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Grudge Match 

The Bay Guardian and Viacom reignite their City Desk feud

Wednesday, Aug 9 1995
Anyone who thinks political journalists are above the puerile actions of the pols they cover should check out the alpha-baboon behavior of San Francisco Bay Guardian Editor/Publisher Bruce B. Brugmann and Viacom Program Director Barrett Giorgis, who have been pimp-slapping each other for seven years over whether Guardian reporters can appear on Viacom Cable System's political round-table show, City Desk.

In 1988, Guardian reporter Jim Balderston was a regular on City Desk. Then he had the temerity to tweak the upright noses of then-Examiner reporters Phil Matier and Andy Ross, giving the two hotshots a mild fanny whack in print for not covering PG&E. Matier and Ross stomped their widdle feet and refused to appear on the show with Balderston. Giorgis and then-City Desk producer Peter Alvarado acquiesced and Balderston was blackballed.

Enter Jon Bernstein, new City Desk producer, in 1990. The only reasonable man in the picture, Bernstein started making peace overtures to the Guardian. But by this time, Giorgis and Brugmann had snorted themselves up into a froth. Territory was being marked. In short, it was a pissy mess.

This year, Bernstein did an amazing thing. He simply booked Balderston for two shows. Both went off without a hitch. Matier, Ross, and Balderston all buried the hatchet, shared a laugh, and everything seemed fine.

The peace was short-lived.
This time, Brugmann yanked Balderston off the show and issued demands, contained in a flurry of faxes and letters exchanged between Viacom and the Guardian. First, Giorgis, Matier, Ross, and all other co-conspirators named in the Guardian indictment have to confess their sins -- which will be difficult because they all deny the Guardian version of events. Next, they must apologize and promise never to blackball another Guardian reporter. Thirdly, they have to allow Guardian reporters to present stories about PG&E, the Presidio, and the evil JOA on City Desk.

"If they continue to lie, we are never, ever going to go back on that fucking show," Brugmann says. "I don't care if there's ever a resolution. We want to go back, but we will go back on our own terms. We are not going to allow ourselves to be jerked around by these goons again."

City Desk insiders say Giorgis is equally disposed to meeting Brugmann's demands and settling the issue.

What next? Expect a rash of Guardian stories attacking Viacom. Don't expect to see Balderston or any other Guardian reporter balancing out the mainstream-heavy City Desk show. And whatever may come, don't expect anyone to grow up.

About The Author

George Cothran


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