East Bay Express closes its doors

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Back to Article

East Bay Express closes its doors

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLI WESEMAN/THE PIONEER

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLI WESEMAN/THE PIONEER

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLI WESEMAN/THE PIONEER

By Alli Weseman, PHOTO EDITOR

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The East Bay Express announced that it was shutting down after serving the East Bay Area for more than 40 years.
San Francisco Weekly reported in a now deleted tweet that the alternative weekly newspaper had laid off the entire editorial staff after losing a lawsuit to Terry Furry, a former employee.
As a result, the East Bay Express is relying on freelancers and interns to publish the weekly newspaper.
The Express has been financially struggling for the past three years and the owners have been trying to sell the publication in an attempt to save the newspaper.
The company had initially won the lawsuit against Furry, but after an appeal, the state appellate court found the paper guilty of denying Furry overtime. The employee asked for $750,000, of which, $450,000 would go towards his legal fees.
Current owner Stephen Buel will return to the newspaper after his resignation in July 2018 for the use of a racial slur during a meeting and an accusation of sexual misconduct by a former employee.
Robert Gammon replaced Buel’s position as the Express’s publisher.
“Buel had said it was okay because he was friends with black people when he lived in the South. He and his wife had said that racism against white people did exist and they were mad about it. He wasn’t apologetic until the community and Twitter were reacting,” said former East Bay Express Senior Account Executive Caitlin Albritton. “Once he realized how bad it was, then he was remorseful. In the moment when confronted by everyone on his staff and told that it wasn’t okay, he didn’t care at all.”
In order to survive in the digital journalism era, print journalism and weekly newspapers have had to change their business structures.
“I don’t think that print journalism is dead, but news outlets have had to adapt to new technology. The San Francisco Chronicle has San Francisco Gate and KQED’s social media is all up to date and interactive,” said Former East Bay Express Intern and Freelancer Amyra Soriano.
In recent years, alternative weekly newspapers around the country have also struggled. San Francisco Bay Guardian journalists were laid off in October 2014 and the newspaper relaunched in February 2016 as an online publication.
“Clients would say how are you guys doing, and the paper was obviously getting smaller,” said Albritton. “When I started [in 2014], the paper was 60 pages, and now it’s 20 to 40 pages, it’s not doing really well. We didn’t feel the threat of losing the business as much.”
While the firing of editorial staff was unexpected for staff and community members, it was financially necessary for the Express.
“When I heard on Twitter that the paper was shutting down, I thought this was super out of the blue, random, and unexpected. I kept thinking that I had articles due,” said Soriano. “I haven’t received my paycheck from the East Bay Express for the month of December, but towards the end, they were lagging, and this month is the same deal.”