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The Loser's Circle 

Bruce Brugmann didn't get any awards from the East Bay Press Club. But he threw a first-class tantrum.

Wednesday, Jun 20 2007
In August 2005, peeved that his paper hadn't won any awards from the East Bay Press Club, Brugmann launched a full frontal assault on the organization. Brugmann was particularly upset that the East Bay Express, a New Times/VVM paper, won 12 first-place awards to Brugmann's goose egg. And, true to his nature, Brugmann saw a complex conspiracy behind it all.

On Monday, Brugmann resumed his three-month assault on the 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.

While the media is loath to give publicity to Brugmann's never-ending list of fraternal grievances, his complaints with the press corps yield a wonderful insight into mania, because he apparently conducts this correspondence without the fetters of a sober editor.

Reviewing Brugmann's three-month obsession with the press club and one of its members, our paper, 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 & 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 in our publications on June 29, which appeared, "five days after the awards dinner." He then announced 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 Xeroxes, memos, etc. and 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 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 Buel — 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 Express, our paper at the time, won 12 first-place awards, and Brugmann's paper 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 explained mid-dispute, " ... not only wrong, but dishonest."

The judges were drawn from five press clubs across the country, including Omaha, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, 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 the entry.

Furthermore, Brugmann and the Bay Guardian did not win any awards in the last press club competition, either. That was in 2003, a year when no one from our organization held office in the club. The East Bay Express took home 10 awards that year.

Earth to Brugmann: If you want to win journalism awards, pay a living wage to real reporters and stop relying upon interns, freelancers, and the politically obsessed.

About The Author

Michael Lacey


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