Over the objections of Santa Barbara News-Press owner Wendy
McCaw, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) gave the
Ethics in Journalism Award to nine of the News-Press editors and
writers — including editor-in-chief Jerry Roberts and longtime
columnist Barney Brantingham — who resigned from the paper in the
past month, citing breaches of journalistic ethics by McCaw and her
co-publisher and fiancé, Arthur von Wiesenberger.

The number of departures has since climbed to 15 with the recent resignations of
UCSB beat reporter Shelly Leachmann and Special Sections Editor Ann
Peyrat. In its announcement, the SPJ said it normally shies away
from internal disputes and labor/management conflicts, but after
conducting its own investigation into the matter became convinced
that ethical violations had in fact occurred.

Prior to acting, the
SPJ sought McCaw’s input and she gave it to them, writing, “It is
our belief that the SPJ is being used by this group to further
their own personal and political agendas, and not as an expression
of ethical principles.”

Word of the award came just one day after newsroom employees
formally notified the National Labor Relations Board last week that
they wanted a union election to determine whether they would be
represented by the Teamsters in grievances and collective
bargaining. McCaw has made it clear that she opposes any union at
her newspaper and accused her detractors of trying to intimidate
her — through a threatened subscription cancellation campaign and
protests — into recognizing the Teamsters before an election could
be held. Meanwhile, newsroom workers filed an unfair labor
practices complaint against the News-Press, charging, among other
things, that management had recently shuffled beat assignments to
punish reporters pushing the union, or to make them want to quit.

The complaint also charged that reporter Dawn Hobbs — a leader in
the union effort — has been followed by a woman with a
walkie-talkie and has been called on the carpet for disciplinary
job reviews as part of retaliation by management.


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