Saturday, November 27, 2010

SF Weekly lashes out at 'the political left'

The SF Weekly and its parent company, Village Voice Media, is lashing out at the "the political left" for the $21 million judgment it has been ordered to pay the Bay Guardian for anti-competitive business practices.

Andy VanDeVoorde, a Village Voice Media executive and spokesman, wrote in the SF Weekly: "The California courts have held fast to a dubious principle: That endorsing politically correct 'anti-chain' sentiment is a more important judicial goal than protecting free-market competition."

The problem with that claim, according to the Chron's Bob Egelko, is that: "the judge who presided over the trial in San Francisco Superior Court, and more than doubled the jury's damage award against the Weekly, was Marla Miller -- appointed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The appeals court justice who wrote the ruling upholding the verdict was Robert Dondero -- first appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, and named to the appeals court by Schwarzenegger. And of the six Supreme Court justices who voted to deny a hearing on the Weekly's appeal, five were appointed by Republican governors."


Meanwhile, negotiations between the two sides continue as the Guardian attempts to get its $21 million. A judge earlier ordered that the SF Weekly share its ad revenues with its competitor, though that is a drop in the bucket compared to what the Guardian is owed.


Anonymous said...

If I was the Guardian, I would feel embarrassed.I don't blame the courts and judges, because they are defending the law, but basically this ruling says, " Hey look everybody! Our ads are overpriced but we'll just hide behind anti-trust laws!" If their product was any good, or if people still even read it, they wouldn't have to deal with this.

Jess M said...

The Guardian didn't overprice its ads. The evidence showed that the SF Weekly broke the law by pricing its ads at below the cost of production in order to take market share from the Guardian. The SF Weekly was able to offer ads at well below the going rate because it cut-rate prices were subsidized by the profits of other papers in the New Times (now Village Voice Media) chain. That's a violation of both state and federal law. (This case was based on state law, but had Brugmann wanted, he could have filed a federal suit and reached the same outcome -- and it would have been easier for him to collect damages since VVM is making the argument that he can only attach VVM's assets in California, and that California courts lack jurisdiction outside the state for the purposes of collection.)

The SF Weekly should have competed editorially with the Guardian, producing the kind of newspaper that would have drawn more readers and advertisers. If the Guardian is so terrible, as the owners of the SF Weekly claim, then it should have been easy to drive them out of business with a better product.

Anonymous said...

I actually worked at the SF Weekly as Assistant Production Manager under the nom du guerre Red Daemon during the time in question and I can assure you that the ad sales staff, all the way to the top, were singularly committed to driving the Bay Guardian out of business by any means possible. I saw dozens and dozens of ads sold in the "IPO" issue for a fraction of the listed rate and in some cases full page ads were sold for as little as $200! There was no way in hell that $200 covered even the margin cost on those full page ads, which the court also found to be predatorily priced. The Weekly gambled and lost. Now the piper must be paid. All their whining and mewling in the press isn't going to change the results. C'est la vie.

Anonymous said...

Lashing out at the political left? Isn't that like biting the hand that feeds you?