The following is an experiment: what if I took T.Armstrong’s unhinged editorial and substituted “News-Press” for “Ventura County Star?” A couple other items have been changed from Mr. Armstrong’s original — but not much:
“I had to shake my head in disbelief when a reader e-mailed an editorial from the Santa Barbara News-Press that weighed in on the exciting ‘internal transitional’ period at the News-Press.
“My first thought: Someone reads the News-Press‘s editorials?
“But my disbelief went beyond this to the content of the commentary. In an indignant tone, one part of this editorial tried to whitewash the separation between the editorial and news pages staff at the News-Press. The “wall” between the news and opinion sides at the News-Press is as big as at any of the other three dailies where Travis Armstrong has written editorials.
“In fact, at many American newspapers, the editorial page editor on a regular basis reports directly to the Editor in Chief. The News-Press is the only purist newspaper where the editorial page editor’s tortured internal voices report to not one, but two publishers. The Los Angeles Times would never reform its structure to one that emulates the type the News-Press has in which the editorial editor isn’t under the newsroom editor. [double negative alert]
“News-Press owner Wendy McCaw’s pigheaded commitment to maintain this division appears to have, over the last six years, riled certain newsroom editors or reporters, in fact, the community at large, who’ve mistakenly desired input in the opinion pages. Some of these journalists, for instance, had tried to allow publishing of your letters to the editor critical of coverage or about perceived bias in editorials.
“In part, the News-Press‘s editorial took aim at what it framed as: “Mr. Armstrong’s announced intention to directly oversee some news coverage at the same time he was serving as editorial page editor.” It was a reference to the short time Armstrong temporarily served as acting publisher in July, before his mere presence led to the wholesale resignation of six senior editorial professionals.
“The News-Press‘s editorial writer never bothered with a telephone call to learn the facts. For example, to eliminate further conflict during this brief period and to allow Armstrong time to hide from the publisher’s newspaper-wide responsibilities and varied duties, the News-Press stopped publishing editorials.
“Yet, what struck me as so hypocritical of the folks down in De La Guerra Plaza was how the paper in its editorial failed to tell readers about its conflicted operation, even as it swiped at the competitor up the road.
“The News-Press‘s hypocrisy is unique. On the South Coast, a freebie paper apparently has no wall between news and its uncivil columns and editorial opinions, with the same people reportedly writing both, as well as determining political endorsements. There have been no rallies in the plaza over this apparent breach of journalism ethics and lack of editorial independence. Why not? Because those behind the July rallies agree that that paper’s too-often-seen political bias somehow has endured and thrived in Santa Barbara, without a Los Angeles public relations flack, a San Francisco ambulance chaser, and the deep pockets of a out of touch, vindictive, wealthy dilettante.”