- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 24 (UPI) — The San Francisco Examiner, once the flagship newspaper of William Randolph Hearst's media empire, made its debut Monday as "California's first free urban newspaper."

The new paper, which used to sell for 50 cents, will be available for free five days a week in newsracks and businesses citywide, the newspaper announced with a bold headline, "FREE!"

"This follows an innovative publishing model that has proven successful in Philadelphia and Boston, following in the European tradition of free newspapers in urban centers," the Examiner said in a front-page article.

The paper will combine resources with Fang group publications in San Francisco and San Mateo County, which includes the Independent family of publications and Asian Week magazine.

"This means that the Fang group of newspapers will be distributing one million copies a week of free news and information to the citizens of San Francisco," publisher Florence Fang said.

Fang also pointed to trends affecting the newspaper business, the economy in general, as well as the end of the purchase subsidy from the Hearst Corp. as factors in the decision.

The Fangs took control of the Examiner in November 2000. The deal, which allowed Hearst to purchase the San Francisco Chronicle for $660 million, provided the Fangs with a $66.7 million subsidy, spread over three years.

The repositioning of the Examiner as San Francisco's first free, single-copy only, daily newspaper allows it to complement rather than compete against The Independent, the Fangs' home-delivered newspaper.

"Not only is home delivery expensive, the success of the Examiner under our ownership has been single copy sales and we already reach 71 percent of the home market with The Independent newspapers," the company said in a statement.

As a result of the change, 40 employees have been laid off, the company said.

"We are willing to make radical change to serve the needs of San Francisco," Fang said. "Our plan from the beginning has been to use the Examiner and The Independent together to reach both the busy commuter and the homes of San Francisco residents."

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