AAN News

Testimony Continues in Bay Guardian/VVM Trial

Village Voice Media chief financial officer Jed Brunst and former SF Weekly publisher Chris Keating took the stand yesterday in the predatory-pricing trial. In its wrap-up, the SF Weekly focuses on the part of Brunst's testimony that offered "evidence that Weekly rates have been going up over time," not down. The Bay Guardian, on the other hand, focuses on the "huge amounts of cash" the Weekly and the East Bay Express had lost under New Times/VVM control. The trial takes a day off today for Lincoln's Birthday, and will resume on Wednesday.
SF Weekly | San Francisco Bay Guardian  |  02-12-2008  12:07 pm  |  Industry News

VVM Witnesses Begin Taking the Stand in Bay Guardian Suit

On Friday, Village Voice Media executive editor Michael Lacey testified in the predatory pricing trial. The Guardian says Lacey "had some trouble answering some key questions" about SF Weekly's ad sales and a 1995 meeting where he met the Weekly staff shortly after purchasing the paper. The Weekly says Lacey's testimony illustrated that his and Bruce Brugmann's "editorial philosophies were worlds apart," and notes that Lacey's testimony showed he is not involved in the business side of VVM's affairs. This is key because of comments he made about being "the only game in town," which the Guardian is using as evidence he wanted to drive them out of business. Patricia Calhoun, editor of Denver's Westword, which New Times bought in 1983, also testified on Friday, and according to the Weekly, she "got on and off the stand in only about twenty minutes, a timely performance that drew appreciative nods from jurors." The trial resumes today.
San Francisco Bay Guardian | SF Weekly  |  02-11-2008  12:21 pm  |  Industry News

Bay Guardian Controller Testifies in SFBG-VVM Trial

The Bay Guardian says Sandy Lange provided the jury with a primer on "how predatory pricing by a big chain works." SF Weekly says she crumbled under cross-examination.
SF Weekly | San Francisco Bay Guardian  |  02-08-2008  11:59 am  |  Industry News

Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Phoenix New Times in Public Docs Casenew

The documents in question were held by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the same outfit involved in the secret grand jury kerfuffle that led to the arrests of Village Voice Media executives Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey and, ultimately, to the humiliation of county attorney Andrew Thomas and special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik. New Times originally sought the documents in May 2004; MCSO released them five months later, after New Times was forced to file suit. On Tuesday, the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's ruling, finding that MCSO "wrongfully denied New Times access to public records." The Court of Appeals sent the case back to superior court "for a further determination on the issue of attorney's fees." In the Arizona Republic, the Sheriff's deputy chief admitted that the officer responsible for complying with public-records requests "was truly afraid of the (New Times) reporter, that there was a genuine personal joint vendetta between the two of them."
Phoenix New Times  |  02-07-2008  3:10 pm  |  Industry News

Testimony Continues in Bay Guardian/VVM Trial

Former Guardian ad director Jody Colley continued her testimony in that paper's predatory pricing trial against SF Weekly and Village Voice Media yesterday, as did Jennifer Lopez, a former ad sales rep of both papers. Colley's testimony centered on just how many accounts the Guardian may have lost due to alleged ad-price undercutting by the Weekly, and also on the challenges she faces in trying to increase the "unacceptably low prices" that she inherited from Village Voice Media when she took over as publisher of the East Bay Express, which was sold by VVM to by a group of investors in May 2007 and is also named in the suit. The trial resumes this morning.
SF Weekly | San Francisco Bay Guardian  |  02-01-2008  11:09 am  |  Industry News

Two More Guardian Witnesses Take the Stand in Trial Against SF Weekly

Executive editor Tim Redmond and former ad director Jody Colley were called as witnesses yesterday in the predatory pricing trial against the Weekly and Village Voice Media. Redmond's testimony centered on local ownership and the crucial matter of editorial spending. The Guardian is arguing that the Weekly was trying to put them out of business because it refused to cut editorial spending while it lost money overall. On the other hand, the Weekly reports that Redmond said he has had to struggle with laying off writers and editors over the past few years. "If [ad] revenue goes down, I have to cut costs. The Weekly editors don't have to meet that kind of budget; they can just get more money from headquarters," Redmond writes on the Guardian's blog. Colley, who is now the publisher of the East Bay Express, testified mostly about the Weekly's dealings with concert promoter Billy Graham Presents, which the Guardian claims is an example of illegal below-cost pricing. Her testimony will continue when the trial resumes this morning.
SF Weekly | San Francisco Bay Guardian  |  01-31-2008  12:32 pm  |  Industry News

Judge Hears Opening Statements in Bay Guardian/VVM Trial

Yesterday, both sides in the predatory-pricing suit filed by the Guardian against SF Weekly and Village Voice Media gave their opening arguments, and Guardian associate publisher Jean Dibble took the stand. The local website Beyond Chron lays out the plaintiff's burden: "The Guardian will have to prove four things: (1) the SF Weekly sold ads below cost; (2) the Guardian was harmed; (3) the harm was due in large part to the fact that the Weekly sold ads below cost; and (4) the SF Weekly's purpose in selling the ads below cost was to cause harm to the Guardian." The Guardian's attorney argued that the Weekly has lost money for 11 straight years (a claim the defendants contest) as a direct result of selling ads below cost, and that it was selling at that rate with the express intent of damaging the Guardian. "If you're not trying to make a profit, what are you trying to do?," the Guardian reports he asked the jury. The Weekly's attorney argued that, yes, the paper has been selling ads below cost, but to cope with a tough regional economy and competition from the internet, not to put its competitor out of business. "The reason we were selling below cost is because that is all we could get for the ads," he told the jury, according to the Weekly's dispatch. The trial resumes this morning.
Beyond Chron | San Francisco Bay Guardian | SF Weekly  |  01-30-2008  8:17 am  |  Industry News

U.S. Justice Dept. Looking into Viability of Cleveland Free Timesnew

Lawyers and economists from the U.S. Justice Department are investigating if the Cleveland Free Times can "be a viable business in the current media climate" in the city, according to the Plain Dealer. The Free Times was closed in 2002 when its owner, Village Voice Media, agreed to shutter it, giving Cleveland's other alt-weekly, the New Times-owned Scene, a monopoly. (The two parent companies merged in 2005.) The Justice Dept. investigated that deal and forced the sale of Free Times to a group of investors. Former Free Times editor David Eden tells the Plain Dealer he was recently questioned by lawyers from Justice about whether or not he thought the paper could be turned around. He says he told them that Cleveland needs the paper's independent voice and he hopes it is sold to a local group rather than being bought out by the competition and closed. "It feels like deja vu all over again," he says.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer  |  01-28-2008  1:20 pm  |  Industry News

After Brief Setback, Jury Selection in Bay Guardian/VVM Trial Begins

Yesterday, Judge Marla Miller denied Village Voice Media and SF Weekly's request to delay the predatory-pricing trial in order to further review some documents, and jury selection will get underway today at 8 am, according to reports in the Weekly and the Guardian. With jury selection expected to last two days, the judge has scheduled opening arguments for Monday.
SF Weekly | San Francisco Bay Guardian  |  01-24-2008  8:41 am  |  Industry News

SF Weekly Writer Up for 2008 GLAAD Media Awardnew

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation announced the nominees for their annual awards on Sunday, and the Weekly's Lauren Smiley was among those nominated. Her story, "Girl/Boy Interrupted," is in the running in the "newspaper article" category, alongside two pieces from the New York Times, one from the L.A. Times and another from the St. Petersburg Times. The Weekly notes that the story was the first long-form story Smiley wrote as a Village Voice Media fellow. Winners will be announced in March.
GLAAD | SF Weekly  |  01-22-2008  8:26 am  |  Honors & Achievements

Bay Guardian/VVM Trial Begins

In court this week, a Guardian witness disavowed a key piece of evidence -- AAN's financial standards report -- that the paper was using to prove its predatory pricing charge against SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and Village Voice Media. The witness backed away from the AAN report after the Weekly's attorney's produced an affidavit from the woman who had compiled it asserting that it was unaudited and self-reported, "rendering it meaningless as a measure of financial performance," the Weekly reports. After considering this and motions from both parties on Wednesday and Thursday, the Weekly says the judge "ultimately concluded that the Weekly deserved additional time to respond, a decision which could delay the long-awaited trial." Naturally, the Guardian sees this week's developments a little differently. "If this is how the SF Weekly and the VVM guys from Phoenix are going to cover the trial, we're going to have to spend a lot of time correcting the record," Guardian executive editor Tim Redmond writes. He says that the Weekly's attorneys had "tried desperately" to keep the Guardian's witness from taking the stand at all, and sees the disavowal of the AAN financial data as inconsequential. The witness had developed two scenarios to show how much money the Guardian had lost, and not being allowed to use the AAN data, he will just rely on the other standards instead, according to Redmond.
SF Weekly | San Francisco Bay Guardian  |  01-18-2008  6:00 pm  |  Legal News

Bay Guardian/VVM Trial Scheduled to Begin Tomorrownew

The predatory pricing suit against SF Weekly and Village Voice Media asserts that the Weekly sold ads below cost to push the Guardian out of business. (The suit also names former VVM property East Bay Express as a defendant.) VVM executive editor Michael Lacey thinks Bay Guardian publisher/editor Bruce Brugmann is using the Weekly as a "scapegoat" for his own problems in dealing with new challenges in print media. "[The lawsuit] is how he's hoping to maintain his business in a really tough media market," Lacey tells The San Francisco Daily Journal, a local legal publication. But Brugmann disputes this notion. "From our point of view, the fact that the economy is not good and there are other problems in this business only makes this problem more acute," he says. Jury selection is set to begin tomorrow in San Francisco County Superior Court. Legal experts tell the Daily Journal that predatory-pricing cases face different odds depending on where they are filed, adding that California superior courts are generally seen as more friendly to plaintiffs than federal courts.
The San Francisco Daily Journal (Subscription Required)  |  01-16-2008  8:58 am  |  Legal News

Village Voice Media Partners With Trulia for Online Real Estatenew

Trulia has announced a new platform which allows publishers to use the company's online real estate tools to create co-branded sites with real estate guides, heat maps and home sales information, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Village Voice Media, Kiplinger, and American Towns are all partnering with Trulia in the new venture.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer  |  01-08-2008  8:50 am  |  Industry News