Marke Bieschke, Editor Steven T. Jones, Music Editor Emily Savage, Senior A&E Editor Cheryl Eddy, Art Director Brooke Robertson, and News Editor Rebecca Bowe — emphasized that the Guardian has full editorial autonomy and control over what we cover and how, and who we endorse. The mission of the paper — “To print the news and raise hell,” and to be an indispensible guide to Bay Area arts and culture — hasn’t changed.

We’re all still digesting everything what was said last night (both at the forum in the LGBT Center and an informal session afterwards at Zeitgeist that went late), and we will be factoring it into what we do and continuing this ongoing conversation with all of you. We also welcome everyone's input and advice, which you can send to us at

A special thanks to Alix Rosenthal for moderating the public input — and to everyone who came — for somehow keeping the comments and questions clear, concise, and constructive.


UPDATE: Journalist Josh Wolf has written an excellent summary of the forum here at on the Journalism That Matters website. Check it out.

8/6 UPDATE: We just turned comments back on after shutting them off for a week-long experiment.


Is the photo above a still from "Billy Jack"?

Posted by Chromefields on Aug. 06, 2013 @ 11:19 am

off before they spoke?

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

What a picture of diversity! Is the SFBG staff entirely populated by privileged, caucasian, transplants?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 06, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

Nearly all of the audience was white as well.

Diversity is just a hobby really.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 06, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

Well, Marxism is essentially a product of the bourgeois mind! :-p

Posted by Guest on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 1:19 am

It is a good news for me, I will try to do it like you said and I will be back with reviews!

Posted by Yachtcharter Elan 350 on Feb. 13, 2014 @ 12:58 am

I think the folks at the podium are going to do their best, and to some extent it put my mind at ease that the Guardian won't disappear in the immediate future. But the long term business model of the ownership is the same failed business model that's sending newspapers (and nations, frankly) into a death spiral. They want to make money, and they want to do it by cutting stuff. The Guardian's been getting thinner over the years. There's been less coverage of everything, from investigative reporting to restaurants. And as a result, there's less and less reason to read it. You can't cut your way into prosperity.

One interesting idea that I heard, is going to a cooperative model. Or, why not a KPFA model? Sell it to the people of San Francisco and let them own it and run it with their subscriptions, with a board elected by the subscribers. Wouldn't even have to adopt KPFA's no-advertising rule necessarily. I don't know if it's ever been done, but then it's never been done with radio either... before KPFA.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 06, 2013 @ 10:41 pm

I'm sure there is a price that the owners will sell it at. As long as they make a decent profit on the deal and get to keep the Weekly, they'll be happy.

Of course, the SFBG staff would have to take a pay cut, but then they're in this for the principle not the money, right?

I did like your "you cannot cut your way to prosperity" line though if only because you've never used the word "prosperity" before and I rather thought that you held it to be a dirt word, like "profit" or "success".

Is that like "you cannot tax yourself to prosperity"? I know that one. Oh and "you cannot borrow your way to prosperity".

See, we have a lot in common after all.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 06, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

"Is that like "you cannot tax yourself to prosperity"? I know that one. Oh and "you cannot borrow your way to prosperity"."

No, no it's not like that at all. Because those things can and have been done. But I've yet to see a case where cutting your way to prosperity has succeeded. There's another word for you: success. I'm all about what works. Taxing the rich works. Borrowing can work too, but there's no need to borrow when simply redistributing wealth can succeed at bringing prosperity. But cutting just doesn't work. Sorry, that's reality.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 12:10 am

"tax, borrow and spend Greg"? I'm shocked.

Oh, and Greg, have you been following the saga of the Co-operative Bank in the UK, much loved by the English Labour Party?

Yes, you guessed it, bankrupt with allegations of fraud and negligence flying around. So yeah let's make the SFBG a co-operative. That will damn near ensure it's extinction.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 1:29 am

I know what it is somehow an updated opinion, but it is real what you said!

Posted by Article on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 3:11 am

that are being cut represent public over-spending, waste or corruption. In fact, Democrat Presidents like Clinton and Obama have presided over large cuts to welfare and other public spending precisely to improve the economy. When public spending decreases, the private sector invests more, and of course it is the private sector that creates wealth - the public sector consumes it.

I find it odd that you claim to have never seen that as it has been the policy of every US government since Reagan.

Posted by anon on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 1:54 am

"I find it odd that you claim to have never seen that as it has been the policy of every US government since Reagan. "

And it's no coincidence that during that time, the middle class has been steadily shrinking, poverty has been steadily going up, and inflation-adjusted wages have been going down. The owners of the economy, those at the very top, have done well, but the rest of us have seen a steady erosion in our standard of living.

Perhaps I should clarify. When I talk about prosperity and success, I'm talking about prosperity and success for 99% of the population. We created that in this country once. How did we do it? Through taxing the rich and spending heavily on public services. The more redistributive the policies are, the more prosperous the country is (the vast majority of the country).

And it makes perfect sense. High taxes on the rich incentivize reinvestment into the economy; low taxes on the rich only incentivize hoarding. Even more importantly, high taxes on the rich allow the government to create a state of broad-based security and prosperity for the 99%. The 99% are the engine of the economy. When they have security and prosperity, this stimulates demand and people spend money. Demand stimulates the private sector to produce. The economy still grows, and people still become rich. But it's a broad-based prosperity. We saw those policies in action from about the 1930s to the 1960s, and during that time America had an unprecedented increase in its standard of living.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 7:46 am

the average SF resident is far better off than 30 years ago by almost any measure.

Now, yeah, maybe the average Kentucky resident is worse off but, frankly, you don;y give a flying fuck about them anyway. But SF is far more affluent than 30 years ago - just look at the hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, cars, vacation destinations and so on.

A smaller public sector and less "tax, borrow and spend" directly makes everyone wealthier except the "city family" self-serving parasites. And if you are on their side, have the courage and honesty to admit it.

Posted by anon on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 8:10 am

First of all, I don't think we have a smaller public sector in San Francisco than we did 30 years ago. But it's not the sheer size of the public sector that really matters; it's how the money is spent. More cops and jails, for example, do nothing to improve living standards, but more money on health care does.

Secondly, there may be more rich people now than there were 30 years ago in San Francisco. Hell, there are more rich people clogging up the restaurants than there were 5 years ago. A relatively small number of people suddenly flush with enormous amounts of money will have a big impact on restaurant reservations and housing prices. However, that does not mean that the median San Franciscan is doing better. In fact, the median San Franciscan may well be doing worse if incomes aren't keeping pace with housing inflation, which in general they are not.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 8:47 am

living because it decreases my chances of encountering them.

And anyone who lived in SF 30 years ago will testify that it is more affluent and prosperous now than then. In fact, if it were not, you probably would not have a job here. You can always move to Detroit if you prefer economic gloom and despair.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 9:03 am

I lived in SF 30 years ago and 40 years ago for that matter.

The City is in way worse shape now.

There's more homeless, worse crime, infrastructure is decrepit, corruption is everywhere.

Meanwhile a privileged few party on heedlessly.

Posted by pete moss on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

meeting was a failure to engage the young tech workers of SF. Indeed, SFBG has been openly hostile to them, leaving them open to accusations that they practice the politics of envy.

IT is the engine room of the local economy and declaring war on tech is declaring war on hundreds of thousands of jobs, workers, voters and taxpayers. Why would you do that.

I have three explicit suggestions for SFBG:

1) Embrace tech and engage their workers. It's the future.

2) Be less SF-centric and more BayArea-focused - it is called the BAY Guardian for a reason

3) Lose the class war thing. It makes you sound like a stoned hippie circa 1968. Welcome success, don't hate on it.

Posted by anon on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 1:57 am

In other words, change. The problem is the whole existence of the "progressive" bloc -as represented by this paper- is predicated on preventing change.
So, dont hold your breath

Posted by Guest on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 6:23 am

SF progressives now oppose any change. They want to freeze SF in time - somewhere in the late 1960's, it seems.

Posted by anon on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 6:43 am

I was born in 1968, so my mentality definitely isn't stuck in the '60s, but I do believe that progressive policies and politics are more important now than ever. I would dispute your earlier point that San Franciscans are better off now than 30 years ago, except in the gains they have made because of progressive reforms such as the city minimum wage, paid sick days, expanded tenant protections, and the requirement that employers provide health coverage to their workers. Each of those reforms was championed by the Guardian and opposed by downtown business interests and fiscally conservative politicians, forces that have conspired to drive up the cost of living, hold down wages, starve out Muni and other vital public services, and push housing policies heavily skewed toward the wealthy -- all of which have made most San Franciscans (say those at 120 percent of median wage and below) worse off than they were 30 years ago. And I'm going to write and speak to young tech workers, old hippies, and anyone else who will listen to create a more informed and engaged citizenry so we can begin to reverse that slide.

Posted by steven on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 10:46 am

All I hear toy talk about is the the tech workers with their private buses and stock options, the bankers with their millions, the property owners who have seen 1000% gains in the last twenty years and a variety of others who have found the American dream here.

You claim to speak for the impoverished majority here but all you do is whine about those who buck the trend and make bank here.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 07, 2013 @ 11:39 am

That's the point: a very small percentage of San Franciscans have too much wealth and power, and they are making things unnecessarily difficult for the majority of San Franciscans. And the Guardian will continue covering that dynamic and its impacts.

Posted by steven on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 9:33 am

The point is: a very small percentage of progressive professional activists have too much wealth and power over the progressive movement and they are making things unnecessarily difficult for the majority of progressive and liberal San Franciscans. And the Guardian is not covering the dynamics and impacts of that.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 11:50 am

This mainly due to the banishment of the "Barrier Troll", AKA Lillipublicans, who of course was also banned from SFGate for trolling.

And the neutering of Marcos, Eric and Greg, who were responsible for a huge amount of "sound and fury, signifying nothing"

Congratulations to senior management at SFBG for listening and taking action.

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