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The News-Press Speaks (To Their Employees)


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Leaked Memo Reveals What Owner Wendy McCaw Believes To Be True

Today, Tuesday, February 13, the management of the News-Press — including, multiple inside reports suggest, owner Wendy McCaw herself — sat down with their dwindling editorial staff and laid out their stance on the newspaper’s ongoing meltdown. The gist? That this is all a Teamsters tactic to undermine the newspaper and bring in the union, that the newspaper is actually doing better since it cleaned house, and that the community is tiring of the story.

Once again, this is clear evidence that the paper’s management is out-of-touch with reality. Their claims are refuted in short order by the fact that, 1) the Teamsters only became a major part of this story after the unionization vote, and only after the remaining employees were forced to unionize because of management’s assault on them; 2) audited statistics published on Independent.com last week show a fairly sharp decline in News-Press circulation up to last September; and 3) attention to the story is growing immeasurably from around the world, as Independent.com and Santa Barbara bloggers posted their biggest web traffic ever last week due to the six firings. (We had close to 6,000 readers and 14,000 pageviews last Tuesday alone, according to Google Analytics, and the large majority of them focused on the N-P story!)

Earlier today, The Independent was leaked a confidential memo — evidence that at least a few editorial employees don’t believe the McCaw hype — and we present it below:

CONFIDENTIAL: Facts about the Santa Barbara News-Press 1. What is all this about? This is a campaign organized by the Teamsters. Former newsroom employees had planned this campaign with the Teamsters since before the July 6 walkout and irrespective of what is said, the campaign is being masterminded by the Teamsters. The real issues are not what are being claimed publicly.

2. Why did they walkout? They walked out because they believed what Jerry Roberts told them. Because Roberts could not accept the fact that he could no longer do everything his way, he staged a public departure and convinced some loyal staff to follow him. What hasn’t been talked about was that Roberts in his position had been censoring the news, allowing bias into reporting, and taking out his personal vendettas in the press. This was unacceptable to new management. The editors, including Roberts, walked out, because they said, “management was interfering with the news.” It was not. What they didn’t say was that Roberts had been demoted two years earlier, and then became antagonistic to the owner. The lack of communication and clear animosity created a very bad working environment in his department. 3. Did Management interfere with the News? No. Wendy McCaw sent a memo to a reporter, following an article that included Rob Lowe’s home address, explaining the paper’s standard policy not to print addresses of public individuals. This was for the Lowe’s safety as well and is standard policy of most major newspapers. Even Barney Brantingham admitted after he left the News-Press that Wendy McCaw had never interfered with his work.

4. Is the paper doing OK since the walkout? The paper is doing fine. In fact, it is doing much better since the changes in the newsroom. Statistics show that in the first half of last year under the supervision of Jerry Roberts, many more subscribers canceled than in the second half following the departures of Mr. Robert’s and the others.

5. What about the bias in the news reporting? Yes, there was bias under prior management. An independent study in 2005 revealed that over half the subscribers felt that the news was biased. Melinda Burns was fired for bias, so was Anna Davison. The current management is committed to removing bias from the news reporting.

6. Did Wendy McCaw break the law? No. Although the Teamsters would like our community to believe otherwise, no laws have been broken. The Teamster Union, on the other hand, has been under a Federal Monitor for years because of its well documented history of racketeering and illegal activities.

7. Why did John Zant get fired? John and four other Newsroom employees attempted to harm and damage the newspaper by displaying a banner on 101 urging customers to cancel their subscriptions. Disloyalty of this type by any employee is unacceptable, inexcusable and jeopardizes the livelihood of fellow workers.

8. How many people have been fired since July 6? The first termination was in September. Since September, 12 people have been terminated for cause.

9. Why is the News-Press portrayed so negatively? Because of lies, misinformation and spin. The goal of the Teamsters efforts is to pressure and disparage any business and any employer who will not play ball. The more frustrated the Teamsters become, the more pressure they try to bring upon their target. Unfortunately, competitors of the News-Press will print anything and everything they believe will help them take advertising dollars or readership away from the News-Press. And former journalists who left the News-Press in temper tantrums and who cite false reasons for their departure have appealed to their colleagues and friends in the media to write false, biased and untrue stories about these events.

10.Is the News-Press financially viable? Yes. Our readers and advertisers have been incredibly loyal and understanding during this period. They prefer not to be involved in issues such as this, as their priority is running their own businesses. They recognize these series of unfortunate events for what they are – a concerted campaign by the Teamsters. By all accounts, the community is getting tired of steel-mill tactics and prefers other issues to focus on. Despite the vicious campaign, and contrary to the lies and speculation, News-Press circulation figures have stayed in line with general newspaper industry declines. The state of the newspaper industry is changing and it is clear that it has been tough for papers nationwide. We are strong and getting stronger. We are committed to the Santa Barbara News-Press, the employees, subscribers and the advertisers.

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