`Examiner' looks doomed

DESPITE A long and colourful history of newspaper publishing, San Francisco appears doomed to follow the path already trodden by most other big American cities and become a one-newspaper town.

The family that owns the city's highest-selling title, the San Francisco Chronicle, announced at the weekend that it was selling out to the Hearst Corporation, which owns the Chronicle's only surviving rival, the San Francisco Examiner.

Although the two titles might continue to operate under separate management, the most likely scenario is that they will merge by the end of the year, creating a local monopoly familiar to other big cities across the nation. Hearst said it would now concentrate its management energies on the Chronicle, which appears in the morning and has a circulation of 600,000. The much smaller Examiner, an evening paper with a 115,000 circulation, would be put up for sale; if, as is likely, no buyer can be found, then the title will be closed and its editorial staff absorbed into a new enlarged Chronicle.

Both papers have illustrious histories tarnished by a recent trend towards creeping mediocrity. Chronicle contributors have included Mark Twain and Jack London, while the Examiner's history is dotted with celebrity relatives, from Patty Hearst, the publisher's daughter who became a terrorist, to Sharon Stone, the Hollywood actress and wife of the current executive editor.

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