The San Francisco Bay Guardian was shut down yesterday. It’s been around for almost 50 years. It’s a shame, but I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. A while back, I decided to try my hand at journalism and the editors of the Guardian gave me a chance to freelance with them. After a year or so of sometimes painful on-the-job training, I briefly worked in-house as a reporter and an assistant editor. The pay was atrocious (if you broke it down by hour, it was way less than minimum wage). The work was stressful. But working there was by far my favorite job. I loved it and I wanted to keep doing it. But even all those years ago now, the paper was already a hollowed out shell of what it had been. The alternative-weekly business model of funding free content by selling lucrative classified ads for things like call girls and medical cannabis doctors was clearly obsolete. There just wasn’t enough damn money anymore and the owners and editors were scrambling to make do, but things just kept getting worse and worse. This led to some pretty dubious practices, especially for an institution that proudly proclaimed itself the voice of the local progressive movement. Every couple of months, the paper brought in new teams of unpaid interns and used them to produce most of the paper’s content. Sure those interns derived benefits from the experience, but they didn’t just make a few calls for quotes or help out with fact-checking. They were sent out into the field to write stories. It was blatant exploitation, the kind of thing the paper would have buried a major corporation for doing. As for the paid staff, when the next round of layoffs inevitably occurred, they always came without warning and management tended to eliminate more senior—and better paid—employees. This sort of ends-justify-the-means behavior is rampant in the nonprofit world, especially in political organizations like the Guardian—which, make no mistake, was a political organization first and a newspaper second. Sure, it had great arts and entertainment coverage, but at its core, the paper was about furthering “the noble cause” of progressive politicians, interest groups, and policy goals. Stories were assigned, written, and edited to that end. I don’t necessarily think that’s a problem in and of itself. Pure objective journalism is a chimera. It doesn’t exist. There is always a bias at work, and often when that bias is made clear, it can lead to better reporting. But the way the Guardian operated, at least in the time I was involved with it, you couldn’t escape the nagging stench of hypocrisy and even cynicism—and not just because of its questionable labor practices. Multiculturalism and diversity were celebrated in the paper’s pages but if you looked around the newsroom, it was pretty damn white and—at the top anyway—male. And as the paper’s staff dwindled and its quality degraded (the turning point for me was when they laid off the chief copyeditor), the once vibrant publication dedicated to “raising hell” just seemed stale and musty. Politically, I consider myself a progressive. I have usually agreed with most, if not all of the Guardian’s stances. And as the invasion of the Google shuttles continues here, its death is a major defeat. I just wish I could feel something besides apathy about it.