Paul Wellman

Peaks and Valleys for S.B. Media

How 2012 Changed the Landscape of Area News Outlets

Thursday, January 3, 2013
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From various court cases to shutdowns and an untimely death, the past year was no “best of” for Santa Barbara news agencies, though there is plenty of hope for how this city of 90,000 gets its news.

Noozhawk, the online-only publication which celebrated its fifth anniversary in October, continues to grow, publisher William Macfadyen said, and is “on a trajectory to be sustainable over a long period.” The website hired Tom Bolton, a well-respected journalist formerly of the Santa Barbara News-Press and Santa Maria Times, to be its executive editor in April, and in November it announced that Kim Clark, who also worked at the News-Press for a stint, was coming on to head the sales side. The site — which this year saw a 40-percent increase in traffic from 2011, including a 65-percent increase in the last quarter — also hired another reporter to expand coverage to the North County. Looking back, Macfadyen said, “2012 was a very good year for Noozhawk.”

It wasn’t such a great year for the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or the Santa Barbara Daily Sound, which both shuttered in recent months. The Valley Journal — owned by rancher Nancy Crawford-Hall, who used the paper largely to further her own interests — was shut down “until we have a more reasonable government,” Crawford-Hall described in a farewell column, leaving the paper’s dozen or so employees out of jobs right before Christmas. She said the paper would be “hit hard with new taxes due to Obamacare” and would therefore be unable to pay reasonable salaries.

The Daily Sound, after six years in Santa Barbara, printed its last paper at the end of June and shut down for good weeks later. The five-days-a-week paper was founded in March 2006 by Jeramy Gordon (with this reporter as the first journalist writing there) and had impeccable timing, coming into town just as the News-Press imploded, leading to the departure of dozens of reporters with decades of experience.

Speaking of the News-Press, a federal appellate court overturned a decision by the National Labor Relations Board that the paper must hire back several reporters it fired in the aftermath of the meltdown at the newspaper. The decision means the end of the road for the fired employees, who argued the actions for which they were fired were protected as part of union organizing. The decision was one of just a few victories owner Wendy McCaw has had against the former employees, but it was a very big and important one.

The Santa Barbara Independent has been no stranger to internal wrangling, as employees anxiously wait for the resolution of a lawsuit between the paper’s editor and publisher. Not much has happened since a superior court judge ruled in October 2011 in Editor in Chief Marianne Partridge’s favor in her lawsuit against Publisher Randy Campbell. Partridge filed suit against Campbell — who cofounded the paper more than 25 years ago and is the majority owner — to compel him to sell his shares to her. He had sought to sell his shares to another company, which invoked the other owners’ rights of first refusal, the court ruled.

Campbell appealed that judgment. The two sides have fully briefed their arguments to a state appellate court and await the scheduling of a date for the court to hear oral arguments, according to attorneys for both sides. Oral arguments are expected to be heard early this year, and the court will render an opinion sometime after that.

The Independent was recently joined by another weekly in town, the Santa Barbara Sentinel, which had its 13th issue hit newsstands December 28 and takes a lighter look at the goings-on around town rather than report hard news. The paper’s publisher is Tim Buckley, who also publishes the Montecito Journal. In his most recent column, editor Matt Mazza said they hope to boost production and distribution as early as January. “We are healthy, strong even, heading into the New Year,” he wrote, “and we have lots of ideas and new content to bring as we grow.”

Change is coming to KEYT, which was sold in September from Smith Media LLC to the Missouri-based News-Press & Gazette Company. And, sadly, EdHat — the news-aggregating, citizen-journalism website — mourned the loss of its founder, Peter Sklar, who succumbed to a battle with brain cancer in early December at the age of 50.

And finally, the Santa Barbara Journalism Initiative, a not-for-profit journalism project that’s gearing up for a launch next year, has hired an executive editor, former L.A.Weekly deputy editor Joe Donnelly, who comes with a lot of reporting chops. While many question marks remain about the initiative, what it plans to do, and how they plan to do it, the project is supported by a grant from the Knight Foundation and several local foundations. The goal, according to those involved, is to bring more investigative journalism to Santa Barbara.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

A "lighter look" is one way to describe the new Santa Barbara Sentinel. Lazy and ignorant is a more clear description for a publication where the editor bemoans the existence and necessity of public comment at government meetings.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
January 3, 2013 at 8:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Valley Journal — owned by rancher Nancy Crawford-Hall, who used the paper largely to further her own interests — was shut down “until we have a more reasonable government"

That's hilarious. If an unreasonable government caused her to shutter the paper, then I'm Darth Vader.

SezMe (anonymous profile)
January 4, 2013 at 2:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Just picked up a Sentinel downtown and noticed that Matt Mazza is no longer listed as the EIC, just co-founder, and there's nothing by him in this issue. Is this a recent development? I don't grab it ever week, or every other now, I guess, but his absence was conspicuous.

zappa (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2014 at 12:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Also agree JA about the Sentinel's "lazy and ignorant" quality (even in Jan. '13), it's just a spinoff of Montecito Journal, sort of MJ-lite. Good news if Mazza stops writing for the Sentinel.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2014 at 12:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sentinnel is there the local advertising dollar is going. They like its demographics. Compare ad for ad with the Independent, whose demographics are obviously of a different stripe. Money may not talk much in this town, but it sure does walk.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2014 at 1:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ask yourself as an employer:

Would you want to hire someone from Jobs-Noozhawk who is attracted to the more conservative, business oriented Noozhawk

Or someone who gets his/her perpetual victim and wild hare entitlement attitude jollies from the Independent?

Just askin'.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2014 at 3:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Have no idea what's going on there, but always found the Mazza guy decent enough. The too bloggy 'family and friends" format got a bit tedious sometimes though.

Hopefully, the junior Buckley will explain things soon and not go all Soviet eraser on us.

Just replyin' (Uffh.)

pecanpie (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2014 at 5:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The layout/design of the Sentinel is atrocious. It's as if nobody had ever before put a newspaper out and didn't know what to do.

They sadly drop the ball having their current issue as a PDF only on their site as well, the type is borderline illegible; worse for them: they don't get web ads nor are they searchable for reference etc.

Contentwise not bad, I've enjoyed reading it when it's readable. Upon looking at Sentinel art director Trent Watanabe's other very fine work, it looks as if he's being micromanaged by people who'd like to think they're experts but are visually illiterate and enjoy tormenting somebody who is (Watanabe.)

Daily Sentinel, a lot of potential yet unrealized.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2014 at 6:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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