Andy Van De Voorde, the executive associate editor for Village Voice Media, responded this morning to my request for comment on the potential seizure of Seattle Weekly assets by the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Van De Voorde calls Bay Guardian executive editor Tim Redmond "venal," suggests Redmond and "his cohorts" won't get anything but some old gym socks worn by Seattle Weekly managing editor Mike Seely, and offers a colorful take on the predatory pricing trial that led to all of this legal mayhem (crazy back story here).
As venal as Redmond and his cohorts at the Guardian are—I can practically hear them licking their chops in anticipation of all those juicy "assets" that were created by someone else's hard work—they will not be getting any Seattle Weekly property. If they really want a Washington State souvenir to go along with the other mementos of their baseless lawsuit, I think Seely may have some old gym socks he doesn't need anymore. Beyond that, Redmond's and [Bay Guardian editor and publisher Bruce R.] Brugmann's greed for cash, along with their lust for payback against a company that dared to compete against them in the marketplace, will just have to go unsated. This crowing about seizing assets is much ado about nothing.
I sat through every day of that trial. Not once did the Guardian provide a shred of actual evidence that SF Weekly or New Times did anything wrong. In fact, there was considerable evidence that it was the Guardian that was trying to put the SF Weekly out of business, not the other way around, and you didn't see us running to the courthouse, crying towel in hand.
Not a single advertiser testified on behalf of the Guardian, despite the fact that this was a lawsuit all about advertising. And every time the Guardian attempted to cite specific advertising transactions as evidence of predatory behavior—based on the notes of ITS OWN employees—those pathetic excuses for smoking guns were shredded on cross-examination. In one case, the Guardian listed as a customer "lost" to the low prices of the Weekly an advertiser who was DEAD.
The verdict also represents a complete misapplication of antitrust law, especially given that it stands in direct opposition to federal precedent, which says that, in order to prevail, predatory pricing plaintiffs must prove that a defendant had the ability to recoup their losses—i.e., that they actually had a chance in hell of getting their money back. This is just another way of saying that wild-eyed claims about predatory schemes must meet a common-sense standard, and if there is one thing sorely missing from the Guardian's arguments, it is simple logic.
Among the surreal claims made by the Guardian at trial were Brugmann's insistence that his paper's profitability wasn't hurt at all by the rise of the Internet (apparently, the Guardian existed in a special bubble that rendered it immune to the economic forces that affected every single other print newspaper in the U.S.) and Redmond's claim, under oath, that the SF Weekly "had no soul."
For these reasons and more, I am confident SFW and [New Times / Village Voice Media] will prevail upon appeal. And that the Guardian won't get a dime from the Seattle Weekly—much as Redmond and Brugmann may relish the idea of lining their own pockets by damaging the prospects of hard-working journalists under the guise of fighting for the little man.
UPDATE:Bay Guardian executive editor Tim Redmond responds to Van De Voorde's e-mail:
Lovely. You know, the last time I saw Andy, at an AAN conference, he told me he wanted to strangle me with my ponytail. Sweet guy.
Anyway, here's my comment:
Andy can call me anything he wants, and make all the claims he wants about the trial evidence, but the fact is that a San Francisco jury heard all of the VVM arguments, over a six-week trial, and rendered a unanimous verdict in our favor.
All we're trying to do here is enforce the law. The law says you can't use big chain profits to engage in predatory pricing and try to damage a smaller local competitor. A jury—again, having heard all the arguments Andy is making—found that SF Weekly and VVM did, indeed, engage in that conduct. A judge listened to all the arguments about the law and concluded that the Guardian's interpretation was correct.
Now VVM owes us the money—and if the VVM folks wanted to stop collection pending appeal, they could have posted an appeal bond, which would have guaranteed that they would have to pay if they lost. They didn't do that, so we have every right to collect the money.
And given that nearly every legal motion we've made toward collection has been successful, we're confident we'll be able to collect.