On February 18, the SFGate picked up a story from The 60s at 50, marking the fifty year anniversary for a three-part Chronicle series on the dismal state of coffee in restaurants. It’s a scathing exposé, calling out restauranteurs for serving the city “swill”. According to the 60s at 50, newspaper sales soared because of the article and upscale restaurants improved their offerings.
There’s a lot of work that’s been done to up the ante with regards to restaurant coffee fifty years later. But there’s still plenty of work left to do.
Today marks the 50th anniversary one of the best — or one the worst — moments in local newspaper history: The day that the San Francisco Chronicle declared war on coffee. “A Great City’s People Forced to Drink Swill” is arguably the most infamous local headline, taking on a life of its own over the last half century.
(And it’s an example of the dangers of community journalism. The city has since gone horribly in the other direction, with a scourge of overpriced Ethiopian blends and double skim caramel macchiato. A Great City’s People Forced to Wait in a Long Line for a Chai Latte …)
Above is the front page from Feb. 18, 1963. This was the epicenter of the Scott Newhall era, when there was a screaming headline above every Chronicle masthead flag. Whether it was a crime story, a sports victory or a campaign to clothe the genitals of pets (that happened), the 72 point headline appeared at the top of the page every day.
One fact that has been lost since 1963 is that the coffee takedown was actually a three-part series. And it was basically the same story, written three times.