Forty-eight years ago, a group of Potrero Hill residents – artists, labor union activists, peaceniks – published Hills and Dales, a fledgling newsletter to inform neighbors about goings-on, and possibly even influence local politics. The mimeographed missive soon morphed into The Potrero View, the newspaper you’re holding in your hand or reading on a screen.
The View fulfilled its mission, and more. It helped elect Nancy Pelosi to the U.S. House of Representatives and Sophie Maxwell to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was integral to toppling the Hunters Point and Potrero power plants, and contributed to better transportation and land use outcomes. Meanwhile, it celebrated births, mourned deaths, illuminated stories about the community’s artists and merchants, and gossiped about new restaurants and bars.
Is it now “mission accomplished?”
Newspapers across the land are busy dying. Earlier this year, more than a half-dozen East Bay Times reporters, photographers, and editors accepted buyouts ahead of a round of layoffs, reducing the editorial staff by one-quarter. People’s attention is now focused on social media, and ample access to on demand infotainment. Nextdoor feeds the need for neighborhood gossip; SocketSite tracks new building activities. Do we really need a monthly newspaper?
Chances are, having read this far, you’ll answer “yes!” The View continues to fill a niche that no other source occupies: substantive news and information about the people, places, and events influencing our community. No other media regularly covers what’s going on in our schools, with local merchants, and residents’ lives and deaths, among other neighborhood concerns. For many, the View provides an essential contribution to what makes Dogpatch and Potrero Hill special.
That the View is principally a print publication adds to its cache, but both attracts and repeals readers and advertisers. Some people don’t want to get their fingers dirty handling ink-stained copies; others cherish the ability to pass on published photographs of their loved ones to faraway relatives, and like the feel of print in their hands as they sip their coffee. Many advertisers see a value in the relationship a monthly print paper that’s directly delivered to doorsteps has with its readers; others are focused on social media’s popularity and potential for laser-sharp targeting. In any event, there’s no Internet-based business model to sustain a geographic-specific publication that attracts well less than 50,000 readers a month. For now, anyway, the only way to survive is in print.
The paper isn’t in any immediate danger of folding, in part because of a willingness of its staff to work pro bono. But there’s been a sharp decline in advertising over the past couple of years, including by longtime merchants in the community who have been lured away, hopefully temporarily, by more sparkly marketing options. Reduced revenues has translated into fewer pages and less ambitious articles. In excellent months the View balloons to 40 pages. Lately we’ve regularly been half that. A 16-page paper would signal that finances have entered a stage that threatens long-term viability.
If you want the View to make it to its 50th birthday and beyond, considering doing the following:
Advertise, and frequent businesses that do. If you’re offering any kind of goods, services, or activities, consider placing an ad in the View. If you’re celebrating an anniversary, birthday, or other special event, think about sharing it with our readers. Either way, make a special effort to spend time and money with our advertisers. Contact us and let us know how we can help.
Subscribe. The View has less than 100 paid subscribers each year. If that grew to 1,000, a fraction of our readership, the paper would remain an active community asset for the foreseeable future. Let us know if you’d like the View delivered to you!
Donate. Time – help writing articles, editing, providing images, soliciting advertisements or contributions – and money – including as a bequest – are deeply appreciated. Checks can be sent to: The Potrero View, 1459 18th Street, Number 214, San Francisco, California 94107.
In just two years the View will have been around for a full half-century. We’re looking forward to celebrating the occasion with you.