More than 20,000 Bay Citizen readers didn't receive their daily newsletters this morning. An irate reader's e-mail complaint that the online newspaper was sending him unwanted pleas for his money led its internet service provider to shut the Bay Citizen down as a suspected spammer.
That irate reader is Richard Knee, a local freelance journalist and one of the driving forces behind the city's Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. He enjoys the Bay Citizen's daily newsletter, but tells SF Weekly he doesn't want the paper to ask him for his limited funds.
"Their news updates are useful. Their funding appeals and promos aren't," he says. "I filed a complaint with their internet service provider."
And that's when things spiraled beyond where Knee would have desired.
While he thought the internet service provider, Mailchimp, would have told the Bay Citizen to cease sending out purported spams, it instead showed them -- and shut down the paper's e-mail service entirely.
Rose Roll, the Bay Citizen's vice president of membership, said the ISP communicated to her that service would be restored within a few hours after she filled out a number of forms indicating Knee opted in to receiving the newsletter. But that's six hours ago, and counting.
She notes that, yes, it is possible to segregate the readers receiving news updates and financial pleas -- but it's not exactly smart business. "Our e-mail subscribers are people who value our content and read it every morning," she says. "All of our content is free. That said, we are a nonprofit and we do need to pay the bills."
Knee objected to an e-mail directed at the site's most frequent readers offering discount memberships for Valentine's Day.
As a political activist, Knee sends out voluminous quantities of e-mail -- your humble narrator counts more than 100 in his inbox. The journalist notes, however, "I'm not asking you for anything. I send out e-mails if I think they will be of interest to people or entertaining. And, sometimes, I send out e-mails urging action on things. But I am selective."
He also says he never intended to get the Bay Citizen's service knocked out -- and "I hope I can get it back up."
If so, he'll have to start communicating via a new e-mail address. Roll says Mailchimp automatically barred Knee from receiving Bay Citizen communications after he filed the spam complaint.
"We can never send him another e-mail at that address." Follow us on Twitter at @SFWeekly and @TheSnitchSF