Streetsblog Launches “Bay Area Transit” Blog on SF Gate

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I know some of you probably thought this was a late April Fool’s Day post when you saw that headline, but we’re indeed launching a blog on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website, sfgate.com. The new Bay Area Transit blog is a coordinated effort between Streetsblog San Francisco and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, with more contributors coming in the future.

We did a soft launch yesterday with the Public Bikes story and it took off among the Gate commenters, who, as could be expected, were not very supportive of bicycles. And that’s a large part of why we entered this arrangement with the Chronicle: From the beginning, Streetsblog’s mission has been to elevate the discussion around livable streets, transit, pedestrian, and bicycle issues, which tend to be narrowly covered in mainstream media. We believe this new blog allows us to do just that. 

In addition to the material from Streetsblog, the SFBC will have regular features that highlight the many faces of bicycle riders in the Bay Area, starting with Elizabeth Sullivan’s narrative about Sunday Streets and her family’s love of bicycles. The SFBC’s posts will also be featured on the organization’s new blog.

For our long-term readers and our community of avid commenters, you’ll be happy to note that we will be promoting our stories from Streetsblog to Bay Area Transit and that most of the nasty commenters should stay over at sfgate.com, leaving our boards to the heady, instructive dialog we enjoy here. There will also be no change in editorial policy or dumbing down of the issues for a wider audience, so you can expect the same quality of coverage that you’ve come to love.

I’ve already had one Streetsblog reader ask if Chuck Nevius and I are cubicle mates, but alas, I don’t think we’ll be lunching together soon. Unless he wants to have a good conversation about pedestrian safety and progressive parking management policy…

We hope you’ll share your perspective on the new endeavor and we welcome feedback and critique about the new site.

  • I was looking at this last night and was wondering why every story was linked to Streetsblog. Ha, makes sense. I just thought the Chron was getting lazier.

    However, I am nervous about SFGaters coming this way to give the “silent majority” a louder voice.

  • Mike,
    We have a much stricter comment moderation policy here than over there. It may be a lot more work, but we’ll do our best to keep it constructive.

  • That being said, I do want to add that I like the ideas and discussions on this blog are being brought to a larger audience.

    All in all, being on SFGate will be a good thing. I think the more people see alternatives to the rat race of congested freeways and un-walkable neighborhoods, the more they will ask why things have been built this way for the last 70+ years.

  • tea

    Longtime activist about various issues here. I personally am not a believer in trying to break in to the mainstream media and trying to have intelligent discourse there. The only thing I see the SFGate post elevating is my blood pressure, when reading the comments. My advice would be to see this as a way to get the word out about SB. Keep things light and informational, and always link back to this site. Those interested in the issues will find their way here and be received with open arms. The more of us, the more we can get done.

  • Are y’all being paid by the Chron or is my SFBC donation going to provide free labor for that wretched tabloid that has recently fired most of its valuable employees.

  • While it is sad to watch the Chronicle whither away, I’m happy to see these “Livable City” issues reach a broader audience.

  • Frances

    Echoing SFResident, are you guys getting paid for this, or are you providing free content/pageviews/revenue to an organization that is laying off valuable employees, and cutting the pay of the folks left there?

    I don’t mind if y’all are freelancing and getting paid for it, but if you’re giving them free content and, in the process, supporting this large corporate media organization’s agenda (and enabling them to lay off even mroe people), I’m pretty disappointed.

    And if you’re not getting paid, well, it’s not an “arrangement,” it’s just a community blog like any other on that site. If you’re not getting paid, you’re getting taken for a ride.

    So what’s the deal? Are you getting paid or giving it up to the Hearst Corporation for free?

  • SFGate comments make me sad 🙁

  • We’re not getting paid to post on SF Gate. I don’t agree with the assessment that this makes us shills for a corporation or that our writing for a blog on SF Gate contributes to the demise of their unionized workforce. Their problems arose well before we were even a thought in SF.

  • I don’t see SF Gate ever, in a million years, employing anyone to write on these issues. Do you read their op-eds and the crap CW spews? Streetsblog is not taking away from something that a Chronicle union-journalist would be otherwise writing.

    If anything, Streetsblog is providing the Chron with stories they normally would completely miss.

  • not impressed. giving away your work for free to a corporate paper that has routinely misinformed the public on transit and other issues? Whatever. You’re cheapening yourselves and your work, and you’re helping prop up a paper that needs to die. Plus you’re also attacking other bloggers who write on transit because you’re using the Gate’s pageviews to hurt their revenue. Not all of us can have grant money, ya know.

  • icarus12

    “you’ll be happy to note . . . that most of the nasty commenters should stay over at sfgate.com, leaving our boards to the heady, instructive dialog we enjoy here.”

    On the contrary, I think opening up your boards to sfgate commenters will broaden the discussions and make them a little more rooted in current political realities. If a blog attracts only disciples, it becomes more echo chamber than forum.

  • Sean

    Greg – if you’re using Firefox, download and install the AdBlock plugin. Then enable it for SFGate.com — best of both worlds.

    In all seriousness though… Frances’ and Greg are spot on here.

  • Frances

    @mikesonn You’re proving my point. Streetsblog is providing them with stories they’d miss, thus strengthening a dying (in part because they fire their content providers) publication. I mean, if Streetsblog doesn’t think their content is strong enough to draw readers on its own, I guess you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, but I still think it’s bogus.

    @Matthew Roth You say you “hope (we’ll) share (our) perspective on the new endeavor and we welcome feedback and critique,” so I’ll assume your flat “I don’t agree” is a product of not understanding my argument. So I’ll lay it out for you:

    1) Organization (so we’re clear, this organization is SFGate) wants to stay in business, keep making money
    2) Organization (still SFGate!) doesn’t want to pay people to provide them the content to do 1)
    3) Organization gets blog (this is Streetsblog!) to give them content for free

    You can not “agree with the assessment that this makes us shills for a corporation or that our writing for a blog on SF Gate contributes to the demise of their unionized workforce” all you want. Keep disagreeing!

    But when your donors/patron start wondering why they have to pay *you,* when you clearly don’t expect the Hearst Corporation to, I hope you remember this conversation.

  • Frances,
    I did understand your argument and I still disagree with it. The editors at Chronicle could cover the issues that we cover, or could cover them the way we do, but they choose not to do so.

    That we are providing a different voice on their platform is a good thing, in my opinion.

  • @Frances, you have a point. I gave my hard earned money to Streetsblog, not the Chron. There is a reason I don’t subscribe to the Chronicle. And if Streetsblog isn’t receiving any compensation for having their stories linked thru SFGate, then SFGate is collecting ad revenue on something that is not their own.

    And by providing stories, I meant with respect to pointing out livable streets issues here and having them pick up on them in the Chron. I guess having them posted directly to SFGate will eliminate the need for the Chron to pay people to write their own version of the story to collect revenue.

    Is there a way for Streetsblog to get compensated in someway for these postings? Possibly an ad revenue sharing program? I gave several times and I’m not collecting off the hard work put forth here. Chron hasn’t done anything but make life more difficult here in the city and they get to cash in.

  • All I’ll say is that I’m going to have serious trouble ever justifying a donation to the organizations that fund streetsblog or giving more money to the SFBC if I know that the cash is going to prop up a bloated and exploitative corporation with a long history of attacking the things I value about my city. . .

    If they were linking to Streetsblog (and Greg’s site, and other local blogs) it would be one thing, but hosting the content and siphoning-off the ad revenue crosses a line for me.

    Good luck with this, I hope it works for you.

  • Wait, isn’t the Examiner Hearst’s newspaper and not the Chronicle..?

  • @Aaron – Nope. Way back in the day the Examiner was Hearst’s paper and the Chron was the de Young’s paper. But in 2000 or so the Chron was fully bought to the Hearst corp. They then had to “sell” the Examiner to the Fongs to get out from under anti-trust laws.

  • Sean

    @Aaron: I believe Hearst owns both publications.

    @Matthew: I somehow doubt C.W. Nevius and his ilk are donating their time and effort to SFGate. Which just means that however tangentially, the ad revenue generated from your content is going to fund the creation of theirs.

  • Frances

    @Matthew Roth “That we are providing a different voice on their platform is a good thing, in my opinion.” No one’s debating that.

    The issue is that a site that at least presents itself as professional, a site that regularly BEGS FOR DONATIONS, is giving its content for free to an organization that you admit “choose(s) not to” cover the content important to you and your readers. You’re implying in your comment that they’re neutral to hostile to your message, yet you are giving them content, and therefore, money — they’re serving ads on your content.

    If you were telling us that you guys were giving it up for free to an organization that you really believed in — like, say, The Public Press (I don’t have any affiliation with them, but they seem like folks that would align well with you guys), I’d back that play. But you’re giving it up for free to The Hearst Corporation (@Aaron Bialick, Hearst bought the Chron and gave up the Examiner in 2001).

    I, like @mikesonn, have donated to this site more than once, and I too feel that the “Chron hasn’t done anything but make life more difficult here in the city and they get to cash in,” on, basically, the money I gave you guys.

    I get it, no taksie backsies, but, like @SFResident, it’s going to be tough for me to justify donating in the future for exactly the reasons he laid out.

  • What?! Why?! There’s such great content on this site. Being associated with a trashy newspaper is going to undermine your credibility the same way it has for Mission Local.

  • Having just had a side conversation with Bryan and Matthew, I think they have a point.

    We have become an echo chamber, which is empowering to a degree, but isn’t reaching the people who need to be reached. I think JohnB is the only regular reader here who doesn’t bike, walk or take public transit and he is often accused of being a troll. We need the people of the suburbs (e.g. the peninsula that can’t seem to fund transit) to realize the benefits of living a more walkable, transit rich life. And those are the people reading SF Gate, not Streetsblog. Maybe they’ll read something and decide to give up their car for a couple days a week and bike. Maybe then they’ll see how fun it is but how bad the infrastructure is. Maybe then they’ll come back for tips and ideas on what to do next.

    I trust Bryan and Matthew to pull the plug if things turn south. I also trust them to re-address payment if the posts prove to be a boon for SF Gate.

  • I’ve been emailing back and forth with Max Garrone (mgarrone@sfgate.com) about how I’d like to follow/read the blog, but it doesn’t make sense since their RSS feed only displays the 1st 300 characters of the article, making it necessary to click over to the webpage to actually read the article. This doesn’t make sense, especially since Streetsblogs’s posts are posted in full onto my RSS reader (Google Reader). Max plainly said this is what SFGate does (not just for this blog but for all their blogs), and … sorry.

    As much as I’d like the average SFGate reader to know more about SF Transit and livability issues, it’s a non-starter for me – their RSS feeds make Streetsblog/SFBC posts essentially unreadable. Hello old media, we all read on cell phones and iPads nowadays on the bus, get with it!

  • While it is the San Francisco mindset to do your own thing (thus why we have a zillion non-profits all doing the same thing to varying degrees of success), Streetsblog is getting a free opportunity to access many more readers … possibly many more donors. That has value … and as long as SFGate.com links back to the original Streetsblog story, I don’t understand the argument that my SFBC membership is helping to prop up The Chronicle without getting anything of value in return. This whole “US vs. Them” mentality is very Republican … yuck.

  • agree with @jamie here. @mikesonn and @frances: if streetsblog is getting more readers from the sfgate arrangement, that could be a very positive thing, especially if content on the sfgate transit blog is only a subset of what appears on streetsblog sf (Matthew, is this the case?)

    These new readers hopefully will tune into streetsblog itself for more stories, and hopefully some of them will decide to also donate their hard earn money to streetsblog.

    Matthew, will all of streets blog sf’s content be published on the sfgate transit blog?

  • @Eugenia, that is what I originally said and after a side conversation, I think I’m in full agreement that additional readers is an overall positive.

  • Eugenia,
    We decide what to post to Bay Area Transit and will usually have only one Streetsblog story a day up there, depending on the news cycle. I’m populating a little heavier at the start to seed it with our stories. We do get a good traffic bump from the posts, though it seems not to be from the flamers. We haven’t yet had to edit or delete a comment from obvious Gaters here on Streetsblog.

    This is an experiment, so if it proves to be a burden to Streetsblog or it tears apart our community of readers, we will adjust accordingly.

  • I do agree with mikesonn that there’s a lot of value in reaching out to readers who don’t necessarily follow these issues ordinarily and to prevent the echo chamber effect, and I think it’s a good idea for Streetsblog to do so.

    I’m a little baffled about how this is supposed to do that, though. The end result seems to be that the same article is published twice: once on Streetsblog where it comes with a set of well-moderated, generally civil, and generally echo-chambery comments, and once on sfgate, where the highest-ranked comment on the plaza project starts with the line “PROGRESSIVE DOUBLETHINK #24”.

    I don’t feel any particular desire to add a comment to the SFGate post, and I don’t see why a commenter on the Chron site would feel the need to come here and set up a new account either (especially if they already feel that they have a well-established persona on that site). Splitting out their comments from ours seems to make this blog more of an echo chamber than it was before, not less of one.

  • Justin

    I am continually horrified at how me-first and hateful sfgate’s commenters are, but I suppose that’s who lurks on the site all day. Streetsblog’s providing stories for them can do nothing but good, though, and I wish you all the best with it. The average suburbanite and driver will only start to understand what Streetsblog represents after being exposed to it for many years and experiencing it firsthand. Urbanism is slowly entering the mainstream, this being a good example.

  • @whir, the SF Gaters can stay there and use their “well-established personas” to further their hateful, spiteful agenda. I think if we can bring over a couple of well meaning, level headed people to join the discussion then it is worth it.

    I think I was put off there for a bit because I was thinking that a lot of what Streetsblog posted here would be posted on the SF Gate blog. But I see Matthew is going to be putting one post a day over there so I can live with that. And thinking about it during my ride, I gave to Streetsblog to help spread the word on livability and not just make me feel good about my ideals. If posting one or two stories a day enlightens a couple people, then it was well worth it.

  • cyclotronic

    most likely, the pollution of sfgate comments will spill over into this section. have fun moderating that bunch!

  • cyclotronic

    trust me on this one. just wait until there is top hot button occurance and you get bumped up onto the front page. you’ll never see the end of it. half of the commenters on sfgate don’t even live around here and live to troll.

  • CBrinkman

    I don’t think we should mistake the SFGate commenters for the general Bay Area readership. I know loads of people at work who read the Chron and SFGate and would never comment on line – I think we’re reaching for the readers who are willing to learn and that’s why they read. I learn so much from Streetsblog and S’Blog commenters so I agree with widening the audience: that’s why I support them and why I will continue to.

  • enliptlon

    de ce nu:)

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