Sunday, February 22, 2004

More about the Frisco Examiner sale

Look, I'm confused as everybody else about why a conservative Christian has bought a struggling newspaper in San Francisco, a city that Christians might consider a modern day sodom and gomorrah. Tim Porter, a respected journalist in Northern California, has this view:
    Anschutz is politically and religiously conservative, and has financially supported measures and organizations that are anti-gay and crusade against "overly sexualized" magazines, the Chronicle reported. Could it be that Anschultz wants to establish a conservative media voice in San Francisco to cater to that part of the city who is not thrilled, for example, to see gay couples lining up by the thousands to married in City Hall?

    Bob Starzel, a longtime executive for Anschutz and now chairman of the Examiner, hints at this when says, as the Chronicle put it, that the paper "will concentrate on local news, business and sports coverage, with an emphasis on neighborhoods."

      "People in San Francisco live in separate neighborhoods, but to a degree they do not know each other that well," said Starzel, who lives in the outer Richmond district.

    "Neighborood coverage" is a code phrase used by San Francisco's conservatives -- and, yes, there are some, enough, in fact, to rise up occasionally and elect one of their own mayor -- when they decry front-page stories about gay rights or the homeless. Conservatives, of the moderate variety, are generally thought to represent about a third of the San Francisco electorate and most live on the west side of the city, Starzell's neighborhood.

    Perhaps Anschutz intends to take one of journalism's core tenets and give voice to those San Francisco conservatives, who regularly complain they are voiceless in the Chronicle.

    Anschutz was waged a proxy campaign for decades against gays. What better place is there to make that battle more personal through the pages of a newspaper than in San Francisco?
So let's say, for the sake of argument, that Frisco is two-thirds liberal and one-third conservative. The Chronicle would get the two-thirds of the liberal readership and the Examiner would get the rest. Each might be able to survive. Who knows? It all depends on how a newspaper is edited -- if a liberal paper is interesting, everybody will read it. If a conservative paper is interesting, everybody will read that too, though the liberals will deny reading it.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Conservative billionaire buys San Francisco paper

Conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz (pictured; AP photo) has bought the San Francisco Examiner from the Florence Fang family for a reported $20 million. The Fang family bought the paper in 2000 from the Hearst Corporation, which sold it in order to buy the San Francisco Chronicle, the morning paper it had prized for many years. The Hearst's first choice would have been to close the Examiner, but the political powers that be insisted on two newspapers in Frisco, so the Examiner stumbles on. It's unknown what Anschutz will do with the Examiner, but his politics are conservative and anti-gay, which could mean trouble in San Francisco. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
    Same-sex marriages appear decidedly out of step with values openly espoused by Anschutz. In the 1990s, he backed Colorado's Amendment 2, the highly contentious measure that sought to restrict Colorado's cities from adopting civil-rights protections specifically for gays and lesbians. The issue reached national proportions, with opponents boycotting business with the state.

    According to published reports, Anschutz donated $10,000 to Colorado for Family Values, backers of the amendment, during the heated final days of the campaign. The amendment passed in 1992 but was later overturned by the state's Supreme Court. The media watchdog group Morality in Media, established in 1962 and based in New York, reportedly has received generous support from Anschutz for its crusades against pornography and obscenity in magazines, movies, television and other outlets.

    The nonprofit, interfaith group advocates letter-writing campaigns to government agencies and company executives in its efforts to stamp out material it deems inappropriate. Morality in the Media has made news for, among other reasons, its high-profile statements calling Cosmopolitan (owned by The Chronicle's parent firm, The Hearst Corp.) and Glamour magazines "overly sexualized" and its support for Internet filters on computers in public libraries.
Whether Anschutz will discard his morals in San Francisco, or use his paper to change the community, is an unknown at this point. Much of San Francisco's business community, including people in ad agencies and ad-buyers, are gay. It will be interesting to see if they read up on the Examiner's new owner or just watch his people's Powerpoint presentations without asking questions.