After more than three months online, the reporters of the Santa Barbara Newsroom are turning off their police scanners and computers, filing away their notepads and hitting the streets in preparation for the looming battle with their former employer, the Santa Barbara News-Press.
On their website pm Friday, the eight staff members-winners of numerous state and national awards-announced they would no longer be reporting on Santa Barbara news for the site, and instead be devoting their time and focus to the union campaign and trial, which begins Aug. 14 in Santa Barbara. The newspaper, owned by millionaire Wendy McCaw, will face 15 charges of violations of federal labor law, the majority of them at the expense of the eight reporters. The eight are asking to be reinstated to the newspaper with back pay for the time they missed.
It was a group decision to stop reporting on the website, which launched April 2, according to Dawn Hobbs, who worked at the News-Press for nine years before being fired in February, along with six others for “disloyalty” to the company. Reporters Melinda Burns and Anna Davison had been fired previous to that.
The decision to halt the website will allow the group to get out into the community and speak with people. “Some people in the community think this issue is resolved,” Hobbs said. “This is far from resolved.”
Funding was also a reason for ceasing the site. Advertising at one time was considered, but the group decided it just wouldn’t fit with their intention for the site, according to Burns. Even though the website is done, the group is still asking people for donations to help their legal fight. “Wendy McCaw has the money, but I don’t think she has the support of this community,” Burns said. “Her millions do not make her strong.”
All eight intend to stick around for the trial. Barney McManigal, former county reporter for the News-Press, will be starting graduate school at Oxford University the following month, while everyone else’s intentions are up in the air. But one thing is for sure the eight are determined to “reclaim the News-Press for good journalism,” Burns said Friday.
Also posted Friday on the website is a special almost half-hour-long “News-Press Mess, One Year Later” documentary produced by Melissa Evans, and featuring commentary from the fired reporters.