First, Wendy McCaw (pictured) demanded $500,000 from
ex-News-Press editor Jerry Roberts. Then, I learned this week, he
counter-claimed at $10 million (which was also reported in the
January 15 New York Times article). Now
I find that she’s filed an amended arbitration claim for $25
Where will it end? I figure Roberts will leave it at that.
And when will Wendy’s arbitration action against her former
editor go before an arbitrator? “No hearing has been set,” Andrine
Smith, attorney for Roberts (pictured below), told me after I
badgered her for info. Not this month, apparently.
These arbitration matters are supposed to be strictly
confidential. But News-Press attorney David Millstein spilled the beans about Roberts’
$10 million counterclaim to New York Times reporter
Sharon Waxman, whose story appeared Monday. One
choice excerpt from Waxman’s story: “When asked why Mrs. McCaw has
consistently chosen legal action when she has felt wronged, rather
than engaging in dialogue with readers or her news staff,
[Millstein] said, ‘A cease-and-desist letter is a form of
When I called Roberts’ attorney to confirm the $10 million
counterclaim, Smith said that since Millstein let the cat out of
the bag, she felt free to tell me about Wendy’s $25 million
upgrade. Who’ll get what out of this, besides the lawyers, I can’t
Readers following this sorry saga will recall that after Roberts
resigned July 6 in the midst of a staff meltdown, owner Wendy filed
the arbitration action, reportedly claiming breach of contract and
that he’d somehow damaged the paper. Just how he supposedly caused
this totally unnecessary train wreck is a mystery, but we all know
what McCaw has done. She’s also made statements trashing his
reputation, which I assume is the basis of his counter-claim.
In a commentary both funny and poignant, Roberts wrote in last Thursday’s
Independent about his bout with lymphatic stomach
cancer during the holidays while in the Bay Area. He’s now back in
Santa Barbara and teaching Adult Ed.
Shut Up: After my Indy interview with Randy Alcorn,
23-year chief financial officer at the News-Press, about
his firing, he got a letter from the busy Mr. Millstein. (According
to the NY Times, the letter was “nailed to his door.”) It
reportedly pointed out that as a former officer of the paper he had
a fiduciary responsibility not to disclose N-P info. And
if he did, the N-P would take action. (No surprise
So, with two kids in college, Alcorn is refusing all interviews.
“I don’t want to say anything,” he told me.
Meanwhile, a going-away party is scheduled for Wednesday at
Playa Azul restaurant at 5 p.m. for Toni McDonald,
who held a key accounting post at the paper and was a major loss
when she quit soon after Alcorn got the heave-ho.
Friendly Skies? United will reduce its
flights in and out of Santa Barbara beginning February 14,
according to Santa Barbara Travel Bureau. United plans to drop the 7:40 a.m.
flight to Denver and the 8:55 p.m. flight from Denver to Santa
“The loss of the 8:55 flight is going to be a real problem for
many travelers returning from points east who are trying to get a
work day in before flying to Santa Barbara,” the travel agency said
in its online newsletter. “We have expressed our concerns to United
about this schedule decrease.”
Who Are They?: During last week’s NLRB hearings here, Santa
Barbara News-Press co-publisher Arthur von Wiesenberger (pictured) denied that
he’s the Neville Flynn who posts pro-News-Press comments
on Blogabarbara. That not only raises the question of
who the apparent N-P insider apologist really is but who
is Sara de la Guerra, nom de plume of the person
behind the blog? I’ve heard some pretty good guesses on both, but
wouldn’t it spoil the fun to let the cat out of the bag?
Speaking of Blogs: The first thing thousands of
Santa Barbarans look for every morning before reading the daily
paper is Craig
Smith’s informative online column. Craig’s not a sofa blogger,
either. He gets out there.
This past week Craig, a lawyer by profession, was sitting in at
the News-Press-Teamster NLRB hearings, just
days after returning from a trip to Cuba. One week in Havana was “a
fascinating experience,” he told me. He found the people “warm and
friendly,” as I did when I visited twice.
The hottest topic of conversation? Not Fidel’s health (not
always a healthy subject) but “beisbol.” Castro, by the way, was a
top baseball player as a young man.
On Friday, Craig took serious issue with a letter in last week’s Independent in
which N-P attorney Barry Cappello wrote: “When Mrs. McCaw acquired
the News-Press, she saved it from the disgrace of
insolvency. After years of losing money, the paper was going to be
closed or sold off to a national chain with no local input or
Replied Craig, “Au contraire. Both the New York Times
and the American Journalism Review have reported that when
McCaw bought the paper it had a profit percentage of 11 percent,
which is higher than most Fortune 500 companies. The New York
Times distributed a ‘bid book’ as part of its selling effort
in 2000. The book showed that the News-Press was far from
the ‘disgrace of insolvency.’ In fact, it was enjoying record
profits. Which is probably why McCaw might have paid as much as
$150 million for the paper.”
Over: Quentin Tarantino’s two-month shoot of his film
project Death Proof/Grind House went smoothly (which
was first reported at Independent.com’s A&E Blog), according to Martine White, county film
commissioner. The weather was “extraordinary, she said, adding,
“We’re delighted that they chose Santa Barbara County to match
Tennessee.” Death Proof is said to be a car-slasher flick
with Kurt Russell, while Planet Terror is about aliens on
a rampage. I fail to see any Oscars in their futures.
Adios, Munster Mom: Yvonne De Carlo, who played the vampirish mom in the TV
series The Munsters, lived near Solvang for many years
until fairly recently moving to L.A., where she died last week at
(Barney Brantingham can be reached at 805-965-5205 or
He writes a Tuesday online column, a Thursday print column and a
Barney’s Weekend Picks on Fridays.)