New Guardian leadership wants your input

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San Francisco Print Media Company last week named Marke Bieschke as publisher and Steven T. Jones as editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, elevating two longtime Guardianistas into the top spots, guaranteeing them editorial autonomy, and letting them work with the community to chart its future.

As a first step in that process, the Guardian will hold a public forum on July 31 from 6-8pm in the LGBT Center, 1800 Market Street, to solicit input and discuss the Guardian's unique role in the Bay Area's political and journalistic landscape. Helping to coordinate the forum is Guardian writer Rebecca Bowe, who has accepted the position of news editor. The forum and subsequent discussions will form the basis for a strategic plan that will help guide the Guardian into a new era.

The newspaper's future was uncertain a month ago following the abrupt departure of longtime Guardian Editor-Publisher Tim Redmond in a dispute with the owners over layoffs and the Guardian's autonomy. The company's Vice President of Editorial Operations Stephen Buel, who is also editor of the San Francisco Examiner, was named interim Guardian publisher and Bieschke its interim editor.

Heeding concerns in the community about whether the Guardian would remain an independent, progressive voice in San Francisco, Bieschke and Jones negotiated terms with SF Print Media Company CEO Todd Vogt that guarantee them full editorial control, the addition of three new advertising sales positions and another staff writer, and guaranteed minimum staffing levels during a rebuilding period.

Bieschke and Jones, who are in their early 40s and have been with the Guardian for around 10 years each, say they are excited for the opportunity to work collaboratively with Guardian staff and its community to rejuvenate the paper, attract new readers, and achieve economic sustainability.

"Losing Tim's leadership was hard on all of us at the Guardian, and we struggled with what to do next. But ultimately, the Guardian plays such an important role in San Francisco — particularly now, at a pivotal moment for this gentrifying city and its progressive movement — that we wanted to find a way to keep that voice alive, maintain our credibility, and reach out to a new generation of Bay Area residents," Jones said.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian was founded in 1966 by Jean Dibble and Bruce B. Brugmann, who continues to blog and serve as editor-at-large for the Guardian. The couple retired from regular duties when the financially troubled paper was sold to Canadian investors headed by Vogt in the spring of 2012, a deal engineered by Redmond, whose writing is always welcome in the pages of the Guardian as he pursues a new media venture.

"I'm stoked to bring a different energy and openness to innovation to the Guardian, while respecting our legacy and strengthening our bonds with the progressive, alternative community," Bieschke said. "Obviously, Steve Jones and I stand on the shoulders of giants, and we're so grateful to our Guardian family, past and present, for blazing a trail for world class progressive journalism, arts and culture coverage, and community-building in the Bay Area. In that spirit, I'm eager to reconnect with our readers and partner with them to amplify the Guardian voice and continue to change the Bay Area for the better."

Vogt said he's excited by the prospects of new generation of Guardian leadership: "I'm happy about this. I think it's appropriate that two recognized leaders in the progressive community are in charge of the Guardian and I look forward to seeing what they do with it."

Years of cutbacks have distilled the Guardian newsroom down to just a few excellent journalists, but all say they're excited for the chance to rejuvenate the paper, build its readership and revenues, and work more closely with the community.