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Former News-Press Reporter Responds to Accusations


The following is a re-posting of a comment left by Camilla Barnwell (formerly Cohee) on the Santa Barbara Media Blog post, “Will News-Press Owner Wendy McCaw Wake Up?” At the request of the Independent, Barnwell agreed to let us re-post the comment, as it provided a unique perspective to the current situation at the Santa Barbara News-Press and the atmosphere that surrounded her resignation. The bolded statements, links, and photo were added by us.

From Camilla Barnwell, formerly Cohee.

I have never responded to a blog before, but felt like I needed to this time. In response to a couple of anonymous comments made here and on Blogabarbara, I was not “fired” from the News-Press. I quit.

I quit because I could not work in the environment of hate and distrust that “leaders” at the News-Press had created. All of the editors I had worked under and respected had left, and I could not stomach the idea of having someone like Travis edit or influence a story with my name on it. I never “whined” to anyone about the Rob Lowe address disaster, as one blogger states. I explained to anyone who wanted to know that after many years in the business, I covered the Lowe dispute with the same care, interest, consideration, and thought that I had on any case before the planning commission. In essence, I felt that I was being reprimanded for doing my job: including the who, what, where, when, why, and how that every story is supposed to have.

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In response to my time card, there was no fraud or theft. At the N-P, we always filled out our timecards before the work week had ended, because we were asked to get them in early. Things got crazy the day Jerry was escorted out of the building.

I was getting married in two days, with family and friends arriving to town, and was experiencing major anxiety. My editor George told me to go home, and I’m not too proud to say I left the building shaking and in tears. I thought I’d be back the next day, to work one more day, but truly could not face the pain and suffering going on inside that building when I was supposed to look like the euphoric bride.

Fixing my time card when I came back from the honeymoon required moving hours from one category to another. I had both sick time and vacation time coming to me, so it was really only a matter of adjusting the column to reflect accurately those two days before the wedding.

It’s funny. I wonder why Yolanda or the News-Press didn’t question why I was working an 11-hour day without OT to finish a series when I was 8.5 months pregnant. I wonder why they didn’t question my time card the day that Starshine and I were sent out to cover El Nino floods at 4 in the morning and didn’t leave work until late that evening to finish writing.

After ten years there, with OT pay always frowned upon, we all put in odd and long hours that never made it to our time card. Adjustments were commonplace if you had already turned in a time card but then later ended up working later than projected. I’m not complaining about hard work. I loved every minute I spent at the News-Press until everything exploded under Wendy and Travis.

As far as bias, I just laugh at that accusation. Are journalists human beings? Yes. Do we bring our own personal experiences and personalities to our jobs as reporters? Yes. But as John Zant said at the rally, we are absolutely anal about getting the facts straight, about making sure we capture the essence of a story with the right tone and details and voices. I have knocked on doors in dark alleys, called people late at night, conspired to get private cell phone numbers of elected officials, all so that no one could ever say my stories weren’t right on target when read in the morning.

Reporting is not about pushing an agenda or favoring one side. It’s about knowing the beat you cover so well that you can in turn provide readers too busy to attend meetings balanced, interesting, relevant coverage of their community. I loved doing that with all my heart.

As far as my husband, Brian, I will admit my bias. Still, I’ve covered and have become personally acquainted with many leaders in this town and know only a handful I respect and admire as much as Brian Barnwell. He is a true community servant and civic leader whose biggest flaw may be that he forgets he’s a “politician.” I am so proud to be by his side and, also, comforted knowing he is helping to shape and lead our beloved city.

Thanks for the chance to respond.

Camilla Barnwell

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