NP Readership Way Down and Other S.B. Tales

In the Hole: Michael Santos, the Lompoc federal prison inmate who wrote three books and earned a master’s degree while behind bars, has been tossed into solitary for reasons that aren’t clear. From what I hear, prison officials claim that his latest book, Gangsters and Thugs, with true stories and a wake-up call to at-risk young people, is a business and therefore not permitted. Santos, locked up on drug charges two decades ago, seeks corporate sponsors and donations to pay for distributing the books.

Ironically, a Santa Barbara counselor who saw my column about the book said, “The value for us as counselors is that [Santos’s] stories become a safe way to have open, honest discussions regarding issues the students have already faced, [or if they] have a family member incarcerated, or [are] about to be facing those same tough decisions very soon.”

This week I asked prison officials for information about why Santos was put in “the hole,” but as of deadline I hadn’t received an answer. Several months ago prison officials denied my request for an interview with Santos.

What Global Warming? It’s so great to have a forward-looking state senator like Tom McClintock. In a phone interview with Pat Shewczyk and Linda Phillips of the League of Women Voters, Tom was asked about California’s contribution to global warming. Turns out that, contrary to virtually all scientific reports, he’s not at all convinced that human activity contributes to it or that it is anything new. Just a natural cycle, Tom claims. Guess he doesn’t own any coastal property.

Mystery Hotel: History buffs are concerned about the future of the old Union Hotel in Los Alamos. Namely, does it have a future? According to reports, developers have taken over-or soon will-against the wishes of owner Christine Williams. Rumors are flying about possible demolition, even though it’s a designated county landmark, which prevents it from being razed or altered without county okay.

NP Circulation Drops: Along with many daily papers around the nation, the News-Press weekday circulation has fallen, but its decline was one of the biggest, according to the L.A. Times. The NP declined by 9.5 percent for the six months ending in March to 38,000. (The Times dropped by 4.2 percent, which it blamed largely on papers delivered free to schools and hotels.) I’m told by a savvy industry guy that the 9.5 percent figure is misleading; if you subtract the number of papers the NP gives to schools and bulk outlets like car washes, the paid circulation-of key interest to advertisers-would be far less, he said. How the papers delivered to former subscribers long after they quit fit into this equation remains to be revealed. Competition from popular Internet blogs, such as Edhat, Craig Smith, BlogaBarbara, and newspapers, like the Santa Barbara Daily Sound and The Independent, “are killing the News-Press,” he said.

True, circulation has been fading at most papers in recent years, but the best thing the News-Press could do for itself is call off the litigation wars being waged on many fronts, concentrate on making the News-Press the best paper it can be, and cover the news honestly, fully, and fairly.

His Latest Fiasco: Ashleigh Brilliant, of Pot-Shot fame, is taking the blame for that tourist bus getting stuck trying to make a tight turn on the Riviera, blocking the road days before Saturday’s practice evacuation drill. Turns out that Ashleigh was on the bus acting as tour guide. Ashleigh wanted to show the tourists the magnificent view from Franceschi Park. “There was probably enough room for the bus to make the turn. But I’m not used to navigating enormous vehicles and if I was at fault, it was in not cautioning the driver in advance to take the turn very widely,” Ashleigh confessed in an email to friends. “I won’t take you through all the other elements of this fiasco, such as the fact that the elevator to the Courthouse Tower turned out to be not working that day and that the ringer on my cell phone”-which he was depending on-“had (I swear) turned itself off.” Ashleigh’s posted a perfect Pot-Shot: “You Are Cordially Invited to My Next Fiasco.”

Going Stateside: Chris Woodward grew up in Santa Barbara and has definite ideas about what the replacement for Acapulco restaurant in La Arcada shopping mall will be. He and partner Joe Middler have renamed it Stateside, and it will serve American-Asian food and have live entertainment at night in a lounge atmosphere targeting the “upper twenties” to the 40-year-olds. He plans to open the new restaurant some time between the end of summer and the beginning of fall.

Bev’s Dynasty: Congratulations to old pal Beverley Jackson for the much-deserved L.A. Times spread on her amazing collection of Chinese lotus slippers and antiques. The former News-Press social columnist has also turned out books about China’s yesteryear.

(Barney Brantingham can be reached at or 805-965-5205. He is a staff writer for the Santa Barbara Independent, with a print column in the Thursday print edition and online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays.)


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