by Nick Welsh
The clash between News-Press owner — and co-publisher — Wendy McCaw and her newsroom got a lot more intense last Friday afternoon, as Teamsters union organizer Marty Keegan (pictured) announced the beginning of a public campaign to pressure McCaw to bargain with her workers and to restore the so-called wall separating news reporting from interference by the owner and publishers of the South Coast’s oldest daily. Keegan and News-Press employees, along with community supporters, have begun distributing brightly colored cancellation pledges to be activated if McCaw refuses to meet their demands by September 5.
Since late June, seven high-ranking editors, one senior reporter, and columnist Barney Brantingham have resigned from the News-Press in protest, complaining that publishers have spiked legitimate news stories that were embarrassing to McCaw and the other co-publishers. New-Press workers remaining on the job have sought protection by enlisting the aid of the Teamsters. Five years ago, Keegan helped lead a cancellation drive and advertising boycott against the San Diego Union-Tribune in a successful drive to secure a contract on behalf of the paper’s press operators. In a prepared statement released by her publicist Agnes Huff, McCaw denied any breach of journalistic ethics, insisting that as owner, she was only trying to “get things back on track.” She also stated, “While the News-Press respects the rights of its employees to seek unionization, we do not believe that bringing in a third party such as the Teamsters is the solution to any issues our employees may have.” News-Press employees said there has been no retribution against the reporters and editors who placed grey duct tape over their mouths at a rally two weeks ago to protest the paper’s gag order on public discussion of internal matters. Keegan, who has yet to seek a sit-down with McCaw or the paper’s management, pledged the full resources of his union to the campaign. He said he’s giving News-Press management 45 days to formulate a response. “But if we don’t receive satisfaction for these employees, we’ll call for complete regime change,” Keegan promised.