Fired Editor Bob Guiliano Describes Wendy McCaw’s Bias in Letter to Marty Blum
On Monday, February 26, around 7 p.m., Bob Guiliano — the editor who was fired by the News-Press for perfomance-related reasons right after reporter Anna Davison was terminated — sent an email to Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum (pictured). The subject was “Greetings Mayor Blum, something you should know …” and the email describes in great detail how News-Press owner Wendy McCaw’s dislike for the mayor and City Hall was, in part, what led to the firing of Davison and Guiliano himself. Given that all of the mayor’s correspondence is a matter of public record, we felt that it would be enlightening to reproduce the bulk of that letter here. It provides a brief glimpse into the way that the News-Press is being run these days, according to a former editor who had face-to-face meetings with McCaw and her associates. If what Guiliano says is true, it’s clear that the bias is still very much in the News-Press building and that the management really has no understanding of the ethical standards that are supposed to be respected in the professional news business.
Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 7:08 PM To: Blum, Marty Subject: Greetings Mayor Blum, something you should know …
Hi Mayor Blum,
I was just going through my notebooks and a list I had taped to the inside of one notebook has all the council members’ e-mail addresses. It made me think, why not tell Marty Blum how she was part of the reason one of my best reporters and I were fired at the News-Press.
On the fateful day, Jan. 15, that a front-page story ran about the downtown renovation project, Scott Steepleton was out sick with food poisoning, so Wendy McCaw and Arthur von Wiesenberger (pictured) called me into her office about the story. I was the assistant city editor and ran things in Scott’s absence.
First thing Wendy told me was that I needed to issue a written reprimand to Anna Davison over her story because it was biased. I asked how was it biased? Wendy pointed to the quotes on the front page and said that Anna quoted Mayor Blum too many times, that once would have sufficed, and that she does not want Blum quoted in her paper. So, I asked again how was this being biased? Wendy went on to say that there was not enough written in the story against the trees being cut down as part of the renovation project, so in effect, Anna’s story “went against our editorial page.” That is how Wendy McCaw defines “bias” in her bizarre interpretation of journalism ethics.
I just kept asking Wendy, what else, and took notes as Arthur sat there and nodded in agreement with everything she said.
Her facial expression was tense, her hair disheveled, her lips pursed together tightly, her eyes were dark and her head and eyes kept darting from side to side, never making contact with mine. She only stopped berating me and my reporters to field a phone call and snap to the caller, “Yes, that’s egregious!”
Then, on Jan. 22, after having researched the background to Anna’s story, instead of having issued Anna a written reprimand, which I knew Wendy wanted to use as an excuse to fire her, I presented a report to Wendy and Arthur explaining that there indeed was no controversy about the trees being cut downtown, that this issue had been discussed during two years of public hearings, and I even cited a Travis Armstrong editorial where he lamented, where’s the hue and outcry, and a letter to the editor asking why no one was protesting the downtown project’s toll on trees.
I advised Wendy that having Anna write a news story saying there’s a controversy, when none exists except for the one on our editorial page, would make the newspaper look bad, as if we were creating a controversy to sell newspapers. I concluded by asking Wendy and Arthur to “please let me know what you think.”
Wendy’s response was to fire Anna on Jan. 25 and to fire me on Jan. 26. Anna was fired over “bias” in that story, and I was given no reason except “performance-related,” because, as an attorney later told me, they could not say I was fired for refusing to issue her a written reprimand over her story when she did not merit it. If I had issued that reprimand, I would have been committing an unfair labor practice.
I was hoping that you would join Councilman Barnwell, whom I met at last Wednesday’s Wake Up Wendy citizens’ rally, in mobilizing Operation Cold Shoulder.
Thanks for any help you can muster in that effort. That’s all that can be done for now to help restore integrity to this newspaper. Wendy’s full-page ads are full of deceit and lies in blaming the meltdown on the Teamsters. Her main tactic is bullying everyone via lawsuits and cease-and-desist letters. The real issue is ethical journalists protesting against having to slant their stories to always reflect McCaw’s opinions in a positive light.
P.S. I left a secure position at a newspaper where I had worked for eight years, the North County Times serving North San Diego County, to come to Santa Barbara to help restore journalistic integrity here. Plus, my dad has lived in this area for about 30 years, an ex-Marine honored recently for his heroism in World War II, and he’s approaching 80 and needs my help.
I had told Scott Steepleton up front that I had integrity and would do what I can to help improve the newspaper. I stood by my reporters and I got fired along with them rather than selling out my integrity.
If you have any questions, or if there is anything more I can do to help restore ethics to the Santa Barbara News-Press, please let me know. Meanwhile, I had to vacate my apartment in Santa Barbara and move into my dad’s place in Carpinteria while I am unemployed. Today, I had to pay full price for blood pressure pills since I no longer have health insurance. I am just one of many, many of your constituents whose lives Wendy McCaw has discarded like garbage.
Just know that I and my former reporters stand proud and believe in ourselves and that what we are fighting for is right! Maybe there is something else you and the City Council could do — pass a resolution honoring all the journalists and columnists who have been fired or resigned at the News-Press for standing up for journalistic ethics and integrity, and honor them in person at a City Council meeting. That would be great! Beware the outrage of Travis Armstrong’s editorials if you dare to do so!