Us and the Weekly: It wasn't personal

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Bruce and Mike, BFF, in Montreal in 1997
Photo by Jean Dibble

I really liked The Stranger's article a couple of weeks ago about our battle with SF Weekly and it's corporate parent, Village Voice Media. Eli Sanders is a good reporter, and he got most of it right.

But he did the same thing that a lot of people covering this legal battle have done, and it's starting to get annoying. Everyone seems to want to play this as a battle of egos between Guardian Editor and Publisher Bruce Brugmann and VVM Executive Editor Mike Lacey. It's as if we filed suit against them -- and endured years of litigation and now collection efforts -- just out of spite. It's as if we were willing to go through all this just because Bruce didn't like Mike Lacey.

Here's Sanders' spin:

These two men have hated each other for decades, but with increasing venom since 1995, when Lacey showed up in San Francisco in cowboy boots to announce that he and his partners had just purchased the tiny SF Weekly and planned to make a huge success of it.

The thing is, Bruce and Mike haven't hated each other for decades. They weren't terribly close, but they got along fine -- and sometimes, they were political allies. In 1997, three years AFTER Lacey's company bought our competitor, SF Weekly, the two joined forces at an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in Montreal to help push a bylaws measure that kept daily newspapers out of our trade association. And as the picture above shows, they were almost, sorta, kinda pals. At least for a few minutes.

The last thing we wanted to do was sue these guys. It wasn't personal; we had no choice. Sure, the Guardian and VVM have very different approaches to journalism and politics, but we'd have been happy to compete with them -- the way newspapers with different viewpoints should, on a level playing field. And for all the rhetoric on all sides, the legal animosity only started when the Weekly actively tried to put us out of business by selling ads below cost.

I dunno; the VVM people have been awfully rude to me of late, and I guess they like this mano-a-mano shit, but the reality is: We sued to stop illegal conduct that was threatening our business. That's the real story.

 

Comments

Talk and endless lawsuits are cheap. Show me the money.

Posted by Matt Stewart on Mar. 29, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

As a former Guardian employee from 2000 - 2007, I have had the same reaction at suggestions that suit was filed because of personal animosities between these two newspaper owners. I remember just some (as I wouldn't have been involved in all) of the conversations about how the suit was a very much an unwanted last resort -- but it was clear that the tactics used by SFWeekly were not going to end any other way. No one enjoys a lawsuit. No one. (Well, the attorneys probably do.) The days of these two individuals ever posing as friends for a photo are probably long over. The rivalry and personal attacks have since turned quite ugly (which I believe only makes both sides look bad to their respective readerships), but they will continue to be politically aligned on various causes, particularly first amendment issues.

Posted by Jody on Mar. 30, 2010 @ 7:28 am

"The last thing we wanted to do was sue these guys. It wasn't personal; we had no choice."

not sure why you felt you needed to say this, Tim. but i'm also not sure i believe you 100%. clearly, it has been personal for a while. if what you're saying is, the lawsuit was brought on by financial desperation, not solely out of personal animosity, that's probably closer to the truth. but applying a spin that makes it seem like y'all were buddy-buddy at any time just rings false (especially for anyone who worked for either paper during those times).

"In 1997, three years AFTER Lacey's company bought our competitor, SF Weekly, the two joined forces at an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in Montreal to help push a bylaws measure that kept daily newspapers out of our trade association."

according to testimony at the trial, Lacey had already stated his intent to drive SFBG out of business. so while it is true that politics makes strange bedfellows--none stranger than BBB and Lacey--saying "we'd have been happy to compete with them" just doesn't seem honest in light of the facts. was anyone at the guardian really dancing around saying "yay! we have a direct competitor?" i mean c'mon, really...

speaking as someone who has written for SFBG--until you stopped paying freelancers in a timely manner--and for SFW in both pre- and post- New Times incarnations, i dont think there was ever a "Kumbaya" vibe once Lacey came aboard.

i remember being told i couldnt write for the Weekly if i was also writing for SFBG; before NT's buyout, that hadn't been the case. and, on at least one occasion, my SFW editors rushed a story to print because they were afraid SFBG would scoop them.

so, feel free to consider the broader implications of what this war has meant for the quality of local alternative journalism.

finally, i liked the stranger story. it was very well done, and fit my picture of both Brugmann and Lacey. most importantly, it did a good job of explaining why localism is important in media.

so, at the end of the day, i hope you win the appeals case and do get paid--and immediately invest that money back into the paper, restoring it to its former glory and upping the page count back to pre-2000 levels.

Posted by just a writer on Mar. 31, 2010 @ 8:10 am

The Guardian, SF Weekly, and the Chron are in a three-way battle to see which will die of annorexia first.

A shame. We need a real press for investigative reporting. The bloggers are incapable of uncovering dirt on their own. You boys should kiss and make up before you commit collective suicide.

Posted by Guest Tom on Apr. 02, 2010 @ 11:34 am