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UC Berkeley gets Hearst Examiner archives

The vast archives of the San Francisco Examiner, a rich 130-year history of the Bay Area that the Hearst Corp. inexplicably gave away when it handed the newspaper to the Florence Fang family in 2000, are headed to the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, University Librarian Thomas Leonard announced today (April 4).

The Examiner has been published continuously since 1865. In 1887, William Randolph Hearst (pictured) became the “proprietor” of the Examiner, which his father accepted as payment for a gambling debt. Hearst championed government reform with populist writers and built circulation with lurid crime reporting and strong graphics. For instance in 1912, when the Titanic sunk, there were no photos of the tragedy but Hearst had a graphic drawn that showed “How the Titanic would look if it stood on Market Street” (see front page above).

The archives currently occupy an entire floor of a downtown San Francisco building. They include stories by Examiner staff writers Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, Jack London and Hunter S. Thompson. The archives consist of hand-written notes, newspaper clippings organized by topic, bound versions of the Examiner and more than 8 million photos and negatives.

In 2000, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division gave the Hearst Corp. permission to buy the rival Chronicle on the condition that it give the Examiner to the Fang family (which was politically connected to then mayor-Willie Brown) and provide that family with a $66 million subsidy to keep the paper running. For reasons that were never made clear, Hearst Corp. also gave the Fangs the archives of the Examiner. When the Fangs sold the paper to billionaire Phillip Anschutz in 2004, he got the Hearst archives as part of the deal. Anschutz has now turned the archives over to UC Berkeley, and the repository will be named The Fang Family San Francisco Examiner Archives.

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