Friday, January 18, 2008

Jury selection starts in Guardian-SFW trial

Jury selection began yesterday in the San Francisco Guardian's lawsuit against the owner of the SF Weekly, the 16-paper New Times Media chain based in Phoenix. Guardian owner Bruce Brugmann (left) claims that the chain has been selling ads at below cost in order to take business away from his paper. If true, such a practice (called predatory pricing) is illegal under both federal and state law. New Times is owned by Jim Larkin (blue sports coat) and Michael Lacey (white jacket).

"Lil Mike" of SF Metroblogs has this take on the trial. He says Brugmann won a $500,000 settlement in 1970 from the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, the business arm of the Chron-Examiner monopoly in those days. He also says another paper, The SF Daily, is accusing a competitor of predatory pricing as well.

The SF Weekly posted this story, which claims a Guardian witness changed his story on the eve of the trial. Here's the Guardian's preview, which notes the trial before Superior Court Judge Marla Miller is expected to last from four to six weeks. (Photo credits: Brugmann from SFPPC file, New Times owners from Phoenix New Times, Giulio Sciorio)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's fascinating to see how biased the coverage of this case has been by the papers who are apart of the suit. The SF Weekly's list of things the Guardian doesn't want the jury to hear made me laugh out loud. There are things on that list that date back 40 years! Of course they're not relevant to the question of whether the SF Weekly's owner is engaging in predatory pricing.

But I've got to wonder if they were printed to influence potential jurors. When they select a jury, the judge always tells jurors not to read stories about the trial. So, when the jurors are at home, the first thing they do is look up the stories online. The SF Weekly's lawyers aren't stupid. They know this.

It's too bad that there isn't somebody else -- somebody who doesn't have a dog in the fight -- who could cover this trial. I can see this case having implications for other businesses (i.e. independents who are being run out of business by chains engaged in predatory pricing). The Chronicle will probably write one story at the start of the trial and another reporting the verdict.

If Brugmann or New Times really believed in quality journalism, they could hire an experienced journalist to cover the trial objectively, independently. Give the reporter orders to call it the way they see it, without concern about offending the owner of the paper. Such a move would give an incredible credibility boost to the alt-weekly who hired such an independent reporter. But my guess is that quality journalism is more of a slogan at these two papers rather than something they really practice.