New Owner Ousts Longtime San Francisco Bay Guardian Editor

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Tim Redmond speaks with local activist Medea Benjamin at a recent political convention. Photo by Steve Rhodes via Flickr

Tim Redmond, the longtime executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, left the paper late Thursday night after the owner forced him out, he said. Redmond said his dismissal stemmed from a dispute over personnel and editorial direction.

Stephen Buel, editor of the Guardian’s sister paper, the San Francisco Examiner, called it a resignation. Buel said the Guardian has been losing money and Redmond resigned to prevent the firing of other staff.

“We were forced to consider some editorial layoffs,” Buel said. “So Tim decided to resign rather than actually making those layoffs.”

The San Francisco Newspaper Company acquired the paper last year after having acquired the Examiner, and earlier this year also bought SF Weekly, the Guardian’s fiercest rival.

The Guardian’s managing editor, Marke B., will be the interim editor of the paper, Buel said. Buel will ascend to the role of publisher.

“His departure is not going to produce any philosophical changes on the paper,” Buel said. “We are still going to be the progressive newspaper of record.”

Redmond spoke about the pioneering left-wing weekly newspaper in the past tense, suggesting that the publication might not survive the transition to new ownership. “I would like to think that we were the progressive voice of San Francisco,” he said.

In a terse blog post Friday he said he left the paper where he worked for 31 years, after an exchange with the company’s owner. “I was informed late last night by the owner, Todd Vogt, that my ‘resignation’ had been accepted, although at no point did I resign,” Redmond wrote.

On Thursday, just before Redmond left, he refused management’s request to lay off three of the six remaining staff writers, said a source close to the company who asked not to be identified.

The source said no one on staff believed Vogt’s claim that Redmond left voluntarily.

As a reporter and then editor at the Bay Guardian, Redmond teamed up with founder Bruce Brugmann to challenge a local political structure he found dominated by moneyed interests. Redmond and Brugmann over the years have consistently advocated a municipally owned utility for the city, and only last year saw local leaders approve a limited public power option.

“When I came here it was still possible for writers, poets and artists to live here without working 80 hours a week,” Redmond said. “But the city has made great strides on progressive reforms such as district elections and renter protections.”

Liz Enochs, immediate past president of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter, also credited the Bay Guardian during Redmond’s tenure as a driving force in the region’s progressive movement.

“Tim Redmond’s brand of journalism was fiery, unapologetic activism,” she said. “And that’s a voice many in the SanFrancisco progressive scene will miss. Under his leadership, the Bay Guardian was consistently a strong advocate for holding the powerful accountable.”

Local civic leaders, even those who publicly sparred with him, voiced sadness at his departure.

“Tim Redmond will be missed as a powerful voice on public policy,” said Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of San Francisco’s Chamber of Commerce. “The Bay Guardian still plays a role in editorializing policies in San Francisco and we respect their point of view, but it is fair to say that we had different positions on most issues over the years.”

Redmond said in a phone interview that he would remain involved in local public affairs, “I will continue to be active in progressive politics and media in San Francisco,” he said.

Christopher D. Cook, a former Bay Guardian city editor and Public Press contributor, said Redmond’s departure portends a bad change in the Bay Area’s changing media landscape.

“I can’t help but feel incredibly saddened and outraged by this news,” Cook said. “Tim has been a central figure in San Francisco journalism and politics for 25 years. It’s a tragic loss and an exceedingly worrying sign not only for the journalistic community but also for this company, which has been buying up more and more newspapers at an alarming rate.”

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