Former News-Press Reporter Responds to Accusations

The following is a re-posting of a comment left by Camilla
Barnwell (formerly Cohee) on the Santa Barbara Media Blog post,
Will
News-Press Owner Wendy McCaw Wake Up?
” At the request
of the
Independent, Barnwell agreed to let us re-post the
comment, as it provided a unique perspective to the current
situation at the
Santa Barbara News-Press and the
atmosphere that surrounded her resignation. The bolded statements,
links, and photo were added by us.

From Camilla Barnwell, formerly Cohee.

I have never responded to a blog before, but felt like I needed
to this time. In response to a couple of anonymous comments made
here and on Blogabarbara, I was
not “fired” from the News-Press. I quit.

I quit because I could not work in the environment of
hate and distrust
that “leaders” at the
News-Press had created. All of the editors I had worked
under and respected had left, and I could not stomach the idea of
having someone like Travis edit or influence a story with my name
on it. I never “whined” to anyone about the Rob Lowe address
disaster, as one blogger states. I explained to anyone who wanted
to know that after many years in the business, I covered the Lowe
dispute with the same care, interest, consideration, and thought
that I had on any case before the planning commission. In essence,
I felt that I was being reprimanded for doing my
job
: including the who, what, where, when, why, and how
that every story is supposed to have.

duct%20tape%20news%20press.jpg

In response to my time card, there was no fraud or
theft
. At the N-P, we always filled out our
timecards before the work week had ended, because we were asked to
get them in early. Things got crazy
the day Jerry was escorted out of the building
.

I was getting married in two days, with family
and friends arriving to town, and was experiencing major
anxiety
. My
editor George
told me to go home, and I’m not too proud to say
I left the building shaking and in tears. I
thought I’d be back the next day, to work one more day, but truly
could not face the pain and suffering going on inside that building
when I was supposed to look like the euphoric bride.

Fixing my time card when I came back from the honeymoon required
moving hours from one category to another. I had both sick time and
vacation time coming to me, so it was really only a matter of
adjusting the column to reflect accurately those two days before
the wedding.

It’s funny. I wonder why Yolanda or the
News-Press didn’t question why I was working an 11-hour
day without OT to finish a series when I was 8.5 months
pregnant.
I wonder why they didn’t question my time card
the day that Starshine and I were sent out to cover El Nino floods
at 4 in the morning and didn’t leave work until late that evening
to finish writing.

After ten years there, with OT pay always frowned upon, we all
put in odd and long hours that never made it to our time card.
Adjustments were commonplace if you had already turned in a time
card but then later ended up working later than projected. I’m not
complaining about hard work. I loved every minute I spent
at the News-Press until everything exploded under Wendy
and Travis.

As far as bias, I just laugh at that accusation. Are journalists
human beings? Yes. Do we bring our own personal experiences and
personalities to our jobs as reporters? Yes. But as
John Zant said at the rally
, we are absolutely anal about
getting the facts straight, about making sure we capture the
essence of a story with the right tone and details and voices. I
have knocked on doors in dark alleys, called people late at night,
conspired to get private cell phone numbers of elected officials,
all so that no one could ever say my stories weren’t right on
target when read in the morning.

Reporting is not about pushing an agenda or favoring one
side.
It’s about knowing the beat you cover so well that
you can in turn provide readers too busy to attend meetings
balanced, interesting, relevant coverage of their community. I
loved doing that with all my heart.

As far as my husband, Brian, I will admit my bias. Still, I’ve
covered and have become personally acquainted with many leaders in
this town and know only a handful I respect and admire as much as

Brian Barnwell
. He is a true community servant and civic leader
whose biggest flaw may be that he forgets he’s a “politician.” I am
so proud to be by his side and, also, comforted knowing he is
helping to shape and lead our beloved city.

Thanks for the chance to respond.

Camilla Barnwell

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