San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San
Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. It was founded in
1865 as The Daily Dramatic Chronicle by teenage brothers Charles de
Young and Michael H. de Young. The paper is currently owned by the
Hearst Corporation, which bought it from the de Young family in 2000.
It is the only major daily paper covering the city and county of San
The paper benefited from the growth of
San Francisco and was the
largest circulation newspaper on the West Coast of the United States
by 1880. Like many other newspapers, it has experienced a rapid fall
in circulation in the early 21st century, and was ranked 24th by
circulation nationally for the six months to March 2010. The newspaper
publishes two web sites: SFGate, which has a mixture of online news
and web features, and sfchronicle.com, which more closely reflects the
type of articles that typically appear in print.
1.1 Joint operating agreement (JOA)
1.1.1 Push into the suburbs
1.2 Sale to Hearst
4 Praise, criticism and features
7 See also
9 External links
The Old Chronicle Building at 690 Market Street, completed in 1889
The current Chronicle Building at 901 Mission Street was commissioned
in 1924 (2017)
The Chronicle was founded by brothers Charles and
M. H. de Young
M. H. de Young in
1865 as The Daily Dramatic Chronicle, and inside of 10 years, it had
the largest circulation of any newspaper west of the Mississippi
River. The paper's first office was in a building at the corner of
Bush and Kearney Streets. The brothers then commissioned a building
Burnham and Root
Burnham and Root at 690 Market Street at the corner of Third and
Kearney Streets to be their new headquarters. The new building, San
Francisco's first skyscraper, was completed in 1889. It was damaged in
the 1906 earthquake, but it was rebuilt under the direction of William
Polk, Burnham's associate in San Francisco. That building, known as
the "Old Chronicle Building" or the "DeYoung Building", still stands
and was restored in 2007. It is an historic landmark and is the
location of the Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences.
In 1924, the Chronicle commissioned a new headquarters at 901 Mission
Street on the corner of 5th Street in what is now the South of Market
(SoMa) neighborhood of San Francisco. It was designed by Charles Peter
Weeks and William Peyton Day in the
Gothic Revival architecture
Gothic Revival architecture style,
but most of the Gothic Revival detailing was removed in 1968 when the
building was re-clad with stucco. This building remains the
Chronicle's headquarters in 2017, although other concerns are located
there as well.
World War II
World War II and 1971, new editor Scott Josephine Newhall took
a bold and somewhat provocative approach to news presentation.
Newhall's Chronicle included investigative reporting by such
journalists as Pierre Salinger, who later played a prominent role in
national politics, and Paul Avery, the staffer who pursued the trail
of the self-named "Zodiac Killer", who sent a cryptogram in three
sections in letters to the Chronicle and two other papers during his
murder spree in the late 1960s. It also featured such colorful
columnists as Pauline Phillips, who wrote under the name "Dear Abby,"
"Count Marco" (Marc Spinelli), Stanton Delaplane, Terence O'Flaherty,
Lucius Beebe, Art Hoppe, Charles McCabe, and Herb Caen.
The newspaper grew in circulation to become the city's largest,
overtaking the rival
San Francisco Examiner. The demise of other San
Francisco dailies through the late 1950s and early 1960s left the
Examiner and the Chronicle to battle for circulation and readership
Joint operating agreement (JOA)
The competition between the Chronicle and Examiner took a financial
toll on both papers until the summer of 1965, when a merger of sorts
Joint Operating Agreement under which the Chronicle became
the city's sole morning daily while the Examiner changed to afternoon
publication (which ultimately led to a declining readership).
The newspapers were officially owned by the
San Francisco Newspaper
Agency, which managed sales and distribution for both newspapers and
was charged with ensuring that one newspaper's circulation did not
grow at the expense of the other. Revenue was split equally, which led
to a situation widely understood to benefit the Examiner, since the
Chronicle, which had a circulation four times larger than its rival,
subsidized the afternoon newspaper.
The two newspapers produced a joint Sunday edition, with the Examiner
publishing the news sections and the Sunday magazine and the Chronicle
responsible for the tabloid entertainment section and the book review.
From 1965 on the two papers shared a single classified-advertising
operation. This arrangement stayed in place until the Hearst
Corporation took full control of the Chronicle in 2000.
Push into the suburbs
Bill German,left, the Chronicle's editor emeritus and Page One Editor
Jack Breibart in the newsroom, March 1994
Beginning in the early 1990s, the Chronicle started to face
competition beyond the borders of San Francisco. The newspaper had
long enjoyed a wide reach as the de facto "newspaper of record" in
Northern California, with distribution along the Central Coast, the
Inland Empire and even as far as Honolulu, Hawaii. There was little
competition in the Bay Area suburbs and other areas that the newspaper
served, but as Knight Ridder purchased most of the East Bay newspapers
in 1995, the Chronicle realized it had to step up suburban coverage.
The Chronicle launched five zoned sections to appear in the Friday
edition of the paper. The sections covered San Francisco, and four
different suburban areas. They each featured a unique columnist,
enterprise pieces and local news specific to the community. The
newspaper added 40 full-time staff positions to work in the suburban
bureaus. Despite the push to focus on suburban coverage, the Chronicle
was hamstrung by the Sunday edition, which, being produced by the San
Francisco-centric "un-Chronicle" Examiner, had none of the focus on
the suburban communities that the Chronicle was striving to
Sale to Hearst
The de Young family controlled the paper, via the Chronicle Publishing
Company, until July 27, 2000, when it was sold to Hearst
Communications, Inc., which owned the Examiner. Following the sale,
Hearst Corporation transferred the Examiner to the Fang family,
publisher of the
San Francisco Independent and AsianWeek, along with a
$66-million subsidy. Under the new owners, the Examiner became a
free tabloid, leaving the Chronicle as the only daily broadsheet
newspaper in San Francisco.
In 1949, the de Young family founded
KRON-TV (Channel 4), the Bay
Area's third television station. Until the mid-1960s, the station
(along with KRON-FM), operated from the basement of the Chronicle
Building, on Mission Street. KRON moved to studios at 1001 Van Ness
Avenue (on the former site of St. Mary's Cathedral, which burned down
in 1962). KRON was sold to
Young Broadcasting in 2000 and, after years
of being San Francisco's
NBC affiliate, became an independent station
on January 1, 2002 when NBC—tired of Chronicle's repeated refusal to
sell KRON to the network and, later, Young's asking price for the
station being too high—purchased
KNTV in San Jose from Granite
Broadcasting Corporation for $230 million.
Chronicle CEO John Sias announces the sale of the newspaper to the
Hearst Corporation, August 6, 1999
Hearst Corporation took ownership in 2000 the Chronicle has
made periodic changes to its organization and design, but on February
1, 2009, as the newspaper began its 145th year of publication, the
Chronicle Sunday edition introduced a redesigned paper featuring a
modified logo, new section and page organization, new features,
bolder, colored section-front banners and new headline and text
typography. The frequent bold-faced, all-capital-letter headlines
typical of the Chronicle's front page were eliminated. Editor Ward
Bushee's note heralded the issue as the start of a "new era" for the
On July 6, 2009, the paper unveiled some alterations to the new design
that included yet newer section fronts and wider use of color
photographs and graphics. In a special section publisher Frank J. Vega
described new, state-of-the-art printing operations enabling the
production of what he termed "A Bolder, Brighter Chronicle." The newer
look was accompanied by a reduction in size of the broadsheet. Such
moves are similar to those made by other prominent American newspapers
such as the
Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel, which in 2008
unveiled radically new designs even as changing reader demographics
and general economic conditions necessitated physical reductions of
On November 9, 2009, the Chronicle became the first newspaper in the
nation to print on high-quality glossy paper. The high-gloss paper
is used for some section fronts and inside pages.
"Chronicle Insider" columnists Phil Matier and Andrew Ross in the
As of 2013 the publisher of the Chronicle is Jeffrey Johnson. Audrey
Cooper was named editor-in-chief in January 2015 and is the first
woman to hold the position. The editorial page editor is John Diaz.
The Chronicle's free and breaking news website, SFGATE is managed by
executive producer Brandon M. Mercer.
The online versions of the newspaper are at SFGate.com (free) and
SFChronicle.com (premium). As well as publishing the San Francisco
Chronicle online, SFGate and SFChronicle.com add other features not
available in the print version, such as blogs and podcasts. SFGate was
one of the earliest major market newspaper websites to be launched,
having done so in 1994, at the time of The
Newspaper Guild strike;
meanwhile the union published its own news website,
San Francisco Free
Press. SFGate is the fifth largest newspaper website in America
with over 33 million unique visitors each month.
Praise, criticism and features
The paper has received the
Pulitzer Prize on a number of occasions.
Despite an illustrious and long history, the paper's news reportage is
not as extensive as in the past. The current day Chronicle has
followed the trend of other American newspapers, devoting increasing
attention to local and regional news and cultural and entertainment
criticism to the detriment of the paper's traditionally strong
national and international reportage, though the paper does maintain a
Washington, D.C., bureau. This increased focus on local news is a
response to the competition from other Bay Area newspapers including
San Francisco Examiner, the Oakland Tribune, the
Contra Costa Times
Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News.
Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada received the 2004 George Polk
Award for Sports Reporting. Fainaru-Wada and Williams were
recognized for their work on uncovering the
BALCO scandal, which
San Francisco Giants star
Barry Bonds to performance-enhancing
drugs. While the two above-named reporters broke the news, they are by
no means the only sports writers of note at the Chronicle. The
Chronicle's sports section, edited by Al Saracevic and called Sporting
Green as it is printed on green-tinted pages, is staffed by a dozen
writers. The section's best-known writers are its columnists: Bruce
Jenkins, Ann Killion, Scott Ostler, Saracevic and Tom Stienstra. Its
baseball coverage is anchored by Henry Schulman, John Shea and Susan
Slusser, the first female president of the Baseball Writer's
Association of America (BBWAA).
Another area of note is the architecture column by John King; the
Chronicle is still one of the few American papers to present a regular
column on architectural issues. The paper also has regular weekly
sections devoted to Food & Home and Style.
Circulation has fallen sharply since the heyday of the dot-com boom
from 1997 to 2001. The Chronicle''s daily readership dropped by 16.6%
between 2004 and 2005 to 400,906; The Chronicle fired one quarter
of its newsroom staff in a cost-cutting move in May 2007.
Newspaper executives pointed to growth of SFGate, the online website
with 5.2 million unique visitors per month - fifth among U.S.
newspaper websites in 2007.
In February 2009, Hearst chief executive Frank A. Bennack Jr., and
Hearst President Steven R. Swartz, announced that the Chronicle had
lost money every year since 2001 and more than $50 million in 2008.
Without major concessions from employees and other cuts, Hearst would
put the papers up for sale and if no buyer was found, shut the paper.
San Francisco would have become the first major American city without
a daily newspaper. The cuts were made.
In spite of, or perhaps because of the threats, the loss of readers
and advertisers accelerated. On October 26, 2009, the Audit Bureau of
Circulations reported that the Chronicle had suffered a 25.8% drop in
circulation for the six-month period ending September 2009, to 251,782
subscribers, the largest percentage drop in circulation of any major
newspaper in the United States. Chronicle publisher Frank Vega
said the drop was expected as the paper moved to earn more from higher
subscription fees from fewer readers. In May 2013, Vega retired
and was replaced as publisher by former
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times publisher
Jeffrey M. Johnson. SFGate, the main digital portal for the San
Francisco Chronicle, registered 19 million unique visitors in January
2015, making it the seventh ranked newspaper website in the United
M. H. de Young
M. H. de Young 1865 to 1925
George T. Cameron 1925 to 1955
Charles de Young
Charles de Young Thieriot 1955 to 1977
Richard Tobin Thieriot 1977 to 1993
John Sias 1993 to 1999 First publisher not a member of the de
Steven Falk 2003 to 2004
Frank Vega 2004 to 2013
Jeffrey M. Johnson 2013 to Present
San Francisco Bay Area portal
San Francisco Chronicle Magazine
^ "Hearst Bay Area Media Kit 2017". Hearst Bay Area. Retrieved
^ Nolte, Carl (June 16, 1999). "134 Years of the Chronicle". San
Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2006-09-21.
^ a b c Hillyard, Gretchen (June 20, 2011) "The Chronicle Building's
Latest Transformation" SPUR
^ "Mailed: July 31, 1969 Postmarked: San Francisco, Calif. Sent to:
San Francisco Chronicle Cipher Status: Solved. zodiackiller.com.
^ Gorney, Cynthia Gorney (January/February 1999). "The State of The
Newspaper - The Battle Of the Bay". ajr.org. American
Journalism Review. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
^ Gorney, Cynthia (January–February 1999). "Continuation of The
Battle Of the Bay". American Journalism Review. Retrieved
^ Buchanan, Wyatt (February 22, 2003). "Examiner fires most of staff".
San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-07-29.
^ Goodman, Tim (18 December 2001). "
NBC buys KNTV, cuts ties to KRON /
Deal affirms Jan. 1 switch".
San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 31
^ Goodman, Tim (December 18, 2001). "
NBC buys KNTV, cuts ties to KRON
/ Deal affirms Jan. 1 switch".
San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved
^ "Chronicle goes glossy beginning Monday,"
San Francisco Chronicle,
November 4, 2009, p. A1.
^ Raine, George (September 18, 2008). "Chronicle names new president -
He will oversee revenue initiatives for print, online". San Francisco
Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
^ Kershner, Vlae (November 3, 2009). "SFGate turns 15: A timeline".
San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-05-27.
George Polk Awards for Journalism press release". Long Island
University. 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-22.
^ Abate, Tom (November 8, 2005). "Circulation of U.S. weekday
newspapers takes 2.6% hit Chronicle leads pack with 16.6% decline
during 6-month period".
San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved
^ Garofoli, Joe (May 19, 2007). "Chronicle to cut 25% of jobs in
San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-03-18.
^ Pérez-Peña, Richard (February 24, 2009). "Hearst Threatens to End
San Francisco Paper"
^ Saba, Jennifer (October 26, 2009). "Newspapers Across the Country
Show Steep Declines in Circulation, in New FAS-FAX". Editor &
Publisher. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
^ Baker, David (October 26, 2009). "Chronicle's strategy shift starts
to pay off".
San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
^ "SF Chronicle names new management team". SFGate.
^ "Newspapers: Fact Sheet". Pew Research Center's Journalism Project.
29 April 2015.
^ a b "George T. Cameron, Late Publisher's Son-in-Law Becomes New
Chief of Chronicle". Los Angeles Times. February 19, 1925. Retrieved
2009-01-22. George T. Cameron, son-in-law of the late Mr. H. de Young,
will announce in tomorrow morning's issue of the San Francisco
Chronicle that he will assume charge of that newspaper with the title
of publisher and president of the Chronicle
^ Baker, David R. (May 24, 2013). "SF Chronicle names new management
San Francisco Chronicle.
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San Francisco public library databases, contains instructions on
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