Broke-Ass City: SF lost part of its heart with Bold Italic closure 

click to enlarge The Bold Italic's website. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Bold Italic's website.
Last week, we all got the news that Gannett was pulling the cord on The Bold Italic. The news broke too late for my column last week, so I figured I’d do it now.

The Bay Area lost something very special with the closing of The Bold Italic. Whether you loved the publication or loved to hate it, TBI was able to capture the zeitgeist of San Francisco like no other publication.

The San Francisco that TBI presided over for the past five years is a rip-roaring sonofabitch where millionaires are made overnight, working-class families are shaken from their homes like fleas, and local politicians are bought and sold like pirated DVDs on Mission Street.

Like Mark Twain’s Gilded Age or Charles Dickens’ Victorian London, modern-day San Francisco is having an era-defining moment, and The Bold Italic gave so many writers and artists the opportunity to try to pin it down, while also paying them well. The words and images created for TBI will be studied for centuries by academics and historians searching for firsthand accounts of what life was like in a city that was so desperately trying to change the world. And that’s what we lost when The Bold Italic shut down.

My relationship with The Bold Italic was unique. My first piece for it, “Living in San Francisco Means,” was published in May 2011 and illustrated by the brilliant Wendy MacNaughton. It was also its first viral article. Previously, I’d written books and articles and had some notoriety, but this catapulted both myself and The Bold Italic onto the lips and finger tips of tens of thousands of new readers.

For me, it was a foray into exploring a different writing style that blended poetry and prose and allowed me to head in a new direction with my work. For TBI, it allowed it to fully realize its potential to strike a nerve with San Franciscans and make them not only feel but also react.

The comments section absolutely blew up, and no comments section on that site was ever tame again. Like a first love, The Bold Italic and I would always have a special place in each other’s hearts — and even though it was a publication and not a person, TBI definitely had a heart. It was shaped like San Francisco.

And then last week it was all gone. We’ve had a tough run here over the past few years. Besides the evictions and the rent increases and what feels like the blanding of the weird and wonderful, we’ve had two of our brightest and strongest voices silenced. Six months ago, it was the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and this time around, it’s The Bold Italic.

Both publications fell victim to the same thing: being owned by a media company that felt it was time to trim the fat. It’s a hell of a thing to realize that, a publication you hold dear, something that informs your world, that often makes you laugh and that has even made you cry, can one day, suddenly, be shuttered because somebody thought it did not make enough money. The space where art and commerce collide is a war zone and it’s a hell of a thing indeed.

Because of this, I’m taking measures to make sure my website BrokeAss will always be independently owned. There’s a huge hole to be filled now that The Bold Italic is gone, and I plan on doing my best to occupy it. Do you like my words or just feel that there needs to be independent voices in the Bay Area’s media landscape? Then please Google “Broke-Ass Stuart Indiegogo” and donate to my Indiegogo campaign. Let’s keep this city weird and let’s keep it honest. And more than anything, let’s keep making things that people in the future will read and say, “Goddamn, I wish I’d been there.”

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.

Editor’s note: The San Francisco Examiner is owned by the San Francisco Media Co., which owned and closed the Bay Guardian last year.

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