San Francisco Examiner’s Rich History Adds a ChapterBack to News

Native San Franciscan Clint Reilly became the sixth owner of the San Francisco Examiner when he acquired the newspaper from Black Press in January 2021.

The Examiner has a rich and storied history dating back to the Civil War, which played an influential part in its history.

The predecessor of the Examiner was the Democrat Press, launched in 1863. Its offices were destroyed in 1865 by a mob as an angry reaction to the newspaper’s pro-slavery stance after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The paper began publishing again later that year as the Daily Examiner and with a revised position on slavery.

In 1880, George Hearst, a wealthy miner, obtained ownership of the newspaper in exchange for forgiveness of a gambling debt. His son, William Randolph Hearst, took to the newspaper business and began running the paper at the age of 23.

In 1889, William Randolph Hearst dubbed the Examiner the “Monarch of the Dailies.” Some of the more prominent writers in America worked there, including Mark Twain, Jack London, Ambrose Bierce and Herb Caen.

Hearst owned the Examiner for 85 years before entering into a Joint Operating Agreement with the San Francisco Chronicle, a competing daily in the city, in 1965. The Chronicle published a morning paper and the Examiner published in the afternoon. The Examiner published the Sunday paper’s news sections and glossy magazine, and the Chronicle contributed the features. Circulation was approximately 100,000 on weekdays and 500,000 on Sundays.

That arrangement continued until 2000 when Hearst acquired the Chronicle. To satisfy antitrust concerns, Hearst sold the Examiner to ExIn, LLC, a corporation owned by the politically connected Fang family, publishers of the San Francisco Independent and the San Mateo Independent. The “sale” was unusual in that Hearst paid the Fang family $66 million as a subsidy.

San Francisco political consultant Clint Reilly – yes, the same Clint Reilly – filed a lawsuit against Hearst, charging that the deal did not ensure two competitive newspapers.

The Fang family was well known and wielded a large degree of political clout in the city and beyond. Ted Fang ran the Examiner until 2004 when he sold it to Philip Anschutz’s Clarity Media. Clarity published the Examiner until 2011 when it was sold to Black Press.

Ten years later, the Examiner is now owned by Clint Reilly Communications (CRC). Headquartered in the historic Merchants Exchange Building in the San Francisco Financial District, the company is jointly owned by Janet and Clint Reilly.

CRC is part of a diversified family of organizations including commercial real estate; hospitality; event production; food and wine; media; and nonprofit endeavors including Bay Scholars, a scholarship program for low-income high school students, and Clinic by the Bay, a free health clinic in the outer Mission co-founded by Janet Reilly.

CRC acquired the Nob Hill Gazette newspaper in 2016 and the lifestyle magazine Gentry in early 2020.