Michael Lacey Responds to Bay Guardian Article on Lawsuit

To the editor of AAN News:

Below is the text of a letter I just sent the San Francisco Bay Guardian, in response to a blatantly erroneous article they published.

Michael Lacey
New Times, Executive Editor

The latest coverage in the Bay Guardian of New Times, the parent company of your local competitor in San Francisco, is typical of the stacked-deck copy you are so fond of dealing.

David Young, a lawyer trying to drum up a payday, has sued us and Village Voice Media (VVM) in Cleveland based upon an exotic theory of class action labor law. You quote Young: “It’s a slam-dunk violation.”

That’s just crap. The former head of the CIA claimed the existence of weapons of mass destruction was a slam-dunk too. The attorney compounds his deceit by adding that ”both companies admit the deal to close the papers was unlawful.”

That’s not just crap; that’s an outright lie. Neither company ever admitted any such thing. He knows this. What’s more, you know it. You’ve written about this before. On the very first page of the Consent Decree it is emphasized in writing that there is no admission of illegality. The filing does not say that there is an admission of a little bit of illegality, or some illegality. The Consent Decree says without “any admission” of illegality.

Facing extraordinary pressure in this failing economy, the same pressure, by the way, that has forced the Bay Guardian into several rounds of lay-offs and firings, we sold our paper in Los Angeles to the Village Voice. With that revenue we purchased their much smaller publication in Cleveland. From this good faith effort to make lemonade out of the lemons of the Bush economy, the U.S. Justice Department developed a theory.

After sanctioning the greatest concentration of mass media mergers in the history of the world, John Ashcroft’s boys decided that what needed attention was the alternative press. And just for the hell of it, Ashcroft’s lawyers also decided that that review would encompass the editorial content of the weekly press.

The Justice Department is free to float any theory they want from the odd notions of free speech found in the Privacy Act to sanctioning the alternative press for taking over the world.

But the Justice Department was unwilling to prove that theory in court. In fact, the Justice Department settled. We found the terms favorable and we got to keep all of the revenue from the sale minus a face-saving fine — a small consequence.

Not content with having an out-of-town lawyer spew lies, you add your own: “ New Times and VVM agreed to terminate the illegal scheme.”

The sale was not illegal. Ever.

You go on to, unwittingly, make our point when you write, “Three new alternative weeklies are taking on VVM in Los Angeles.”

Precisely. There was no monopoly; there is no monopoly.

You allow lawyer Young to wave the simpleton banner that conforms with your own view of the universe when he claims the transaction was “typical of what’s wrong with corporate America. They have no regard for their employees.”

As you well know, we offered virtually every writer and editor in Los Angeles a position at one of our other publications. Nearly all took us up on the offer. Those employees unable or unwilling to relocate, as well as those not offered a job, were given generous severance packages.

We would be happy to compare our severance package with the Bay Guardian’s compensation of their former employees.

Because this is a great country, any fool can file a lawsuit. And any fool is free to write about it.

See Tim Redmond’s response.

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