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Our History

The San Francisco Examiner is a daily newspaper distributed in and around San Francisco, California, and published since 1863.

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 owned by the San Francisco Media Company Inc. The San Francisco Examiner was sold to Black Press Group, a Canadian media publisher, in 2011. As of 2014, The San Francisco Media Company Inc. is held under Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press Group Ltd.


Founding

The Examiner was founded in 1863 as the Democratic Press, a pro-Confederacy, pro-slavery, pro-Democratic 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.


Hearst Acquisition

In 1880, mining engineer, entrepreneur and US Senator 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 an editor, and changed the Examiner from an evening to a morning paper. Under him, the paper's popularity increased considerably, with the help of such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, and the San Francisco-born Jack London, and also through the Examiner's 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 Spanish–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 by 1889 at the latest.


20th Century

After the great earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed much of San Francisco, the Examiner and its rivals — the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Call — 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 — 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 (1950–1958), 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, the 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.

In its stylebook and by tradition, the Examiner refers to San Francisco as "The City" (capitalized), both in headlines and text of stories. San Francisco slang has traditionally referred to the newspaper in abbreviated slang form as "the Ex" (and the Chronicle as "the Chron").


21st century

Fang Acquisition
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 generous 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. From their side, the Fangs paid Hearst US $100 for the Examiner.

On February 24, 2003, the Examiner became a free daily newspaper, printed Sunday through Friday.



Anschutz Acquisition
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 from 2006 to 2009. In 2006, Anschutz donated the archives of the Examiner to the University of California, Berkeley Bancroft Library, the most significant 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 size without story jumps. It focuses on local news, business, entertainment, and sports with an emphasis on content relevant to its 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.



Independent Ownership
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. In 2014, Vogt sold his shares to Black Press. Present-day owners of the Examiner also own SF Weekly, an alternative weekly, and previously owned the now-shuttered San Francisco Bay Guardian.


Editions

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.

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