His Master’s Voice

Be careful of anonymous Web postings, especially on Nipper’s Dot Com

The anonymity of these Internets allows people to pretend to be anyone. The clever imposter never strays far from reality; the frauds are always obvious. That’s why I’m certain this is not Arthur von Weisenberger’s post from Nipper’s Dot Com:

I appreciate those of you who have recognized that this thread is uncomfortable and not in the spirit of the rest of the site. But since my reputation (and the reputation of people I love and admire) are on the line, I want to address the issues here as best as I can.

I won’t get into a discussion of how former friends treat (or mistreat) one another or other personal attacks as that is clearly a violation of the policies and rules of this site. In fact, it is the violation of company rules and policies that is at the core of the News-Press problems. But the workings of a newspaper is complicated to explain, so here is a story about a similar problem.

Let’s say you own a popular Hamburger restaurant with a good reputation and a loyal customer following. One of the most important parts of your business is the consistency and quality of your hamburgers.

You hire a manager to run the restaurant and you trust him to hire and manage the kitchen and wait staff. After some time you notice that the restaurant’s sales are slipping. You decide to do a survey of your customers to find out why. You discover that over half your customers no longer like how the hamburgers taste. As you investigate, you discover that some of your cooks are using pork instead of beef in the hamburger patties. The kitchen has lowered the costs of goods and with the extra money being saved they can give free burgers to their friends in exchange for favors. One cook wants to park in front of the restaurant all day without getting a parking ticket, so he gives a burger to the meter maid. Another wants to charter a boat in the harbor for his friends and family and gives a bunch of burgers to the boat captain. Your manager gives away catered burger feasts in order to get his own TV show. He claims the show benefits the restaurant but has nothing to do with hamburgers and everything to do with his favorite sport, hunting squirrels. While the manager hands out bushels of burgers to his friends and acquaintances he quietly builds the restaurant’s pork barrels

You realize that you have a restaurant that is out of control. You tell the manager to stop and to get the cooks to stop. “Put the beef back in the burger” you say. He ignores you and goes away on vacation. You then tell your cooks, “no more pork in the burgers”. But they pay no attention and continue to break the rules. You have some loyal staff who try and help. The manager returns from vacation and sees that his pork-burger fiefdom is no longer impenetrable. He gets most of the staff that have been in cahoots with him to resign (with the promise of even more free burgers when you are forced to rehire them).

They walk out but you refuse to rehire them. So your manager goes to a writer at the Hamburger Herald (who he has also showered with burgers) and tells him that your restaurant has been selling pork-filled hamburgers. Without looking into who was actually selling what, the writer writes a scathing story about you and your restaurant. Coincidentally the writer also owns the competing hamburger joint across the street from you. The Jews and the Moslems are up in arms about the deception (and for once agree on something). “I was forced to eat pork when I thought I was getting beef” they scream outside your restaurant. Your former manager now uses that story and starts a campaign with national and international publications (many of whom happen to own hamburger restaurants in your town). To make matters worse, he goes to the Hamburger Institute (a make believe trade organization that, for this story’s sake, oversees the quality and reputation of hamburger restaurants). They read the stories and your manager calls himself the whistle-blower who is being punished for pointing out that you are selling pork burgers. The Hamburger Institute, without any investigation (because they too have received some free burgers from your manager) give him and the other departed staff the “Hamburger Honesty Award”.

Meanwhile back at your restaurant, you have tossed out all the pork and are putting beef back into the burgers that you make. Your customers are beginning to taste the quality of your food once again. They slowly start returning to the restaurant. You still have some naughty cooks that try and slip some pork into the burgers when no one is looking. You can’t fire them because the Hamburger Helpers Union is trying to represent them. All you can do is keep pushing to get rid of the pork and bring true beef burger quality back onto your menu. The naughty cooks cook up a campaign and put posters on their cars, “Bring Back the Beef”. Now everyone thinks you are the one that has been spiking the burgers with pork. The truth is you can’t stand pork burgers and you would never eat them or sell them. But public perception makes you the Prince of Porky Pig Patties.

PS - Freelancers for the News-Press such as Gina, are not bound by the company rules that are in place for full time reporters. The rules clearly forbid full time employees to accept any “freebies” such as travel, hotels, cruises or the like. The former N-P staff and editors knew this and enforced it on those who were not one of their “pets”.

When I was a freelance writer for the N-P doing the local restaurant reviews, I paid for the meals I was reviewing. Sometimes the meals cost more than my $125 I was paid for the review. Even though the work didn’t make economic sense, I felt the only way I could keep the reviews truly objective was by paying my way. After all, I was writing for our readers, not for the restaurants.”

Now, does that sound like the real Nipper? As Sander Vanocur said in a recent LA Times article by James Rainey, “It may be that this whole matter has gone beyond the gravitational pull of reality.”

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