The San Francisco Bay Guardian was a free alternative newspaper published weekly in San Francisco, California. It was founded in 1966 by Bruce B. Brugmann and his wife, Jean Dibble. The paper was shut down on October 14, 2014.
The Bay Guardian was known for reporting, celebrating, and promoting left-wing and progressive issues within San Francisco and (albeit rarely) around the San Francisco Bay Area as a whole. This usually included muckraking, legislation to control and limit gentrification, and endorsement of political candidates and other laws and policies that fall within its political views. It also printed movie and music reviews, an annual nude beaches issue, and an annual sex issue. The Bay Guardian was one of several alternative newspapers in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, including the SF Weekly (formerly its major competitor, now under the same ownership), East Bay Express, Metro Silicon Valley, North Bay Bohemian, Marin's Pacific Sun, and Berkeley Daily Planet.
Starting in 1974, the Guardian published an annual "Best of The Bay" issue that listed the best restaurants, business, and activities in the Bay Area, based on a readers' poll and staff recommendations. The Guardian claimed that its "Best Of" issue was the first annual guide of its kind and was copied by other publications.
In 1971, it published The Ultimate Highrise, on the costs of development to the city. In 1975, it published San Francisco Free & Easy: The Native's Guidebook with a revised edition in 1980, edited by William Ristow.
The Guardian put down an attempt by its employees to unionize in the 1970s. In 1975, Guardian staffers, with the aid of Newspaper Guild Local 52 and International Typographical Union Local 21, signed union cards to seek higher wages and benefits. The paper had previously won a legal settlement and moved to a new building. Nevertheless, publisher Bruce Brugmann claimed there were not enough funds to increase pay or benefits. The day after Thanksgiving, he fired five senior staffers who had helped organize the union effort. Newspaper staffers voted to join the Newspaper Guild and, on June 15, 1976, they called a strike to force Brugmann to offer a labor contract. Brugmann retained a few management staff and hired scab replacements. In August, César Chávez offered to mediate the strike, but Brugmann refused. Finally, in 1977, another election was called, but this time votes by replacement workers carried the day and the new staff voted not to join a union.
In March 2008 The Guardian won a predatory pricing lawsuit against its local rival, the SF Weekly, based on allegations the Weekly undercut The Guardian by selling display advertisements below cost while supporting itself on cash infusions from its parent, Village Voice Media, in an effort to force the Guardian into bankruptcy. In May 2008 the judge in the case awarded punitive damages, raising the jury's $6.3 million award to $15.9 million, and issuing an injunction prohibiting the SF Weekly from selling advertisements below cost.
On April 19, 2012, the East Bay Express reported that the Canadian owners of the San Francisco Examiner were in negotiations with the Bay Guardian to buy the newspaper. These rumors were initially denied by its executive editor Tim Redmond, but the sale went through a week later.
On January 15, 2013, their longstanding rivals, the SF Weekly, was sold to the San Francisco Newspaper Group that publishes the Bay Guardian.
In mid-June 2013, the San Francisco Business Times and other publications reported that Tim Redmond had "been ousted" as publisher and editor. The Bay Guardian issued a statement quoting new publisher Stephen Buel as saying, "The Guardian has been losing money, and we were forced to contemplate some editorial layoffs. Tim decided to resign rather than follow through with what we were discussing." However, Redmond denied resigning.
On October 14, 2014, publisher Glenn Zuehls announced that the San Francisco Media Co., which also owns the SF Weekly, had decided to close the publication. The 40th annual Best of the Bay issue, published on the same day, was the weekly publication's final issue. Following the Guardian's closure, its laid-off staff launched the Guardian-in-Exile Project, which included a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo that raised more than $25,000 to help preserve the paper's archives and produce a final commemorative edition of the Bay Guardian, which was released on Jan. 22, 2015 and distributed in conjunction with the San Francisco Public Press and Gum Road.
In October 2015, the Bay Guardian's print and digital archives were handed over to the San Francisco Center for Newspaper Preservation, a newly founded nonprofit organization led by Marke Bieschke (the paper's former publisher) and Tim Redmond. In January 2016, they announced that a “Bring Back the Bay Guardian” crowdfunding campaign and other donations had yielded enough funds to secure the archives and relaunch several Bay Guardian features, included "Best of the Bay". Redmond continues to run 48 Hills, a separate site focusing on San Francisco politics that he founded in 2014 after leaving the Bay Guardian.