The Guardian Gets a Reality Check from The New York Times

By Andy Van De Voorde

Guardian boss Bruce Brugmann raised eyebrows earlier this week when he sparred with Weekly attorneys over their seemingly noncontroversial assertion that the San Francisco Chronicle had lost "a lot of money" in recent years. "I think they're whiners," bellowed Brugmann of the Chron. He then asked a bizarre question, "Where are you getting this stuff? Mike Lacey?"

Actually, the general economic downturn in print media has been widely reported in papers and trade journals around the country -- and was underscored again Thursday with a front-page business section story in the New York Times.

The article by Richard Perez-Pena lists the Chronicle first in a string of major dailies that have laid people off thanks to "grim financial reports." In the past six decades, Perez-Pena reported, there's been only one year worse than 2007 for print and online ad revenue: the recession year of 2001. Perez-Pena also refers to the "long-term shift of advertising to the Internet, one reason the San Jose Mercury News has cut its staff in half since 2000.

Furthermore, "for every dollar advertisers pay to reach a print reader," those same advertisers pay only about five cents on the Web.

All of that undermines one of the fundamental conceits of the Guardian's case against the Weekly: its claim that 9/11, the dot-com bust, and the generally crappy George Bush economy "didn't really" have an affect on its finances. Instead, the Guardian continues to argue--as did Guardian executive editor Tim Redmond yesterday -- that the Weekly's low prices and the Weekly's low prices alone depressed the print advertising market in San Francisco.

Perhaps Brugmann and Redmond might try looking at the Times -- unless they think reading an "out of town" paper owned by a chain isn't fashionable.

Hey, there's always Pravda, boys.

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