Newspaper box graveyard and other images of the econopocalypse

The Boston Globe's "Images from the Recession" page features pictures from around the world showing the stark reality of the econopocalypse. Here's a storage yard filled with disused newspaper boxes and racks in San Francisco.

Update: Looks like I (and the Boston Globe) got this one wrong! From Nonprophetone in the comments, "San Francisco banned all individual news racks a few years ago and just got around to replacing them. That photo has nothing to do with the economy."

Scenes from the recession (Thanks, Jeff!)

(Image: AP Photo/Noah Berger)


  1. Spotted an old-school metal bin used by The Onion on the middle left. Ha!

    But man, there are a lot Learning Annex bins there.

    Here’s an art project: Someone retrofit old/discarded tube TVs into these things.

    Old school TV plus old school newsprint.

  2. They should go on the news and ask artists/recyclers to come and “bid” for them, not with cash but with their ideas. This will be so not just anyone can come and take them just to spread them out into the city once more. Just an idea.

  3. ok, alterntate photo titlesa)REVENGE OF THE TREES!!!b)SORRY ZIGGY!!c)ILLITERACY RATES SOAR!!
    why do I feel like eating Skittles so badly right now!!

  4. Ha-Ha!

    (Meant for the newspapers, obviously, not people suffering through the econocalypse generally.)

    Katie Kupferschmid (left) and Lisa Arata test gold jewelry at a gold party March 12, 2009 in West Orange, New Jersey. Gold parties are a growing trend in the United States where a hostess invites friends and family to bring their unwanted gold to sell for extra income. The price is based on karat content, weight and the market price of gold that day.

    * Suburban gold-selling parties

    In brief: It’s a stupid thing to do.

  5. Who would have known that Spengler’s comment “print is dead” would actually be prophetic? Interestingly metal prices have fallen off a cliff like everything else so they would not fetch much for scrap even.

  6. Wow, I live right by number 27 and 35.

    That project should have been done during the peak, but a big fight with the builder and local community slammed the brakes on the project, so that now, it is mostly unbuilt.

    They built up the grading to a point that it blocked the view of so many of the houses above the project and then with the swagger of the peak market, fought tooth and nail to do what they wanted.

    In the end, they had to redo the grading and they didn’t get to build after all since the market for the houses crashed.

  7. As others have noted, these aren’t [only] the newsracks of ex-papers; instead, I suspect these are poor, wayward things that have gone astray and thus incurred the wrath of the newsrack gods. Perhaps they wandered off their curb and into traffic; maybe they were slow to surrender their chains…. So here they sit, forlorn, mulling over their transgressions as they wait for daddy to come bail them out.

    –That said, I’m always more than delighted to see “Yank” machines pulled from the street. Crazy fucker cost us (and here “us” means a collective of us, our insurance company, and the law firms we still owed at the point we went under) $180k in legal fees.

  8. I don’t feel terribly sorry about the exurban tract-mansions. What last summer’s fuel prices started, the lack of credit finished off.

  9. I wonder how many were like the one at the corner of my street, which is never filled, so I can’t get a paper from it when I want one….

  10. Thanks, nonprophetone. Comments like yours, which reveal the truth and the proper context of a story, make the discussion worth reading.

  11. Uh, in Boston at least the style in this picture are being _replaced_ with transparent plastic ones to ‘prevent terrorism’.

  12. Some ideas for re-purposing these:
    -Bird house
    -Heavy-Duty television cabinet
    -Speaker housing
    -Fish tank

    Can the coin changer on top be removed?

  13. ditto @nonpretophone. I recall seeing this collection or a similar one off of Cesar Chavez St. (formerly Army St.) near 3rd in San Francico nearly a decade ago, near a newspaper distribution center; quite a few racks even then were illegally placed or created hazards and so were removed.

  14. Some of the pictures are pure BS. There are NO (not a single one) abandoned construction sites in Warsaw/Poland.

    I think its like the rumors about closed car factories, where in fact Polish factories cant keep up with the demand. Some dealers have lists and you have to wait one full month for a car. Weak currency made us cheap car European heaven for the moment.

    Watching this “article” makes me thing journalist wanted to make a point that its not happening only in US and manufactured some facts.

  15. Yeah, not even remotely economy related. I refurbbed one of the metal ones a few years ago and stashed it in my apartment for a while. Certainly a nice conversation piece. Started out sideways as a coffee table, then eventually used it as a bookshelf, inside and out.

    Using it as a computer case seems pretty natural. It’s got better airflow than it’d appear to have.

    You can simulate the experience of ghetto blasters driving through your living room by shoving a subwoofer in it. The acoustics suck.

    Cats love them. So do spiders – found a massive nest of them when I was cleaning it out.

    They’re also not at all watertight, so turning it into an aquarium would require quite a bit of modding, probably welding.

    I’d be surprised if the plastic ones were good for anything much more than trash bins, though. Maybe use them in your low-budget action flick, all full of papers and rigged to burst when you plow into them.

    @WeaponX: The coin slot can be removed in most models, but unless you really need to, it’s easier to just jam or remove the latch. Bonus: Disassemble it and you usually get this massive solid steel security bolt that goes through the coin unit that’s arguably cooler than the whole thing standalone.

  16. It’s actually a lovely photo.

    SF banned newsboxes? That’s a bit of a shame. I remember being in DC and seeing something like 30 boxes on a corner once, it was kind of neat.

  17. I want one of the coin operated metal ones, hopefully in relativley good condition. It would make a great decoration. It would also be totally kitchy in a few decades like how a post card vending machine is now.

  18. If intelligent beings ever dig these places up far in the future they’re going to have a real puzzle on their hands:

    So why did this species make colorful boxes of toxic, no biodegradable material by the thousands, and then abandon their creations?

  19. Even if this weren’t bogus due to SF’s banning the boxes, maybe no one heard but newspapers were in trouble long before the economy pooped out, and will be even when the economy turns around. When’s the last time you listed something for sale in the newspaper??

  20. The metal ones might make good backyard smokers. Mmmm…I can taste the pork shoulder and home-cured bacon now.

  21. Unfortunately, I just saw yesterday a similar big pile; my local aircooled VW specialty shop is closing their doors after more than 30 years.

    They have plenty of customers, but one of the owners was hospitalized for a month and it wiped out their operating expenses, and the banks couldn’t loan them enough to keep their stock going..

    Hundreds of little empty bins as other store owners in the region stop by to buy out chunks of their remaining inventory..

    Quite sad, since they offered both quality parts and reasonable prices. Old-school.

    Now I can’t buy local, other than the cheap-in-every-aspect but price chain stores..
    or recycle a part from my local favorite pick-n-pull junkyard filled with vws.

  22. Some group of kids at CMU co-opted a WSJ newspaper box on Craig and Forbes, and did an LED upgrade:

    I was tempted to take the LED kit, as it looked like it was about $40 worth of LEDs.

    Too bad for the papers. I only glance at the WSJ if I happen to be near enough to touch one. I normally use them to start fires in my burninator (as of yesterday, a mud-encrusted Dalek Burninator – “EN-BURN-U-LATE!”) :

    I’m with #1, #2, and some of the others — Recycle them into something else useful. Housing for WiFi mesh networking, outdoor pirate TV/Radio station, indie zine distribution, battery box, etc.

  23. #26 posted by Digilante

    Exactly like Easter Island. Only, not so nice to look at… nor really all that fascinating or beautiful to look at.

  24. Signs of current economic conditions are everywhere, and I’m sure that newspapers have been affected due to the economic situation, but they were sliding down the tubes slowly anyway. This just hastened things, I think.

    The only thing I miss about newspapers is reading them over a hot cup of coffee and a thoroughly unhealthy breakfast in a local diner on a weekend morning. Now I have to look at people or remember to bring a book.

  25. Those boxes still litter the streets of San Francisco…if they were banned, they don’t enforce it…

  26. Good to know the real story, but I have seen some boxes disappearing here in NY, and have been thinking about an art project involving them for the past coupla months.

    Anyone know how to go about procuring 20-30 of them on the cheap?

  27. I’m curious, I know that paid a usage fee to the AP for the photo, but did Boing Boing?

  28. #17 WEAPONX: You forgot beer cooler, rabbit hutch, aquarium stand, telephone-phonebook organizer, wet bar…I could go on.

  29. @29 Boba Fett Diop

    I thought that, too. But the best smokers are made using brick, not steel plate. The welds (and low-grade steel itself) might also leach toxins into the food.

    This might sound like a boring idea, but if they were properly cleaned-up, some of them would probably make good storage cabinets in a workshop. Bouncing off the smoker idea, you could probably use one as a shell for a powder coating oven or something like that, too.

  30. I’m not sure how practical they would be for a lot of powder coating jobs (you couldn’t get a bike frame in one), but I’ve seen smokers in old gym lockers, oil drums, etc. You want to smoke at a pretty low temperature, so I’m not too concerned about toxins leaching in. You’d want to clean it of course, and probably re-enforce the area around your firebox. There are probably better things to use for a DIY smoker, but this still seems like a possibility.

  31. I stand by my explanation (these are somehow non-conforming newsracks, not ones removed because “San Francisco bans newsracks”). You’ll note the article nonprophetone cites is from 1998 — but as a few seconds’ observation of virtually any SF sidewalk will reveal, the city’s streets are still full of free-standing newsracks.

    The Great Newsrack Ban ran smack into the Great Internet Bust: The original plan had next to nothing to do with newsrack proliferation — it had to do with the potentially extremely valuable advertising real estate on the back side of the pedestal-mounted multiple publication newsracks intended to replace them. Back in 1998, the guys at Adshel (now Clear Channel) were wetting their pants over the prospect of selling ad space on waist-high illuminated billboards lining, say, the streets of the Financial District. And, then, the bottom fell out….

    True, the transition to pedmounts continues — or at least it does in certain high-volume, high-value neighborhoods. (Translation; If you live in Hunter’s point or the Sunset, don’t expect to see a pedmount anytime soon.)

    From the start, publishers and the city/Adshel/CC have been at loggerheads over this issue, and the placement of new pedmounts hotly debated. (Give you an idea why: You’ve just taken the BART downtown, you’re taking the escalator to the street, and at the top you’re greeted by a pedmount newsrack containing, say, a dozen publications. Quick question: Which direction is the pedmount facing?)

    I don’t know how things are today, but the initial rollout, at least, was a tug-of-war between the two sides as to whose interests would best be served. (As, in those days, owner and publisher of Spectator, I spent more than one day crawling the Tenderloin with a tape measure, trying to identify every potentially legal location for a pedmount in hopes at least a few might be installed that would actually sell papers.)

  32. Thanks for the update Cory. Nice to see a journalist do the right thing instead of just foaming at the mouth like most.

  33. Does anyone happen to know where this dump is? I live in San Francisco and would love one or a few of these… I have one that I keep on my roof, I put a stereo in it, it keeps the stereo nice and dry and protected from the sun. These things are super useful and well built.

  34. The Associated Press tends to bend over backwards to promote the demise of the newspaper industry without regard to their own future without their most major revenue source.

  35. in fact, newspaper machines are generally on the way out – some of the more expensive papers such as the Financial Times have stopped using them entirely, just because not many people carry around the number of quarters you need to slot into a machine to be able to buy one

  36. fear mongering makes for cool photos!
    They could sandblast them and make artificial reefs , or just refurbish and sell them to escort magazines in Las Vegas, the last true bastion of the written word.

  37. Hi, I’m the person who runs The Big Picture. Just so you know, the newspaper graveyard photo wasn’t intentionally fear-mongering, just an error in context on my part. After reading the comments above, (and only having the brief caption “Unused newspaper racks clutter a storage yard in San Francisco, California” to go with), I was able (now) to use Google Maps to track down the location, right next to a San Francisco Chronicle facility (thanks for the link @stevenleckart). I called the SF Chron, got in touch with Chris Blaser, VP of circulation, who confirmed to me that the unused boxes at that location are indeed sitting there due to the city’s rules removing clutter from the street – not due to any economic pressures. Emblematic of a larger problem or not, the error of including that photo in this collection was mine, and I’ve updated the entry. Thanks to everyone.

  38. just wondering if there still could be a co-relation to SanCron’s death.

    If there is a by-law in San Fran that requires the removal of ‘cluttering’ paper boxes from streets then where are people supposed to get their newspapers? how does one expect newspapers to distribute? paperboys? err I mean paperpeople.

    is it a leap to pose that banning ice cream licking in public places might lead to hardship of ben & jerry’s?

    citizenziggy esq.

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