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Exclusive: Pot-themed newspaper to replace San Francisco Bay Guardian

A newspaper box for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. (Photo: David Pursehouse/Flickr)
A newspaper box for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. (Photo: David Pursehouse/Flickr)

The San Francisco Media Company is readying the launch of a marijuana-themed alternative newspaper to replace the shuttered San Francisco Bay Guardian, according to sources.

The new paper will be spun off from a marijuana column that already appears in the San Francisco Weekly, a sister publication of the defunct Bay Guardian. Tentatively named “Chem Tales,” the pot-focused publication will have no exclusive staff and will instead rely upon contributions from existing writers at the Weekly and the San Francisco Examiner, a daily paper owned by the Media Company.

Chem Tales is expected to launch in November, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. A review of online records found that the website has been acquired by the Media Company.

A spokesperson for the company did not return an inquiry from The Desk by press time.

Bay Guardian staffers were surprised to learn about the paper’s demise when it was announced by publisher Glenn Zuehls on Tuesday. The media executive said a decrease in advertising revenue was the reason behind his decision to close the publication.

“The Guardian has not made money for years,” Zuehls said in a statement to the Examiner. “When we bought it two years ago, in fact, it was doing poorly … and we tried to breathe life into it. The product is incredible, but if we don’t have people who will advertise in it, sometimes these strong, passionate things, you can’t sell.”

The reason the paper struggled to sell ads is because Zuehls cut the Bay Guardian’s sales staff over the course of several months this year, according to a former employee. Layoffs began hitting the sales department during a transition period that also saw the departure of former owner and editor Todd Vogt, the source said. Sales representatives who were not laid off were reassigned to the Examiner and the Weekly, which eventually left the Bay Guardian with no sales staff of its own.

In addition to the paper, the website of the Bay Guardian was also closed on Tuesday. Instead of news articles, visitors were re-directed to a static webpage announcing the demise of the paper. Zuehls told the Los Angeles Times that the website was taken offline as a “precaution” and that he was working with staff members to potentially restore thousands of articles in the site’s archive.

The final print edition of the Bay Guardian was distributed on Wednesday.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is an award-winning journalist with more than 10 years of experience covering the business of television and radio broadcasting, streaming services and the overall media industry. In addition to his work as publisher of The Desk, Matthew contributes regularly to StreamTV Insider and KnowTechie, and has worked for several well-known news organizations, including Thomson Reuters, McNaughton Newspapers, Grasswire, Comstock's magazine, KTXL-TV and KGO-TV. Matthew is a member of IRE, a trade organization for investigative reporters and editors, and is based in Northern California.

Email: [email protected] | Signal: 530-507-8380