It's not often that self-respecting members of the Fourth Estate are
drawn into lovers' tiffs with public officials in plain view. But such
exchanges have apparently become the norm at the San Francisco Bay Guardian,
where publisher Bruce Brugmann and executive editor Tim Redmond chose this week to accept Supervisor Chris Daly's invitation to a mudslinging match in the comments section of the alternative newsweekly's Web site.
The Bay Guardian makes no secret of its activist approach to newspapering, and as the organ of the city's extreme political left has sought, appropriately enough, to make Daly (pictured) its fair-haired boy. The problem is that Daly has trouble playing nice, even with fawning journalists. Earlier this year, he pissed off the Guardian by distributing misleading propaganda suggesting that the paper had endorsed Carole Migden for State Senate. (The paper's actual choice, Mark Leno, wasn't far enough to the left to suit Daly.)
The latest spat started Tuesday when Daly, responding to an editorial criticizing his "ill-conceived antics" in voting for the next president of the Board of Supervisors -- Daly's sin lay in not supporting Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the Guardian's choice -- entered a comment on sfbg.com. "Please explain how your gratuitous shot at me advances your argument or agenda," the supervisor huffed.
At a newspaper abiding by conventional journalistic standards, such criticism would be met with silence or, at most, a restrained acknowledgment of elected officials' age-old right to rail against the press. The Guardian is no such newspaper.
Daly's comment set Redmond to groveling. "We were critical of how you handled the Board presidency issue. You knew that, it's no secret, and you have felt very free to criticize us, too. Which is fine and fair," Redmond responded, on the paper's Web site. "And it's not the Guardian's agenda we're talking about here -- it's the progressive agenda for San Francisco, and you and I agree on almost all of it."
Feeling sick yet? After more indignation from Daly -- "it's amazing how little deference I am afforded" -- Guardian publisher Brugmann entered the fray. "Our criticism was not a 'gratuitous shot,' it was well aimed and diplomatic under the circumstances," Brugmann wrote, before taking Daly to task for not doing enough to close the Mirant power plant and fight against Pacific Gas & Electric Co., one of the Guardian's bêtes noires.
Daly: "Bruce, your myopic view of progressive politics needs to be left in Mirant's (not PG&E, sorry Bruce, there's actually a corporation to fight that's not named PG&E!) fumes, once progressives once and for all close that monstrosity."
When Chris Daly and Bruce Brugmann start bickering over who hates greenhouse gases more, things have come to a sorry turn. Luckily, the Internet is a free market of ideas, and before the dustup could go much further, a winner stepped in. One "Jeremy" had this to say: "Geez guys, get a (smoke-filled back) room, would ya?"