Fired Editor May Hold Key to News-Press Bias

Unfair Labor Practice Complaint Filed

Wednesday, February 14, 2007
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Two More NLRB Complaints Filed; More Rallying Ensues

With additional reporting and photography from the rally by Barney Brantingham

On Tuesday, Bob Guiliano — the editor who was fired on Friday, January 26 for “performance-related” reasons (not for attending Anna Davison’s goodbye party after she was fired, as was first reported) — filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. hearts%20rally%201.jpg

But unlike the numerous other complaints filed on behalf of eight other terminated News-Press employees, Guiliano is not claiming he was discharged for being involved in union activities. That’s because he is not represented by the Teamsters. As such, Guiliano believes that Tuesday’s NLRB filing has the News-Press lawyers scratching their heads as to what exactly he could be alleging. Guiliano is not able to speak about the claim, because it remains confidential until a future hearing.

But there’s ample buzz on the street about what Guiliano’s affidavit might contain, for the former assistant city editor met face-to-face with owner Wendy McCaw on multiple occasions and was involved on a daily basis with churning out news stories. Additionally, he’s been quoted on Craig Smith’s blog as saying, “I'm all for balanced reporting and giving both sides an equal say in any story. But when reporters have to worry about the fact-based nature of their article clashing with the contrived nature of perceived controversy by an editorial writer overeager to please his (paper's) owner, and bend their reality to conform to that fantasy, then that is not journalism.”

Given such experience with McCaw and concerns about bias, many are starting to believe that Guiliano — who took the job to be closer to his father and because he thought he could mend the relationship between the staff and management — probably holds the golden key to uncovering just how much power McCaw and editorial writer Travis Armstrong are exerting over the newsroom. According to the memo leaked to The Independent yesterday, McCaw and company claim they are not exerting any influence on the newsroom. Guiliano clearly sees it another way.

Although he was not at liberty to discuss the specifics of his complaint, Guiliano did say this in an email: “I'd like to get my job back too, along with all the reporters who have been fired. This is the bravest bunch of reporters I've ever had the pleasure to work with during my 30 years in this profession. There are so many newspapers where reporters are afraid to investigate the news beyond routine reporting, and fear speaking up to their editors or publishers about being made to churn out assembly-line news stories simply quoting public officials and community activists.


“So, from my safe vantage point in San Diego [where Guiliano previously worked at Escondido’s North County Times], seeing a group of reporters standing up to their publisher, associate editor, and editorial page editor when they know their journalistic ethics and serving a greater authority — the public trust — hang in the balance impressed me greatly.”

When Guiliano arrived to “make everybody one big happy family,” he soon learned that “this is more a job for Dr. Phil than for me. It's beyond my capability to resolve the deep layers of dysfunction that have permeated this newspaper.”

NO LOVE ON VALENTINE’S DAY: At a De la Guerra Plaza rally today, Teamsters announced plans to file a federal unfair labor practice complaint against a News-Press attorney and to seek funds from “every union in the country” to help struggling fired journalists.

Teamsters spokesman Marty Keegan said that attorney David Millstein (pictured with PR lady Agnes Huff) broke labor law by crashing a union meeting Tuesday night, interfering and disrupting it and engaging in surveillance. Millstein%20%26%20Huff%20Web.jpg The meeting was between News-Press advertisers, recently fired reporters, and their Teamster reps and was intended to persuade advertisers to convince McCaw that it was in her best interest to negotiate with the reporters and return to ethical standards or journalism. The journalists had rented the room, but Millstein and accountant Norman Colavincenzo apparently busted in, loudly called the assembled journalists “liars,” and refused to leave, citing the fact that it was a public building. At least some of the News-Press advertisers were intimidated and left.

Keegan, who’s been trying to arrange a meeting between Millstein, McCaw, and the journalists for months to no avail, said to Millstein, “Now that you’re here, let’s talk.” Millstein then left, according to Keegan, who told the small group of advertisers that they had just witnessed the man who fired the reporters and the kind of threats and intimidation reporters are subject to.

The complaint was filed because during an ongoing unionization effort, the News-Press — according to NLRB law— is not allowed to interfere with union meetings, Keegan explained. “Mr. Millstein broke the law,” Keegan said at the rally on Wednesday . “We are also considering obtaining some kind of injunction to stop Millstein from breaking into future meetings. It’s still America here.”

Reporter Dawn Hobbs, one of the staffers fired last week after raising a banner on a freeway overpass, said that a News-Press ad today, backing McCaw, was signed by only 60 of the 220 employees, many of them management. Others questioned how anyone could refuse to sign, given the paper’s tyrannical tactics.

“Every one of (the fired journalists) are going to get their jobs back,” Keegan vowed at the rally, which was decorated with Valentine’s Day posters. hearts%20rally%202.jpg “We are sending letters out to every union in America to help these people, to pay them their full salaries and health care, and we’re planning fund raisers.” He cited 17 million union families nationwide.

Also in the crowd was Bill Pintard, coach of the Santa Barbara Foresters baseball team. He asked, “How can you get fired for holding a freeway sign reading ‘Protect Free Speech,’ which sports columnist John Zant was doing and which got him fired?” After the rally, the journalists and backers marched in front of the Canon Perdido and State Street office of News-Press attorney Barry Cappello, chanting: “Hey, hey, Cappello. Union busting’s got to go.”

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