Friday, February 29, 2008

Newspaper says it will close if it loses lawsuit

Talk about a dramatic finish! The attorney for the SF Bay Guardian told a jury Thursday that if his paper will close if it loses its predatory pricing lawsuit against the chain-owned SF Weekly, according to the San Francisco Daily and the SF Weekly. The Guardian has yet to post its report on closing arguments in the month-long trial in San Francisco Superior Court. The Chronicle and Examiner haven't reported on the trial at all. Here's how Richard Cole's story in the independently owned SF Daily began:
    The predatory pricing trial pitting the San Francisco Bay Guardian against the Phoenix-owned SF Weekly went to jurors yesterday, with the Guardian saying it would be out of business soon if it lost.

    The Guardian had filed suit in 2004 charging that for 12 years the Weekly has lost money by undercharging advertisers in order to strangle the local paper, "and be the only game in town," as their Executive Editor Michael Lacey reportedly said in 1995.

    The Guardian estimated its damages since 2001 at between $4 million and $11 million.

    "If this continues, it will be out of business," warned the Guardian's lawyer Ralph Alldredge in closing statements. "The mathematics is inevitable."

    But the Weekly's lawyer countered that the Guardian is blaming his newspaper, now owned by the Village Voice group, for its inability to compete in an advertising world that is increasingly moving to the Internet and other media.

    "This trial is a microcosm of what is going on around the United States," said H. Sinclair Kerr. "Print media is struggling." More
The SF Weekly's online edition includes blog postings by Andy Van De Voorde, executive associate editor of Village Voice Media, who came to San Francisco to cover the trial. Here's a portion of what he wrote about closing arguments:
    Alldredge repeatedly sought to cast the Guardian as the victim in a morality play pitting it against a voracious out-of-town competitor — despite the fact that the paper made more money last year than the Weekly and continues to have a higher circulation.

    Moments earlier, Alldredge had invoked author Lewis Carroll in an effort to drive home his claim that the Guardian, despite being the larger and more profitable of the two papers, was more accurately viewed as a helpless mollusk about to be devoured by an angry marine mammal. ...

    “The walrus and the oysters were having a party on the beach,” began Alldredge in a rare storytelling moment that broke up a closing consisting mostly of dry recitations of the Guardian’s circumstantial case (the paper has provided no direct evidence of a predatory scheme).

    “The walrus ends up eating an oyster. And the walrus feels really bad. He says he really didn’t want to hurt the oyster, he just wanted to eat him.”

    Alldredge paused and smiled at the jury.

    The suggestion was that Alldredge’s client, Bruce Brugmann (right), who watched the day’s proceedings from the gallery, was the shell-shocked oyster in the tale, and New Times executive editor Michael Lacey, who was also in attendance in the next row, was the flippered beast about to gulp him down.

    It was a somewhat inconvenient analogy given the 6-foot-5 Brugmann’s sheer heft. More
The parenthesis five grafs up were De Voorde's. He also notes that the jury met briefly after the proceedings came to an end, but chose not to work on the case until Friday morning. The panel will begin deliberating at 8:30 a.m. at the courthouse on McAllister Street.


Anonymous said...

if either of these papers closed, would anybody care?

Anonymous said...

No. Nobody would care.

G.W. Schulz said...

'Cept a few of us who work really, really hard to write meaningful stories. There's always celebrity profiles, I guess.