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Thursday, March 11, 2010

'SF Weekly Is Not Going Out of Business'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 10:15 AM

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That's word from our bosses. Sorry, Brugmann -- it's still too early to declare "mission accomplished" on your plan to use an obscure state antitrust law to snuff out the competition. (Oh, the irony!)

Earlier this week, a San Francisco Superior Court commissioner ordered SF Weekly to give half of its future ad revenues to the Bay Guardian. While some publications have seized on this as new evidence that the end is nigh for our paper, the truth is that the legal process in this case is far from over. We have appealed the original trial court verdict, and we are going to also appeal this latest order regarding our ad revenues.

While no one can guarantee what the courts will do, we feel confident that we'll prevail on appeal. The Guardian exploited an impossibly broad law and persuaded a jury that, if not for those meddling kids at SF Weekly, it would have enjoyed its highest profits ever --  even during an unprecedented downturn in the newspaper industry.

Oh, and memo to the news media covering this case: Guardian owner Bruce Brugmann even testified during the trial that the Internet didn't affect his business during the past decade. If you think that's a credible statement, we have some shares in the San Francisco Chronicle we want to sell you.    

Here's a memo sent out yesterday by Andy Van De Voorde, the executive associate editor of our owner, Village Voice Media, reassuring company employees that we're not going anywhere:

March 10, 2010

To: All Employees

From: Andy Van De Voorde

By now you may have seen news reports about the fact that a San Francisco court commissioner yesterday issued an order giving the Bay Guardian rights to 50 percent of SF Weekly's revenues.

We have known for weeks that such an order might be issued, and we have a plan in place to deal with it. We also will be appealing the order to the California Court of Appeal.

Despite uninformed speculation in certain publications, SF Weekly is not going out of business. Its day-to-day operations will remain unaffected...

With regard to yesterday's ruling, this latest legal gambit by the Guardian is just another example of that company's flawed and increasingly desperate strategy: to try and collect whatever monies it can before the California Court of Appeal has even had a chance to rule on the underlying merits of the lawsuit.

The near-manic intensity with which the Guardian is attempting to scrape together cash reflects the true nature of this case: That it is the Guardian, not the Weekly, that is struggling to stay in business, and which views these legal proceedings as its last hope.

We fully expect to win the case on appeal, and we are heartened by the fact that the Court of Appeal has already advised us that it has read all of the briefs, is familiar with the facts of the case, has conferenced the case, and is ready to set oral arguments.

The appeal briefs filed in this case make it clear that the Weekly is on the side of consumers -- in this case, local advertisers. The Guardian, on the other hand, is openly and unashamedly advocating against the interests of these consumers, fighting instead for its right to raise prices during one of the worst recessions this country has ever seen.

That is a fight we are happy to wage, and we intend to win it.

For more coverage of the latest in this case, see the story done by our sister paper in Denver, Westword.

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Will Harper

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