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Brugmann's Brain Vomit 

Cleaning up the latest drivel from San Francisco's leading bull-goose loony

Wednesday, Sep 7 2005
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Page 2 of 5

The federal government's concern in media consolidation is whether or not the new business has enough market power to drive up the price of national advertising. In other words, the Justice Department is there to protect not the reader, but the national advertiser. It wants competition to keep advertising costs low.

In the event of a merger, Brugmann asserts that we would have 15 percent of the membership of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) under our tent. What he doesn't say is that we would also have a minuscule percentage of the national advertising market. We would hardly have enough share of any part of the American market to raise rates like a monopoly.

We would not monopolize anything.

Ironically, Brugmann's lawsuit in San Francisco claims that our rates are too low. He would like to charge monopoly rates to his clients but cannot because of competition from us.

On another front, on Monday, Aug. 29, Brugmann resumed his assault on the San Francisco/East Bay Press Club. For something like 12 weeks, Brugmann has not stopped complaining that he did not win a single journalism award in the recently concluded competition.

Unlike the spin he gins up for public consumption, his disinformation campaign directed at fellow journalists -- and this is only the latest episode -- seldom sees the light of day. On the professional track, Brugmann stokes conspiracies in order to suggest to all reporters that they must beware of New Times. And in Brugmann's version, this, too, is fuel for Justice Department review.

While the media is loath to give publicity to Brugmann's never-ending list of fraternal grievances, his complaints within the press corps yield a wonderful insight into his mania, because he apparently conducts this correspondence free of the fetters of a sober editor.

At the end of August, he e-mailed the board of directors of the San Francisco/East Bay Press Club a copy of his merger article about New Times Inc. and Village Voice Media. His cover note mouthed more propaganda aimed at the Justice Department, doused as the e-mail was with terms like "megachain merger" and "predatory papers." In Brugmann's mind, the rumored merger was directly connected to his not winning an award.

Reviewing Brugmann's three-month obsession with the press club and one of our papers, the East Bay Express, explains why people do not call him on his sleaze. Who can engage in this sort of drivel for months on end other than Brugmann? At the same time there is an entertaining sickness to it all, like watching Raskolnikov sink ever deeper into his deranged fever in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.

Consider Brugmann's July 18 epistle in which he mauled the East Bay Press Club's board of directors with a six-page, single-spaced diatribe about not winning a single award. He began his letter by looking back at his fights with Pacific Gas and Electric in, I kid you not, 1969. He segued into the predatory chain accusations, he reviewed our fight with the Justice Department, he marched them through the evils of Clear Channel. In his mind, he found a link between the press club's awards banquet and the Clear Channel ads that appeared in our publications on June 29, "five days after the awards dinner [emphasis mine]." He then announced that he was pulling the Bay Guardian out of the press club.

"We will be happy to return when we are assured that there is a more hospitable environment for our form of independent, locally owned and operated journalism that competes with and challenges media conglomerates and chains. Too bad. So long for now. Thanks very much, Bruce B. Brugmann, still an independent and competitive journalist working at the bottom of Potrero Hill in San Francisco, beneath the plumes of two ruinous private power plants, courtesy of PG&E and the mainstream press," concluded the publisher.

Except . . . God have mercy, Raskolnikov wasn't concluded. Brugmann then added a P.S. headlined: "Make Lemonade," a lengthy section on how the press club could enact his reforms.

Then he added P.S. 2: "The Chain Virus."

Then P.S. 3: "Clear Channel/BGP/New Times is a local story."

After that came P.S. 4: "Clear Channel Equals Monopoly Media."

Mercifully, our prolix protester wrapped up with his omnibus P.S. 5: "Backup material," in which he offered to send photocopies, memos, etc., etc., and did he mention that he was available for an interview? Because he is available for an interview.

The press club declined to enter into Brugmann's dementia.

The press club's sin was holding a contest in which Brugmann and his paper, the Bay Guardian, were not honored with awards. His paranoia focused on the press club because our editor, Stephen Buel of the East Bay Express, was president of the club this past year. Worse, one of the two co-chairs of the contest was a reporter, Robert Gammon, who worked for the Express -- though when he first took the post in the press club, he worked for a daily newspaper. Buel and Gammon, who are only two members of the 13-person board, stole the contest, according to Brugmann.

You see, it was another conspiracy directed at Brugmann. After all, the East Bay Express, our paper, won 12 awards, and Brugmann's paper, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, won zero. Many other publications won awards during the competition, but Brugmann remains convinced that he is a victim of a conspiracy.

Yet all of Brugmann's facts -- other than the fact that none of his articles won a plaque -- were wrong. Or, as Buel explains, " . . . not only wrong, but dishonest."

The judges were drawn from five press clubs across the country, including Omaha, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and SPJ Far North. These are journalism associations in cities where New Times has no papers, journalism organizations where Buel and Gammon do not know a soul. As a safeguard, all entries go in without a byline or any identification of the publications submitting an entry.

About The Author

Michael Lacey

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