Back in May, I had several interesting phone chats with independent journalist Max A. Cherney about the state of San Francisco's mainstream, alternative and queer weekly print media and the pending sale of a minority stake in the Bay Area Reporter to wealthy businessman and budding publisher Todd Vogt.
As a news consumer and media watchdog, I told Cherney of my longstanding ethical questions related to the BAR's owner and City Hall power-broker Thomas E. Horn, and the matter of media consolidation in the local market.
Cherney's article is now up at the SF Appeal and the online news site reports that the deal between Vogt and the BAR should be completed in the next 60 days, and here are key excerpts:
Hot on the heels of the San Francisco Newspaper Company’s acquisition of the SF Weekly, two principals at the SFNC are within days of closing on an agreement to purchase 49% of venerable LGBTQ publication the Bay Area Reporter. The SFNC presently owns the San Francisco Examiner,SF Weekly, and Bay Guardian [...]
In a letter of intent, inked in April, SFNC CEO Todd Vogt and CFO Patrick Brown made clear their plan to acquire a minority stake in the BAR – independently of the SFNC [...] Talks to purchase 49% of the paper began early this year, said B.A.R. general manager Michael Yamashita. “Our publisher Tom Horn met with Todd and discussed ways we could cooperate, and possibly acquire the Bay Area Reporter, or at least most of it,” Yamashita said [...]
Putting questions of financial collapse [of print news] aside, lingering concerns about editorial direction remain in the community. For example, outspoken local activist and LGBT blogger Michael Petrelis is concerned with the purchase’s implications for print media. “It’s setting off alarms for me because I fear competition will be diminished,” Petrelis told The Appeal [...]
Yamashita said the BAR strives to be conscious of any conflict of interest. He also noted that people are under the misperception that the Bob Ross Foundation funds the paper. However, while the Foundation owns the BAR, it does not fund the newspaper directly, Yamashita said. Instead, the BAR relies on revenue from ads and newspaper sales.
Many thanks to Cherney and the SF Appeal's editor Eve Batey for shedding more light on the plans of Vogt and his company for a healthy chunk of the city's media outlets.