One of the region’s only surf culture publications, Blue Edge, is on the verge of wiping out. The staff of the magazine - which began dwindling in size after the Santa Barbara News-Press purchased it in July 2005 - summarily quit last Friday, June 22, citing a lack of support from the newspaper’s management. And despite giving customary two-week notices, two staffers had their offices packed up on Tuesday morning by News-Press management and were told to leave immediately.
The resignations of operations director Peter Ganibi, editor Chuck Graham, and assistant editor Helina Shaka are already reverberating in the vast ocean-loving community of Santa Barbara. And since many of the advertisers and contributors were acquired and hired by Ganibi and Graham and are loyal, personal friends of the duo, it’s unclear whether the News-Press will be able to keep the magazine afloat.
The newspaper’s management refused to comment on the matter.
According to Ganibi, who had worked at the magazine for three years, the resignations were not planned as a team. But they were inevitable, since morale at the magazine has been nose-diving ever since News-Press owner Wendy McCaw purchased it along with the Goleta Valley Voice and the Spanish-language El Mexicano from Jim Farr in 2005. At that point, a meeting was called with the Blue Edge staff, News-Press then-publisher Joe Cole, the CFO Randy Alcorn, human resources woman Yolanda Apodaca, and owner McCaw, who didn’t say a word during the meeting. Immediately, the staff knew things were turning for the worse as new advertising polices were introduced and the once jubilant mood of the magazine that was fostered by former owner Farr turned sour.
It only got worse when publisher Joe Cole left last spring, and the now notorious meltdown began happening on July 6, 2006. Specifically, News-Press management made many promises that were never fulfilled and the Blue Edge staff was confused by the company’s lack of infrastructure, troubled by a lack of consistent guidance from higher ups, and dismayed by the ongoing turmoil. Ganibi summed up the situation by saying, “It’s a terrible place to work. It’s just depressing.”
So last Friday, when Graham - an independent contractor who works from home - came into Blue Edge‘s headquarters on the first floor of the News-Press building, Ganibi looked at him in exasperation. Though their annual photo issue was supposed to be going to the printer on June 29, the News-Press sales director Steve Nakutin had yet to deliver any advertisements. Ganibi explained, “I basically did everything for the sales director, and he just couldn’t follow through. He couldn’t follow through with shit. It got to the point where it was like I was bothering the guy. I thought, ‘This is just ridiculous.’” In the monthly magazine publishing world, no advertisements a week before printing equates to being entirely screwed, but it was just the latest in a long string of failures on the part of News-Press management.
Said Ganibi, “It was so weird. Chuck came in, and we looked at each other, and I told Chuck, ‘I think I might be done. This is my last issue.’ And Chuck was like, ‘Are you serious? I was just going to tell you that this was my last issue too!’ It was real sad, because we were so close to getting this thing going.” When assistant editor Helina Shaka came into the office, she was told, and she quit as well.
All three gave two-week notices, wanting to ensure that the photo issue made it to the printer and that all of their freelancers got paid. Blue Edge was a true labor of love for the trio: all three had other sources of income and none of them desired to be connected to the News-Press turmoil, but they were dedicated to seeing the magazine succeed.
Despite the customary two-week notices, on Tuesday, June 26, Ganibi got a call from Bill Collyer, the man in charge of printing the News-Press and their various publications. (Although typically newspaper printers have little to do with editorial coverage or advertising, Collyer serves as Blue Edge‘s de facto supervisor, which shows how bizarre the infrastructure is at the News-Press.) Collyer told Ganibi to come in to the office.
When Ganibi arrived, he saw that his desk and Helina Shaka’s desk had been packed up. He then met with Collyer, who told him that he was no longer wanted in the office. Ganibi told Collyer that he may want to rethink his decision. “You’re going to have a lot of problems,” Ganibi told Collier. “The only person who knows anything about this magazine is me.”
But Collyer informed Ganibi that the Blue Edge staff had left a “bad taste” in the mouths of owner Wendy McCaw and co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger because all three resigned. That wasn’t the point, Ganibi told Collyer, but to no avail. Ganibi explained, “This wasn’t about leaving a bad taste. We were just trying to accomplish something and we couldn’t because of management and the sales director Steve Nakutin. We wanted to go out on our own free will and not be fired or see the magazine disappear.” Nonetheless, Ganibi, who picked up his last paycheck on Wednesday morning, admitted, “It’s actually a relief.”
Now the question is: Can Blue Edge survive? According to Ganibi, the magazine’s art director Steve Tonnesen is being tasked with keeping the publication afloat. While Ganibi told Tonneson “good luck” when he saw him on Tuesday, it’s unlikely that the magazine’s steady cast of freelancers or smattering of advertisers will continue to be involved for the magazine, since most are personal friends of Ganibi and Graham. Explained Ganibi, “Chuck and I brought in all these [freelancers and advertisers] anyway. I’ll be damned if I see them keep it going. I want the magazine dead. We created it.”
Look out for the annual photo issue of Blue Edge in the next couple weeks. And after that, who knows? This latest News-Press wipe out may just end up drowning Santa Barbara’s surf culture magazine.