Since the San Francisco Bay Guardian closed last week, columnists have been hypothesizing about the cause. Was it a bad business model or the paper’s dwindling progressive audience?
Whether the event signifies the death or rebirth of local news, it was a turning point for local journalism.
Any solution to the problem will come from both journalists and readers.
The closure of the Bay Guardian is not a unique case. In 2009, the Pew Research Center reported that membership in the Association of Alternative Newsmedia was at a high point of 135 publications. The association currently has 115 members, according to its website.
Although alternative weeklies have been closing across the country recently, this case hits home for SF State journalism students — and Xpress writers — who have enjoyed a long relationship with the Bay Guardian, where students have often gone on to work.
We now have one less possibility to receive a steady paycheck or place to practice our storytelling skills.
The loss of the Bay Guardian is also unfortunate for the general public, who depend on the combination of many different perspectives and overlapping coverage from various publications for a healthy news environment.
For journalism students, the shuttering of the Bay Guardian is a reminder that the future will look very different than the past.
We will always need local news to maintain healthy local political systems and create discourse in communities.
The reaction to the closure of the Bay Guardian has provided some positive signs for the rebirth on local news.
Soon after the paper closed, fans rallied behind a new Facebook page called The Guardian in Exile. Although it isn’t clear if a new organization will come out of the page, the community seems invested in finding a replacement for the Bay Guardian.
Journalists need more support like this if we want to revive local news.
After Tim Redmond left his editing position at the Guardian last June following a disagreement over staff cuts, he launched 48hillsonline.org, a news site covering many of the same issues as the Bay Guardian.
While online models for national news coverage seem to be falling into place, sites like 48hills cannot yet fulfill the role that the Bay Guardian held because they don’t have as large an audience as established local newspapers.
Since every American city has separate problems from the next, there will always be a need for journalists who have a deep understanding of any given town.
In turn, we need responsive communities to be invested in the life and death of local news organizations by reading, commenting on and caring about the news.
After the death of the Bay Guardian, both readers and journalists should take another look at how we can reshape local news for the future.
In order to keep the local news alive, young writers will need to find new solutions to this looming problem.
With the help of the public, we can discover what readers want to see and improve the news industry. The future of journalism depends on it.