You know, we’d be happy to stop writing about the
News-Press debacle anytime soon, repurpose this blog to
covering all sorts of S.B. media, and just go back to the regular
news-gathering/scoop-snagging gig we’ve been doing for 20 years
now. But it seems that the N-P‘s owner Wendy McCaw just
can’t stop bringing the spotlight of shame back her way at least
once a week. And by the end of last week, there were two
developments in the News-Press mess that piqued our
To be fair, the first news bit is something that Wendy asked for
a long time ago, so we won’t hold it against her as a weekly cry
for attention this time. The National Labor Relations Board, the federal body that
deals with that often tempestuous divide between employers and
employees, rejected last week three significant News-Press
charges related to the September 27 union vote, in which 85 percent
of the newsroom voted to join the Graphics Communications Conference of the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters.
The first charge was that newsroom staffers intimidated owner
Wendy McCaw when they attempted to hand-deliver a letter to her.
The second was that the website SavetheNewsPress.com posted misleading comments.
And the third was that supervisors were
involved in union organizing, a big no-no when forming a union. All
three were rejected by both the regional decision makers in Los
Angeles and by the big wigs in Washington D.C.
The second bit of news, however, is something that Wendy must
have just recently requested, for it required her attorney Barry
Cappello to deliver a letter to a number of lawyers around town at
the end of last week. First reported this morning in Craig
Smith’s blog, where a copy of the letter was also posted, Cappello sent out a
similar letter that McCaw’s former attorney David Millstein once
did. It went to the Lawyer’s Alliance for Free Speech Rights, the
wide-ranging collection of attorneys who are supporting the
newsroom in its beef with McCaw, and asked the members to
reconsider their involvement.
There’s a major problem with the main thrust of the letter, but
before we get to that, how about some minor quibbles. For such a
high-paid attorney, you’d think that Cappello or his hired hands
would get minor things such as spelling and client name consistency
right. The newspaper he is representing, for instance, is referred
to as the “News-Press,” the “New-Press,” and the “News Press” (no
hyphen). And this is a very short letter.
If you were paying top dollar, wouldn’t you want to see that
letters representing your organization at least spell the name of
your organization correctly? Or maybe Cappello could have hired a
copy editor from the newspaper. Oh, wait, are there any left?
(We’re sorry Barry, because we usually like your style, if not
always your clients or causes. But in this case, you picked the
wrong horse, and even the most uninimportant misspellings are now
under our lens.)
But the real problem with this attempt at intimidation is that
Cappello is arguing that the lawyers should treat the
News-Press as a just another business where employees and
employers have their problems and decisions, sometimes harsh ones,
are made in the interest of economics. For anyone who’s been
following this meltdown, which has been covered exhaustively in the
mass media that Cappello’s letter seems to indicate has not yet
picked up the story, economics has had nothing to do with it.
Well, that is unless McCaw’s plan was
to orchestrate a major ruse within the newspaper’s walls, cause her
talented, award-winning employees to flee, and murder Santa
Barbara’s daily institution all to save the bottom line. Is that
what you mean, Wendy and Barry?
As well, this is no plain beef between employers and employees,
and everyone watching understands that. That is, of course, why
anyone is watching at all. If this was about Jack in the Box and
some organized walk-out, it would have been a one-time story. But
this has legs like no other.
This is about preserving a crucial link in the fabric of Santa
Barbara. It’s about having a newspaper where news reporters and
editors deliver fact-based, even-handed stories and where the
interests of advertisers and whims of owners are hidden from the
newsroom and only published, if need be, on the editorial pages.
It’s about keeping alive and healthy a daily newspaper that serves
as a fair-thinking watchdog of governments, corporations, and
society at large.
We here at Indy are happy to fill this void for the
time being, but we desperately need a daily newspaper that’s in
good health to keep Santa Barbara the way that it is. No matter all
the old jokes about the News-Suppress, the natural
rivalries felt by us here at the smaller weekly paper, the
now-minor personal gripes about what sucked in the day’s paper and
why. Nowawadays, we don’t even have any news to complain about,
since our daily is super thin and full of fluffy features. Without
open public discourse and an understanding of what our officials
are doing, the future of Santa Barbara is grim.
So if Wendy McCaw is treating her newspaper as simply a
business, please just do what most business owners do in times of
turmoil: Sell the paper to someone who cares. Or
at least stop sending silly letters.