Paper’s Owner Fires Back

by Nick Welsh

Marty%20Keegan.jpgTeamster organizers flanked by current
and former Santa Barbara News-Press newsroom workers announced they
were commencing a communitywide drive to hurt News-Press owner
Wendy McCaw in the pocketbook until she agrees to restore
journalistic ethics and free speech to the newsroom. Because McCaw
rebuffed an entreaty from a delegation of prominent community
leaders, Teamster organizer Marty Keegan said he is now asking
News-Press subscribers to call the paper and cancel their
subscriptions. He claimed the pledges he’s already received,
coupled with subscriptions canceled in the past two months, total
about 3,000, or roughly one-tenth of the News-Press’s total
subscriptions. In addition, Keegan said he will begin soliciting
advertisers to cancel their contracts with Santa Barbara’s oldest
daily newspaper.

Lou%20Cannon.jpgMcCaw’s publicist Agnes Huff issued a
statement dismissing Tuesday’s press conference held in front of
the News-Press building as “a media stunt” and part of a
“predictable series of pressure tactics” engineered by the union in
conjunction with a small group of “disgruntled workers.” Huff
called Keegan’s claim that News-Press circulation has dropped in
response to the ongoing controversy over newsroom ethics an
“outright lie.” That controversy began on July 6, when former
editor Jerry Roberts and four other high-ranking editors resigned
in protest. The number of newsroom employees who have resigned now
stands at 16.

Sander%20Vanocur.jpgWell-known journalists Lou Cannon and
Sander Vanocur  —  both South Coast residents  —  said they joined
four other prominent community members in seeking to arrange a
meeting with McCaw, but they were snubbed for their efforts. They
had hoped to discuss widespread community concern that her personal
agendas and friendships were exerting undue influence over the
paper’s news coverage. “We were very saddened that she’s seen fit
not to give us the courtesy of a reply,” said Cannon, who cancelled
his subscription after the News-Press refused to print a lengthy
letter to the editor he wrote on the journalistic ethics
controversy. Vanocur said he would not cancel his subscription,
explaining, “I want to see what their next totalitarian move will

Ira%20Gottlieb.jpgCannon and Vanocur’s request for a
meeting with McCaw was communicated through a letter hand-delivered
by Harriett Phillips, a longtime Goleta activist who until recently
has enjoyed cordial relations with News-Press editorial writer
Travis Armstrong, a lightning rod in much of the controversy.
Phillips said Armstrong “blew his top” when she told him that she
was part of the delegation seeking to meet with McCaw. McCaw’s
publicist stated that McCaw never received a copy of the letter. In
a similar vein, 11 newsroom employees who tried to deliver a
pro-union letter to McCaw during their lunch break last Monday were
suspended without pay for two days. Huff claimed the 11 were
intimidating and disruptive and refused orders to return to

Armstrong and Huff have blasted the union campaign now unfolding
at the News-Press, dismissing the oft-stated concerns about
journalistic ethics as a rhetorical smokescreen deployed by a union
desperate for new members. Teamster organizer Marty Keegan replied,
“As hard as it is to believe, we believe in ethical journalism.” He
said professional ethics protections could be written into
contracts simply by inserting a clause allowing reporters to have
their bylines deleted from stories that had been drastically
altered. Vowing to go toe-to-toe with McCaw, Keegan pointed out
that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is not without
considerable resources. “If we don’t stand up for these writers
here, we’ll quickly come to a point where no one in the media will
be willing to write about what labor’s doing in a positive sense,”
he said. “When that happens, labor’s in real trouble. But so are
all of us.”


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