David Weir -- a veteran journalist who in 30 years has served in positions ranging from investigative reporter at Rolling Stone to managing editor of Salon.com -- signed on last Friday to what may be the 53-year-old's greatest challenge yet: giving San Francisco a viable city magazine its residents will not only read but be proud of.
The Hartles, who just moved here a few months ago, have so far been relying on two twentysomething San Francisco "insiders" they hired to plug them into the city's media and culture scenes. But those women -- 7x7's senior editors -- are relatively inexperienced, having worked primarily at the failed wireless city guide service Modo. Now, with Weir on board as executive editor, 7x7 might be able to establish a weight of authority.
"He was on the top of our list," Heather Hartle says of Weir. "He's very seasoned, a fabulous editor, and most importantly, he tells great stories. Our whole mission is to be storytellers."
And turn a profit, no doubt, if 7x7 is to stay afloat in what has historically been a tough market for publishing, both economically and because of its fractured population.
"David realizes the challenges he will face, and it doesn't scare him," says Heather, who will serve as editorial director of the magazine. Her husband will be publisher. "We all agree, let's get down and dirty and make this work no matter what it takes."
Weir says he was enticed by the offer since his most recent Web-based work as vice president of network programming and product design for Excite@Home dried up in the face of the dot-com bust. "There's not much role for an old content guy at Excite anymore," he says. "But the Hartles have a great idea, and the minute I heard their business plan and focus, it resonated with me."
7x7's promises of a departure from the typical city magazine formula of cheery service pieces (top 100 this, best that) and a commitment to solid journalism are what Weir says intrigued him the most. "I was impressed with what they did in Detroit, and I figure if it can be done there, the time is right for San Francisco," he says.
Weir is well aware of the difficulties -- and expense -- of getting a four-color, glossy magazine to survive in a competitive market. "At the end of the day it will be about money, and we all know with things as soft as they are now, that just increases the risk," he says. "I've definitely witnessed a lot of failed attempts in my time, but frankly, 7x7 is the first in a series of plans that has a shot. It looks, feels, sounds, and is positioned differently. It takes into account a changing and newly emerging market. I respect the challenge, but I'll tell you there is nothing more delicious than taking on conventional wisdom."