Comic-Con? Burning Man? No. Those are words Doug Fruehling uses to describe his move from Washington, DC, to San Francisco earlier this year.
The newly appointed editor-in-chief of the San Francisco Business Times spoke at the August 27, 2019, meeting of the San Francisco Public Relations Round Table. He talked about his decision to leave Washington after 23 years in that city, including a decade as editor-in-chief at the Washington Business Journal. Both publications are part of the American City Business Journals’ (ACBJ) network of 43 outlets in the United States.
“After 10 years in the same newsroom, I was looking for a source of new energy and a place to apply some of the things I had learned in DC,” he said.
“Public relations people are an important cog in the wheel of the media,” he commented. “With mutual respect, we can help each other do our jobs better.” He noted that if the Times publishes something a company would rather not see in print, he stands by what is published if it’s accurate, truthful and fair.
The San Francisco Business Times is a reporter-driven newspaper. “Our goal is to [have each beat reporter] publish one ‘premium’ story — on a subject that hasn’t been covered previously — behind the pay wall, in every edition.” If it’s been covered before, a new angle on the same topic will get traction.
What is the optimal story for the Times? Simple: A scoop. “If I get an email and my response is, ‘I didn’t know that,’ you have my attention.” A prime case in point: The Transamerica tower is for sale. That story ran first in the Times and went viral from there. “I love those references to ‘as first reported in the San Francisco Business Times,’” Fruehling commented.
The paper emphasizes “actionable” news. “Our readers are businesses and companies looking for an acquisition, a contract or a deal,” he noted. “I look for stories on subjects our readers can act on.” In that context, the Times looks for local stories, and gives more weight to a pitch than to a press release. And, he wants to know about it before it happens, not after.
The Times has a small staff of about 15 people, with seven beats: banking and finance, biotech, hospitality, real estate, technology, sports and healthcare. Email addresses and phone numbers are listed in the “About Us” section of their website: bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/about-us. Fruehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; his direct phone is 415-288-4910. His twitter handle is @SFBTeditor.
What has surprised him most about San Francisco? “One, that people really don’t wear ties here. I’m selling all of mine to fund a place to live.
“And two,” he continued, “the degree of the crisis on the streets. It’s much worse than I had expected. It’s a homeless crisis, it’s a mental health crisis. The business community should be able to do something about this.” He noted that with San Francisco Business Times Publisher Mary Huss taking on the role of chair of the Bay Area Council’s Executive Committees, this subject is likely to receive more attention in the paper.
The Round Table program was moderated by member Beverly Butler of Wells Fargo Bank.
By Phyllis Goodman, SFPRRT member
Photos: Irene Renaldy