The San Francisco Examiner is a general news site focusing on San Francisco and Northern California. Print editions are distributed Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Its fame is rooted in the fact that it was media baron William Randolph Hearst's first metropolitan daily, and a mainstay of the Hearst Corporation for more than 110 years.
Founded in 1863 as the Democratic Press, it began with a pro-Confederacy, pro-slavery, anti-Lincoln slant. However, upon Lincoln's assassination, mobs destroyed the Democratic Press offices. Later that year, it restarted as the Daily Examiner. It is this paper that George Hearst bought in 1880. William Randolph Hearst took ownership of the Examiner when his father became a U.S. Senator.
Popularity for the paper grew thanks to hiring such writers as Ambrose Bierce, Jack London, and Mark Twain. Hearst also boosted circulation of the Examiner, and other papers he would come to own like the New York Journal, with sensationalist short-on-fact “Yellow Journalism” headlines on scandals of the day. Hearst and competitor Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World sold a lot of newspapers by using Yellow Journalism to gin up patriotic support for the Spanish American War.
By 1965, competition with the San Francisco Chronicle became financially unbearable for both papers, so they came to an agreement known as the Joint Operating Agreement. The Chronicle published and printed a morning edition and the Examiner got the afternoon. Both papers were run by the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, evenly splitting ad revenue - an agreement that was seen to benefit the Examiner which had significantly lower circulation. In addition, the two papers co-published a Sunday Edition with the Examiner printing the news portion. The printing agreement came to an end in 2000 when Hearst purchased the Chronicle.
On Halloween, 1969, demonstrators with signs like “We’re gay and we’re proud” and “Don’t read the Examiner’s YELLOW pages,” marched at the Examiner offices to protest derogatory and libelous coverage of the gay community. The peaceful protest changed tone when two men on the rooftop poured purple ink onto picketers below. Demonstrators responded by smearing inky handprints everywhere. This incident became known as "Friday of the Purple Hand." By 1985, Twenty-six years later, the Examiner ran Armistead Maupin's serial, Tales of the City, a warm, funny, modern portrait of fictional San Francisco characters, some of whom are LGBTQ.
In 1974, Patty Hearst, nineteen-year-old granddaughter and heir of William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped from her Berkeley apartment. The Hearst family met some of the kidnappers demands by publishing their manifestos in the Examiner. Patty Hearst later joined her kidnapper’s cause and helped rob the Hibernia Bank of San Francisco. A jury later found her guilty. She was sentenced to seven years in prison.
In 2021, San Francisco political consultant Clint Reilly purchased the Examiner. "It needs more journalists, it needs higher circulation. It’s not about making cuts, it’s about infusing new energy and new capital into the paper,” he said.
Hart, James David (1978). A Companion to California. New York: Oxford. p. 441. ISBN 9780520055445
Department of State. Office of the Historian. Yellow Journalism.
Petersen, Deborah (10-30-2019). San Francisco Examiner. A troubling event in The Examiner’s history: Friday of the Purple Hand Friday of the Purple Hand
Martin, Del (December 1969) San Francisco Vector. The Police Beat. Crime in the Streets. Page 9 Vector Magazine. Police Beat. Crime in the Streets
Katz, Leslie (12-19-2020) San Francisco Examiner. "Clint Reilly: ‘I want The Examiner to be leading that charge and participating in that comeback’" Clint Reilly Purchases Examiner
Arnold, Martin (11-17-1975) New York Times. Coverage of Miss Hearst by Family Paper Marked by an Unusual Conflict of Interest Patty Hearst Kidnapping
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