Someone leaked documents to Bruce B. Brugmann and the San Francisco Bay Guardian purporting to outline a merger between New Times Inc. and Village Voice Media.
Well, now, you know you just can't have the words, "leaked," "documents" and "Brugmann" in the same sentence without feeling vertigo, dyspepsia, and an apprehensive sense of a big blow approaching.
Sure enough, driven by his demons, Brugmann took the paperwork and launched one of his infamous V-bombs, spewing brain vomit far and wide. This just in: Bruce Brugmann identifies another conspiracy for a sleeping nation.
The Bay Guardian publisher demanded that the U.S. Justice Department "go public and block the deal." He urged fellow owners of alternative newspapers as well as the general public to man the barricades: Alarm! Alarm! Media consolidation.
Brugmann stays up late dispatching e-mails, photocopying reams of paper, assembling packets in an endless, endless search for approval and attention. Imagine a needy ferret blogging.
If a merger was in the works, the parties involved would have signed a confidentiality agreement. So even if I knew what was going on, I couldn't talk like I knew what was going on. I'm only trying to clean up the brain vomit around here.
While I may not know what is going on, I do know that Brugmann can't count. In his headline, and his e-mail to a Web site announcing his scoop, and the opening graf in the Bay Guardian's story at the end of August, he claimed the rumored merger would create an "18-paper chain." A person with the normal set of fingers and toes would know that the actual number is 17. His first fact was wrong, and his accuracy did not improve as he moved from the trivial to the substantial.
Brugmann's most recent eruption did not happen in a vacuum, so while I am going to return to the merger documents, I'm also going to share with you Brugmann's effort to frame the discussion about a merger that's been rumored for months. Quite simply, the single most persecuted soul in all of alternative journalism wants a sit-down with the Justice Department, the federal agency that would review any such business relationship between Village Voice Media and New Times Inc.
Brugmann's merger attack is his latest salvo against New Times. In the past few months alone, his barrage has included a groundless lawsuit, an attack on the integrity of a press club that did not bestow honors upon Brugmann but did recognize our writers, and a sleazy advertising campaign that seeks to tar us and whitewash his personal corruption.
That's right: corruption.
It is no secret in our industry, or anywhere in the greater Bay area, that Brugmann is bull-goose loony. Consequently, sane people desert any room that Brugmann is sucking the oxygen out of. Why engage a homeless paranoid in conversation about the contents of his shopping cart?
No one bothers to call Brugmann on his ethical and financial corruption because no one wants to be on a bizarre person's radar screen.
Still, when I see his accusations bouncing around the Internet or showing up in media analysis, I have to ask myself: What ever happened to old-fashioned research? I know the Internet allows folks to simply mirror their shadows endlessly, but does it make sense to perpetuate the disturbed utterances of someone who is a shameless fraud?
Here is a recent example of his dishonesty.
Last month Brugmann ran a series of full-page ads attacking Clear Channel and our publication, SF Weekly, because a Clear Channel subsidiary, a music venue, was advertising with us. There was no allegation of editorial impropriety, no allegation of a quid pro quo, simply the charge that running advertising from Clear Channel was immoral.
Precisely as he did with the article on the merger documents, Brugmann's ads and stories bandied about allegations of "monopoly media" and "chains." Brugmann neglected to tell his readers that he'd personally taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the very same Clear Channel business that he was now savaging. He only attacked Clear Channel when they stopped advertising with his paper in favor of ours.
Here is what Brugmann wrote: "Why are the Weekly folks fooling around with a greedy Texas corporation that's hell bent on muzzling dissenting voices and homogenizing the media? . . . Clear Channel, one of the nation's most notorious media conglomerates . . . Clear Channel equals monopoly media . . . Clear Channel equals Bush . . . Clear Channel equals censorship."
These are all phrases meant to catch the attention of the Justice Department.
If Brugmann felt this way about Clear Channel, why didn't he write this when he was cashing Clear Channel's checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue? Why was he so silent as long as he was paid? Clearly, Bruce Brugmann's opinions are for sale.
Clear Channel had been one of Bruce Brugmann's most important advertisers since 2000. For all his incessant fulminating about media concentration, Brugmann was happy to take -- by conservative estimates -- more than half a million dollars of Clear Channel's money to the bank, money that apparently bought his silence.
Why was he silent for five years? Why did he take their money for five years? He was silent for five years because he took their money for five years.
Bruce Brugmann's ethics are as convenient as any whore's.
For five years, Brugmann couldn't spend Clear Channel's money fast enough, but now his objections to the company are couched in anti-trust rhetoric: "Monopoly Media."
Here is the best insight into Brugmann's carnival barker soul: This week he took more advertising from Clear Channel, which used both his and our paper to sell their message. We know what Brugmann is and now we know what he costs.
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