Online Daily to Challenge S.F. Chronicle

Times Staff Writer

An alternative online daily slated to launch here today is promising to tweak the city’s establishment newspaper and offer thirsty liberals a steady drip of more left-leaning fare. is the brainchild of San Francisco housing advocate Randy Shaw, who says he and other activists believe the San Francisco Chronicle has ignored issues that concern them, including coverage of housing for the poor.

The final straw, says Shaw -- who is executive director of the nonprofit Tenderloin Housing Clinic and will edit the daily -- was last winter’s mayoral runoff between victor Gavin Newsom and Matt Gonzalez, Board of Supervisors president and Green Party member.


Shaw and other Gonzalez supporters say the San Francisco Chronicle favored Newsom not only in its editorial stance, but also in its coverage. Shaw also contends that overall coverage in the last year has favored efforts to bring higher-income residents into San Francisco at the expense of the less fortunate.

“Tired of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Daily Bias?” read fliers and leaflets that will be handed out en masse to commuters today. “Go BeyondChron for local political and cultural coverage you can trust.”

Chronicle Managing Editor Robert Rosenthal said the paper welcomed competition, but maintained that coverage of the mayor’s race was balanced and fair.

Rosenthal said he “wouldn’t agree” with Shaw, and welcomed him to meet and discuss his concerns. “If they had specifics, I’d love to talk about them,” Rosenthal said.

The paper’s coverage of a police scandal last year was also thorough and aggressive, he said, adding that BeyondChron seemed intent on focusing only on the stories with which it disagreed.

Alternative weeklies have been publishing in San Francisco for years, but Shaw said a Web-based daily was necessary to offer timely counterpoints to stories in the Chronicle. Among the arsenal of writers are Henry Norr, a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter fired last year for participating in antiwar demonstrations, and popular lesbian writer and commentator Michelle Tea.

The advocacy daily is a nonprofit organization and will not sell ads. It will be funded, at least for now, with money from the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. It will pay only Tea, a professional writer, and has tapped others willing to contribute without being paid. Among them are Shaw’s long-time notary, who -- unbeknownst to Shaw -- has been covering nightlife and theater in San Francisco for years under the nom de plume “Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave” for online publications.

“Everyone’s got their little secret talents,” said a delighted Shaw.

The effort comes at a time when more perspectives are widely craved here.

The Hearst Corp.-owned San Francisco Examiner survived for decades under a profit-sharing agreement with the Chronicle.

In 2000, Hearst bought the Chronicle for $660 million and paid an additional $66.7 million to keep the Examiner operated by San Francisco’s Fang family.

Under the Fangs, the Examiner became a free tabloid that posed no competitive threat to the Chronicle. But the Fangs earlier this year announced the sale of the Examiner to Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz.

John Burks, chairman of the journalism department at San Francisco State University, said that paper could become a contender in the city if it beefed up its staff and covered San Francisco neighborhoods, an area where he said the Chronicle, a regional paper, was weak.

As for BeyondChron’s prospects, he said, only time will tell.

“The question is, ‘How well are they actually going to do what they say they are going to do?’ ” Burks said. “How talented are these people? I don’t know the answer.”