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They Love Bloomie's 

The Chron and Ex drool over Bloomingdale's as the city coughs up $27 million

Wednesday, Jul 26 2000
I have become accustomed to pathetic journalistic behavior. I have had to. I live in San Francisco.

For example, my indignation levels scarcely budged last week when Independent columnist Warren Hinckle suggested the Chronicle's unsurprising, pitty-pat profile of swaggering political bully Joe O'Donoghue was a dastardly hit piece, and then declaimed that he, Warren Hinckle, is not a running buddy of Joe O'Donoghue. Nowadays, I can be shocked by Hinckle's disingenuous frothing only in the sense that Capt. Renault was shocked by gambling at Rick's.

Similarly, I have become inured to politically whorish prose in the Bay Guardian. If I come across a Guardian story absolutely packed with fulsome praise for a political initiative that the Guardian's Brobdingnagian publisher has been loudly involved in organizing and supporting, I will still mutter, "Jesus." But I no longer fume. I shrug and move on. It is, after all, just the Guardian.

When San Francisco magazine publishes cover after cover promoting stories with the news value of flan (I am especially taken with "The Delicious Issue" that's out now); as the Examiner's Sunday magazine vies for world leadership in publishing out-of-date book excerpts; while the Chronicle's Ken Garcia sets a new standard for awkward writing in the opinion column format -- well, I notice that things are not the journalistic way I'd wish them to be, but am no longer irate or amazed. (By the way, if you think I'm being harsh with Garcia -- or his editors -- just try to extract distinct meaning or lyric joy from this recent Garcia para-graph: "Because some of the guardians of Muni's "proof of purchase' payment system have apparently been rather overzealous in their attempts to root out the scofflaws who dare to cheat Muni out of its required toll. And since our public transit system costs $50 million to $100 million more to run each year, you could see why they're being sticklers for each quarter.")

But even in my journalistically desensitized state, I do have to ask: Could the Chronicle and Examiner please quit using their precious editorial space to woo the Bloomingdale's department store chain as if it were a particularly nubile and wealthy ingénue? Yes, Bloomingdale's has negotiated the shoals of development politics in San Francisco and paid the proper tribute (in this case, some $2 million) to the favored indigenous tribes of nonprofit organizations, and will therefore almost certainly be allowed to develop a new retail complex in and around the old Emporium building.

Last week, though, the Chronicle published an editorial-page package that would have us think we are living in Memphis, and the new Bloomingdale's is the economic development prize that will return us to our past days of financial glory. (The laugher in the package: A "con" opinion piece beginning with the incisive criticism that "[t]he addition of Bloomingdale's and the activity it will bring to Mission Street, which it will face, are welcome improvements to San Francisco's downtown.") The Examiner, meanwhile, has busied itself describing the new Bloomie's as the type of development we ought to treasure, as opposed to the tacky San Francisco theme park proposed for our waterfront.

The theme park does seem an incipient abomination, and I have nothing against a mid-Market Bloomingdale's, or department stores in general. But at last report, Bloomingdale's was to receive something like $27 million in city tax subsidies for its new store, at the height of economic boom times that make it entirely unnecessary for the city to offer any subsidy to attract new commercial enterprise.

In this era of $2,000-per-month one-bedroom apartments, any fool can see that if the city uses public funds to encourage development, it should use those funds not on development that is primarily retail in nature, but on the development of housing, and more housing, and particularly housing aimed at the $50,000-per-year-and-under population that is being systematically driven from San Francisco. Well, wait a minute. I mean to say that any fool can see this, unless the fool happens to work for a major daily newspaper ejaculating all over itself at the mere thought of a new advertising account that will spawn pricey full page after pricey full page of daily newspaper ads.

The financial health of metropolitan dailies is umbilically linked to the advertising purchased by major upscale retailers of the Bloomingdale's genre. If the Chronicle and Examiner want to opine in favor of $27 million in governmental subsidies for a department store we could certainly do without, common decency ought to compel them -- even in the pathetic journalistic wasteland of San Francisco -- to mention that they will very likely be among the larger financial beneficiaries of a Bloomingdale's.

Obviously, we've redesigned SF Weekly. If we've been successful, you'll find our pages a bit less crowded and more visually inviting than they've seemed in the past. We've blown more room into our table of contents, given the music section a new cover page, and opened up most of our other standing features with a variety of graphic elements. As a result, you may find the new Weekly reads more like a magazine than a daily newspaper. This result is no accident. It came about by, ahem, design.

Our new look, which replaces a design instituted about five years ago, is a product of months of collaboration among a team of -- and I use this term advisedly -- extraordinary designers with broad experience in magazines. The team was led by Sonda Andersson Pappan, design director for New Times Inc. and a former designer at Spy, Smart, and Rolling Stone magazines. The chief consultant on the project was the widely respected design firm of Alexander Isley Inc., whose client list includes everyone from Time Warner, Forbes FYI, and Sports Illustrated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Giorgio Armani, and, even, Chronicle Books. (Again, the choice of consultant was no accident; Andersson Pappan worked under Isley when he was art director for the visually acclaimed and otherwise infamous Spy magazine.) Of course, SF Weekly's incomparable art director Darrick Rainey was intimately involved in the redesign, from start to finish. And the more visually attentive among you may notice that we have even installed new body type, designed for SF Weekly by Jonathan Hoefler of the Hoefler Type Foundry and Tobias Frere Jones, previously of the Font Bureau.

Now, about that rectangle on the cover ...

I could delve deep into the subtle aesthetic reasoning behind our change from the old, linear, semi-Germanic masthead to the raffish new box, but that would waste my space and your time. We now have a smart, direct, magazine-style logo because: 1) We think it looks better than the old logo, and 2) We think it goes well with the smart, direct, magazine-style journalism you've come to expect from us. Let us know what you think of the new look, and, of course, the stories it is, yes, designed to showcase.

About The Author

John Mecklin


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