Let’s Get Ready to Rally

Will the Masses Show Up for Wake Up Wendy Wednesday?

(Illustration by Bob
for the OC

On Wednesday, February 21, at noon in De la Guerra Plaza,
hundreds of people are expected to show up to support the unionized
newsroom staff of the Santa Barbara News-Press and call
for owner Wendy McCaw (cartoonized her as a lawsuit-wielding
Medusa) to return
ethical standards to her newspaper, rehire the reporters and
editors wrongfully terminated, and remind her that owning a
newspaper means caring about your community and acting like a
responsible professional. mccaw%20cartoon.jpg It is expected to be one of the biggest
rallies since
the meltdown began last July
and the first one in 2007 to be
organized by community members, and not the unionized employees or
the Teamsters union.

Rally organizers are encouraging participants to wear creative
costumes and carry witty signs as they picket outside of the
News-Press headquarters. Speaking at the event will be
city councilmember Brian Barnwell, KCSB radio and community TV
journalist Elizabeth Robinson, SurfDog seller Bill Connell, sports
fan Kathleen Rodriguez, and John Zant, the sportswriter who was
fired two weeks ago after 38 long years at the paper. Some of
Zant’s colleagues will also speak.

The event also marks the kick-off of Operation Cold Shoulder,
the newest tactic to put financial, social, and professional
pressure on McCaw to address community concerns and negotiate with
the Teamsters, who have represented the newsroom since a 33-6
unionization vote in September 2006.

According to a press release, Operation Cold Shoulder is the
community’s response to “the continuingly abhorrent behavior
practiced by the News-Press, such as terminating loyal
employees who write the truth, refusing to meet with neutral
community leaders, intimidating local small businesses, suing other
journalists doing their job, declining to publish well-reasoned but
contrary opinions, allowing the important news to go unreported,
and other insults.”

The operation will call for more cancelling of newspaper
subscriptions; urge advertisers to stop buying ads both in print
and on the radio station KZSB; advocate individuals, public
figures, community organizations, and political leaders to stop
sending press releases to the News-Press and cease doing
interviews with the paper or radio station; ask the public to stop
using the newspaper for classified ads, calendar listings, garage
sale notices, wedding announcements, and obituaries; stop inviting
News-Press society page writers to nonprofit events; write
letters to the Federal Communications Commission to complain about
the ownership of both the newspaper and radio station in town;
remind the community that McCaw also owns the Goleta Valley
, El Mexicano, and Blue Edge Magazine;
and call for picketing outside of the newspaper every Wednesday at
noon until the end of March.

For observers of the N-P crisis, the Wake Up Wendy
Wednesday rally marks another opportunity to judge the Santa
Barbara community’s response to owner McCaw’s trampling of basic
journalistic ethics and angry disregard for her former employees.
While those monitoring and commenting upon the affair on the
blogosphere continue to grow at amazing rates everyday, many are
wondering how much the everyday Santa Barbaran cares.

It’s possible that there’s already too much indifference over
newspapers in this media-soaked age for anyone to care enough to
use their lunchbreak to protest. Of course, those of us in the
business hope that’s not true, because we still believe that an
active, responsible daily newspaper is a key to both a healthy
democracy and an enjoyable life. Does the rest of Santa Barbara
feel the same way? Wednesday will give some clues to that

IN OTHER NEWS: The illustration above was done
by Bob Aul, who drew if for the
OC Weekly. Why was he
drawing a cartoon of a lawsuit-happy Wendy McCaw? Because the
OC Weekly, like a number of papers throughout California
and the rest of the world, felt that the News-Press
meltdown was such a travesty that they too had to write about.
Gustavo Arellano’s article from last week here.
Thanks to Bob
for letting us use the image.


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