Us and the Weekly: It wasn't personal

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Bruce and Mike, BFF, in Montreal in 1997
Photo by Jean Dibble

I really liked The Stranger's article a couple of weeks ago about our battle with SF Weekly and it's corporate parent, Village Voice Media. Eli Sanders is a good reporter, and he got most of it right.

But he did the same thing that a lot of people covering this legal battle have done, and it's starting to get annoying. Everyone seems to want to play this as a battle of egos between Guardian Editor and Publisher Bruce Brugmann and VVM Executive Editor Mike Lacey. It's as if we filed suit against them -- and endured years of litigation and now collection efforts -- just out of spite. It's as if we were willing to go through all this just because Bruce didn't like Mike Lacey.

Here's Sanders' spin:

These two men have hated each other for decades, but with increasing venom since 1995, when Lacey showed up in San Francisco in cowboy boots to announce that he and his partners had just purchased the tiny SF Weekly and planned to make a huge success of it.

The thing is, Bruce and Mike haven't hated each other for decades. They weren't terribly close, but they got along fine -- and sometimes, they were political allies. In 1997, three years AFTER Lacey's company bought our competitor, SF Weekly, the two joined forces at an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in Montreal to help push a bylaws measure that kept daily newspapers out of our trade association. And as the picture above shows, they were almost, sorta, kinda pals. At least for a few minutes.

The last thing we wanted to do was sue these guys. It wasn't personal; we had no choice. Sure, the Guardian and VVM have very different approaches to journalism and politics, but we'd have been happy to compete with them -- the way newspapers with different viewpoints should, on a level playing field. And for all the rhetoric on all sides, the legal animosity only started when the Weekly actively tried to put us out of business by selling ads below cost.

I dunno; the VVM people have been awfully rude to me of late, and I guess they like this mano-a-mano shit, but the reality is: We sued to stop illegal conduct that was threatening our business. That's the real story.