Randy Alcorn — the News-Press’ chief
financial officer for 23 years, but disgusted by the paper’s
dysfunctional chaos — was planning to resign. But owner Wendy
McCaw beat him to it.
Alcorn got the message late Monday afternoon via a visit by what
News-Pressers have dubbed “The Angel of
Death.” Yolanda Apodaca, human
resources director, arrived with the dreaded letter of bad news and
politely walked him out of the building.
Alcorn had already cleaned out his De la Guerra Plaza office
over the past few weeks. “I would have preferred to have made an
orderly transition” and completed year-end financial reports, but
that wasn’t to be, Alcorn told me.
McCaw, no doubt aware of the cleaned-out office and his
job-hunting, made what Alcorn called “a pre-emptive strike.” Her
reasons? He explained, “We didn’t see eye-to-eye and she wasn’t
comfortable with me.”
Alcorn told me that he was deeply discouraged that the paper had
degenerated into a “propaganda campaign and petty
vindictiveness” instead of dealing with the serious
problems of running a daily newspaper.
Alcorn’s firing was seen by observers as a major loss to a paper
already staggering under lost circulation, defecting advertisers,
and ongoing controversy, including McCaw’s opposition to newsroom
unionizing efforts. More than 30 journalists have quit or been fired since
the meltdown began in early July.
Alcorn admits that he was critical of how the paper was run. “I
was critical that our focus was off running the
News-Press” and instead was focusing on
“enemies” in the community. “I’m a professional,” said
Alcorn. “I manage with facts and report things as they are. I
pretty much say it like it is.”
Alcorn was known as a straight shooter and for his integrity,
character traits that might have led to his downfall. “He’d tell you exactly what he thought,
what you needed to know,” said one Santa Barbaran. “He was the
Rock of Gibraltar.”
Pained by the disintegration of a once-excellent paper, Alcorn
said that at one point, with many in the community critical of
McCaw and demanding that she sell the paper, he proposed to her
consultants a possible way to defuse the situation. McCaw could
save face in the community by turning over management to
her nonprofit foundation, with a professional team, with
profits given back to the community.
The response he got from her team: “Who’s going to tell
her?” Alcorn doesn’t know if McCaw ever heard of the
McCaw has shown no interest in selling the paper or giving up
control. In a memo
last week, she insisted on the right to determine not only
editorial views but “content” of the paper. “I don’t think she’ll
ever sell,” Alcorn said.
Alcorn once seemed to be riding high on Libertarian owner Wendy McCaw’s hit parade, enjoying a
prime spot on the Sunday op-ed page, writing an intelligent,
articulate column reflecting, many felt, strong Libertarian views.
(The introductions to the column can still be viewed by going the
searching for “Randy Alcorn.” You must pay to see the full
But in November Alcorn’s column disappeared from the paper. The
day after Thanksgiving he cleaned out his office and has been doing
“The whole thing with the newsroom was avoidable,” he said. “It
has created a lot of havoc,” there and in other departments. “She
had made it worse and worse. The whole place was like a morgue. I
knew I was going to leave when she and Arthur (von Wiesenberger)
took over as co-publishers. I was not on her team from the
As a result, “he’d been marginalized,” taken out of the top
management loop, one former News-Presser said. “They
weren’t telling him anything.” One source said that a possible
strike against Alcorn was that he “was associated with Jerry
Roberts,” the former editor and publisher who quit July 6 and who
had worked closely with the finance chief. Roberts, who is in San
Francisco recuperating from emergency surgery to remove his spleen
and gall bladder, is defending himself against a $500,000
contractual claim by McCaw.
Alcorn was at the paper for over 23 years, having worked under
three owners, 11 publishers, and eight executive editors.
Said one Santa Barbaran: “I don’t think anybody loved the
newspaper as an institution more than Randy. He loved that place as
a long-time Santa Barbara institution.”
One question being raised by several former employees: Will
others be leaving the paper of their own accord, due to the tense
working conditions, after year-end bonuses, if any, are passed out?