The San Francisco Examiner is a longtime daily newspaper distributed in and around San Francisco, California. The Examiner is one of the pioneers in the industry and has been published continuously since the late 19th century.
The longtime "Monarch of the Dailies" and flagship of the Hearst Corporation chain, the Examiner converted to free distribution early in the 21st century and is now independently owned by the San Francisco Media Company LLC.
The Examiner was founded in 1863 as the Democratic Press, a pro-Confederacy, pro-slavery, pro-Democrat party paper opposed to Abraham Lincoln, but after his assassination in 1865 the paper's offices were destroyed by a mob, and starting on June 12, 1865 it was called the Daily Examiner.
In 1880, mining engineer and entrepreneur George Hearst bought the Examiner. Seven years later, after being elected to the U.S. Senate, he gave it to his son, William Randolph Hearst, who was then 23 years old. The elder Hearst "was said to have received the failing paper as partial payment of a poker debt."
William Randolph Hearst hired S.S. (Sam) Chamberlain, who had started the first American newspaper in Paris, as managing editor and Arthur McEwen as editor, and changed the Examiner from an evening to a morning paper. Under him, the paper's popularity increased greatly, with the help of such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, and the San Francisco-born Jack London, and also through the Examinerâââ'ââs version of yellow journalism, with ample use of foreign correspondents and splashy coverage of scandals such as two entire pages of cables from Vienna about the Mayerling Incident; satire; and patriotic enthusiasm for the Spanishâ"American War and the 1898 annexation of the Philippines.
William Randolph Hearst created the masthead with the "Hearst Eagle" and the slogan Monarch of the Dailies.
After the great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed much of San Francisco, the Examiner and its rivals â" the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Call â" brought out a joint edition. The Examiner offices were destroyed on April 18, 1906, but when the city was rebuilt, a new structure, the Hearst Building, arose in its place at Third and Market streets. It opened in 1909, and in 1937 the facade, entranceway and lobby underwent an extensive remodeling designed by architect Julia Morgan.
Through the middle third of the twentieth century, the Examiner was one of several dailies competing for the city's and the Bay Area's readership; the San Francisco News, the San Francisco Call-Bulletin, and the Chronicle all claimed significant circulation, but ultimately attrition left the Examiner one chief rival â" the Chronicle. Strident competition prevailed between the two papers in the 1950s and 1960s; the Examiner boasted, among other writers, such columnists as veteran sportswriter Prescott Sullivan, the popular Herb Caen, who took an eight-year hiatus from the Chronicle (1950â"1958), and Kenneth Rexroth, one of the best-known men of California letters and a leading San Francisco Renaissance poet, who contributed weekly impressions of the city from 1960 to 1967. Ultimately circulation battles ended in a merging of resources between the two papers.
For 35 years starting in 1965, the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner operated under a Joint Operating Agreement whereby the Chronicle published a morning paper and the Examiner published in the afternoon. The Examiner published the Sunday paper's news sections and glossy magazine, and the Chronicle contributed the features. Circulation was approximately 100,000 on weekdays and 500,000 on Sundays. By 1995, discussion was already brewing in print media about the possible shuttering of the Examiner due to low circulation and an extremely disadvantageous revenue sharing agreement for the Chronicle.
Gay Rights Controversy
On 31 October 1969, sixty members of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the Society for Individual Rights (SIR) staged a protest outside the offices of the San Francisco Examiner in response to another in a series of news articles disparaging LGBT people in San Francisco's gay bars and clubs. The peaceful protest against the "homophobic editorial policies" of the Examiner turned tumultuous and were later called "Friday of the Purple Hand" and "Bloody Friday of the Purple Hand". Examiner employees "dumped a bag of printers' ink from the third story window of the newspaper building onto the crowd". Some reports state that it was a barrel of ink poured from the roof of the building. The protesters "used the ink to scrawl 'Gay Power' and other slogans on the building walls" and stamp purple hand prints "throughout downtown San Francisco" resulting in "one of the most visible demonstrations of gay power". According to Larry LittleJohn, then president of SIR, "At that point, the tactical squad arrived â" not to get the employees who dumped the ink, but to arrest the demonstrators. Somebody could have been hurt if that ink had gotten into their eyes, but the police were knocking people to the ground. " The accounts of police brutality include women being thrown to the ground and protesters' teeth being knocked out.
When the Chronicle Publishing Company divested its interests, the Hearst Corporation purchased the Chronicle. To satisfy antitrust concerns, Hearst sold the Examiner to ExIn, LLC, a corporation owned by the politically connected Fang family, publishers of the San Francisco Independent and the San Mateo Independent. San Francisco political consultant Clint Reilly filed a lawsuit against Hearst, charging that the deal did not ensure two competitive newspapers and was instead a sweetheart deal designed to curry approval. However, on July 27, 2000 a federal judge approved the Fangs' assumption of the Examiner name, its archives, 35 delivery trucks, and a subsidy of $66 million, to be paid over three years.
On February 24, 2003, the Examiner became a free daily newspaper and is now printed Sunday through Friday.
On February 19, 2004, the Fang family sold the Examiner and its printing plant, together with the two Independent newspapers, to Philip Anschutz of Denver, Colorado. His new company, Clarity Media Group, launched The Washington Examiner in 2005 and published The Baltimore Examiner 2006-2009. In 2006, Anschutz donated the archives of the Examiner to the University of California, Berkeley Bancroft Library, the largest gift ever to the library.
Under Clarity ownership, the Examiner pioneered a new business model for the newspaper industry. Designed to be read quickly, the Examiner is presented in a compact, tabloid size without story jumps. It focuses on local news, business, entertainment and sports with an emphasis on content relevant to local readers. It is delivered free to select neighborhoods in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, and to single-copy outlets throughout San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Alameda counties, California.
By February 2008, the company had transformed the newspaper's examiner.com domain into a national hyperlocal brand with local websites throughout the United States.
Clarity Media sold the Examiner to San Francisco Newspaper Company LLC in 2011. The company's investors included then-President and Publisher Todd Vogt, Chief Financial Officer Pat Brown, and David Holmes Black. Early, incorrect media reports stated that the paper was purchased by Black's company Black Press. In 2014, Vogt sold his shares to Black Press.
In the early 20th century, an edition of the Examiner circulated in the East Bay under the Oakland Examiner masthead. Into the late 20th century, the paper circulated well beyond San Francisco. In 1982, for example, the Examiner's zoned weekly supplements within the paper were titled "City, "Peninsula," "Marin/Sonoma" and "East Bay." Additionally, during the late 20th Century, an edition of the Examiner was made available in Nevada which, coming out in the morning rather than in the afternoon as the mothership San Francisco edition did, would feature news content from the San Francisco edition of the day before ~ For instance, Tuesday's news in the Nevada edition that came out on Wednesday ~ but with dated non-hard news content ~ comic strips, feature columnists ~ for Wednesday.
- San Francisco Chronicle
- The Washington Examiner
- C.H. Garrigues, jazz columnist
- San Francisco newspaper strike of 1994
- San Francisco Examiner website
- Guide to the Fang Family San Francisco Examiner photograph archive, circa 1930-2000, at The Bancroft Library