The owner of the Beach Reporter, a Manhattan Beach-based weekly newspaper, filed a libel suit this week against the competing Hometown News, the second lawsuit in less than a month to be filed by the Beach Reporter against a local competitor.
The $1-million suit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, accuses Richard Seeley, publisher of weeklies in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach, of repeating the false accusations that the Beach Reporter had inflated its circulation figures for financial gain.
The Beach Reporter is among three weeklies circulating in the South Bay beach cities. For years, it circulated almost solely in Manhattan Beach. But last year it was bought by Baker Communications Inc. and expanded throughout the three beach cities.
The expansion prompted a bitter feud between the Beach Reporter and the Easy Reader, a Hermosa Beach-based weekly that until the buyout had been the only one of the local weeklies to circulate in more than one city.
It also created a niche for Seeley, whose three newspapers concentrate on a city apiece. In an interview earlier this month, Seeley said he was hoping his Manhattan Beach weekly would attract readers who might have felt betrayed by the Beach Reporter’s shift of focus.
Last month, the Easy Reader published an article alleging that the Beach Reporter, which says it has taken the lead in beach city circulation with 65,000 readers, had dumped thousands of papers at a recycling center instead of delivering them to news racks and homes.
Circulation figures are crucial to weekly newspapers because they attract advertising revenue, which is the sole source of income for many weeklies.
The article prompted the Beach Reporter to file a $2-million lawsuit against the Easy Reader and its publisher, Kevin Cody. Lawyers for the Beach Reporter said the newspapers that were dumped were extra copies not intended for general circulation.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, Michael Bergman, a lawyer for Baker Communications, charges that the allegations in the Easy Reader article were republished in Seeley’s papers, thus repeating the libel. Moreover, Bergman charges, Seeley libeled the Beach Reporter in a Nov. 26 article in the Los Angeles Business Journal, saying that “they weren’t circulating as many (newspapers) as they say.”
The suit charges that Seeley made the comment in a “zeal to undercut (the Beach Reporter’s) advantage by any means.”
Seeley had no comment, except to say that he had not yet consulted his lawyer because he “was too busy putting out this week’s paper.”