Barry Cappello Questions Indy Editor’s Motives; Editor
Clarifies in Long-Winded Letter

Last week, the News-PressBarry%20Cappello.jpg‘ attorney Barry Cappello
(pictured) sent a letter to Barney
, the daily newspaper’s longtime columnist
who began writing for The Independent last summer

after he quit his job in the
first wave of resignations
. In that letter, Cappello asked
Brantingham to correct an
online posting
that’s headline suggested Cappello was being
sued. (We
changed that headline

And then Cappello began to critique The Indy‘s coverage of
News-Press management, claiming that senior editor
Matt Kettmann “nightly
blogs pro-Teamsters Union blather on the Independent’s website,
frantically urging actions by disgruntled ex-employees and the
public in general to bring on the economic demise of the
News-Press. Then Mr. Kettmann hypocritically states that the
‘Independent does not want to see the News-Press fail as a
newspaper’ (January 25, 2007). It is absurd. The Independent should
either change its ways and take its journalistic responsibilities
seriously, or step up and let the world know what it really is: A
Union mouthpiece trying to destroy a direct competitor.” It is,
according to Cappello, nothing more than a union fight, adding that
his client, Wendy McCaw, is free to run her business as she sees

The following letter was written by Kettmann and emailed
directly to Cappello. The attorney has not yet responded nor
acknowledged receipt of the letter. We present the letter here in
its impassioned, long-winded entirety and hope that it helps clear
the air on what the motivations are for Kettmann, if not the
Indy staff.

Hi Barry Cappello and crew, As you may have guessed, we over
here at The Independent share our outside correspondence with each
other, especially when colleagues are mentioned by name. As such, I
have received a copy of a letter sent by you to Barney Brantingham,
in which I am described as a Teamsters mouthpiece who makes
hypocritical comments. I am writing as a professional courtesy to
assure you of my intentions and my heartfelt beliefs: I am covering
this story because it is my job to cover the biggest news that’s
hit our small town in years (one that, incidentally and happily,
draws in thousands of new readers to our website everyday) and I
honestly, deeply, truly want the News-Press to survive. As a
journalist who values reading a relevant daily newspaper, I believe
that it takes a responsible, trustworthy source of daily news to
ensure that democracy works. A functioning newspaper like what the
News-Press was a year ago acts as a watchdog for government and
industry and an advocate for justice and transparency in important
affairs. Nowadays, it does none of that.


As a citizen, I am saddened and scared by this notion. As an
employee of what you call a “direct competitor” — which is itself
a debatable term on an ad-by-ad market analysis — I fear for my
industry about what precedent is being set and what repercussions
this will have for other newspaper owners who want the news
reported their way, not the straight way. So I am pulling for the
News-Press newsroom and the longtime institution of Santa Barbara
journalism to emerge victorious, which unfortunately puts me at
odds with your client. I admit that bias, and I admit it proudly.
Perhaps this is a distinction that is difficult for you to grasp,
but you strike me as a sharp fellow. Call me naive and attempt to
publicly ridicule me for my idealistic notions, but that is what I
honestly believe. I would testify to that under oath, I would
pledge that to a crowd of thousands, and I would fight for that, as
would any self-respecting journalist. We are not in this business
for money, and I can personally say that I became a journalist
because I felt it was a career where I could make a difference and
make people’s lives better. I trust most of my colleagues have
similar motivations. I have posted comments about not wanting the
News-Press to fail on blogs and in my own articles because this is
what I believe. To date, I have not had one person question my
integrity, even though literally thousands of journalists and
attorneys are watching. You, sir, are the first. I guess one could
say that I’ve been duped by the union, but I do not believe that to
be the case. That my coverage and the union’s desires dovetail is
because the union and the people they represent are arguing points
that appear closer to the truth. I was watching this story before
the union was ever involved, I know the backstory to how the union
became involved, and I have noticed that the union’s version of
events is based on the facts of what happened And as a journalist,
it’s my job to report the truth based on my assessment of the
situation. I am not paid to be biased, as attorneys are. In
response to other allegations in your letter, the News-Press has
routinely refused to comment, and when it does, its mouthpieces
have insulted The Independent repeatedly and toted the same
opposing spin everytime: This is the Teamsters fault, and when it’s
not their fault, it’s Jerry Roberts’ Machiavellian methods behind
it all. (As for insults, need I remind you that in the first
conversation anyone had with David Millstein from this newspaper,
he called us “the comic foil” of the News-Press.) We know very well
what your spin is, we have posted as much multiple times on our
blogs and in our articles, and if that spin changes, please let me
know. If you would like to be the new official spokesperson for the
News-Press, please provide a good number to reach you at all hours
of the day. I will happily call whenever something happens, which
seems to be a lot. I will gladly put a quotation from you in every
article, if that is what you call presenting “both sides of a
story.” Unfortunately for your client, I think everyone who is
watching already knows what your side of the story is, and simply
no one believes it. Nonetheless, I often include your side of the
story anyway and try to treat union statements as allegations. I
have tried to do this even moreso as scrutiny upon the situation
grows. But to call this merely a union fight is to fail to
comprehend the reality here, and I think that is why your client is
treated so harshly. A mere peek at the timeline of how this all
went down — union not called in until after the resignations and
even then, not for the typical monetary reason — clarifies that.
Furthermore, the timeline also shows that your client’s official
reasons for her “purge” of the newsroom evolved over time, which
makes those reasons seem disingenuous to the casual and informed
watcher. Additionally, the constant defense of your client’s
actions as “an employer’s right to run its business” is also
missing a larger point that most everyone else seems to understand
perfectly well. A newspaper is a unique sort of business, one that
relies on the public’s trust, one that must earn and maintain the
respect of the community, one that is not merely able to act on the
whims of its owners without expecting a rash of repercussions.
Perhaps this is not legally the case, but it is in reality the
case, and reality trumps legality more often than not. Well, at
least before it gets to a courtroom, yet in this case I believe
that the side of the law will also fall hard on your client.
(Remember that I also watched the NLRB hearing, where your
colleagues were ridiculed by the judge. I’ve seen a lot of court
cases, and that was by far the most embarassing. Nick Welsh, who’s
seen exponentially more cases, agrees.) (As an outside critique of
an “employer running its business,” is your client trying to run it
into the ground? I have explained to friends and colleagues that it
truly appears your client read a book on how to dismantle her
business, and then followed it step-by-step: Fire your workers,
alienate your customers, empower your competitors, and become an
international scandal by suing everyone in sight. Pray tell, where
is your client going here? What kind of business model is this?) As
well, it is not just Barney and “a few others” who are asking why
you are representing McCaw. It is everyone that I meet who knows
anything about this story and you. It is every lawyer listed on the
Lawyers Alliance. That is not “a few” by my professional
definition. But I also strongly believe that everyone is entitled
to good legal representation, and your client deserves that too. I
just think that you’ve picked the wrong horse in this race and
wonder what risk you are posing to your legacy by doing so. I can
only assume that sometimes you wonder that as well. Aside from your
February 22 letter, I must admit that the Teamsters involvement
unfortunately taints the whole situation since Santa Barbara is
“not a union town,” since they have a past that they cannot escape,
and since unions leave a bad taste in many mouths these days for
often outlasting their utility. And your client has certainly
worked extra hard to make that blemish brighter. However, I will
ask you as I asked private detective Nick Montano earlier today:
What other mechanism did these journalists have at their disposal?
Should they just have shut up, moved out of town to find new jobs,
and got on with their lives? Should they have walked away from
pensions, decent jobs, and nice lives without a fight? Simply
packed up their families, sold their homes, and drifted to the next
hard-to-find newspaper job? Is that your client’s answer? If so, it
is an uncommonly harsh one, and legitimate grounds for the sort of
contempt that’s constantly flowing in her direction. One reaps, you
may have once heard, what one sows. And it looks like she’s got
quite a bumper crop on her hands these days. Feel free to
distribute this letter widely, because it is the honest truth. Your
client may be better served by reading it, so that she has an
understanding of what everyone else believes is reality. In fact, I
may even post it as a blog entry in the days to come, alongside
your letter to Barney. If you have an objection to that letter
being posted, let me know immediately. I have absolutely nothing to
hide. I, personally, have absolutely nothing to gain financially.
(Though I won’t deny that such an important, popular, and
intriguing story falling onto my lap could be considered a lucky
break in the professional sense. As an attorney, you must be able
to appreciate that.) I do, however, have a daily newspaper to lose,
like the rest of our town. We deserve better than this, and I think
that, deep down, you probably agree. I fear that I cannot say the
same for your client. Sincerely, Matt Kettmann Senior Editor The
Santa Barbara Independent



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