The Decline Of The Watering Hole

This piece on the death of local reporters’ bars nationwide got our attention, as in a past life we reported city news and were no stranger to the tap-room. But while it’s true that the shoe-leather, metro reporter and his or her bar might be looking at, if not extinction, a severe reduction in population, some of what’s going on is a simple re-shuffling that Marketwatch seems to have missed. First, the clip:

Now, here’s what’s missing: We can only speak to our own market of San Francisco, but we’re betting that something like the following is happening nationwide: The Washington Square Bar and Grill was, while famously a favorite of types like Herb Caen, a bit out of the price range of your average young reporter making less than $50,000 a year in the second-most expensive real estate market in the country. But that doesn’t mean your reporter abstains.

Our after-work hangout, while at the Examiner, was never the Washbag. It was the House of Shields, which was closer to the office, cheaper, and attracted a younger crowd. Though At 100 years old, rumor has it the Shields was also a reporters’ bar long before Caen immortalized the Washbag. While it’s sad to see those old places disappear, we feel hard-pressed to tear up over a bar where we couldn’t afford more than two drinks. We’re betting the steady decline in the workforce at print publications had a lot less to do with the Washbag’s closure than the romantics would like to believe.

It’s entirely possible that the new breed of reporter–who generally writes same-day web copy in a high-pressure newsroom as well as stories for the morning edition, and who is often lean, underpaid and hungry–needs a different kind of bar: One with lower prices, no food (we eat at our desks), popular with the legislative aides and maybe a loose smoking policy (wishful thinking: the Shields was strict).

The Washbag and many bars like it simply didn’t evolve as fast as the media. This is sad but, just as the practice of reporting will not disappear simply because news-consumption habits are changing, bars that serve reporters will not disappear simply because the job is changing. They’ll just have to change along with their customers.

Whither The Journalist Bar? [Eater]
The Watering Hole: Innocent Victim in Print Publishing’s Death March? [SFist]
Journalism Watering Holes Disappearing [MarketWatch]
The House of Shields [Official Site]

The Decline Of The Watering Hole