There’s a great article by Richard Rodriguez in Harpers Magazine, Twilight of the American Newspaper. It recalls the history of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“…twenty-five cents bought me a connection with a gray maritime city at odds with the postwar California suburbs. Herb Caen, whose column I read immediately—second section, corner left—invited me into the provincial cosmopolitanism that characterized the city’s outward regard: ‘Isn’t it nice that people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live there?‘”
When I was growing up in Oakland I loved the Chronicle. I thought it was cool that the sports page was printed on green newsprint. Herb Caen was cool. The little graphic they used for theatre ratings was super. The last time I saw the Chronicle it was like seeing a friend who has cancer. Thin and weak.
The Chronicle was not a paper you turned to for substantive analysis. It was a paper that reflected the aesthetic of San Francisco. A fun place with fun people. A little off beat, and not as pretentious as its bigger cousins, New York, LA, and Chicago. San Francisco had swagger, and the colorful Chronicle reflected that. (The Examiner, on the other hand, always seemed like a paper with no sense of humor.)
Anyway, I liked Rodriguez’ article. Well worth the time.