Update: Jim Buckmaster responds: “Would love to be of more help,
but we don’t comment on rumors and speculation.” We’ve responded to Jim
with some non-speculative, specific questions, and we’ll let you know
if and when he does agree to let the community his company
serves know if said will be playing a part in the lives of those hard
working folks who’ll be deciding their own fate at 5 today 11 AM Saturday.  Listen to how serious we got there!  Tim, you’re rubbing off on us.

———-

The CA Media Workers Guild is scheduled to vote on the latest Hearst-demanded amendments to their contract 5 PM today.  And by “amendments” we mean “serious job and compensation concessions,” like, the loss of around 150 Guild jobs.

As
we reported earlier this week, Guild representative Carl Hall has said
“we hope to form an investor group that would be prepared to step in”
to eventually acquire the newspaper. 

Gawker’s Ryan Tate made hay with this idea, suggesting all the usual suspects as possible white knights: rich guys like Warren Hellman or Don Fisher or Craig Newmark.
So, pretty much assuming that this was a goofy idea that would be
roundly dismissed, we dropped Newmark a line.  And that’s where it got
interesting.

But before we talk about that, let’s talk about
what it might take for a deal like this to work.  Let’s be frank —
there’s only two Appeal staffers who qualify as “ink stained,”
and even those guys are eager to put their newsprint days behind them. 
Fortunately, there’s Tim Redmond, Executive Editor of the Guardian, to
help us out.

“The federal government should not allow the
Chronicle to shut down if anyone is willing to buy it.  If Newsom,
Feinstein, and Boxer were doing their jobs as civic leaders, they’d
stop this from happening,” Redmond told us in a conversation he later expanded on on his blog.

OK, so, we’re not even going to start hypothesizing on how that
would work, so let’s just fast forward to the part where some local
Santa comes in and gives the paper to the Guild, gift-wrapped and with
a bow.  What then, Tim?

“You’re not going to stop losing money
overnight.  You’d need another year or two, and that’s where the real
money, 20, 30, 40 million dollars, to just stay afloat.”  And that’s on
top of whatever purchase price they’d hammer out?  “Yeah, but I think
if they have any offer — if you and I, combined, have $1.25, they
should be forced to sell it.”  (And there you have it, folks.  The
Appeal and the Guardian are buying the Chronicle!  Just kidding.)
 
Who the hell is going to do that, Tim? 

“You’d
need someone who loves risk, and has their own reasons for wanting to
own a paper.  Maybe an angel investor with a desire or a passion for
the industry?”

Surely you guys at the Guardian (which is experiencing tough times of
their own, and, in fact, had to cut beloved Senior A&E editor Kimberly Chun from
their staff earlier this week in an effort to manage expenses) have
looked for a fat guy with an ample lap to shore up your paper?  

While
Redmond couldn’t comment specifically on that, he did note that “This
is a tough market for any business to raise money in, and for a
business like a newspaper?  Nearly impossible.”

We floated the
Craig Newmark idea by Redmond, and of course he had a reaction.  “I
hope so!  Then he could finally make up for all the damage he’s done to newspapers and communities with his business!  He should buy the Chronicle!”

And
that takes us back to Newmark, whom we emailed mid-afternoon on
Wednesday before remembering that some time ago (2004, to be exact) he
emailed us with his phone number and told this correspondent to “call
me any time you have a question.”  We caught Newmark as he was sitting
down to lunch, who said “you need to email press@craigslist.org with
your deadline and your question.”  “Even if the question is not about
Craigslist, but about the rumor that you’re buying the Chronicle?” 
“Yes.”

Hmm. An email to that address got us a punt (“This is something for jim to answer. Jim see below.”) from CL PR rep Susan MacTavish Best to her boyfriend and CL CEO Jim Buckmaster, and, after half a day, not another sound from anyone at Craigslist.

It’s
hard not to assume that something’s in the works, with the lack of a
solid “no” from Newmark, Best, or Buckmaster.  And with such a
deafening silence from the Newmark camp, it’s even harder not to think
that he’s already operating off the Chronicle Publisher playbook.

While certain wags in the Appeal office have riffed off the idea of a blue and grey SFGate or the revenue stream offered by erotic services advertising (would one consider that a compliment or contrast to Mark Morford?),
the fact remains that becoming the financial support for a publication
Tim Redmond describes as one with “a terrible business model and a
rotten product that fails to serve the needs of its community” will be
a thankless slog, indeed.  Craig, if that’s really what you’re
considering, good luck with that.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • generic

    Talk about burying the lede …

  • Greg Dewar

    I’m surprised no one has asked Clint Reilly if HE’D buy the damaged Chronicle…not as crazy as it sounds…call him up and ask and see what he says…at this point the Chron would be a bargain given its troubles.

  • Eve Batey

    Yes, I thought it was especially sneaky to construct that spoiler-free headline.