The Examiner’s practice of dropping unsolicited newspapers on doorsteps is under fire in San Francisco. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi (left) has introduced legislation that would impose fines on newspapers that continue to deliver after a resident has asked that the paper stop. He says half of the litter complaints his office gets are about newspapers.

Mirkarimi wants to require newspapers that deliver unsolicited copies to publish a phone number or e-mail address residents could use to place their residence on a do-not-deliver list, according to a report in today’s Chronicle.

If newspapers keep coming, the publisher would face a $100 fine per residence on the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for any thereafter, the Chron reported. Also, in some circumstances, people living at the residences where the unwanted newspapers are delivered could collect three times the amount of the fine from those who violate the law.

The law targets the Examiner, owned by billionaire Denver oilman Phil Anschutz (right), which is the only major paper in San Francisco that delivers unsolicited papers to homes. Publisher John Wilcox is quoted as saying his company delivers 120,000 copies to San Francisco homes each day. The Examiner’s pitch to advertisers is that it is read in high-income homes. The law exempts paid subscription papers such as the Chron. The SF Daily, SF Weekly, Guardian and Anschutz’s other daily, The City Star, don’t go to homes.

If the “comments” section after the Chron article is any indication, the law has popular support. “I must have called 5 or so odd times over the last 10 years, and after a few litterless days, the trash — err Examiner — is delivered again … out on the sidewalk, bushes or street. Make it stop!” Wrote another person: “The Examiner is obnoxious, they way they MAKE you pick up their garbage.”

The same law was proposed by a Maryland legislator after complaints by residents about the Examiner in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington. Residents there were unable to get the Examiner to stop delivering despite numerous phone calls to the paper. A Washington TV station did this report about their complaints. The AP reports that the Maryland legislator withdrew the legislation, however, after the Examiner and other papers promised to clean up their act.

SF Press Club News,


  1. In regards to deliveries of unwanted papers there is a solution that worked for the homeowners in the past and I may suggest for your readers:

    I worked for the former Fang family San Francisco Independent & former owners of the SF Examiner. I was the circulation director for the Independent for almost ten years. Our paper was delivered for free.

    I made it a mandatory effort to have people that didn’t want our product to stop its deliveries. Obviously the circulation management of billionaire’s Anshunts papers has very lousy managers and follows through.

    Readers have successfully sued us in the past in small claims court:
    We had the same problem with the Independent. What made our independent delivery personnel improve was we were sued a numerous of times, taken to small claims court in San Francisco and San Mateo counties and lost every time.

    People would take us to small claims with their rolled up newspapers and copy of letters requesting stoppages, and sue us up to $80.00 per occurrences and judges always awarded it in their favor. And then we would take it out of our independent contractors paychecks and they learned pretty quick about stopping unwanted newspapers!

    I personally have no love lost for newspapers lol….

    Marc Chamot

    My blog:

  2. Credence to the Chronicle’s “comments” section? You must be kidding!

    This is clearly a shrewd dump on the Examiner which shrewdly dumps its free papers in tonier neighborhoods.

    As for me, in my neighborhood, I have to swish through truckloads of crude night club promo cards and leaflets on Sunday morning– could that be the source of the other half of complaints Mirkarimi gets? (Something tells me that no one is complaining about the Nob Hill Gazette.)

    Also, I often have to search several blocks before I find an Examiner dispenser that isn’t empty. Why don’t they just dispense with pretense and move all their dispensers to Pacific Heights and Nob Hill?

  3. I’ve often wondered why newspapers get a free pass on pollution. We often see stories boosting some environmental regulation or chastising a polluting corporation. In an era when newspapers have the ability to avoid the mess with paper and driving around making deliveries you’d think they would notice their own malfeasance–plus the cost savings alone would save their sorry behinds.

  4. I expected great things when the Examiner was purchased by this guy. After all he has a lot of money and was in a position to give the Chronicle a run. But the paper hasn’t improved over the past few years. I can’t remember the last scoop it had. And it seems a lot of its advertisers have dropped out. I wonder how long it’s going to be kept alive.

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