Brugmann's Brain Vomit

Cleaning up the latest drivel from San Francisco's leading bull-goose loony

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, the Bay Guardian, 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 the Express -- 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 East Bay Express, our paper, won 12 awards, and Brugmann's paper, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, 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 explains, " . . . not only wrong, but dishonest."

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

Furthermore, Brugmann and the Bay Guardian did not win any awards in the last press club competition, either. That awards dinner 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 so heavily upon interns, freelancers, and the politically obsessed.

Brugmann, who quaintly refers to himself as B3, is just as manic in his dealings with journalists outside the Bay Area. He wrote the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and copied them his paper's story on the merger. B3PO (Bruce B. Brugmann Pissed Off) sent the AAN leadership a droning, robotic cover note labeled "Bombs Away."

So what exactly are we to make of this merger memo, or, more to the point, what did B3PO make of it?

While Brugmann charged that this merger was proof New Times was taking over the world, he was concerned primarily with the ownership of this new company. B3PO obsessed that investment bankers will drive this new company. He claims the merged newspapers would be "controlled to a significant extent by venture capitalists."

At the top of its story, the Bay Guardian describes my partner, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Larkin, and myself as the " . . . Phoenix-based New Times and its primary venture capital firm, the Boston-based Alta Communications."

Contrary to what Brugmann is trying to imply, Alta is not our "primary" venture capital firm; they are our only venture capital firm. Not content with misleading readers, Brugmann goes on to suggest whenever possible that the merger is driven by New Times "and its banker."

Get it? Banker. New Times and its banker. Brugmann is as horrified of bankers as any of William Jennings Bryan's sodbusters.

For the record, Alta's investment in New Times is 14 percent. It would hold even less if a merged company came to pass.

In fact, even if Brugmann was right -- and I can't comment on that, but you know what they say about broken clocks -- Brugmann himself is forced to admit that the documents point out that a merger between New Times Inc. and Village Voice Media would be owned to the tune of 62 percent by myself, Jim Larkin, and our fellow partners at New Times, all of whom are full-time employees in the alternative newspaper industry. Many of the readers of the AAN newsletter have worked with our shareholders, people like Scott Spear.

This "investment banker" terror is typical B3PO hypocrisy. For years Brugmann has hidden the identities of his multimillionaire investors, his investors' interests and holdings, and the relationship between his investors' holdings in San Francisco and the Bay Guardian's coverage of those interests. But now Brugmann wants to raise conspiracy alarms about the very public ownership of both New Times Inc. and Village Voice Media.

Who are your investors, Bruce Brugmann, what are their holdings in the Bay Area, and how has that influenced your coverage in the Bay Guardian? What percentage of the Bay Guardian do your well-heeled investors control?

The question, quite simply, is whether or not Bruce Brugmann is for sale.

It's fun to ask Brugmann-like questions. But let's look at one of the answers, because it's of passing interest.

According to United States postal records, Brugmann's investors own at least 10 percent of his media empire, and probably more.

The Postal Service suspended the Bay Guardian's periodical postage discount in 2003 after Brugmann stopped filing the required paperwork, paperwork which lists the names of all investors holding at least 1 percent interest in the company.

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