Barbara Ann Taylor
October 26, 2020
Barbara Ann Taylor, a fearless and feared radio reporter who covered the raucous and trailblazing politics of San Francisco for more than 30 years as doyen of the City Hall press corps, leaves behind a legacy as a pro's pro journalist known for her tenaciousness, heart, fairness and insight. To her, truth mattered.
Taylor died Oct. 26 from complications resulting from a car crash that occurred 13 months prior. She put up a fight to the end and met her challenges with courage and grace.
She is survived by her beloved husband of 12 years, Mark Mayper, who enveloped her with unshakable love, warmth and friendship.
Born in San Diego on October 8, 1947, Taylor received a bachelor's degree in speech communication and a master's in counseling from San Diego State University. After college, she worked briefly as a social worker. But she pivoted careers when she took a job at a local San Diego radio station writing news. She found her calling. Taylor moved to San Francisco in 1975 to join KCBS Radio as an editor and worked briefly as an anchor and general assignment reporter before her assignment as San Francisco City Hall bureau chief.
There, with her microphone, tape recorder and small recording studio set up in a cramped office, she covered the daily bread-and-butter stories of city government, from budgets to elections, but also those of historic importance. Among them: the assassinations of then-Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978, the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 and the City's revolutionary sanctioning of same-sex marriage in 2004.
Her faithful sidekick, Tanner, a brown and black Brussels Griffon the size of a football and packed with attitude, was issued an official press credential by the City and served as the press room mascot.
Taylor knew how to reach elected officials and top administrators at all hours, and if they didn't pick up the phone right away when she called, she knew where to track them down in person at home – or their favorite bar. Often on tight deadline, she had little patience for long-winded press conferences and wouldn't shy from brusquely stopping speakers mid-sentence to implore them to get to the point. She knew exactly where to stand in City Hall hallways with an eye on all exits so no one could slip past. But more often than not, people would talk to Taylor willingly because she'd get the story one way or another. She wasn't one to take no for an answer.
"For four decades," she once said with a dose of understatement, "I have had what I call a healthy addiction to news and politics." She retired from KCBS in 2015.
"Always a straight shooter, Barbara Taylor set the standard for journalistic integrity as the dean of the City Hall press corps. For more than four decades she covered San Francisco political life, from our city's most joyous moments to our tragic events," said U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the former San Francisco mayor.
"Barbara's friends and family will remember her for her tenacity and empathy. She embodied the best character traits of a journalist. She was inquisitive, bright, unrelenting, and caring," said California Gov. Gavin Newsom, another former San Francisco mayor.
In addition to reporting from City Hall, Taylor held down the Sunday afternoon anchor desk at KCBS, co-wrote a City Hall insider's column for the Hearst-owned Examiner and hosted "City Desk," a weekly televised roundtable focused on San Francisco politics and policy. She was featured in KCBS coverage that won the 1990 Peabody and du-Pont Columbia awards and six national RTNDA Edward R. Murrow awards for Overall Excellence.
While Taylor relished her public career, she truly cherished her family and friends, as they treasured her for her spirit, wisdom, loyalty, generosity and even her opinionated stubbornness.
She was predeceased by her parents, Billie, a professional dancer, and John Taylor, a career Naval officer who served on the USS Hornet. She is survived by husband Mark Mayper of San Francisco; stepchildren Aaron and Amy Mayper of New York City; sister Carole Isaacs of San Francisco and her daughters Emily Isaacs of Golden, Colo., and Alison Jochems of Leiden, the Netherlands; cousin Jesse Waters of Oakland; dearly loved niece Jade Waters Tippo, her husband Jean-Ray Tippo and their children Bodhi and Kamala of Corte Madera; her first husband, Judge Phil Moscone; longtime friends Ron Snyder and Michael Gabel and scores of other friends and former colleagues.
She also is survived by her current Brussels Griffon, Mr. Tibbs. She is predeceased by Tanner and two other Brussels Griffons, Tommy and Travis.
The Board of Supervisors and other City officials are making plans to name the City Hall press room in her honor – a fitting memorial given the mark she made under the dome. A public service will be held to honor Taylor when it is safe again to do so, post-pandemic.
For those wishing to make a donation in her memory, the family asks that you consider Muttville, a senior dog rescue organization: [email protected]
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Nov. 13 to Nov. 15, 2020.