It’s been known for months that the Santa Barbara News-Press won’t publish opinions or even news stories that run counter to their version of reality.
But now, according to current employees who wish to remain anonymous for fear of being terminated, the newspaper’s management is no longer allowing their employees to even see such views. So this week, management effectively blocked access to Independent.com and other websites from all employee computers.
No one, of course, is surprised at this latest twist in an increasingly bizarre string of events related to the newspaper, which used to be required daily reading for Santa Barbara but has since turned an entire town, including the mayor, police, and a vast nonprofit network, against it. Some are even asking, “What took so long?”
But the irony, if you aren’t catching it, is that Independent.com and the other blocked websites-including Craig Smith’s Blog, Santa Barbara Newsroom, and Blogabarbara-would not be so popular or even exist if it weren’t for the actions of the newspaper, actions that have also prompted prosecution from the federal government but are not even mentioned on the News-Press‘ pages. Craig Smith has said many times that he was about to stop his blog when the newspaper’s meltdown occurred. And Santa Barbara Newsroom, staffed by reporters who say they were fired for their union involvement, would never have been conceived had the newspaper’s management simply accepted last September’s 33-6 vote in favor of a union.
Blogabarbara, meanwhile, is in much the same boat as Independent.com: We both have a steady readership aside from News-Press news, but we enjoy notable boosts in readership everytime a News-Press story breaks. That’s because the world is fascinated with the decision-making of News-Press owner Wendy McCaw, so when reporters get fired, writers get sued, or the paper publishes a front-page story linking former editor Jerry Roberts to child pornography, people from Tokyo to Buenos Aires tune in, and our numbers get an international bump.
The more obvious irony is that a newspaper, which relies on diverse sources of information and countering opinions to churn out its product, is blocking its employees’ access to information. (Of course, this same information could easily be read when these same employees go home at night, but that’s beside the point.) Might the New York Times and LA Times, two papers that recently ran stories with criticism of the recent child porn article, be blocked next?
Perhaps one current employee explained it best by asking, “What newspaper in America blocks reporters’ access to competing news sources? There’s nothing like discouraging curiousity among people for whom it’s supposed to be a stock in trade.” True dat.
At 3 p.m., three questions were emailed to News-Press spokesperson Agnes Huff and attorney Barry Cappello. They were: 1) Why?, 2) Won’t this potentially affect news-gathering?, and 3) Isn’t this a little odd, for a newspaper to block access to other newspapers? Huff replied that she is currently checking whether the questions will be answered. If they are, we will include those responses here.