On Tuesday, January 23, News-Press owner Wendy McCaw's attorney Barry Cappello (pictured) sent a second letter to the Lawyers Alliance for Free Speech, the group of 50 or so well respected attorneys from diverse backgrounds and distinct practices who banded together last fall to help those whose speech has been silenced by McCaw's legal threats. (See page one of the letter here and page two of the letter here.)
In this latest look at reality through the lens of the News-Press, Cappello takes the time to explain his last letter and argue that those who called it a "bullying" tactic or "intimidation" were clearly off base. (He even busts out the good ol' Webster's New World Dictionary to get to the bottom of it.)
Rather, Cappello goes through the history of what he calls "this classic Santa Barbara brouhaha," hinting that Jerry Roberts and "various reporters" (try nearly all of them, Barry) were the real root of this problem. (If this is the case, why won't someone explain in plain English what exactly Jerry Roberts was doing?!?!? It's childish, unprofessional, and entirely dubious to keep talking about it in this veiled manner.) Cappello asks how many in the Lawyers Alliance know Roberts "well, included how he conducted himself at the paper." (This is the part where anyone who's been following this story asks, "But Barry, weren't you quoted in an L.A. Weekly article saying that you've yet to meet Wendy McCaw? How well do you know your own client?")
And then, Cappello explains that the real culprit in this whole thing is unionization, specifically the vicious and calculating Teamsters. "Free speech" is not the issue, according to Cappello, because that's just "spin" to "help the union organize." We're going to start calling this increasingly employed tactic by McCaw's legal squad as the "Boogeyman Shuffle." It's not a bad technique, a move to take the blame off of McCaw (pictured) and News-Press management (the initial Boogeymen) and shift it to the Teamsters (the new Boogeymen), a union that's easily villified due to its up and down history. The Teamsters are "going to get a foothold" in Santa Barbara, argues Cappello, appealing to some inherent anti-union bent that Cappello must believe lives in all lawyers. But to date, no one's falling for the Boogeyman Shuffle.
And that's simply because anyone with common sense can tell that it's bogus. Perhaps you've forgotten Barry, but remember that this did not begin with the firing of Roberts. It began with the letters of rerpimand sent out by McCaw to Camilla Cohee and her editors for printing Rob Lowe's address. Everything else that's happened is a direct result of that egregious and heinous move by McCaw. That's the move that got the world of journalism up in arms and enraged the News-Press newsroom. The ensuing meltdown came naturally.
The fact of the matter is that the Teamsters were called in as a response to a perceived threat. The threat was that the newsroom would no longer be able to tell straight stories without going through a McCaw screening process and that the wacky, uninformed, and dangerous editorial influence of Travis Armstrong (pictured) was going to be merged with news reporting. That right there is the root of this trouble. Not the Teamsters, not Jerry Roberts, and not "various reporters" who felt miffed that their highly esteemed and decorated boss was canned.
And let's make another thing even more clear, to the point of redundancy: The Independent does not want to see the News-Press fail as a newspaper. We are solidly behind the notion that a functioning democracy needs a daily newspaper with institutional memory and an acclaimed history to thrive.
Cappello's letter intimates that The Indy is trying to "hurt" the News-Press with our "savage" coverage of their story. If you check our page counts, which are the main indicator of a weekly's wealth, they've only risen slightly at what could easily be considered a natural growth pace. We probably should be capitalizing in more cutthroat ways, but we simply have not.
Perhaps Cappello is referring to our rising prestige across the globe for having risen to the occasion to become the go-to publication for those who are following this story. If so, then Barry and Wendy need another reminder: Newspapers cover the news. We are just doing our job. And thanks, actually, for giving us a topic that so many thousands of people are eager to read about online. Without the News-Press meltdown, the Santa Barbara blogosphere would still be miniscule. Now we're enjoying tons of online news everyday!
As for specific objections to this latest Cappello letter from the Lawyers Alliance, an anonymous attorney explained the following:
1) Cappello's letter claims that only two negative responses came to him after his first letter. However, at least eight lawyers signed their names to Rob Egenolf's letter to The Indy and Cappello, which is four times two. Said the attorney, "That's not quite as big a whopper as claiming Wendy saved the N-P from insolvency, but still."
2) Cappello mentions that the attorneys are now asking for money from the public, and argues that they should offer their services pro bono. However, the repeatedly and publicly stated purpose of the Lawyers Alliance is to raise money to level the playing field, not to take sides on behalf of or against any litigant "no matter what."
3) In response to Cappello's claim that McCaw is not a big bully, the anonymous attorney points our that McCaw filed a $25 million claim against Roberts. How's that not bullying?, the lawyer asks.
4) Cappello suggests that the lawyers are trying to help the Teamsters by raising this money. "That's a total fabrication," said the attorney. "That is not how the loan fund works. They are loans to individuals who have been sued or threatened with suits by Wendy McCaw."
5) Cappello asks whether the Teamsters have enough money to defend these people. But, the attorney explains, "because the Lawyers Alliance has no relationship with the Teamsters, its members don't have a clue how much money the Teamsters have. This question, of course, is impossible to answer unless we know how much Wendy has spent/is willing to spend to file and pursue frivolous cases. How much has she paid Capello to look up words in the dictionary for $500/hour?"
6) And finally, as a response to Cappello's question about whether these attorneys knew that they'd be asking the public for help, the attorney explains, "Yes, we really thought when we signed up that we would be doing everything necessary, including appeals to the public, to raise money to help individuals threatened or sued by McCaw."
Cappello, we all know you're getting paid enough to take a trip to the moon, but why not listen to what a healthy chunk of your alleged "friends, acquaintances, and colleagues of many years" are saying? You're betting on the wrong horse in this race, and the entire world knows it. Let's not watch an otherwise exemplary and prestigious practice brought down because of one confused, angry, and clearly out-of-touch client.