Friday, January 25, 2008

SF Weekly attempts to stop trial as it begins

Randy Shaw, longtime San Francisco activist, attorney and editor of BeyondChron.org, says it seems the management at Village Voice Media's SF Weekly are now worried that they might lose the Bay Guardian lawsuit.

For three years, the SF Weekly has been ridiculing the lawsuit, saying its claims were "already disproven." But as the trial began, Judge Marla Miller rejected a request by the SF Weekly to throw out evidence that supports Guardian owner Bruce Brugmann's claim that the national chain sold ads at below-cost in order to drive the Guardian out of business.

Then the SF Weekly asked for a 90-day delay, which Miller denied. Opening arguments will begin Monday morning in San Francisco Superior Court.

Shaw says the SF Weekly's request for a delay "does not look like the actions of a party who is holding a winning hand. And since the Guardian’s allegations were based on 'claims already disproven,' how the SF Weekly would not be prepared to defend itself three years after the action was filed is a mystery."

Shaw continues:
    "But regardless of the suit’s outcome, the national chain’s request for a continuance after trial has commenced shows that the paper fears it could lose this case. And that, regardless of the final outcome, [shows] the Guardian’s suit has much more merit than one would have assumed from reading the SF Weekly’s coverage.

    "For all of Bruce Brugmann’ s outsized personality, and the changes in the news industry that have put politically alternative weeklies at risk, the Guardian-SF Weekly case involves far more than these two parties. Rather, it has national implications for the future of local journalism.

    "If a large chain, whether it be Wal-Mart, the Gannett Corp., or the smaller Village Voice Media, can drive competitors out of business by selling ads at below-cost, then local newpapers, radio stations and other media have no future. And this is not a good thing."

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