Months after GrowSF — the contentious political organization that poured money into the SF school board and DA Chesa Boudin recall elections — acquired The Bold Italic, the publication appears to have a new editor-in-chief.
When it was announced in December of 2022 that GrowSF had acquired The Bold Italic, a collective weeping could be heard across the city. At 13 years old, the San Francisco-focused publication was beloved for its humanist angles and deeper editorial coverages. That fondness has quickly faded.
Since its former editor-in-chief (read: me) departed in September of 2022, the publication has largely devolved into a collection of high-brow restaurant reviews and the occasional coverage of upper-echelon events in the city. But that’s not to say The Bold Italic hasn’t been without controversy during this quiet period.
The anti-drag bill passed in Tennessee — and being pushed in many other state legislatures — is straight from history’s playbook.
Even 150 years ago, legislators wanted to police gender expression in public spaces. https://t.co/nGjkgfDOnb
— NPR (@NPR) March 7, 2023
Mind you: GrowSF’s co-founders Sachin Agarwal and Steven Buss professed the publication would exist in a politically-neutral bubble — both an impossible promise and a complete antithesis to the very nature of The Bold Italic’s widely successful brand.
Cases of The Bold Italic’s official Twitter account unfollowing journalists who once contributed to the lifestyle-oriented publication were confirmed shortly after its acquisition; Buss, who by proxy now co-owns the publication, reportedly blocked over 4,000 Twitter accounts in 2022; both Buss and Agarwal implied they would also serve as editors for The Bold Italic in a post titled “We love you, San Francisco.” On The Bold Italic’s official Instagram account, a reel that spotlighted local Black-owned businesses was recently removed.
In a similar muted fashion, The Bold Italic appears to have found a new EIC (editor-in-chief) months after it posted a truly red-flag-ridden job posting for the role.
Per their Medium bio, Saul Sugarman is “currently” seated at The Bold Italic’s highest editorial position. Sugarman has confirmed this on their website, as well: “Right [now,] I am [the] editor of The Bold Italic.”
According to Sugarman’s website, they’re a “longtime apparel designer, event planner, career journalist, and writer” who discovered their niche in temporary work “after departing several daily newsrooms.”
While Sugarman’s Instagram is public, their Twitter account, as of publishing, remains only visible to approved followers.
Having Sugarman, who is openly queer, onboarded as the current EIC for an immensely popular Bay Area publication that’s now owned by an SF PAC comes off as uneasy. Amid a time when anti-drag legislation is being pushed across the United States by both moderates and conservatives, witnessing a right-leaning, SF-based YIMBY institution pry into the local LGBTQIA+ community for influence is alarming. Horrifying, actually.
We must remember that the most draconian changes don’t transpire overnight. These transformations — be they in local, state, and federal legislative bodies or within omnipresent cultural narratives — occur in slow, insidious shifts.
The success of these manipulations is predicated on whether or not certain acclimation practices prove victorious; they, too, all begin with language meant to persuade vulnerable cohorts into a sense of safety and certainty; having a semblance of representation wrapped around that language makes such tactics that much more dangerous — invasive, treacherous, dystopian.
May this be a not-so-gentle reminder of why it’s crucial to support local independently-owned publications — like Mission Local, The Frisc, 48Hills, 7×7, Broke-Ass-Stuart, and, as of most recently, Underscore_SF. The very fate of our media literacy depends on doing so.