News-Press reporter Melinda Burns was fired late Friday afternoon after 21 years on the job. Burns filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming she was fired because of her pro-union activities. Burns has been actively involved in union efforts that culminated several weeks ago with a 33-6 vote in favor of having the Teamsters represent newsroom workers. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m still an employee,” Burns insisted. “I want my job back.” She said News-Press owner Wendy McCaw’s anti-union passions are well-known. “She doesn’t want to relinquish an iota of her dictatorial control over the newsroom,” Burns said.

In a case of dog bites dog, Independent publisher Randy Campbell was served with a legal complaint by the Santa Barbara News-Press, alleging the weekly infringed on the News-Press’s copyrighted material by posting an article spiked by the News-Press on the Independent Web site. The News-Press also alleged The Independent was in possession of other leaked documents that belonged to the daily. The Independent has denied the latter charge, but acknowledged posting an article detailing the resignations of five editors this July. That article never appeared in the News-Press. When attorneys for the News-Press demanded it be removed, The Independent complied upon the advice of two attorneys. “It’s too bad the News-Press doesn’t put as much effort into improving their newspaper as they do into litigation,” said Campbell.

The nation’s leading entertainment industry magazine, Variety, announced last week that it will be producing a special issue devoted to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, placing the festival alongside Sundance and Telluride as one of the few film events given an annual special issue.

The battle of pretrial motions took yet another turn this week in the Jesse James Hollywood murder trial, with motions being filed by both the prosecution and the defense. The prosecution filed papers arguing that the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office should not be prevented from prosecuting the case; this was a direct response to defense attorney James Blatt’s request that appellate justices – who removed Santa Barbara prosecutor Ron Zonen from the case last month – bar the entire office from prosecuting the death penalty case. Additionally, Blatt requested that the court move to delay the release of Alpha Dog, a motion picture based on the life of Hollywood and the murder of Nicholas Markowitz, set to hit theaters in early January.

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