When the Santa Barbara News-Press threw a party for me
on my 45-year anniversary at the paper, I recited “10 Reasons Why I
Stayed So Long.” One was: “I was waiting for an offer from The

That got a big laugh. But now, after 46 years and three months,
here I am at The Independent, due to shocking recent
events at the News-Press. I resigned from the
News-Press in protest two weeks ago, and a day later I got
The Call from Indy editor-in-chief Marianne Partridge,
offering a new home to my column.

The Indy isn’t just a
convenient landing place for me. I’ve long had a warm spot in my
heart for the paper and the people who work to put it on the
newsstands every week. Its philosophy is far closer to mine than
the often-wacky News-Press editorials (although I applaud
owner Wendy McCaw’s courageous stand against the Iraq war) and
poison-pen editorial page columns. (I must say it’s the first time
I’ve ever written for a paper that didn’t charge its readers. But
there’s something democratic about that, isn’t there?)

I think you’ll find my weekly columns here to be in about the
same vein as the ones I’ve written since 1977: human interest
stories, scam warnings, comments on Santa Barbara County
controversies, and sniping at local politicians and government. In
a word — local. I also plan to continue travel writing.

Buying the NP? Reports continue to
swirl that residents unhappy with the Wendy McCaw regime are
pondering how to buy the News-Press. Philanthropist Sara
Miller McCune, founder of what is now one of the world’s leading
English-language publishing houses, has sent around emails offering
to lead a consortium of investors. “I have been reading, with a
mixture of shock, horror, amusement, and awe about the News-Press
and the current media furor.” Offer: that’s up to a top accounting
firm’s valuation. She’s now in Europe but wants to hear what you
have to say via phone or email (SARA@sagepub.com).

Barney in front of the News-Press building
Paul Wellman

But there’s no sign that McCaw has any
interest in selling. She clearly enjoys the bully pulpit of her
editorial page, but reportedly hates unions so much that now that
one is being formed, folks say as a vegetarian she’d probably
rather chew red meat than deal with the Teamsters.

“This is not a freedom of the press issue, or of intimidation of
the newsroom,” McCaw told the New York Times in an article
published Monday. “There were personality differences in the
newsroom, and the people who didn’t want to be there are not there
any longer.” Jerry Roberts, who resigned as editor, said she
stopped talking to him in 2004, communicating when necessary
through her fiancé, Arthur von Wiesenberger. McCaw was interviewed
by phone from Europe, where she has apparently been spending time
on her yacht during the crisis at her paper.

National Joke: Cartoonist Steve Greenberg of
the Ventura County Star satirized the “Santa Barbara
News-Suppress” with headlines “Happy news, ads, and opinion all
smooshed together,” and “We’re full of celebrities here in S.B. and
life is bliss.” Also: “Every top editor quits this paper. No idea
why: We guess people are just fussy.”

Spit in your eye: Remember that scene in the
movie Sideways when a character dumps a whole spit bucket
of wine over his head at a local winery? Well, customers who saw
the flick have done the same thing at least twice recently,
according to reports from local vintners. (It’s a big no-no at
tasting rooms.)

What a kick: On the day of the World Cup final
between France and Italy, about 400 Italians (“and one Frenchman,”
cracked part-owner Dave Peri) packed Arnoldi’s Café to watch the
match on TV. Also, one Scotsman rooting (very quietly) for France.
The Italians won.

Ted Danson nearly clipped: A friend reported
that he had to swerve to avoid jaywalking actor Ted Danson, his
toupee flowing in the breeze, in downtown Santa Barbara the other
day. Ted was with spouse Mary Steenburgen, also an almost accident
victim, according to my source.

The Man Who Came to Dinner: The 1930s were
famous for their screwball comedies and SBCC’s Theatre Group’s
production of this Moss Hart/George S. Kaufman play is a sheer
delight. The man in question, skilled veteran Jim Brodhead, fills
the stage with witty vituperation as a cast of eccentrics cavort
around him, especially Jon Koons in a wildly funny part and Devon
Bell as the blonde bombshell. Brodhead’s Sheridan Whiteside is a
thinly disguised Alexander Woollcott, bombastic New York writer and
broadcaster of the time. This is theater at its best. On the boards
at SBCC’s Garvin Theatre through July 29.

Madame La Zonga: Echoing the old Jimmy Dorsey
song “Six Lessons from Madame La Zonga,” Ensemble Theatre is
staging Richard Alfieri’s bittersweet Six Dance Lessons in Six
. While Dinner features a stage jammed with
actors, Six Lessons has only an unlikely pair, Mary Jo
Catlett and Joseph Fuqua, but they deliver a gentle emotional punch
with each trip around the apartment’s dance floor.

Backfired: News-Press owner Wendy
McCaw’s page-one “Note to Readers” last Thursday, attacking news
employees, backfired. It further enraged newsroom people and led
soft-spoken young Colin Powers, presentation editor and a key
person in putting out the paper, to resign Friday. Why? For one
thing, Colin said, “A balanced article on the resignations was
killed and replaced by the acting publisher with vacuous
absurdities.” Vacant positions were “quickly filled by
opportunists,” he continued, “[but] the final straw for me came
when the woman who signs my paycheck wrote a letter to readers that
violates the foremost reasons she pays me to practice good
journalism. The editors who left comfortable jobs for uncertainty
in a tough newspaper market didn’t do so because they were opposed
to more local news. They left because the hands of the executive
suite and op-ed department had extended their reach so far into the
newsroom that their fingertips were on the reporters’


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