SF Appeal reported Wednesday that local alternatively weekly SF Weekly has been acquired by The San Francisco Newspaper Company, a consortium owned by Canadian media mogul Todd Vogt. The group already owns both the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Bay Guardian.
The report was confirmed by San Francisco Examiner reporter Mike Aldax, who tweeted, "It's true, folks."
Vogt, who is also CEO of Canadian newspaper company Black Press, told the Appeal in December that he was in the market for adding a third San Francisco media outlet to his growing Bay Area press empire. "The new acquisition will be highly complimentary to The Examiner and the Guardian," he said.
Due to Vogt's stated enthusiasm for the print medium, there was briefly some speculation that his indented target was the East Bay Express.
SF Weekly, which is distributed for free every Wednesday and known for its in-depth investigative reporting on local issues, was previously owned by Devner-based Voice Media Group (which changed its name from Village Voice Media as part of a corporate restricting).
Putting SF Weekly and the Guardian under one roof should be interesting, to say the least. The city's two premiere alternative weeklies only recently concluded an eight-year legal battle over antitrust issues, during which the Guardian argued that the Weekly was using cash from its corporate parent to keep its ad rates artificially low in order to drive competitors out of business.
After a jury awarded the Bay Guardian $21 million, the two parties reached a settlement in early 2011.
Even so, there's no love lost. This is what the Weekly wrote in the run-up to the Vogt's purchase of the Guardian:
For decades, the Guardian and its staff have insulted the Weekly and its writers because we were purchased by an out-of-town corporation. Now that the Guardian is seriously entertaining the idea of selling to a corporate interest group led by out-of-towners ... well, this is the foie gras of Schadenfreude. The delicious hypocrisy is so thick it's spreadable, yet it melts in your mouth like ice cream.
While SF Weekly's sale does raise concerns about media consolidation, many insiders see this merger as a good thing.
"The Guardian was failing, and probably the Weekly was failing," former San Francisco Chronicle head honcho and Center For Investigative Reporting executive Phil Bronstein explained to the Appeal. "Separately all three would fail, if together they don't fail have you gained anything or lost anything?"